So, you've gotten engaged and you've been plunged into the strange world of planning out your wedding! Isn't it wonderful?
Of course, right?!
If you haven't started looking at photographers already, you've probably heard that they're the most important and critical vendor decision you'll make. If that's not intimidating enough, you've maybe realized that the choice isn't between a few good options — there are about a million photographers out there!
And truth be told, some people have had not-so-great experiences that have left a bad taste in their mouth about their wedding photos, so the choice is a big and important one for sure.
This is exactly why we created this tips for choosing a wedding photographer guide! We want to help. Allow us to explain: One night after an engagement session, we discussed with one of our brides some of the things she learned that helped make her feel confident and relieved about choosing her wedding photographer. After hearing her story, we decided that other brides would benefit, just like she did.
Simple enough, right?
So, without further ado, let's jump right in the guide on how to choose a wedding photographer!
Some Things to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Photographer
We feel that there are categories of things to look for when it comes to finding the best wedding photographers to care for your wedding.
We've broken it down :
●Pricing: We won’t focus on that much here, since it’s covered largely in our “How Much Should I Spend On My Wedding Photographer Post?” Check it out!
● Perspective Approach and Editing Style: Their photos should make you feel the way you want them to make you feel while retaining a timeless and talented look that won’t quickly go out of style. You can learn more about the importance of Approach and Style by visiting our post on “Which Photography Style is Best for My Wedding?”
●Interpersonal Skills & Client Care: Your wedding photographer should have the ability to make you comfortable so you look relaxed and enjoy having them there. Also, they need to be able to manage their time and others, not only to help your big day stay on schedule but to rescue it from being "too behind." They also need to be able to confidently direct groups of people for formal photos, without seeming like a pushy jerk.
● Photo Care: They should have the know-how and equipment to ensure that your photos are kept safe, even when hard drives crash.
● Business stability: Let's face it, if they don't have their actual business in order, it will affect how well they can serve you. In Louisville, there was a photographer that made the news because of her shady business practices that left couples high and dry.
● Business Offerings: Will they also include and/or design an album? Can they rush order your save the dates? If the photographer isn’t offering some things you want, then you may need to look elsewhere.
Tips for Choosing a Wedding Photographer — Ask These 11 Questions
Now it’s time for the list! Ask these 11 questions, and you'll be well on your way to finding the best photographer for your wedding.
1. "Do their photos make me feel the way I want my photos to make me feel on our 25th anniversary?"
This is a question for you to ask yourself. Are their photos so trendy that it'll be yesterday's fad by the time you hit your 2nd anniversary? Does it look like they're throwing Instagram filters on it, or adding a bunch of flare to make up for their lack of ability?
Also, something to consider: are they including a distracting watermark on all their images? Perhaps they won’t deliver files with watermarks to you, but some do! So, be sure to ask ahead of time.
2. "Do they have lots of good photos in both bright and low-light or do only the first few on their website look good?"
Look beyond the first few photos! Pay special attention to color photographs as black and white are more likely to hide imperfections. Look for too-white wedding dresses or too-dark tuxes; the wedding dress shouldn’t be a giant white blob in every photo.
Make sure their photos are consistently in focus, especially in low-light. Ask to see full weddings, and look for consistency in how the photos make you feel. If they refuse to show you a full wedding, take that as a red flag!
For some more in-depth tips on looking for a wedding photographer that can shoot in low-light, be sure to check out our post on How to Know If a Wedding Photographer Can Shoot In Low Light!
3. "Do they have good, consistent reviews over the years, and at least some recent good reviews?"
Photographers that care about their business are constantly trying to serve their clients in a way that leads to 5-star reviews. Be sure to check their reviews on regulated websites such as TheKnot.com. Many websites such as Facebook are very unregulated when it comes to reviews.
Don't worry if they don't have "the most" reviews. The style you choose may not be the most popular, or the photographer you're looking at may do higher-end weddings, but a lower volume when compared to someone else. As long as they have consistent, good reviews, you're probably good to go on this point.
4. "How many backup cameras and lenses do you have and are they as good as your main camera in low-light?"
If they don't have extra cameras and lenses, watch out. Camera shutters and lenses can fail! Having at least one backup camera and a few lenses per shooter is absolutely standard.
5. "Will you have a second photographer?"
Having two shooters to capture both you and your fiancee's reaction during your first look or when you walk down the aisle at a minimum is best. Also, do you want to have another way of ensuring you have more backups of your photos?
Then make sure there's going to be a second shooter. If possible, use a husband and wife team. Sure, we might be biased, but having two people that have been through it all, and who also work together as a team all the time is a huge advantage to ensuring a smooth experience.
Additionally, you probably want someone to be there with you and someone to be there with your fiancee during the getting ready portion of the day.
*Bonus. Ask: "What's the second shooter's experience with photographing weddings?"
If the photographer seems to get uncomfortable, I wouldn't put much stock in having that second shooter. A second shooter could be anyone, even someone with hardly any skills that was booked perhaps even the week before your wedding. However, a caring and wise photographer will hire someone with credentials.
6. "How will you keep our photos safe during and after our wedding day?"
Make sure they back up your photos multiple times! We personally use cameras that back up data to two cards at once. This, coupled with shooting film means that we have our clients wedding photos on up to 7 different sources at any given time.
Once we get the photos uploaded to the computer, we back them up to another hard drive, which is backed up again, and then finally backed up again to a hard drive that is taken off-site for extra protection against destruction by potential flooding, tornados, or fire.
If the photographer you’re considering doesn’t have a plan to backup at least three times, and preferably one in a different location from the rest of the backups, be wary. God forbid, but if their house burns down before they deliver your photos, will the original files be safe?
7. "What size files will you be delivering? Will I receive printing rights?"
This is a two-part question. If you want to have the freedom to make large prints for years, make sure you'll be getting the high-resolution files. These files are typically 3mb-10mb, sometimes a little smaller or larger.
It’s nice to have smaller files (500gb-1mb typically) for uploading to social media. These files still look great but aren’t compressed to look pixelated. But, if you’re printing above a 5x7, be sure to get larger files that will look great printed!
It's OK if they don't include printing rights, but just know that, if you want prints, you'll have to purchase from them directly. If that's the case, then ask for a list of the cost of prints, and make sure it's worth it. It can be a huge advantage to order directly through the photographer if they calibrate their monitors to be color accurate and use a professional lab.
Often a photographer may refuse to grant print rights. This is not intended to be mean or to get more money out of you, but because they care about their craft so much and want to ensure that the final product of the print comes out looking as amazing as it is supposed to. While you may have access to less expensive printers, oftentimes these can show inaccurate colors and not last nearly as long as professional prints.
We offer both print rights and custom printing so that our brides have a choice.
8. "Do you have business insurance?"
If they don't, sometimes venues won't even allow them to photograph on the premises. But perhaps even more importantly, having insurance is also a good sign that the photographer has invested not only in quality gear but also in their business as a long-term craft and means of earning a living. These types of photographers are more likely to provide an awesome experience and a quality product.
9. “What will happen if you can’t make it to the wedding?”
Although this is probably the last thing you want to think about, making sure that your candidate has a legitimate backup plan provided they can’t come is HUGE! Be sure to ask who their backup is. Are their backup photographer(s) of comparable style and ability?
10. “May I see your contract?”
A good photographer comes with a good contract. Reading the contract before booking is a really great idea! We suggest asking for them to explain any terms you don’t understand. If the photographer does not have a contract, even if they are a family friend, don’t book them!
After you've talked with the candidate photographer ask:
11. “Who really stands out to me the most?”
Out of all the photographers that I’ve considered…
…who’s photos did I like the best?
…who seemed the most professional?
…who did I like on a personality level the most?
This is one of the MOST important aspects of choosing your wedding photographer. Make sure you love the photos the photos they produce, that you love their professionalism, and that you love their personality! If they don't make you feel comfortable and relaxed with a healthy combination of those traits, that unease will likely follow you throughout the day and shape your experience. Again, they will be with you the WHOLE DAY.
Natural looking photography is a product of having a natural energy and rapport between yourself and the photographer. This might not be an immediate rapport, especially if they’re a little shy, but if a photographer really rubs you the wrong way, don’t go with them just to save a buck.
You don’t have to meet them in person, although you can if they are willing. A phone call or Skype session should be enough to find out if you click! Remember, the photographer will help make or break your wedding experience and how you look in your photos (and how you feel about them later)!
Let's Wrap It Up
Now, no photographer will meet all the standards perfectly, but they should aim for excellence in all these areas and should be able to address each one of your questions.
Hopefully this post has helped you answer the question, "How do I choose a wedding photographer?". If you found this resource helpful, please share to help others!
If you're a bride, planner, photographer or someone else with an opinion, tell us what you think in the comments! What other important questions did we miss?
If you have any other questions for us or would like to reach out and share your experience, please feel free to contact us!
Thank you and happy wedding photographer hunting!
Jeff & Michele