How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer Guide

Recently a group of new girlfriends and I were carpooling together to go to an event. I was driving, so I had my phone on a mount so I can easily looking at the directions.

When we had arrived at our destination, I went to lock my phone. One of the gals, noticed my lock screen. She had recognized that it was myself and my husband on our wedding day.

She asked to get a closer look and exclaimed how pretty I looked and how colorful my wedding bouquet was. The other three gals in the back seat wanted to see too and leaned in to see the photo.
Then it happened.

The number one question I get in every conversation. With someone who knows that I am a Sacramento wedding photographer and hears that I got married –

“So who photographed your wedding?”

That was the first time I realized the reason why I get that question.

It’s because I know both sides of the coin!

Not only do I have the experience of being a bride myself. But I also know the following things to help you choose your wedding photographer. What to:

  • Know before I even start looking
  • To avoid in my search
  • Look for in a quality wedding photographer

Let’s get right into it!


Free Guide Download to Help You Choose Your Wedding Photographer by asking a list of these questions.

What You Need to Know Before You Search for a Wedding Photographer

Wedding planning is like a maze that is easy to get lost in and frustrated by. Not only are there are so many twists and turns to navigate. But also the frustrating back petaling you have to do when you missed a turn or went the wrong direction.

Wedding planning can be rough – especially if you are doing it yourself.

I’m not an expert wedding planner by any means. But I can tell you that you’ll need to know these three things to have an easier time. Where you are filtering through the plethora of photographers you’ll come across before you ultimately choose your wedding photographer.

Step #1: Your Wedding Date

Unless you are going with a Big-Box Studio company (more about that in what to avoid). Where they can accommodate multiple weddings on the same day, photographers typically take one wedding a per day. And if they are a well established wedding photographer, one wedding per weekend.

It’s estimated that 2.5 million weddings will occur in 2022 – the most the U.S. has seen since 1984.

The Wedding Report

Due to the pandemic. Couples who have gotten married or had a wedding date set in 2020-2021. Have postponed their wedding reception or wedding date to 2022-2024. Thus creating what experts are calling the wedding boom.

All to say –knowing your wedding date is the number one thing to know before you start searching for photographers.

Step #2: Photography Style Preference

If you’ve done any research into photography styles. Or seen photographs on Pinterest/Instagram. You know that there are so many different styles.

If you want to get super geeky, there are 28 types of photography styles according to Adobe. Not to say that you have to know the exact name of the kind of photography you want. But for a person who isn’t a photographer.

Style is not just the “filter” that is used on a photo. But also the photographers approach to “posing.” And the medium (digital, film, or hybrid of both) they use to capture your photos with.

Picture of wedding albums to show why couples hiring wedding photographers in the first place

Now, I won’t bog you down with the list of wedding photography specific styles. And tell you all the pros and cons of each.

But here are a few questions to consider with your fiancé. So that you both can make that decision for yourselves:

  1. What do I want to see 20, 30, or even 50 years from now?
  2. Do you want to have more of: posed photographs or candid?
    Equal amount of both?
  3. Are you fixed on having your photographs captured with “old-school” film?
  4. What are your thoughts on color vs. black and white?

Step #3: Wedding Photography Price Point

California’s Central Valley based Planner & Coordinator Lori with Lori Cole Events shared at a Wedding Convention. That the very first thing that couples should do when they begin wedding planning is to set your guest list.

Your guest list determines your venue options. Which in-turn will help you understand the price range of those wedding venues. Thus helping you figure out what your overall price points should look like.

Knowing your general wedding photography price point will be a HUGE. It will help you in filtering out the photographers you for sure won’t be able to book within your range.

Now, I know I am bias being a wedding photographer. But one thing that I’ve learned being a past bride and hearing from others who have also gotten married. The one thing that is PRICELESS that you get to take away from your wedding day are your memories.

Our memories won’t be as strong as they once were from the day you lived them. Parts and pieces can fade over time.

Quote about why it's important to invest in a quality wedding photographer.

What Things to Avoid When You Choose Your Wedding Photographer

At this time you have the knowledge. What you need to know before you start searching for a wedding photographer.

I know that I’m preaching to the choir when I say that weddings are one day, one chance, one moment, one time with no do-overs. You only get one chance to get it right.

But now is the time to discover the four red flags to look out for when narrowing things down to choose your wedding photographer:

Red Flag #1: Someone who is starting out

I know it is so tempting to want to do this. Because your budget is tight. Or you want to find somewhere in the budget where you can save a little bit here or there.

But if you’re taking the time to read this. I know you genuinely care about finding the right photographer for you that will preserve your once-in-a-lifetime wedding day memories.

We all know the phrase: “You get what you pay for.” That phrase is 9.5 times out of 10 true.

There may be that 1-0.5 chance that it might be great and exactly what you were looking for –  but do you really want to take that chance on your wedding day?

Like I mentioned earlier- with weddings there are no do-overs. That right there –is number one.

⬇️ But if that isn’t enough to convince you, buckle up for this next one! ⬇️

Someone who is just starting out will be more focused on learning how to shoot a wedding. Or (even worse) how to use their camera. 

Rather than focused on how to creatively capture your wedding day story. And the things that matter to the two of you beyond the main events.

Red Flag #2: A photographer who does everything or doesn’t specialize in weddings

Here’s the insider scoop: What it means for a photographer who is choosing to do everything.

Everything as in photographing family, newborns, senior sessions, weddings, landscapes, etc.

A photographer who is choosing to photography anything and everything is typically still trying to figure out what they like. They haven’t chosen their specialty.

Now I’m not saying that the photographer you choose has to have a specialty. Or only should be only photographing one thing. But I want you to be cautious of a what that means.

One way to describe it would be: “If you’re a jack of all trades, you’re a master of none.”
Again, this comes back to – do you really want to take that chance on your wedding day?

If you are considering hiring a photographer who takes your family’s photos every year. That’s fine.

But know that even if he/she has one or two weddings under their belt.
They will be still focused on the main events of your wedding day.
And not go beyond in creatively capturing the story and the little things that unrecognizably go a miss.

A quick story of what I mean by this…

The Quick Hug Forever Cherished

When I was early in my wedding photography days. I had captured this seemingly normal moment in Trey & Jaclyn’s wedding day.

It was during the processional of the wedding ceremony as everyone was walking down the aisle. I can remember this moment so clearly.

Trey had walked down the aisle with his mom and dad. He hugged his mom. Then he proceeded to hug his dad. I remembered snapping the photo and thinking, “That was quick.”

Little did I know that that photograph would mean a lot to Trey & Jaclyn.

I had put together their wedding album. And included this photo among others that I thought had told their wedding day story best.

When we had come together and viewed this spread. Trey and Jaclyn pointed out this photo of Trey and his dad hugging. They had said that that was a super rare photo because his dad doesn’t hug very often.

Quote about the little moments at weddings having the biggest meaning ot the couple.

All that to say – hiring someone who specializes in one thing. Like weddings. Brings about a passion to harness their skill and creativity – to go beyond the norm.

Red Flag #3: Choosing your wedding photographer without meeting them

Because we live in a day-in-age where we are always go, go, go, and we want to get things done as quickly as possible, this is a red flag you 100% should not ignore.

Wedding photography is an intimate career path.

If you talk to anyone who has gotten married about their wedding day, or you’ve been part of a friend’s wedding party, you know that the photographer is pretty much with the couple ALL DAY. So it’s probably a good idea to actually like your wedding photographers.

Meeting with your potential wedding photographers needs to be more than finding out how much they charge.

Wedding Photography meetings are an important factor to help choose your wedding photographer.

But it’s also to find out if you…

  • Jive well with their personality (-ies) so that you both are comfortable being around them
  • Know if they are truly invested in you two. So that you can trust that they will be able to capture your unique wedding day story unlike anyone else’s

Quick note about being comfortable with your wedding photographer:

When you are looking back at your wedding photos, no matter what, you are going to remember how you felt in that moment.

Choosing the right photographer for you is the difference between having feelings related to what your wedding day was all about OR how awkward, uncomfortable, or stressed you were in that moment.

Red Flag #4: Big-Box Studio Company

You won’t be able to search in Google “Big-Box Studio” and find what I’m talking about. But it’s to reference those companies that typically hardcore advertise to you on Facebook. Where you can get both wedding photography and video for under $2,000.

These are the companies that have a large pool of wedding photographers and videographers that are contracted under. They do the shooting. And the company has a team of editors that edit all the photos and put together the footage.

Problem 1 – You don’t get to pick who will show up on your wedding day

Typically you are assigned to some random person that will not personally communication with you during the booking process. They show up on your wedding day with maybe a phone call the day before..

Or, depending on the company. You may get to choose your wedding photographer. But you won’t be able to connect with them beforehand to see if you will even like them.

You’re just choosing them based on their bio and portfolio.

Problem 2 – They are focused on shooting and burning and not on you

The creatives that show up on your wedding day are there to shoot and shoot only. They typically are not the ones editing your wedding day. And in the photo/video world, we call this a “shoot & burn.”

If you are lucky and you get a photographer who has a great work ethic. They will be motivate just enough to get you the typical standard wedding photos.

But their investment in you, your story, or the things that matter to you both beyond the main events. Is most likely going to be nonexistent or very little.

Problem 3 – No personalization or customization to YOU

The structure of these types of companies follow a specific formula.

Think of a machine:

  • That follows the exact same cookie cutter pattern
  • Without making it custom or personal to what makes you, you

Plus, if you did try to point out these things that you want to make sure is captured/included. They will either ignore you. Or it will just bring an added stress and distraction to you bring present on your wedding day.


What to Look For When You Choose Your Wedding Photographer

Finally, what we are all here for –the good part! Sometimes it’s easier to say what not to look for than to say what to look for. But I thinks important to illuminate both in finalizing who you choose as your wedding photographer.

Experience

A wedding photographer's experience plays a big role in the decision making of choosing your wedding photographer.

Now this might be a no brainer. But like I alluded to in Red Flags #1 & #2, someone with experience is going to be less focused on you and your story and more focused on how to shoot a wedding (or worse, learning how to use their camera).

The longer the photographer has been photographing weddings, the more well-versed and experienced they are to manage any curveballs that naturally come with weddings.

Insurance

Especially if you are having your wedding at an actual wedding venue (ie: not a backyard or private estate). Most venues require that the photographer have insurance with a limited liability clause up to a certain dollar amount.

Wedding Venues might request your photographer to send their paperwork to them before the wedding day. Otherwise, they will not be allowed at your event.

Personality & Vibes

If you are a human being. Literally everyone feels uncomfortable in front of the camera (shoot – even me and I’m a photographer!).

But if you trust and are comfortable with the person behind the lens. To where they have a personality that puts you at ease – you will be:

  • less stressed
  • less feelings of awkwardness
  • more relaxed
  • have permission to be present and in the moment

Your wedding day has been a day you’ve planning and dreaming of for so long. You can set yourself up for success starting with the hiring of your wedding vendors. Don’t regret it on the day of.

Otherwise when you back at your wedding photos – you will associate your feelings of stress, awkwardness, and discomfort with what should be all about the purpose of your wedding day.

Process

Any company who has a process that they communicate with you on – shows that they are experienced and have a service mentality. But sometimes even established photographers will leave you trying to figure things out yourself, or forcing you to be the one asking all the questions –like what do I wear for my engagement session, what shot list or information do I need to provide you with, what’s the best time for our husband and wife portraits, etc.

Professional (quality) wedding photographers (should) guide you through every step involving what you have hired them for: before the wedding, during the wedding, and after the wedding.

This is the first time you are planning a wedding. Let your wedding photographer be the expert in guiding you through the process.

Every professional wedding photographer needs to have a process that they walk their couples through.

Why they are a Wedding Photographer

Okay, this one may sound cheesy, but this is actually deep. Discover why they do what they do. They could be doing anything with their job/career or could be photographing family sessions, senior sessions, newborns, etc.

This one thing will end up being the deciding factor in helping you to choose your wedding photographer.

But this will also be super helpful to you. If you get torn between more than one qualified wedding photographer who checks off all the boxes on the list.

Your wedding photographer's investment needs to be of equal or greater value thank you investment in them. Quote.

Alright, I hope you are now confident. Enough to move forward in your wedding photography search. As you have the things you need to know, avoid, and look for.

What are you thoughts on these three things? Was there anything that I missed or you would like to comment on? I’d love to hear below!

You’ve unlocked the secrets of what it takes to choose your wedding photographer. That is going to be just as invested in you as you are in them. Make sure you check out this post. Where I walk you through how to create a stress free wedding day timeline that is photography focused.

Now, it’s time to get down to it! Don’t forget to grab that checklist of questions to ask your potential wedding photographer. It covers everything we just talked about!

You can’t get the right answers without asking the right questions.

Until next time, remember why your wedding photographs are important and not something to choose out of haste or worry. You, your story, and your wedding memories are worth it.


Downloadable free guide to help engaged couples choose their wedding photographer by asking a list of questions.
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