A guide for couples looking to find the "right" photographer for their big day!
In this article, we're going to help you identify how to choose a wedding photographer for your big day. When it comes to weddings, few vendors you will choose to hire will be as important as your photographer. We aren't just saying that because we are wedding photographers, but because after your wedding has passed - the photos will be one of the last things to remain.
Back in 2016 when we got married ourselves, this is why we felt so strongly about choosing a photographer that we loved the work of, and that we could resonate with on a personal level. To this day, we still go back and flip through our photos - whether on our computers or phones, or just looking through prints we have around the house or occasionally in our coffee table album.
We believe that couples want to hire a wedding photographer that can help them better remember their day more vividly and beautifully. Let's talk about all the things you should be thinking about when it comes to choosing a wedding photographer for your wedding.
Step #1: Identify the Wedding photo style that resonates with you
Wedding photographers have wildly diverse approaches that can result in different types of photos in some obvious, and not so obvious, ways. The way we see it, there's 2 major things that contribute to a wedding photographers "style" - the actual look of the images (the "edit") and what types of things they are capturing within the photos.
Photo editing is extremely common these days, and wedding photographers use specific editing approaches to cater to couples with similar tastes. Some common editing styles include:
- Natural/Timeless. Colors are more-or-less the same as what you'd see in real life, but images are enhanced for more depth. These are not the most trendy photos, but will age very well as other trends come-and-go. - Bright & Airy. Images are generally overexposed. One simple way to know if this is happening is if the sky is all white in many of their photos. - Dark & Moody. The photos generally are dark and have higher levels of contrast.
Going deeper than just how the photos look, one of the more important aspects of choosing a wedding photographer is finding one who is capturing the type of images you're wanting to have to remember your day.
Some photographers focus heavily on posed and editorial moments - the types where they might have multiple flashes set up and an assistant to create the types of shots you might expect to see in Vogue.
Other photographers stick more to a candid/documentary style, which sees them blending into the background more and capturing things authentically as they occur.
And of course, some photographers (we'd say "most" actually) are somewhere in between.
Step #2: Make a list of photographers that you like the work of
Now that you have a sense of what you're looking for in a photographer, the next step is to make a list of photographers that seem like they'd fit the bill for your wedding day.
How do you find a wedding photographer?
- Run some searches online for photographers in your local area - Look through social media - Instagram is particularly helpful because it's easy to track down photographers through the use of hashtags - Ask for recommendations from other vendors, your venue, and friends/family - Check out wedding directory websites like The Knot, Wedding Wire, and Zola
We suggest making a list of 5-10 photographers to start, then moving on to the next step!
Step #3: research your Wedding photographer shortlist in more detail
Now that you've put together a list of photographers that you like right off the bat, it's time to do some research!
What are the most important things to look for in a photographer?
- Re-review their portfolio and blog posts of past weddings. You need to confirm you LOVE their work! - Check out their website to learn more about them as people. While you're hiring a photographer to take pictures of your day, remember that who you hire is just as important because they will be with you for your entire day - it helps to like them and get along! - Read through some helpful resources the photographer has put together. These can show you how the photographer thinks, how they approach documenting wedding days, and more. - Check for pricing information. Most wedding photographers at least list starting prices on their website.
As you review all of these things in more detail, you will likely reduce your list to just a couple of photographers you are really, really interested in learning more about.
Step #4: reach out to the photographers on your list
Go to the photographers website contact form, and submit an inquiry to learn more.
What makes a great inquiry?
It's helpful to keep in mind that the photographers you are reaching out to are people too, and probably super excited to be receiving your inquiry. While they are providing a service, being able to connect with you even in little ways through that initial communication is extremely valuable and helps to create a great relationship from the start. A few things we suggest including in your inquiry:
- Share a little bit about yourself + your fiance - Tell them why you've chosen to reach out to them - Answer any fields of the contact form with full answers - Ask any questions you may initially have
This part of choosing a wedding photographer is really one of the most important outside of booking, as you can learn a lot from how the photographer responds to you.
- Are they personal? - Does the email feel like they copy-and-paste it to everyone? - Do they answer the questions you are asking?
In general, you should expect a response within 24 hours.
Step #5: Talk with the photographers to learn more
Every wedding photographer does things a little differently. For some, communication may be handled through email. Others may ask to set up a phone consult or a Zoom call. Sometimes, you will let just them know what you are comfortable with.
While the photographer will be able to educate you through what they offer, you will also want to come prepared with some questions for them.
Some great questions to ask a wedding photographer:
- How long have you been photographing weddings? - Can we see full galleries of past weddings you've shot? - How would you describe your photography style? - What does moving forward with you look like? - Do you have business insurance?
Step #6: Choosing your wedding photographer
This last step is the most important one as it will influence how your wedding day is documented for you to remember things by.
Making this choice is often times very easy once you've already reviewed a photographers portfolio, website, and got to talk with them through email and/or the phone. Sometimes, you may be really torn between two photographers if they have similar styles, vibes, and price points.
We'd say that the most important things to look for when choosing your wedding photographer are these:
- Their portfolio. If you can see that they shoot weddings consistently from wedding to wedding, and you LOVE the images they showcase, then you will love their work for your day! - Their personality. Being able to connect with your photographer is more important than some couples realize. If you can relate to things they are into and just vibe with who they are as a person, it will make the whole experience much more fun and the resulting photos more authentic to you. - Their experience. Choosing a wedding photographer with a lot of experience means you can better trust that they will be able to take care of you no matter what happens. - Their volume of clients. It's a good idea to check out their website & social media to make sure it looks like they are actively photographing weddings and taking on other work with relative consistency. If they are not doing a lot of work, it's worth diving into it to understand why.
Should the cost matter when choosing a wedding photographer?
One of the important factors that play into a couple's decision of who to choose as a wedding photographer is their budget and how much things cost. There's no denying that this will play a role for many couples.
With that said, it's important to really assess what you are paying for as comparing one photographer to another based on price alone will potentially result in unexpected and bad consequences.
Low priced photographers are typically at a higher risk of bankruptcy (ie: not having enough money to support their photography business to make it to your wedding), generally have less quality gear, often shoot without backup equipment, have less defined client experiences, and generally have less experience photographing weddings.
Higher priced photographers are typically more financially stable, have worked with a larger volume of clients, are better supported with client reviews, generally have professional quality gear and backup equipment, have better client experiences, and a ton of experience photographing couples and weddings.
Also important when comparing prices is actually reviewing what is included (and not included) in the wedding photography packages. A $5,000 package that includes a full day coverage, 2 photographers, an engagement session and an album is very different than a $5,000 package that just includes wedding day coverage with a single photographer.
How to choose a wedding photographer - frequently asked questions
While we've outlined the key steps you'll need to take to choose a wedding photographer yourself, we also know you probably have a bunch of questions as well. We've put together a little FAQ here to give some extra insight that can make things much, much easier for you to make your choice - these are questions you may already be thinking of and could benefit from knowing about before even talking with photographers!
- How much does wedding photography typically cost? In our experience, beginning wedding photographers will charge between $500 - $2,500. For experienced weddings photographers, you should expect to pay between $3,000 - $4,000+. These rates are entirely dependent on location, experience, portfolio quality, and demand (among other factors).
- Are engagement sessions worth it? Yes. Even if engagement pics aren't your top priority, an engagement session is a great way to meet your photographer and get used to working together before your wedding day. Building that relationship at an hour or 2 long shoot will make your wedding day much easier and less stressful.
- What are "associate" photographers? A common term in the wedding industry is "associate photographers." This is referring to a team of photographers that shoot for a particular studio. These might be a photographers friends or other photographers they networked with in the industry. Not all associate shooters are made equal, but a reliable brand will have a great team of shooters that carry a uniform style.
- How will photos be delivered? Most photographers deliver images in an online gallery that allows you to download photos on demand. Some photographers also provide flash drives or other physical media for storing your images.
- Do I get rights to the photos? Generally, wedding photographers give you a personal print release, which means you can use the images for personal use (such as to go to the store and print them). Photographers normally retain the full copyrights so they can use the images in their portfolio and for marketing purposes.
- Does a wedding photographer need experience shooting at my venue? Couples will often ask if a photographer has experience at their venue, but it's honestly not important. Most wedding venues have similar qualities, and the flow of the day isn't impacted by the location much at all. Think about it like this - if a photographer has documented 100+ weddings, they've been to a ton of venues. It's impossible for any one photography studio to have shot everywhere (especially since there's new venues popping up every day). If you love everything else about your photographer, you can trust their experience to handle your wedding beautifully - even at a new location.
- Do you have business liability insurance? Wedding venues often request from their vendors (including photographers) to provide evidence of their business insurance, and a Certificate of Insurance (COI) naming the venue as an additionally insured party on their policy for the date of the event. Without this, a photographer will not be able to shoot an event. Wedding photographers need this to be effectively operating as a business.
- How much does the deposit cost? While every photographer operates a little different, usually deposits as 25% - 50% of the total package cost.
In this guide, we walked you through the steps you'll need to take in order to choose a wedding photographer for your big day. It's a big decision, but one we know you'll be able to make a little easier with all of this info in front of you!
Love what you're seeing?
We love getting to connect with couples wanting amazing photos to commemorate their love.
Whether your already in the middle of planning for your big day or just getting started - we're open books and open ears, happy to help you and show you how photography can compliment your day - beautifully!
Hand and Arrow is a wife and husband photography team serving couples in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania and tri-state area.