January 30, 2023
I have a philosophy when it comes to any kind of advice (especially in the realm of wedding planning and how to choose a wedding photographer): take what works, leave what doesn’t.
The wedding world is full of as many opinions as there are styles of weddings and types of couples. If you’re in the thick of wedding planning, you’re well aware of the countless voices telling you what you should do and how you should do it. And while there’s certainly a place for tradition and etiquette, I’ve seen time and time again that couples enjoy their wedding the most when they’re making decisions that are best for them.
So when you’re deciding how to choose a wedding photographer, how do you know what’s best for you?
Your wedding photos will document a beautiful, significant milestone in your life, and they’ll be in your family for generations. Simply put: they’re important. And because of this, one of my greatest desires for every couple I work with is for them to adore their wedding photos. Through my years of photographing weddings and walking through the wedding planning process with dozens of couples, I’ve asked a lot of questions about what’s important to them in photography. I’ve taken note of where photography expectations were met and were they weren’t. These are my suggestions based on those years of experience.
Remember: Take what resonates with you, and leave what doesn’t.
A helpful first question might be, “how important is wedding photography to me?”
A friend of mine once described how prioritizing her wedding vendors helped her make decisions more easily throughout wedding planning. She chose three vendor categories that were the most important to her, and placed greater importance on decisions related to those three vendors. She gave herself a little more wiggle room in her budget for those three things, and found that framing her budget and decision-making this way took the pressure off of other decisions.
When I plan my own wedding, photography will be the most important decision I make. I strongly value the time, thought, and creativity that goes into wedding photography. I have specific tastes and preferences in the style of photography I’m drawn to. My wedding photos will be one of the only tangible things I have after my wedding. They’ll be in my family for generations to come, and I want them to be an absolutely beautiful representation of me, my husband, and our wedding day!
Other couples might feel differently. They might have strong opinions about other parts of their day, like the overall design of the day, entertainment, or food. Photography might not be something they value as strongly as other things, so they might not spend as much time and effort selecting a photographer.
Decide if photography is one of your top wedding day priorities. If it is, allow yourself all of the time and space you need to make a decision about a photographer. The following suggestions might be helpful for you as you decide. Otherwise, give yourself the “ok” to decide quickly and move forward.
These two things can truly guide your decision-making process. If the answer to one or both of them is “no”, you can cross them off your list.
The range of wedding photography styles is diverse. You can find everything from a “dark and moody” style that’s a little more underexposed and full of warmer tones, to a “light and airy” style with an emphasis on bright whites and pastel colors, to everything in between. There’s film photography, digital photography, and photographers who use both. Some wedding photography is highly posed, and other approaches are more candid and photojournalistic.
An easy starting point to figuring out what you like is to look through different kinds of wedding photos, and pay attention to how you respond to them. What gives you an emotional response? Are there certain kinds of photos that make you stop and look for a few seconds longer than you do others? What makes you smile whenever you look at a photographer’s work? Can you see yourself in those wedding photos? Are they photos you’d be thrilled to have for yourself?
You’ll probably find yourself drawn to a certain style of photography, and even if you can’t exactly put into words what you love about it, your gut will probably tell you, “yes, this is what I’m looking for!”
I describe my own work as timeless and classic. I photograph a wedding day with both film and digital cameras, and use the look of film photography as the guiding standard for editing my photos. It’s a blend of posed, classic portraits and candid moments full of movement. I like to thoughtfully photograph for the in-between moments and interactions between people throughout the day. I think it’s an approach to photography that ensures a couple’s wedding photos won’t look dated decades in the future!
You’ll spend a significant amount of time with your photographer on your wedding day. They’ll be present for every big and small moment, and they’ll play a large part in the overall flow and tone of the day. It’s in your best interest to work with someone you feel comfortable around!
Do you want a photographer who’s structured to a tee and keeps everything on track, or one who operates without a schedule and goes with the flow of the day? Do you want a someone who’s the life of the party and out on the dance floor with you, or someone who’s more of a calm and quiet presence? When you’re talking with a potential photographer, ask them what they’re like on the day of the wedding and throughout the planning process. This will give you a sense of whether or not their personality might align with yours.
I love a good schedule and I love walking into a wedding day prepared – something I’m always certain to share with couples before they book me! The word past couples have used to describe me the most is “calm”. I don’t think photography should be a source of stress on your wedding day, and I do what I can to make a couple’s photography experience effortless from start to finish!
Once you’ve thought through these two big things, you might turn your attention to a few smaller details. Don’t forget – take the advice that works for you, and leave what doesn’t!
You’ll see only a small sample of a photographer’s work on their website. A full wedding gallery can be helpful to look through to get a sense of what kind of photos might be delivered in your own gallery.
The number of photos delivered in your gallery is something else to consider! I’m of the opinion that “quality is better than quantity”. A wedding gallery with thousands of images can be overwhelming, and doesn’t tell the story of a wedding day quite as effectively as a highly curated gallery of less than a thousand images.
Clarity on this detail will help you avoid any confusion or unmet expectations on the day of your wedding! Does your photographer offer a set amount of coverage with a strict end time, or do they provide a full day? If there’s a set amount of time they’ll spend with you, when will they be arriving and leaving?
I like to arrive about an hour and a half before the bride puts on her dress, and stay through the exit from the reception. Couples may opt to do a “faux exit”, so their guests can continue the celebration without a photographer present.
Knowing when to expect your wedding gallery, and if or when to expect any preview photos is helpful! A clearly communicated delivery timeline frees you of the burden of checking in with your photographer about the progress of your photos.
Photography often extends beyond the day of the wedding. Engagement sessions are typically available, and are a perfect opportunity to get to know your photographer and to get comfortable with being photographed! Most photographers likely offer rehearsal dinner or welcome party coverage and bridal portraits. You can also talk with your photographer about how you’d like your wedding photos displayed in your home, to see if they offer print products or wedding albums. Getting the full scope of what your photographer offers allows you to take full advantage of their services!
This is a common piece of advice I’ve seen across multiple wedding publications. There are pros and cons to both! Personally, I find that photographing a wedding at a venue for the first time allows me to approach the day with fresh eyes. Photographing in new spaces is fun and allows me to lean into my creativity.
If I’m at a venue I’ve worked at before, I know the ins and outs, like the best spots for photos, and the little quirks about a location. There’s a sense of familiarity on these days that’s wonderful! All things considered, this is a detail that when compared to others, probably shouldn’t be a “make it or break it” detail in your decision-making.
I’m wishing you the best as you plan your wedding and consider how to choose a wedding photographer! Take what works for you, leave what doesn’t, and if you think we might be a good fit to work together, reach out to me here! I’d love to talk with you more.
You'll receive a monthly dose of things that are bringing me delight, links to the latest blog posts, and news about upcoming session dates!