What to expect from your wedding photography experience

February 4, 2019
pelican inn couple getting married

Being a wedding photographer is truly a gift and a privilege and I don’t take it for granted for a second!

I say this in my emails when I respond to inquiries and send along my info & pricing guide. So here it is:

I believe empowering people to make the right choice for them. I am not the right photographer for everyone. And that’s OK.

It’s important that you can trust me, and we share a creative vision.

It’s important that you can trust your photographer, and we share a creative vision. And at the risk of sounding like I have an inflated opinion of my trade, a photographer is a little different from the other vendors you’ll have at your wedding.


Your photographer is the one who’ll hand you a tissue, pick the twigs out of your dress, fix your hair and tell you when you have lipstick on your teeth!

Your photographer will be standing in front of you (or nearby!) for 8 hours on your wedding day. If you can’t stand them, this will be tricky and likely put a downer on your day.

Your photographer is the one you’ll exchange the most emails with! We’ll collab on timelines and keeping each other filled in on all the important details in the run up to the day.

Your photographer will interact with your guests, which will in some way reflect on you. If they have a very different vibe, this may not sit well with your people! e.g loud, larger-than-life photographers and reserved families.

Your photographer is making art at your wedding. If we are relaxed, happy and comfortable and given freedom to work creatively, we will take better pictures!

Your photographer is the one vendor you’ll still be in communication with after the wedding. Gallery delivery, print sales, album design… And many such as me would love to extend the relationship into photographing your life’s next milestones.

Photography is relational. Even though your wedding photos are about you, the work we make is a reflection of our relationship with you, our subject.

Honestly, the times I’ve second-shot at weddings and have had no prior relationship with the couple, the work is completely different from photos where we’ve built a mutual relationship of trust and respect. There is an intimacy to the portraits that can’t be manufactured.


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What should I be looking for in a wedding photographer?


Everyone’s a little different in what they’re seeking, and what compromises they’re willing to make because in an ideal world we’d all have Jose Villa photograph our wedding and be done with it.

So this is a general guide.

There are many variables but some key considerations are:

Price Price can give you clues as to quality and experience level of the photographer. The average price for a wedding photographer in San Francisco is just over $3,900 (2017 figures). But even knowing that, it isn’t all clear-cut. Are you getting 6 hours of coverage with one photographer? Or 2 photographers for 10 hours with an engagement session, rehearsal dinner, guest book, framed 8 X 10 print and complimentary removal of one drunk guest from the reception?

Consistency There’s no greater indicator of inexperience in my opinion than a photographer whose style is all over the place. This usually means they are still refining their artistic voice and haven’t quite honed in on their creative vision. Without consistency in both picture-taking and editing, there is no guarantee what they’ll produce on your wedding day.

Quality Quality speaks for itself. You don’t need to be an art expert to see that some photographers’ portfolios have demonstrable technical ability, sharp images, well-timed moments, beautiful composition, skilled understanding of light and overall cohesion as a curated body of work.

Experience Harder to discern so do ask your photographer outright. A dead give away is the same one or two couples across the portfolio. Or a dated style that shows your photographer may not be in the regular swing of shooting weddings. A less experienced photographer may charge less to build their portfolio vs. a more experienced one who knows their worth and is more in demand.

Professionalism How do they communicate with you? Are they business owners, or weekend warriors? There are some great hobbyist / semi-pro togs out there with low rates because they don’t depend on it as their only income source. Just be careful though, as they may not have the same insurances, licenses and legal protections as established business owners.

Speed Are they prompt responding to your inquiry and crucially your follow-up emails? Really successful and busy photographers are out of the office traveling & shooting a ton. But keeping you waiting days on end is a bad sign that they may be hard to reach when you need them.

Passion Photographers are usually super excited about sharing their work and getting out there! Do you get the feeling when looking through their website and social media that they’re still excited about weddings, or does it seem like they’re over it? Nobody wants a photographer that’s just going through the motions on your wedding day, bored out of their mind!

Attention to detail This may or may not matter to some people – each to their own! I’m super picky about grammar, spelling and all that stuff (yep, I’m one of those people!). We all have things that irk us because they look so damn sloppy! If they have an outdated web presence, mistakes in their copy, broken links on their site, and a general lack of care, then I would suggest that this may be just how they approach life, work… and your wedding!

You reach out…


So now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s dig a little deeper into what the photography experience involves, starting from the very beginning.

You make a shortlist of photographers that you’re drawn to, are in your budget, and whose overall personality seems like a great fit. When you’re browsing through all the ‘about’ pages, ask yourself if you can imagine grabbing coffee with this person?

You reach out to them and begin a conversation. You’ll probably see more detailed pricing menus and a little more about them. All the time you’re thinking ‘could I see this person as my wedding photographer’ a.k.a best friend for a day (if the amount of time spent together is anything to go by!).

This is where I get specific about what will happen if you inquire with me. Not because I want to sell myself, because as I’ve mentioned, I’m not selling myself so much as the idea that you need to trust and share a creative vision with your photographer – whoever that is. But because each photographer works differently.

I’m looking to gain a deeper understanding of what you’re looking for with your wedding photography. And it’s hard for couples to know ‘what they’re looking for’. Wedding pictures, duh?! Isn’t that all there is to it?

It’s about making sure that what I offer and what you expect are aligned.

So this is the part where I like to coax a little more out of you, starting by getting to know you as individuals and as a couple. And then moving on to specific questions about images you like, showing you some of my work that isn’t online, and making sure that we’re on the same wavelength. Partly, it’s about managing expectations.

Couples don’t know what they’re looking for. Why would they? So it’s up to us as wedding pros to educate you as to what we can do, what we can’t do and to make sure that we can do whatever is encapsulated in your idea of ‘wedding photography’. It’s about making sure that what I offer and what you expect are aligned.


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The meeting


One thing that’s of paramount importance to me is to meet couples before we sign on the dotted line. I’ve learned through years of being in business that nothing beats a face-to-face meeting if at all possible. We are humans and there is no substitute for good ol’ human connection!

Failing that, we can jump on a video call or even just a phone call. During this consultation, I try not to talk business too much. The intention is to get you comfortable, relaxed, and opening up a bit about yourselves. We don’t even have to talk a ton about your actual wedding – I’m more interested in learning about YOU!

You’ll be able to ask me your questions and I’ll give you a rundown of what’s involved. Hopefully though, you’ll already be aware of what’s ahead should you want to proceed because I put information out there. I don’t want to give you any surprises (except maybe a thank you gift!). I’m happy to provide a refresher and let you know – oftentimes you’re dealing with a lot of other vendors and photographers and I’m all about being straightforward and transparent.


After the meeting


The meeting is not high-pressure. If you’re interested, you will let me know in your own time if you feel good about going ahead. Again, nothing at this stage is a done deal, but please be aware that dates are on a first-come, first-served basis. I can’t hold dates indefinitely, but as a courtesy after we’ve spoken, I can let you know if I get a conflicting inquiry that’s moving forward.

Letting me know if you don’t want to go ahead is hugely helpful as I can free up that date for other couples and I won’t keep pestering you! If you want to share why you didn’t go ahead this would be hugely valuable feedback to me.

Maybe you have more questions or just want to give it a little time before making a decision. That’s totally fine. This is a good time to view full galleries of my past weddings that have a similar vibe to yours. You might also want to take a peek at my contract so you can see in more depth what’s involved.

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Locking it in


To lock it in, I will need two things. 1) your signed contract and 2) your reservation fee. The contract is signed completely online through my dedicated software. It must be signed by both marrying parties, regardless of who is paying the bill. Emails will go out to your both separately, so you don’t need to be in the same place to sign.

After I receive the signed contract I’ll invoice you for your 50% reservation fee. This is payable by credit / debit card, PayPal, e-check/bank transfer or check and is most often done online.

Planning the wedding photography


Now the booking process is done, we have plenty of time to collaborate together and build your customized photo timeline for the day, making sure there is plenty of time for what you value. This will be a gradual process as plans for the day take shape over time. I’m happy to give my customized recommendations for other vendors that might be a good fit for you and your wedding.


What’s included!


For more about what’s included in your wedding photography purchase, please go to my working together page. To give you a brief overview, you’ll get at least 50 – 75 edited images per hour of photography and a beautiful online gallery to view them in (as well as purchase prints, share, download and more), with print release for personal usage. You’ll get me to help you plan your day and give you input and information should you require. And you’ll know you’re in safe hands, I hope!

So what is my ‘style’ and ‘vibe’ I talk so much about?


For more about me, please head to my about page! In a nutshell I create fun photography for joyful intimate weddings.

My essential intent is to create meaningful, candid, joy-filled imagery that celebrates union.

My business values are representing underrepresented couples. storytelling with authenticity & integrity, and expressing the joy of life.

My approach to image-making is both bold and tender, modern and timeless, edgy and romantic, muted and colorful, intimate and expansive. I tell stories through images.

Human stories with all their imperfections, quirks, burnt edges, fleeting emotions, beauty and realness are what I’m most interested in. Yes, I’ll capture alllll the details but in the years to come, it’s the faces that will make you weep, not the flowers.

My specialty, my passion is intimate weddings. Currently I’m taking bookings for weddings of fewer than approx. 50 people all over California and the world. I love to travel and go to places I’ve never been before and will photograph your wedding anywhere on Earth.

I would love to hear from you if anything you’ve read here has had you thinking ‘yessssss!’. Reach out via my contact page to receive my informative guide.


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