The Complete Guide to Choosing Your Wedding Photographer

Your wedding day is a huge deal, and it deserves the best. From your proposal to your wedding day, you will invest a lot of time and money in making everything perfect. One question you will ask yourself early on in the planning process is how do I go about choosing my wedding photographer.

Choosing the right photographer should be one of your top priorities for your wedding day. These images are what you will be looking at the most after your wedding, and it's essential to have a reliable and consistent photographer to capture those memories. 

(P.S. don't believe the wedding blogs using scare tactics by telling future wedding couples that vendors are getting alllll booked up. They're rushing you to hire your vendor ASAP but we know of tons of photographers that don't have full books and are absolutely willing to photograph your wedding!)

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Choosing the Right Photographer

You probably scoured countless websites and scrolled through millions of Instagram feeds in your search to choose your wedding photographer and are starting to feel very overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. How do you choose the right one for you? Should you go with someone...

  • who has the best reviews?
  • who is super affordable?
  • who you've been dreaming of working with for years?

There are so many factors that go into choosing the right photographer to capture one of the biggest days of your life. Still, in the end, it all comes down to choosing a wedding photographer that makes you feel comfortable and whose personality ~meshes~ with yours. We can't say this enough, finding the perfect team that cares about forming a genuine connection with you two to best capture the essence of your bond and cares for your wedding day as much as you is the secret sauce to wedding photos you will cherish forever. Your photographer should know how to encourage the best pictures out of people and you and your partner's personality should shine through in your wedding photographs.

Another thing we stress when choosing your wedding photographer is not immediately trying to find the lowest-priced person/team out there. You get what you pay for in most cases, and you don't want to have regrets about not getting the best quality with your images. A cheap photographer is kinda like a convenience store, cheap and convenient but doesn't give you that overall seamless experience. At the end of the day, only you know your total budget, and how important photography is to you. 

Different Tiers of Wedding Photographers

Conservatively, there about three tiers of wedding photographers: the budget, the mid-range, the high-end. While each can have its pros and cons, it all boils down to how much you care about expertise and experience.

The Budget Wedding Photographer:

We know that everyone starts somewhere and these photographers could have real talent. Heck, we were there once. But it'll be like finding a needle in a haystack. The photographers in this tier aren't charging enough to sustain this job full-time, don't necessarily have all their ducks in a row legally, or are just doing this as a hobby on the side. The price range for these photographers can be as low as $200 for all-day coverage or high as $1,200 for 10 hours with goodies like prints and an album. This might all sound like a great deal to you, but this is not a price point that is sustainable (we know from experience).

While you might literally strike gold in this tier, we are just here to put a buyer beware warning! It's in this budget where you'll find photographers who are waaaaay behind on editing, never respond to your emails or take ages to respond, or have contracts that aren't super solid. But like we said, we were here once, and if that's what you're more comfortable spending, that is ok! Look at where we are now. We simply suggest that you be extremely careful during your initial meetings, triple-check contracts before you sign them, use more secure ways of payment to protect yourself, ensure they know how to work in a variety of lighting situations, make sure that they have a portfolio to look at and that you can imagine yourself in their portfolio. Ultimately you want to feel good in your bones about booking your photographer.

The Mid-Range Wedding Photographer:

This tier is where most of the wedding photographers you've probably found are in. Since there are so many in this range, choosing your wedding photographer actually becomes increasingly harder. There are different editing styles to choose from, such as true to color, light and airy, bold and vibrant, dark and moody, warm and filmy, and shooting styles such as photojournalistic/documentary, traditional/posed, or editorial. The price range that you'll find with these photographers is around $2,000 - $3,500. In addition, most of these photographers usually include a second shooter in most of their packages. Keep in mind that just because someone is in this tier, doesn't mean that you still shouldn't do your due diligence of research and question-asking during your consultations. It's just that they carry less of a risk than in the prior tier.

The High-End Wedding Photographer:

The couples that choose this tier, truly respect the art of photography and want the best of the best for their wedding day. The photographers in this tier usually range from $5,000 and can go up to $10,000. You're paying them for their experience and their style, and honestly, they're worth every single penny. Usually, these photographers will limit the number of weddings they take on in a month so they can fully focus on your wedding day. Their dedication to their craft, and to you, means that your gallery won't look like everyone else's wedding and the images in this tier will scream uniquely you.

What to Look For in a Wedding Photographer

When choosing a wedding photographer, what should you look for in their portfolio? How can you distinguish between a mid-range/high-end photographer vs. a budget tiered photographer? While you browse the portfolios of these different photographers, keep some of these questions in mind:

  • What is their photography and editing style?
  • Who are they showcasing on their website?
    • Do you see a reflection of you and your partner in their portfolio?
      • From personal experience on the other side of the camera, and as a POC ourselves, we find that many photographers will sometimes lighten darker skin tones to the point where it appears really light or even white. A photographer personally did this to us, making us absolutely hate those photos. Make sure you find a wedding photographer who could still give you the vision you want and make you look like *you.*
  • How long have they been photographing weddings? 
    • Are they newer or more seasoned?
      • You should be VERY cautious about going with a newer photographer. A wedding is a very high-stakes photography event, and we don't think it's worth it to take the risk on someone who is not very experienced. However, that doesn't necessarily mean the less expensive person you found wouldn't do a good job — just a good idea to be cautious. It might be worth paying more for peace of mind.
      • A photographer's ability to plan, anticipate, react, and know exactly what needs to be captured at any point of the day is something that can only be learned through experience.
  • What do they include in their packages?
    • We find that including engagement sessions in the package allows for an initial bonding experience with your photographer, and helps gives everyone a clear understanding of the vibes and connection!
  • Do they have timely communication and are they upfront with setting expectations for response time?
    • Let's say you've inquired, but haven't heard back from them in weeks with no sort of automatic reply on when they can get back to you. This could foreshadow their lack of communication and overall customer service.
      • Personally, no matter how busy we could get, it's very rare that we let emails go unresponded to for over 48 hours.
  • Does their portfolio showcase different types of lighting?
    • A good photographer would understand that lighting can change in an instant on a wedding day and should understand how to use on-camera or off-camera flash.

We’ve Inquired! Now What?

Once you've decided to inquire with your chosen photographer and you booked your meeting with them, some questions to ask during your consultation are:

  • Have you done events at our venue before or similar to our venue? And if so, can you send us a full gallery?
  • Do you use a dual-slot camera?
  • If your venue is mostly indoors or at night:
    • Do you use high-quality glass lenses that can shoot in low light conditions?
    • Do you know how to use on-camera or off-camera flash?
  • How long will it take to get my images back after my engagement session/wedding?
  • How do you backup our images?
  • Do you have a backup in case you get sick/can't make it to my wedding?
  • How will you approach my wedding day?
  • What is your typical turnaround time for email responses?
  • Other bonus questions to learn about them more -
    • Why did you enter this line of work?
    • What is your favorite thing to capture at weddings?

Still Don’t Know How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer?

Here are some reasons REAL people have said about why or how they chose their wedding photographer:

"Overall vibes. Do I want this person a few feet away from me alllll night?"

"SUPER diverse portfolio. When looking I kept finding that almost all of the images included perfect, modelesque-looking images. Yes, they could be making people look their best but if I can't tell that the person knows how to shoot fat people, it's kind of a waste of my time to interact with them. The ones that most interested me had a variety of sizes, skin tones, etc in their models."

"Seeing the full galleries was incredibly telling, and I was actually very surprised with a few photographers whose work we thought we liked because their full galleries were inconsistent with what was shown on their website."

"It’s important to me to know what backups the photographer has in place for their images as well as their backup in case they can’t do the wedding anymore due to sickness/emergency."

"Responsive and communicative. She was confident in her presentation of how the day would go. Overall, really good vibes and the work to back it up."

Conclusion

Choosing a wedding photographer will ultimately come down to how important the photos are to you and whether or not you are willing to pay more to get exactly what you have in mind. If it's important to you, focus on the photographers' full galleries (not just the portfolio they showcase on their website) and find the one you love for their style, personality, and communication. This is one of the most important investments you can make, it's about finding someone who can capture the moments that matter the most because these memories are priceless.

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