I would say of all the people groups in the wedding industry, my absolute favorite people are wedding photographers. I follow them by the hundreds, love a new one every day practically... their work is art. How they capture love is beautiful to me.
Since I am not a wedding photographer, this article stems from knowing a lot of them as friends, colleagues, and even family members. I think brides and grooms get overwhelmed in the search because these days there are SO many options, but hopefully this post will help you think through a few things while you look.
the great photographers i know focus on experience of their couple. the photographer should be someone you connect with personally because you see them MORE THAN ANYONE ELSE on your day, and I am not exaggerating. You should actually like them as a person beyond just liking their photographs. I also really suggest doing an engagement shoot before the wedding so you can familiarize yourself with how they pose you, and even better, you will see images before the wedding day to know you picked the right person!
The headline above is a big thing to think about. Depending on the market you are planning your wedding in, pricing can vary. The best advice I can give you is to really investigate your preferred photography style via a full gallery from the photographers you are deciding between. Are the images from all parts of the wedding appealing to you? Do they tell a story? Do they feel posed in a way that makes you uncomfortable? Ask them about the timeline for that specific wedding too, did they have enough time to shoot everything they wanted to? These are good things to ask! Another important reason to ask for a full gallery, is that you may like the single best shots they post in their Instagram account, but do you like the other images they delivered?
Please do not ask for discounts.
Photographers price themselves at a point where they are covering their overhead costs, paying for their rent or mortgage (and other bills), and sometimes studio spaces. Let's not forget advertising, which is likely how you found them in the first place. They know how many weddings they can book in a season, and price themselves as such. Please respect that, and do not ask for a discount.
Make sure you know how many wedding photos to expect when all is said and done. Make sure it is clear how long you should expect before they arrive in your inbox or are shared in some other fashion. If your photographer is a film shooter, they need to send the film to labs to scan and it may take longer to get back. Some photographers aim to send sneak peaks (1-5 photos) from your day within a few days of your wedding for you to post on social media or share with your friends. It all depends, so again, just ask them.
Film vs. Hybrid vs. Digital.
Wow I hope I cover this correctly. Again, I am not a photographer but have had experience with all of these different formats as a planner:
Film - There is a level of artistry and technical detail that goes into this style of shooting that should not be overlooked. Also, film you may have purchased as Walgreens when you were a kid off to summer camp is not the film these folks are using. There is serious overhead for film shooters. Not only do they pay a pretty penny for each roll of film, they also pay the labs to develop them, and have to pay for shipping in addition to that. I have a very high level of respect for these folks and think they are worth every penny if you can afford them. They do best with natural light and outdoor events. There is a color tone in film that is just so beautiful and rich compared to digital photos.
Hybrid - These shooters typically have a film and digital camera with them. Since film picks up so well with detail shots and outdoor daytime shots they might take those extra special photos on the film, but then whip out the digital for things like family photos, dancing, cake cutting, etc. Some will bring a second digital shooter to cover all aspects of the wedding while they shoot film. Each has their own system!
Digital - Don't discount the artists that shoot digital! They aren't paying the overhead film photographers are, bit still have some. I know a lot of digital-only shooters who do a great job, it really just depends on the style you are looking for. Because they don't have a ton of pure overhead like the film shooters, these are often the most affordable of the options, but not always. I have worked with high-profile digital shooters who charged double what the film shooters were charging. It all depends! You do typically get more images when you hire a digital shooter though, so that can be a great reason to hire a digital photographer. You also need to be slightly less delicate with the timeline for these shooters, They can usually take every photo you were hoping for with less adjusting in the schedule.
It might offend them if...
"Culling" is the term they use for going through every single photograph to decide which they feel best represent the beauty of your day. They tell a story. They share a perfect glimpse of a moment. It can really insult them if once you get your galley back you ask them to see ALL of the photos they took on your day. Most will kindly decline. They have spent the time to go through every photo to give you the very best ones. That is part of their job! Please hire a photographer you TRUST!
I would say 90-99% of the photographers I know would LOVE to travel for your wedding. There is a misconception that vendors need to have seen the location you are getting married to do a good job there, not true. If you are hiring a good photographer, and can afford to pay for their travel costs in addition to the cost of their wedding package, you should absolutely consider them. Always ask about travel fees upfront, you never know who might be itching to get away to your wedding destination!
Do you want your wedding to be published? What does "published" mean? Well, when you have looked on Pinterest or blogs to see what you are hoping for in your big day, or purchased a magazine to cut out or show your parents... those are published weddings. Some photographers are great at getting weddings published and it is a focus of their attention. If it is important to you to get your wedding published, you should expect the timeline to be adjusted slightly so the photographer has time to get detail shots... and you need tho think about details a little bit more than you would if being published wasn't on your radar. Detail shots include:
- A styled invitation suite - Make sure to order 2 extra invitations for the photographer and planner to style. Sometimes its nice to order extra flowers for this as well, and if you are going with a color theme, searching for old stamps to compliment the suite for this photo is a great idea!
- A full ceremony AND reception shot with no catering team, no guest coats or purses on the chairs, and all candles lit.
- A first look - unless you or your partner is against it, both planners and photographers alike usually recommend doing a first look. Not only does it sometimes allow for the couple to actually attend cocktail hour, it also gives the photographer some extra time for portraits, which of all photos from your wedding, this group and the sunset photos (see below) will be your "wall hangers"
- Sunset photos - you can see what time the sun sets in the city on your wedding date and plan accordingly. Photographers love as much portrait time as they can get in what they call "golden hour" the hour before the sun is set (and sometimes a few minutes afterwards)