What’s left after the wedding? … memories that will last a lifetime … and those memories are enhanced by photographs that capture the essence of your wedding day. But how do you choose a photographer that will perfectly capture the event vibe and the intense feelings of that day? Here are some of my suggestions!

  1. Narrow the field of possibles by garnering recommendations – tap your friends – including your social media list, ask your other vendors or informed relatives, visit booths at Expos and wedding websites (weddingwire.com is my personal favorite), and – most importantly – request a “short list” from your wedding planner. Your wedding planner receives some of the wedding photos from each wedding they support, so even a quick perusal of your planner’s website can give you ideas on who might have the style you like. Check in with your planner to get the low-down on how the photographer works – it can be a big time-saver.

When you look at a photographer’s work, consider how you want your own wedding day story told. There are a number of styles out there. You don’t have to know them all at the start of your search. Trust me, you’ll know what you like when you see it. But beware of being swayed by the couples or the wedding design itself – you might fall in love with their wedding vibe, but be sure the photographer’s style is what you are loving. Then, it’s time to pick a few options based on recommendations and style, ensure they are available on your date and within your budget ballpark (read more on that later), and set an in-person meeting.

  1. First and foremost, your personalities need to click. You are going to be spending much of the time on your special day with this person – including your most intimate moments– and you have to be sure that you communicate effectively and connect.
  2. Look at the photographer’s package … don’t just look at price – look at a full album from a wedding or two. And if you’re lucky enough that the photographer has worked at your venue before, ask to see those specific photos. If not, be sure you see some photos done in a similar environment or with the same type of lighting as your venue. You’ll want to see not only the showcase photos – but all those other “not worthy for advertisements” photos. You don’t want to be disappointed when your own package arrives to find that of the 800 photos, 780 of them are “candids” from the dance party – with a noticeable lack of pictures from the actual ceremony.
  3. Details you’ll want to have clarified before making a decision include:
  • Will your photographer do a site visit with you before the wedding to identify backgrounds or angles you’d like to see in your shots? While not essential, it is a perk that will ensure you’re both on the same wavelength. You don’t want to discover after the wedding that the lovely little country chapel chosen specifically for its ambience doesn’t even show up in any of your photos.
  • Is the photographer available for all day service – from dressing shots to reception shots? Some photographers try to shoot more than one wedding in a day or are incredibly limited in hour coverage (4-6 hours!) – and both clients will get short-changed.
  • Is there more than one photographer? Second photographers are essential if you want shots of both the groom and bride getting ready – or the groom’s face and the bride’s face when she first enters the venue. Ask to see some of the assistant’s work as well.
  • How is discretion maintained? You want your photographer to be able to snag great shots, but you don’t want them to be a distraction to your guests. (I attended a wedding where the photographer was crouching in front of the groom at the front of the aisle during the procession – can you say distracting!?) And what is their standard attire? Will they match with the style? You don’t want their pink dress or casual black jeans to bringing attention to them as well.
  • What happens if your photographer has an unforeseen circumstance and cannot shoot your wedding? Is there a standard replacement or do they just find “someone” or are they planning on leaving that up to you? Ask to see photos done by a potential stand-in – no one wants to find out too late that the replacement was a C-level photographer. 
  • Do they provide tools to help you choose which people and moments you want captured? It’s so nice to have a pick-list to get you started to be sure nothing is overlooked. And include both the bride’s and groom’s families in group shot input – they may have a special family shot that is important to them that you are simply not aware of.
  • Do they color-correct all images – or just a select few? Color correcting all photos should be standard for all photography.
  1. The elephant in the room: the budget. So much happens on this most special day that quickly blurs into faded memories –  a good photographer captures the essence of this day in lasting memories. This is simply not where you want to go cheap! Plan on putting aside a minimum of 10% of your wedding budget on photography. That might seem excessive, but every wedding planner has a horror story or two about distraught couples that received something much less than they had anticipated when the photos arrive (I have several!) In a nutshell, don’t go bargain-basement in this category. Some special considerations include:
  • Is there a charge for the additional photographer? If so, how much is that cost and can you have the second photographer there for only a select number of high impact hours?
  • Most venues have set hours for vacating the premises and you might have a specific time planned for your departure – which generally signals the end of the photo shoot, but if for some reason the hours extend, are you charged for additional hours?
  • Do you get the entire high-res JPG file in the quoted price or is that an additional cost? You’ll definitely want those.
  1. After the wedding you will want to see those photos! Now is the time to ask how and when that happens. Get a time estimate – this can take any time from a week to 6 months or longer. Faster isn’t always better – because if your photographer is skilled and in-demand, it will take longer to create flawless work. You might be able to get some grand “sneak peek” shots earlier than the whole package – so ask if that’s possible as well, because posting that Facebook name change with a gorgeous wedding photo is so FUN!

Generally, photographers will use prints for advertising – and will share select shots with vendors as well. If you do not want your photos published you may be charged a bit extra. If that is a consideration for you, ask up front.

Finally, get all your agreed services and pricing sealed in a written contract. A contract protects you and them. And be sure to read it all before signing.

The photographer decision and booking should be completed about a year before your wedding – 9 months at the latest. Any less than that and you’ll have trouble finding someone with the experience, services, and style that you desire.

What other vendors do you need to secure early?  The DJ is on my list … check back for the next post for my “how to host a FAB dance party” thoughts!