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Selecting the Best Wedding Photographer for Your Needs

Andrea has been an online writer for 8+ years. She mostly writes about dating, couples, weddings, travel, interior design, and gardening.

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Selecting the Right Photographer

When it comes to weddings, the one item I would spend a decent chunk of change on is the photographer. You can find an affordable photographer who will still get you high quality pictures, but you should expect to pay a fair bit of change.

  • Your pictures will outlive the other items of your wedding.
  • The pictures or videos will help you to remember your wedding. These are your memory documents, so to speak.
  • If you have kids down the road, pictures are the best way for them to see the event they couldn't attend.

My recommendation is to do some wedding photographer scouting early. Look at pictures you like and get a good feel for what is a beautiful picture and what is a pretty generic picture. You should be thinking about what wedding pictures you like before you get engaged.

A lot of great photographers are willing to travel, so you don't have to limit your search to what is in town. If you plan to go on a destination wedding or to an exotic location, some photographers will be excited just to go there because that place might have been on their list to go and get venue pictures. Great wedding photographers are always looking to perfect their portfolio.

My recommendations right out of the gate:

  • You want a photographer who is self-employed. Someone who has their own website, equipment, and portfolio all setup is better than a company that finds photographers and ships them out willy nilly. You need someone who you have a close relationship with, because wedding photos are intimate.
  • Work with your photographer before the big day. Take couple or engagement pictures with them to get a sense of their style. This gives them an opportunity to better know your personality and your partner's personality.
  • Don't hire your best friend. Don't hire someone who just started working with a camera. Don't hire someone for free. You need a professional.
selecting-the-best-wedding-photographer-for-your-needs

Where to Find Photographers

One of the best places to find wedding photographers is on Instagram. If you search around with hashtags you can find photographers in your area, traveling photographers, and the like. You want a photographer who is proud of their work and puts it online. You want someone who has a diverse portfolio. You want somebody who is highly sought after.

Your photographer is one of your best defenses throughout the wedding. The photographer has experience with these events, and is there to support you and make sure your day goes well. A great photographer cares about your happiness, because they care about you as a person but also because they want to make sure you get the best possible photographs.

Here are some traits that great photographers have:

  • She doesn't need to impress you. He is focused on his craft. They're not a rambunctious personality that tries to get attention on himself / herself / etc.
  • The photographer is patient, gracious, respectful, and excited.
  • This person knows how to be a good friend to you, and pretty quickly. Don't hire someone that doesn't click with you. You'll have more conversations with your wedding photographer than just about any of your vendors.
  • It is very clear that they know their stuff, and it comes across without them trying too hard. You can tell by the way they hold their camera, the way they talk about their camera, the lenses they have, the lighting gear, and if it is all up to date.
  • A great photographer has a great portfolio, no exceptions.
  • A great photographer doesn't make things about himself. They don't talk about politics. They don't talk about religion. They're objective. They're very good at hiding their true feelings.
  • They're reassuring. Weddings are anxious. Your photographer knows how to make you feel calm under pressure.

When Should I Hire a Photographer?

As soon as you figure out your wedding date, start talking to photographers. You'll first likely send a message through a website. You should pay attention to how long it takes them to respond and what they first say. They're likely busy if they're worth their money, so you should expect a response of about a week or two. And they'll likely tell you what they've been up to and why there was a delay.

Your photographer will likely have several questions, and you will want to respond to these in a timely manner. The following questions will likely come up in the initial conversation:

  • What is the date and time of your wedding?
  • How big is the event?
  • Where will it be held?
  • How long have you and your fiance known each other?
  • What is your love story?
  • What makes the two of you special?
  • What are some of your biggest hopes and dreams with wedding pictures?

The photographer will do what they can to get to know you and your partner. If things seem to go smoothly, they may want to meet in person to chat or to setup a video chat. They really need to know what you're like, your likes and dislikes, and your photo goals. If they're not really giving you a lot of communication up front, then they're not really putting in the effort that they should.

Your photographer wants to build trust with you. The photographer wants to put the spotlight on you and make sure things go smoothly. You are their subject, so they need to understand you. A photographer who just tries to wing it is only relying on luck, and that isn't something you want for a special and time sensitive event.

selecting-the-best-wedding-photographer-for-your-needs

Hire Someone with a Good Reputation

Read reviews about the photographer but take those reviews with a grain of salt. If your photographer is getting a lot of bad reviews, take that as a sign.

  • You should only start up a conversation with a potential photographer if they have a good reputation, a great portfolio, and great to excellent reviews.
  • Let photographers who are building their portfolios work with other clients.

How much can you expect to pay for your photographer? Anywhere from $1,000 to 10,000. I suggest going with someone in the ball park of $2,500-5,000. Someone who is charging too low is suspicious. They might be trying to reel in clients because they haven't built up a good portfolio yet. Someone charging $10,000 knows exactly what kind of people they want to work with, and those are the big, gigantic weddings of rich people. You don't need to concern yourself with someone that expensive. You can get quality from photographers who don't charge that much.

A wedding photographer charging $40 shouldn't be hired ever.

If you are working on a shoe-string budget for your wedding, I would still make the photographer one of the higher purchase items. If you're planning a smaller and a more simple wedding, then yes, go with the photographer who is building up their portfolio. I still would argue not to use a company where a whole bunch of photographers are working. A self-employed photographer is always the way to go.

I would also argue it's better to wait to have the wedding of your dreams that you can afford than doing a wedding that's minimal. This is a really important day. You're marrying the person you love and you're seeing many of your friends and family who you likely don't get to see every single day. If you treat the day as special, then it allows for you to be open to the magic of it all. You want to invite people to an event that is worth their time, that makes them feel really excited to know you two as a couple, and is something memorable.

You can have a nice wedding on a budget. I also recommend saving up some money for this event, and then whatever you don't spend, put that money in an account for a house or other big purchase item. You're allowed to spend money for an extravagant day.

Expectations

A photographer worth their money will ask you a ton of questions and have you fill out forms to get a good idea of your wants and needs. This is also true of other vendors from your florist, your baker, to your officiant.

Your photographer may ask you to rate the following common pictures and how strongly you want them:

  • Group photos with your family.
  • Pictures of you with all your attendants.
  • Individuals with your mom, dad, siblings, and other relatives.
  • Any specific venue shots.
  • Groom seeing the bride for the first time.
  • Cake cutting.
  • Bridal entrance.
  • Flower girl and ring bearer shots.
  • Bridal flowers.
  • Jewelry pictures.
  • First dances.

Be Organized

Make sure with your photographer to keep track of all your contracts, forms, and payments. You should save emails from your photographer. They'll likely send you a link through email of your photos.

You should read your contract carefully. It will have rules about who can buy pictures, how to get them printed, and how long you have to buy them off the website, etc.

Your photographs can't be uploaded or sold to Shutterstock and other places. Your photographer may also have rules about social media use, like that you have to mention the photographer's name in all your posts. Be diligent, and take all the contracts and forms seriously. Consider your photographer one of your greatest allies, because they should be.

© 2021 Andrea Lawrence

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