Wedding photographer with a professional camera working at a wedding ceremony

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer in 9 Steps

Apr 12, 2021
By Wedding Spot

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to weddings, that couldn’t be more true. As important as your hair, dress, food, venue, and every other wedding detail may be, those things only mean so much if they aren’t captured. By learning how to choose a wedding photographer that’s right for you and your celebration, you’ll ensure that you can relive your special day over and over again and share it with others for years to come.

However, it’s not as simple as just conducting a Google search, finding someone, and signing a contract. There are many different factors to consider before picking a photographer. In this post, we take those considerations and put them into nine easy-to-execute steps. So, want to learn how to choose a wedding photographer? Keep reading!

Learn how to choose a wedding photographer in 9 simple steps

1. Find inspiration

As with most things related to your wedding, it’s a great idea to look for some inspiration to get you started. Take a look at wedding photography from your friends’ weddings, on wedding websites, and in editorial sources like wedding blogs and magazines to see what speaks to you.

Keep in mind as you scroll through Instagram and other social media channels that you’re just seeing one image at a time. A great photographer can take hundreds of stunning photos that work well together and tell the story of your wedding day. Try to find sources of inspiration that include multiple photos at different points during the wedding so that you can get a sense of the photographer’s point of view and storytelling ability.

You can save images as you go using free tools like Pinterest or Pocket, and then take a look to see if there are any common threads in the things you’re saving. This will help you determine your style.

2. Choose a style

When it comes to figuring out how to choose a wedding photographer, one of the most important factors to consider is style. When wedding photographers talk about “style,” they’re usually referring to a specific way of capturing images during your wedding. There are a handful of main styles that wedding photographers use for their photography, including:

  • Classic. With this style, you’ll see full-body group and solo shots of the bridal party members, friends and family, and the couple. These are planned shots with lots of direction from the photographer.

  • Portrait. The main focus of this style is to capture posed close-ups of faces and expressions. If these shots are taken on the day of, they will typically happen immediately after hair and make-up is complete, and just as the subject has gotten dressed to ensure they look fresh and haven’t had a chance to get misty-eyed!

  • Photojournalistic. This style is also referred to as documentary or lifestyle photography. It’s meant to capture those candid moments that are unposed and totally organic.

  • Fine art. Such as the name implies, shots in this style are meant to be works of art that are carefully thought out, unique, and creative. For example, these shots could be images of the couple in natural light against a picturesque landscape, shot with a wide lens, or even with aerial photography.

  • Editorial. Editorial photographers will capture your day with a bit of edge and attitude. The shoot will be meticulous and there will be a lot of instruction from the photographer and their assistant in order to capture shots with the highest level of precision.

However, these are only a few! There are tons of other styles out there to suit every couple’s needs. And just because a photographer identifies with one particular style doesn’t mean they only take pictures in that style. For instance, many photographers will use primarily a documentary style but may take a few posed photos, too. It’s a good idea to have a conversation with the photographer before signing a contract (more on this later) so that you’re on the same page about what to expect. You may even be able to mix and match a handful of different styles to get a nice, wide variety.

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3. Start your wedding photographer search

Once you know what style you’re looking for, you can begin to create your shortlist of potential photographers. Take a look at popular wedding websites like The Knot and Wedding Wire for a directory of photographers in your area. You can also type “wedding photographers” + [your location] in Google to see a mixture of paid and organic listings.

It’s also a great idea to ask for recommendations from your network. You can use Facebook’s recommendations feature to gather them all in one place, or simply ask your friends on Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites for their opinions.

Lastly, if you loved the look of photos from one of your friend’s weddings, make sure to ask for the photographer’s name! You’d be surprised how many wedding vendor bookings come from word of mouth.

4. Check reviews and references

At some point before officially hiring your wedding photographer, you may want to touch base with a few references that you can speak with about the photographer’s work. Ask references about the working relationship with the photographer, how much they noticed (or didn’t notice) the photographer on the day, how they communicated with friends and family for posed shots, how long the artistic shots took, and anything else that comes to mind. This will give you a good idea of the photographer’s working style and whether he or she is a good fit for your special day.

Additionally, you’ll probably find a lot of answers to those questions in website testimonials and online reviews. Be sure to weigh all the pros and cons mentioned by past couples so you fully know what to expect when the big day comes.

5. Make a list of key moments

Make note of the key moments that you would like to capture on your wedding day. This information, along with the style that you’re aiming for, will be a helpful jumping-off point for discussion with photographers.

Some popular moments to capture in wedding photography include:

  • The rehearsal dinner

  • The wedding party and couple getting ready

  • Couple’s gift exchange

  • The first look

  • Walking down the aisle

  • The vows

  • The kiss

  • Toasts from family and friends

  • The first dance

  • Cutting the cake

  • Throwing the bouquet

  • Family portraits

  • The couple’s exit

6. Get on the same page

As you talk to your shortlist of photographers, try to determine which one will best capture your wedding day the way you would like it captured. There will likely be a few factors that add up to the “perfect” photographer for you, including how well they understand your vision, their personality, previous experience, style, price, and portfolio.

7. Discuss the wedding photographer’s package options

Photographers usually offer a few different packages for weddings. These include the length of event coverage, whether you’d like to include things like your rehearsal dinner, how many shots to include, and whether you would like a printed album. Things like editing/retouching and hosting the images on a private portal for viewing are usually included in the package, while rights to the images are usually not. But this varies from photographer to photographer, so be sure to ask!

This is also a great time to talk about the style of the album you can expect and how long it will take to get your photos back. Ask to see an example of a printed album so that you can make sure you like the style, quality, and layout.

Some photographers will also offer a quick-turnaround “sneak peek” with a few photos for you to share on social media in the days after your wedding. Make sure to ask about this if it’s important to you.

8. Stay on budget

Of course, one of the big things you’ll want to discuss with your photographer is the budget. You can expect to pay between $1,000 and $10,000 for a wedding photography package in the US, with the average wedding photographer costing $2,400.

Keep in mind that this average is for the whole country, so your area may be more or less expensive depending on the demand for photographers and how many photographers work in your area.

Not surprisingly, this is one area where many couples choose to spend a bit more. Couples know that they only have one chance to get great photos of their wedding day, and it makes sense that they don’t want to cut corners.

If you do decide to go with a lower-budget alternative, such as having a friend take the photos, make sure that they have the right experience for the job. Professional photographers have experience with poor weather, tense family dynamics, unforeseen wedding mishaps, and more. So while the price tag may seem high, it may be worth it for the peace of mind that a professional brings.

9. Check about insurance and backup plans

Speaking of unforeseen circumstances, make sure that your wedding photographer has professional insurance and a backup plan in case something happens on the big day. Do they have a network of contacts they can call if they get sick? How will they shoot differently in inclement weather? Do they bring backup equipment in case something breaks?

It’s great to ask these questions ahead of time so that you know what to expect, but also to gauge the professionalism and experience of your photographer. With all of these issues covered, you’ll know you have someone who can make your photos look great no matter what.

Now you know how to choose a wedding photographer that will create lasting memories of your wedding day!

That’s one more thing checked off your list! Up next, learn how to plan a wedding with our stress-free, 25-step guide.

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Wedding Spot

The Wedding Spot blog is designed to help couples navigate every step of the wedding planning journey. From before the engagement to after you say “I do,” our goal is to give you the tips, ideas, and inspiration to prepare for your big day — and all that comes with it.