We know how hard it is when it comes to choosing your wedding photographer! Where do you even begin? There are so many out there, and it’s difficult to figure out what really differentiates them.
It can be a tough decision, especially when you consider the role the wedding photographer will take on your day.
After all, of all your wedding vendors, your photographer is the one who
- will hand you a tissue and pick the twigs out of your dress!
- will be right by you for 8 hours
- you will exchange the most emails with!
- will interact with your guests and the people closest to you.
- is making their art at your wedding.
- you’ll still be in communication with after the wedding. Gallery delivery, print sales, album design… not to mention photographing life’s next milestones.
It’s a big decision for sure and it feels like you have a lot of homework to do! And did you know there are almost 7,000 photographers listed on Yelp in the Bay Area? Yikes!
You’re maybe aware of the various wedding directory websites that wedding photographers pay to be on. But what other resources are there? And which ones should you pay attention to? You definitely need some help understanding how to choose a wedding photographer.
I’ve compiled this checklist for choosing your wedding photographer with my 10 step-by-step tips so you can learn how to find the photographer that’s right for your unique wedding.
1. Search different platforms: Google, Pinterest, social media, wedding directories & wedding fairs
There are so many platforms these days where photographers can show off their images and explain what makes them unique.
It’s important to check across several different platforms when choosing your wedding photographer. Sometimes you’ll see the same names popping up again and again.
An insider’s note: there’s really no vetting for these sites. Anyone can get on, it’s purely transactional. Vendors also pay (a lot!) for write-ups & fluff pieces of self-promotion.
If you’re curious, you can read an insider’s experience advertising on the US’s biggest wedding website, here!
You’ll be more likely to see the cream rise to the top on social media sites and on Google organic search (not the paid ads there).
While follower count isn’t the most important thing these days, it’s useful to see who is active on the platforms. Who nurtures a community and puts time and energy into providing thoughtful, valuable content?
Wedding fairs are less popular these days but they are a great way of skipping to the meeting-in-person phase (see note 7!).
While it won’t be anything like an actual consultation, you can immediately gauge the photographer’s personality and get comfortable with them.
2. Find out what wedding photography style and types of imagery you’re attracted to
So what are all these wedding photography styles? You can read more about that by doing a quick Google search. However, you don’t need to become an expert to know what you like the most.
The words that are used are often confusing. So, here’s a quick crash course to describe the way the images look and feel:
- Bright and airy using natural light (poppy, light, fresh, clean)
- Fine art (highly curated; film or looks like film; usually high end)
- Dark and moody (uses shadows and deliberate underexposure)
- Trendy editing (e.g making green look brown; images look very warm)
- Documentary style (true-to-life colors; not overly staged)
As cheesy as it sounds, you just have to feel the connection to the imagery with your heart. Use that information to pare down your list of wedding photographers.
Feeling the connection is a very important step. Why? Well, photographers don’t generally change their editing or shooting style depending on the client’s wishes.
They have honed their craft over the course of their career, and create the work that only they can create. If you don’t 100% love the way they capture and edit images, you can safely cross that wedding photographer off your list!
3. Figure out a budget, taking into account the averages in your area
A budget for your wedding photography is a good idea and should be realistic.
Just like your wedding venue, caterer or any other vendor, wedding photographers are first and foremost business owners that have certain minimums they have to charge to make a job worthwhile for them.
It’s tempting to think you can simply trim down the amount to suit what you’d like to pay, but many established wedding photographers don’t work that way.
A better way of creating a budget for your wedding photography is to check out what the established professionals are charging. Feel free to ask them questions. A good wedding photographer isn’t afraid to talk about money. We understand budgets are real.
Most photographers will gladly recommend other photographers who are a better fit price-wise if your budget won’t stretch. We definitely won’t get offended!
There are smart tools online that can help you calculate budgets. The Knot’s budget planning tool is very helpful. This great article by Woman Getting Married also breaks down the costs specifically when it comes to wedding photography.
I also have a guide about how to save money when wedding planning, linked below.
Want to understand wedding vendor pricing? I’ve created this in-depth resource linked below that dives into the often-misunderstood topic.
4. Check out photographers’ online reviews and social media profiles
We live in a world where unhappy customers take to the internet to vent their frustrations when products & services they’ve purchased didn’t go as hoped. Use that to your advantage!
While there will always be trolls and hurt people out there, it’s totally necessary to check out a photographer’s reviews on all the platforms they’ve active.
Review sites are one of the only platforms where a photographer cannot carefully curate exactly how they want to come across.
Social media is your friend when choosing your wedding photographer! I normally check out a vendor’s Instagram profile immediately because I want to see how they come across, how active they are and how they engage with their community.
It’s a good way of checking if someone is even still open for business. A photographer’s website is much more static. It won’t give you quite the same insight into what they’re actually doing in real-time.
5. Ask for links to full wedding galleries as well as online portfolios
This is so key! And I think a step that a lot of wedding couples miss because they don’t realize it’s an option.
It’s 100% a great idea to ask photographers if you can see full weddings online.
You can either ask to see recent weddings, or weddings in the same or similar venue to yours.
Most photographers will be super happy that you’re interested! It’s lovely to know you want to spend the time diving into our work.
Remember, everything else that you see online is essentially a curated highlight reel. The portfolio especially is literally just that – 30 or 40 of the photographer’s absolute best work over their whole career.
You’ll get a unique insight into how a full wedding looks from getting ready through final call at the bar.
Blog posts of previous weddings can also be helpful as they show you the flow of the day.
6. Consider whether their wedding imagery will stand the test of time
Wedding photography is a lovely time capsule into a moment, a space, a time in history.
There is something lovely about looking through old wedding photos and marveling at how beautifully an entire era is summed up in an image.
Check out this genuine vintage image of this 1920’s flapper bride! (Courtesy of Lilly’s Lace)
I love how it is so thoroughly rooted in the time period it was taken. The fashion, style, the camera used, filmstock and way it was developed… (That cascading bouquet is to die for!)
However, there is a fine line between work that’s deliciously contemporary and overly trendy.
I am not a fan of editing that is destructive to what’s actually being shown, if that makes sense.
Some photography styles are so dark that you literally cannot make anything out in the image.
Other styles may actually make your skin, dress, hair and trees turn a different color. These trendy editing styles will not only look dated by 2022, but will not actually be a truthful depiction of how your wedding actually looked and felt.
When choosing your wedding photographer, you want a style that’s true-to-life, I believe. The editing should be a subtle complement to the moments that are captured, not steal the show.
7. If possible meet in person to see if your personalities mesh
This one is further down the pike once you’ve already done all of the above! It can be time-consuming to meet with a bunch of photographers, so choose wisely.
An in-person meeting will be your chance to ask all the questions you want.
You will also be able to see how well you get along with the photographer. They will be with you the entire wedding day, so if you find their personality grating it’s best to move on!
Not all photographers offer the chance to meet in person, but I personally think it’s important.
A lot of my clients say they are awkward and want to be sure that they have a good rapport with the photographer before the wedding.
That rapport can be a key determining factor when choosing your wedding photographer.
You’re probably going to be a little nervous on your wedding day. If it’s also the first time you’re meeting your photographer, it’s another little thing to be a little nervous about!
It’s amazing how far a little rapport goes in settling nerves and setting you up for success on your wedding day.
Everyone’s different. It might take you or your partner a little while to warm up to a new person.
If you already know, like and trust them, you’ll feel more comfortable the moment the photographer walks in on your wedding day.
8. Ask them how they work at weddings
When you meet with them there are definitely certain things you should ask. I’ve written an article about exactly what you need to ask.
One of the big ones is: ‘how do you work at a wedding’?
Even with the knowledge that they’re a ‘candid, documentary-style photographer’, that doesn’t necessarily tell you a great deal.
Some photographers mean that they never (God forbid!) set up a shot, move things around or pose anyone. They simply capture everything as it is.
Other photographers may chase a ‘candid style’, while actually carefully curating everything to look a certain way.
Some use a second photographer, others have it as an option, others don’t offer it.
It’s definitely worth asking how they’ll deal with family formals and situations that need a lot of direction and proactive input.
Also, get to know how they achieve the couple’s portraits in their portfolio. Do they direct couples? How do they get their couples to loosen up?
Do they favor an unobtrusive approach, taking photos like a ninja fly-on-the-wall?
Or do they make their presence felt, directing and setting up every shot meticulously?
These are important questions to ask when choosing your wedding photographer.
9. Try working with them at the engagement shoot
Let’s take it one step further from simply asking your photographer how they work – actually work with them!
Many photographers bundle the engagement shoot in with the wedding package, but I personally am not a fan of this approach.
Why? Because when you do the engagement shoot, you’re already booked in with them!
There’s not a lot of recourse if you decide that you didn’t really like the way they barked orders, made you feel awkward, or delivered poor images.
I offer engagement photography as an added extra, so you can see how it goes and then book the wedding photography later if you liked the experience.
Regardless, the engagement session is your chance to gain confidence in front of the camera and make sure you’re in good hands.
If there was something you didn’t like, now is the time to mention it. For example, if the photographer insisted on ‘silly’ shots like jumping in the air, but that really isn’t your vibe, that’s fine! Tell them you’d prefer candid over goofy ones.
Time on the wedding day will be much more limited compared with a 90-minute engagement shoot. It’s important we can hit the ground running and nail the vibe that really suits you.
10. Understand what’s included with deliverables and how long it takes
I once heard from a film photographer friend, that her client was disappointed that there were no actual tangible 4 X 6 photos included in her film photography package.
The client had assumed that the end product of the wedding shot on film, would be the prints (and negatives, too!)
In fact, as is common in the genre, only the digital scans were provided.
It’s easy to make assumptions. That’s why it’s the photographer’s job to be clear on exactly what you get from your wedding photography.
I have a detailed contract and a blog post that explains what you receive. Most photographers will include a print release and the high resolution, fully edited digital files delivered via a beautiful online gallery.
A print release just means you have the rights to print photos yourself (on your home printer or via a print lab) for your personal use and that of your friends & family.
However, make sure you ask about this if the photographer isn’t super clear about their deliverables and it isn’t detailed in their contract.
I have heard of photographers only including the low-resolution files, and if the client wanted a print- resolution image, they’d have to pay for a high-resolution digital file or order the print directly through the photographer at a steep mark-up.
There are lots of different schools of thought regarding how long the delivery of images takes. Most photographers fall somewhere between 1 – 3 months.
I provide a 30-image sneak peek within a couple of days of your wedding. Gotta have something for the ‘gram, right?
Choosing your wedding photographer doesn’t have to be difficult or daunting. It’s really a step-by-step process. Couples often do their planning in fits and starts, so you may well find yourself coming back to the process in bursts!
The most important thing is to find a photographer that fits with your vision and vibe as well as your budget. The good news is, there are plenty of wedding photographers out there, so with a little searching you will be able to find the right photographer for you.
So that’s your complete guide to how to choose your wedding photographer! Wanna know more? ; ) Bay Area wedding photographer – Homepage | Bay Area Wedding photographer – Info, pricing, about & portfolio
For many more planning-related blog posts, click the ‘wedding planning’ tab!