I’ll be up front, this blog post is NOT a plug for you to hire me. Your time is much too valuable to get here and find a sales pitch, so I promise, none of that. I want to give you some tips + inside advice on choosing the right wedding photographer for you, regardless of who that is!
When you think about it, you’ll be spending practically your entire wedding day with your photographer — from getting ready surrounded by your bridesmaids + close family all the way to dancing the night away with your new husband. Not only is it an entire day, but it’s a VERY intimate one! You invite your close family + friends to witness you exchange vows, share dinner with you, and celebrate with you; you don’t typically invite strangers, right? You’ll want to choose someone that feels like the fit right in to that dynamic. Someone that doesn’t feel like a complete stranger, as you’re experiencing some of the deepest emotions of your life yet and it should be fun, not feel as if you’re working with just another ‘vendor.’ So choose someone with a personality that clicks well with your own. You don’t have to be best friends after the wedding day, but keep in mind you’ll want to feel relaxed and comfortable on your wedding day, of all days!
Specifically, someone who specializes in weddings! Wedding days are much different than newborn session or family sessions, so instead of choosing a photographer based on the fact that they can operate a camera, choose someone with expertise in exactly the type of photography you need: wedding photography. This ensures that they know what to expect on a wedding day and have many hours of experience prior to your wedding. Trust me, it’s a very busy + complex day for a photographer, and only wedding photographers know how to handle any situation that may arise. Working with a photographer also specializes in weddings means that they have the organizing-your-family-for-photos down pat, they know how to light your first dance in a dark room, and they do it all with a pleasant smile. They’re genuinely happy to be there, and can handle the responsibility of documenting your wedding day.
Additionally, the more experienced they are, the more they will help you get comfortable and feel like yourselves! No stiff poses, no outdated or quirky trends (if you’re looking for timeless photos), or whatever your photography preferences, make sure to find someone that fits to a T. Most photographers will consistently produce the same style of photos, whether they be moody + dark, light + romantic, etc. so what you see in their portfolio, that’s what you’ll receive also. Find someone who offers a style that you LOVE, not someone who you’re lukewarm about and hope to have the conversation later about changing the editing style. Most photographers don’t offer that type of service, so choose a photographer with a style you really connect with in the first place.
You can also gauge how they handle delivering your images (hopefully on time!), talking you through the process, and helping you ease into the portraits so that you can relax and have fun. Think of it as a trial run, like you will do for your hair and makeup before the wedding day. You want to make sure you look + feel wonderful on your wedding day, so you get a trial done for hair and makeup, much the same way an engagement session can help you know what to expect and should make you feel beautiful and taken care of! Side note: it’s also a fantastic way to celebrate this short, VERY special time in your life between dating and marriage. What better opportunity to get dressed up and celebrate with your husband-to-be?
If you have a date and are either about to book your venue, or have booked your venue, now is an ideal time to contact a few wedding photographers to gauge their availability. If you’re at that point and it’s about 10-16 months before the wedding day, that’s excellent timing! You’ll find some advice out there that says to inquire/book a photographer about 6 months before the wedding day, and the truth is that is outdated information. If you at all have the luxury of time, DO NOT wait that long. Inquire earlier because it means you’ll have a much better chance of booking your dream photographer, whose schedule fills up well in advance. Here in the Midwest, it’s not unusual for photographers to book up about 10-12 months in advance for peak dates (April-October), so the earlier you email your ideal photographer, the better.
How do you figure out your price point? Great question! Without really giving you a dollar amount, because every couple has a different total budget, I can recommend with confidence some percentages that you can apply to your own situation. If your photography is important to you for your wedding day, which it likely is if you’re reading this and researching wedding photographers, typically about 12% of your total budget is allotted to photography, according to advice from Brides.com. If it’s one of your TOP priorities and you choose to work with an experienced, reputable wedding photographer, plan for about 15-18%. If photography is not as high of a priority for you, maybe about 10% will do to get you basic coverage and suit your needs, but from experience I don’t recommend going much lower than that percentage.
However, please I implore you to beware of the ‘great deal’ scenarios you might come across when researching. If a photographer is offering wedding coverage for, say, $1500-$2000 or less (in Milwaukee/Chicago at least) it’s too good to be true. You will receive what you pay for, and if you get a steal of a deal, you might end up heartbroken over your images from what is supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life. I wouldn’t even bring this up, but as a friend I’ve heard far too many sad stories from friends or acquaintances that skimped on their photography, only to regret it big time later. I don’t want you to be in the same situation, so if you invest up front you’re far more likely to find an experienced professional who won’t let you down by showing up late, being unprepared, or worse yet, losing your images forever.
Want to share your experiences with finding/choosing your wedding photographer? Have questions beyond in the info in this post? Please feel free to email me, I read each and every email, and would love to hear from you: firstname.lastname@example.org