July 19, 2019

How to Find Your Wedding Photographer

Tips from the Pros

Photo by Really Montana Photography

How do you select the person who will create the means for you to relive the greatest day of your life for years to come? We asked a handful of our favorite pros for their best advice on choosing a wedding photographer.

Determine Your Budget

Start by researching local photographers that post their rates publicly and ask around for a few quotes. This will give you a realistic expectation of what things should cost. Your timeline and desired shot list can also play a large factor in what you will be charged. Some photographers charge on a sliding scale depending on the amount of time they work. If you’re trying to save money, you might consider cutting some parts of the day to get more shots on others, though this may be something you regret after the day has passed.

“I’d recommend couples consider a full day package as opposed to the limited hourly rate; this helps tell the full story of the day as well as remove the stress of building your schedule around your photographer.”

--Jessie Moore, Jessie Moore Photography

Image may contain: 4 people, wedding

Photo by Jessie Moore Photography

Keep in mind that even with all the excitement and anticipation involved in planning your wedding, the day will come and go more quickly than you imagine. If you want quality photos to remember the day, you’ll need to pay a quality rate.

“I got married quicker than anticipated because my wife and I were both in the Guard at the time and had just been told we were going to be deployed. We had a date for fall and instead threw together a quick gathering within 3 weeks. We paid a new wedding photog $400 and weren't thrilled with the results. We didn't do research, relied heavily on pricing and never met the photographers prior to the event. All of that was wrong. We did get photos that we have on our wall but nothing like what we could’ve had…

“Out of all the thought and effort put into planning and making a wedding happen, the main thing that brings those memories back to life are the photos. Don't hire Uncle Jerry just because he has a nice camera and agreed to shoot it for free or at a generous price. You want experience to help deal with emergencies, scheduling conflicts, reliability, etc.”

--Davey Johnson, Davey Johnson Photography

Working with a non-pro, while a money saver, also carries the risk of late or non-delivery.

“If you’re looking for that $500 photographer, keep in mind they are not serious and you may never see your photos.”

--Mike MacLeod, Studio MacLeod

Vetting the Pros from the Amatuers

It’s not only about the quality of pictures you’ll receive; deciding on a professional photographer should make one less thing for you to worry about on your big day.

"Choose a pro! You want beautiful wedding photos you’ll cherish forever. To get that you need a photographer that is creative, well-rounded technically, and someone with enthusiastic professionalism. Check out their past work and their reviews. Then sit down with them and get all of your questions answered. If they are a professional, you’ll be reassured after talking with them about important things like wedding package options, contracts, turn-around times, and editing choices. A true professional will also be on time, with the right equipment, and do their best to help you have an amazing wedding day."

--Elisha Mack, Really Montana Photography

Image may contain: one or more people, cloud, sky, outdoor and nature

Photo by Notarius Photography

This day and age, we’re offered the luxury of plentiful reviews available online. Read over the reviews of your potential photographer and determine the majority opinion. Look for trends in responses and remember to take outliers with a grain of salt.

“Review their work, ask about what gear they use, read reviews but don't be discouraged by a bad one as there are mistakes that happen. Instead, ask the photographer to explain what happened and judge them on their response.”

--Davey Johnson, Davey Johnson Photography

Image may contain: 2 people, wedding and outdoor

Photo by Studio MacLeod

Experienced photographers possess a repertoire of references from couples they’ve worked with in the past. Learn what their recent clients thought of the overall experience.

“Ask potential photographers for references from three recent brides.”

--Mike MacLeod, Studio MacLeod

Get recommendations! You’ll likely work with several other professionals when setting the wedding venue, reviewing caterers, and (possibly) meeting with a wedding planner. Ask around for potential names.

“Ask your venue provider for the names of photographers (he or she) likes working with and why.”

--Mike MacLeod, Studio MacLeod

Discover Your Style and Theirs

Make a collection of wedding photos you like (Pinterest and Instagram offer excellent tools for this), and look for similarities in editing, composition, and emotion. Try to look beyond current photography trends and discover your “true taste,” so you’ll like your photos in the future as well as now. When you search for photographers, find one that does what you like well, and share your collection with them when you meet.

“I have found that one of the most valuable things to consider is “Are we a good fit?” There are so many different styles out there which are an extension of how the photographer sees the world. Are you drawn to their work? Does it make you feel giddy and excited? Awesome!”

--Sarah Notarius, Notarius Photography

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, wedding, tree and outdoor

Photo by Studio MacLeod

Look beyond portfolio highlights by viewing a full gallery or more of weddings a photographer shot. This allows you to determine a more comprehensive range of a photographer’s work. Look for the photographer’s ability to capture honest emotional connection. If you think back to defining moments of your life, your mind carries a series of images loaded with emotion. You want pictures that imitate that kind of memory. Look for a photographer that captures natural, unpracticed movement in a way that triggers an emotional response, and a gallery of images that each tell a story.

"I recommend when a couple is choosing a photographer, couples take a look at several weddings of different styles to see what is consistent throughout the photographer’s work. This way, you’ll get a better idea of what you’ll end up with. Pay attention to the lighting, expression composition, feeling, and mood, and see if it is fairly consistent wedding to wedding."

--Jessie Moore, Jessie Moore Photography

Lighting can make or break a photo. The weather and time of day in which a wedding takes place will drastically affect the lighting and mood of a shot. Ask questions about light when chatting with a photographer. A true professional should be able to easily explain different lighting situations and outcomes, as well as help a couple structure a wedding timeline in a way that gives the best lighting possible throughout the day. They also know how to manipulate their equipment in order to achieve better lighting in photos as well as how to create a mood with the light they’re given.

Image may contain: one or more people, tree, basketball court, sky, outdoor and nature

Photo by Davey Johnson Photography

Meet With Your Photographer

“Believe it or not, the photographer will spend more time with the bride and groom than their friends, family, and anyone else involved on the day of. I recommend meeting with your photographer at least once prior to the event to make sure your personalities mesh. There is enough stress surrounding getting married without having to worry about the photog being difficult to work with.”

--Davey Johnson, Davey Johnson Photography

“Choose a wedding photographer that you click with on a personal level. The more at ease you are with them, the more natural your wedding photos will be — and filled with real emotion! Sit down with a prospective photographer before you’ve chosen and share your wedding plans them. You’ll be able to see if your personalities work well together and you can evaluate their level of passion and excitement for your wedding!"

--Elisha Mack, Really Montana Photography

Image may contain: 2 people, people standing, sky, cloud, wedding, outdoor and nature

Photo by Notarius Photography

“Talk with them to see if you feel a connection. This can help you get photos that really feel personal and help you remember how your day felt as well as have more fun getting your portrait taken.”

--Jessie Moore, Jessie Moore Photography

“I have found that one of the most valuable things to consider is “Are we a good fit?” Do you like them as a person? This can be the detail that is a bit glazed over but it is vital to your ability to relax and the photographer’s ability to take amazing photos. There is no one that spends more time with you on your wedding day than your photographer. They are going to see the good, the bad, the intimate, the hard, the tears, and everything in between. You want to feel comfortable around them, you want to know that they can stay calm under pressure, you want to feel confident that they will support you and do their best to create an environment that lends itself to peace, happiness, and beautiful images! So, take advantage of the chance to call the photographer you are thinking about working with, go grab a cup of coffee, and book an engagement shoot so that you have the chance to work together and see how it feels to be around them before your big day. You won’t regret it!”

--Sarah Notarius, Notarius Photography

Use the Engagement Photo Session as a Trial Run

An initial shoot with a photographer allows you to get to know their style firsthand. Most people aren’t used to getting their picture taken, so your engagement photo session can help you break the ice and feel more comfortable. Your photographer can use this time to get familiar and learn how best to encourage you. Seeing how great you look in your engagement photos can also help you become less anxious about how you'll look in your wedding pictures.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, standing, sky, grass, tree, outdoor and nature

Photo by Really Montana Photography

"You should have your photographer take your engagement pictures. This shows you how they work, what you can expect from them, and how long it takes to produce quality work. This is a huge reason I offer engagements for free if you book me for the wedding. We get to know each other, you can see what needs to happen for images to turn out great and I get to show you how I expect you to pose and be comfortable with the camera."

--Davey Johnson, Davey Johnson Photography

Editing Timelines and Deliverables

Knowing what to expect in the post-production process will help balance all that excitement and anticipation to relive your best day through photos. Perfecting photos takes a different amount of time for each photographer. Some might deliver in as little as six weeks, others may take months.

“Make sure a firm date for deliverables is in your wedding contract.”

--Mike MacLeod, Studio MacLeod

Image may contain: 1 person, wedding, flower, tree, child and outdoor

Photo by Davey Johnson Photography

Know how many images you’re expecting and whether you want additional black and white versions of each picture. Are you expecting instant downloads in high resolution? Prints of certain images? Discuss with your photographer to get a specific idea of what you’ll receive and when, and make sure the numbers and dates are outlined in your contract.

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, outdoor and nature

Photo by Jessie Moore Photography

When it comes to choosing your wedding photographer, find someone you like on a personal level, who shares your visual style. Meet with your potentials and establish a genuine connection so that he or she is better able to capture your emotions on camera. Years from now, when your photos are all you have to relive and reflect back on this time, you’ll thank yourself for making the worthwhile investment.