As a bride, there are a lot of decisions you’ll need to make while planning your wedding, and one of them will eventually be choosing the perfect wedding photographer. I often speak with brides who are trying to make the difficult choice about who to choose for their wedding day. Trying to juggle all the different elements like style, budget, and products is a challenge!
Finding the perfect wedding photographer is all about finding that perfect fit, like a good pair of shoes. After all, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on your wedding day with this person, you want to make sure their style, personality, and vibe fits you and your wedding!
Truthfully, there is no “perfect” photographer out there, and it would be a great disservice to all of the brides I speak with to try to convince them all that I’m the perfect one. I may be the perfect wedding photographer for them, but not for everybody. It is always my hope to help every bride find the perfect wedding photographer for THEM: the best fit stylistically, artistically, budget-wise, experience-wise, etc. And that may mean referring a bride to another photographer who is a better fit than I am, which I am glad to do. Perhaps that sounds crazy, but I think that’s part of good customer service, to know when you’re a good fit and when you’re not.
With all of this in mind, having been a bride myself and gone through this process, as well as being a wedding photographer who speaks regularly with a variety of brides, I’ve put together these tips for how to choose the perfect wedding photographer. I hope you find these tips helpful!
Wedding photographers book as much as 2 years in advance for wedding dates, so make sure you start checking with photographers early in the wedding planning process. Additionally, some photographers only take on a limited number of weddings per year in order to give their clients the best possible experience. Check early with your favorite photographer to make sure they are available! If you’re planning your wedding with less time, fear not – you may be surprised to find a few open dates on popular photographers’ calendars at the last minute, so it never hurts to ask.
There are a number of different photographic styles for weddings, everything from very traditional portrait-style photographers that only come for the ceremony and family formals, to photojournalistic photographers that concentrate on moments and details. Make sure you LOVE the style of the wedding photographer you chose, and make sure it’s a style that you see executed consistently and beautifully across all of their wedding images. Look for images that jump out at you and make you feel something! For me, my style is a mix of fine art portraiture and photojournalism. I love the candid moments that tell the story of the day, but I also value the legacy couples portraits and family photos that are beautifully lit as well.
Your wedding photographer should have a portfolio of images that you’re excited about and that features a variety of weddings. Ask to see an album or gallery from a single wedding. If the portfolio only features shots from the same wedding, or it’s obvious the photographer keeps featuring the same 3 couples in their one gallery, this may indicate that their wedding photography experience is limited.
Your wedding photographer is someone you will be interacting with before, during, and after your wedding day. They will also be interacting with your family and friends, and be present during some of the most intimate moments that even your best friends may not get to see! Your photographer also works with all of your other vendors, including your DJ, videographer, reception venue, and wedding planner. In all of these cases, it’s important that you get along with your photographer and they have a friendly personality. If you’re laid back and flexible, make sure your photographer can jive in that kind of atmosphere. If you’ve planned every last detail down to the T, verify that your photographer is organized and detail-oriented. Often, the brides I work with become friends, and I think that’s a good sign of a great professional collaboration. If you can’t picture spending an entire day with your wedding photographer, then they probably aren’t the right one for you.
The perfect wedding photographer may be new to the scene, or a seasoned pro with years of experience. The most important factor is consistency – will your photographer deliver the same quality work you see on their website portfolio on your wedding day? Do they have experience shooting at your venue and know how to accommodate to any challenges the location may present? Are you comfortable working with someone who has a fresh perspective, but may have few very weddings under their belt or be unfamiliar with your venue? These questions often come down to personal preference, but at least take the time to find out how much experience your photographer has. Personally, I do not recommend hiring someone who has never photographed a wedding. It is a very steep learning curve and you don’t want to be their guinea pig. For inexperienced photographers, it is best for them to shadow under a more seasoned professional and work as a second shooter at several weddings first.
#6. Professionalism & Pricing
In the age of Facebook and inexpensive digital SLR cameras, it seems that everyone is a professional wedding photographer, especially after Christmas and everyone is showing off their new camera! I’m not knocking Facebook, or even inexpensive cameras, BUT, be cautious of the ease with which anyone can claim to be professional. They may not be insured or could even be operating illegally by avoiding taxes. It is free to get a Facebook business page, and there is no oversight for quality whatsoever. Having a consistent and professional web presence requires more effort and investment on the photographers part, something that is valuable evidence for how they will invest in you as their client. If your photographer can’t be bothered spend $200 annually on a website (that’s the bare minimum to have a template website many photographers use), then I’d be concerned. Check for membership in professional organizations like WPPI or PPA. Ask for referrals from friends. Know that the industry standard recommendation for 8 hours of wedding coverage with digital file delivery accompanied by print release is at least $2500 (per my professional organization). Of course there are photographers charging less, but I’d be suspicious of anyone who is offering to photograph a full wedding day for less than $1000. On your wedding day, it may seem like an easy place to cut corners, but trust me – you do not want to cut corners on photography. Hire a professional that you can trust to deliver quality work and provide excellent customer service. You won’t regret making a good investment if it means you get a quality experience and gorgeous photos.
Your perfect wedding photographer may be the photographer your sister used! Why not ask your trusted friends, family, and co-workers who they loved working with on their own wedding? You can also find referrals on many photographers’ websites or places like Wedding Wire. There are Facebook swap groups that are constantly buzzing with brides searching for photographers or looking for recommendations, and while this might be a good place to get an initial list, take these recommendations with a grain of salt. You don’t know their relationship to their recommended photographer or their personal standards for quality work. Instead, seek recommendations from people you trust.
#8. Package Details
This is often the first question asked when I speak with brides, and it’s definitely an important one. Each photographer will have their own packages they offer, and you’ll want to make sure your photographer offers what you’re looking for. In the age of digital, don’t overlook options for an heirloom wedding album or canvas! Ask about how many hours they include on your wedding day, an engagement session, second photographer, and any other extras you may be interested in. Make sure it’s clear which products are included in your wedding day package and what upgrade options are available.
#9. Price Point
Staying within a pre-determined budget is often a top priority for brides when choosing the perfect wedding photographer. There is quite a range of prices for photographers, though in Iowa it seems that the average is around $2500-3500 for a full day of wedding photography. Look at the prices listed on a photographers website, but keep in mind that many photographers will do custom quotes as well. I encourage brides to be somewhat flexible with their budget. A difference in price of $250-500 dollars can mean a HUGE jump in the quality and experience you will receive, and photographers just out of reach of your budget may include custom albums in addition to their coverage and digital options (all of my weddings include an album!) You may also find that your budget and guest list changes as your wedding date gets closer, giving you a bit more wiggle room than you thought.
10. Go With Your Gut!
In the end, you have all of these factors to consider, but I encourage you to go with your gut! If there’s a photographer that you absolutely love, and has a style that is perfect for your day, but is a bit more than your budget, figure out a way to make it happen. I bet you won’t be disappointed when you look at your wedding album for years to come! Was there one photographer that you got along with super well and just clicked with? They are probably the perfect wedding photographer for you. When it all comes down to it, be confident in your decision, and you will most likely LOVE your wedding photographer!
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Want more tips for your wedding day? Go here!
Want to find out more about working with me as your wedding photographer? I’d love to chat!