How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer

Picture-perfect memories, your wedding photos, held safely in a cherished wedding album.

Wedding photography captures some of the most magical moments in life, to be looked back on lovingly in the years to come. Each page turned slowly and fondly, shared with family and friends across occasions and even eras in your life.

Each element in each image studied, considered, and questioned again and again and again.

The moment, the mood, the clothes, the pose — wedding dress, bridal bouquet, your Big Day.

So how do you make sure they don’t suck?

Well, it’s all down to your wedding photographer to ensure that you don’t end up with a wedding album filled with embarrassing wedding photos.

Here we’ll give you some valuable wedding photography tips to help you get it right.

Framing Your Big Picture

All the other posts in this series: Big Day Basics, Wedding Flowers, Wedding Colors, Wedding Venue and Wedding Themes, were designed to help you create the perfect big picture for your Big Day, filled with a myriad of tiny details to make it beautiful.

Now we want to help you frame it with your wedding pictures.

First — go with what you know. One of the best wedding photography tips you can get is this: Think about the last time you saw wedding photography you thought was fantastic.

If you have friends who have had great experiences with their wedding photos — and you’ve seen the evidence and agree —  start asking questions.

That wedding photographer may be available and could be perfect for you.

And since we’re always advising readers to trust their florist and seek their expert advice, we should point out that your florist could give you some great tips in this area, too.

Not only that, your florist could be in a position to guide you with regard to a wedding photographer’s style — or at least the sort of questions you should ask — once your florist and yourself have settled on your wedding theme and colors.

Wedding blogs and magazines are also goldmines of visual information — so get online and spend some time doing some inspiration research!

Of course, all this raises an important question:

When is the best time to start looking for my wedding photographer?

As early as nine months to a year in advance is advisable, depending on availability and other factors, but nothing is set in stone.

Still, the where to start, chicken-and-egg question dealt with in our related blogs is always irksome. In this case, however, it really does help if you have your wedding theme planned and, ideally, your wedding venue booked, before seriously planning your wedding photography.

Why?

Wedding themes, wedding colors, and all other critical elements really matter here.

The style and mood of your wedding requires a photographer who understands it — and who has previous experience capturing the spirit of it.

Knowing your wedding theme will give you a great starting point for deciding the style of photography you will want — which should lead to the right wedding photographer for you.

Say “Style!” and Smile

A big part of not ending up with embarrassing wedding photos is knowing what kind of wedding photos suit your personal style. Let’s take a look at a list of popular wedding photography styles:

Traditional — Think of the wedding photos that always come to mind when somebody mentions a traditional wedding. Here the wedding photographer will almost certainly come with a “shot list” to work from, and a firm idea of what will be required.

Portraiture — Related to the above, imagine your wedding guests being herded together for a group shot, along with lots of highly posed wedding pictures of the loving couple, bridesmaids. Usually formal, traditional, conservative — but not always.

Documentary — Also known as photojournalistic, this should only get on your wedding photography checklist if you want the spirit of your Big Day captured in a completely spontaneous and candid way. These are unposed shots designed to capture the moment, taken by wedding photographers who are experts at blending in!

Fine Art — More often than not, this puts the wedding photographer very much in charge, with the event and everybody in it playing the part of the artist’s muse. Drama, striking beauty, drama or romance — whatever the artist feels represents a moment or a personality, or captures the general ambiance, will be what ends up filling your wedding album.

Illustrative — A daring blend of traditional and documentary, the cohesive whole will be achieved  by concentrating on lighting and composition. Backgrounds play an important part here, too, with couples lovingly interacting against any compelling backdrops. The illusion of the candid is created by this method, although with highly calculated, often amazing, results.

Popping the Questions

Firstly, if you consider how broad some of the wedding photography styles described above are, the need to have a meaningful conversation with your wedding photographer becomes self-evident.

But first, the logistics: You’ve been all over the internet and made up a shortlist of potential wedding photographers. No matter how well suited any photographer may seem, the question of availability is crucial.

Set your dates and check your dates.

Next: If you find yourself dealing with a studio with more than one photographer available, and you speak with somebody you think is perfect for you, make sure your wedding photography contract specifies that this individual will be the one covering your event.

Never shout Cheese! at strangers.

Wedding photography cost are three words that also appear on any good wedding photography checklist.

The best way to evaluate cost is to decide what you ideally want. Think about how many wedding photos, albums, and extras you need, both for yourself and for family and friends.

And remember, these images are forever!

Wedding photography packages tend to break down in similar ways:

Budget: $1,000 or under

Moderate: $1,000 – $3000

Upscale: $3,000 – $5,000

Luxury: $5000 – $10,000 and up

Packages and special offers should be looked into. Hourly fees, fee ranges based on requirements, and anything else you can think of should be questioned. Variations on pricing can be based around things like:

  • Time spent working
  • Time spent on post-production
  • Travel costs
  • Number of wedding photographers hired
  • Photographer experience
  • Equipment required

Another question to ask is about copyrights on your wedding photos. And regardless of what you’re told, always read the small print of your wedding photography contract.

Post-production is another question you may want to ask about. What do you do to the pictures after the event? And How long can I expect to wait before receiving my pictures?

But let’s get back to embarrassing wedding photos and how to avoid them.

Most wedding photographers will show you his or her portfolio of highlights.

This is great, and you should pay attention to each image, including the quality of the print. Having done that, you should also politely ask to see a complete wedding album.

This will give you the feel of a complete wedding photography session and could be invaluable in making a decision.

During this meeting, you should also ask to see the various styles your potential wedding photographer excels in and has experience with.

Again, experience in the style you wish to use is central to getting wedding photos you will always cherish.

Picture-Perfect Preparation

While you’re looking through photographs and asking an endless stream of questions, you should also be considering the personality of the person you are speaking to.

Depending on your personal style, your wedding photographer will be mixing and mingling, shepherding and schmoozing, reassuring and relaxing you and your guests throughout your event.

Is this the person for you?

Clearly, it isn’t easy to find art that you love, combined with an artist who you feel you can trust to carry your event smoothly and successfully.

It’s a big ask — but that is what you’re asking.

And you shouldn’t settle for anything less.

Go with your instincts and talk to your partner.

Personal professionalism also carries over to how your wedding photographer plans to dress for the event. Will the Big Day dress code be adhered to, for example?

If you’re adopting a documentary style wedding photography session, your photographer will need to mingle in and barely be noticed — at least not enough to make you, your partner, or your guests self-conscious.

In that case, personal professionalism crosses over and becomes critical.

Ask your potential wedding photographer if a date is normally agreed upon to meet up, visit the event site, and agree on potential shots while scouting attractive backgrounds.

Questions the photographer asks should also play a part in your decision.

Apart from the style you’re hoping for, a professional photographer should be inquisitive about guest numbers, specific ideas you may have about when and where wedding pictures should be taken, your thoughts on group photos, backgrounds, and angles.

Always ask for personal qualifications in terms of certifications and memberships with professional organizations.

And when you decide on your wedding photographer, always be clear about what you expect from him or her on your Big Day, including dress code, arrival time, hours — and also complete clarity about what your photographer expects from you.

Once more: Always read every word of your wedding photography contract before signing, including the small print.

Then deep a deep breath and put your feet up.

Your wedding album is booked!

Could this be the start of something special?