Planning a wedding–your wedding!–is so dang exciting. Chances are, your dream day has crossed your mind a time or two, so to finally be planning your best day ever is so surreal. I remember being so excited to have all the people I love in one spot...and then at the end of the day, finally getting to live in the same place as my best friend! So awesome.
Even though it's crazy fun, hiring all the vendors and partners for your wedding is overwhelming. You're investing hard-earned money in people you've likely never met, and you're trusting they're going to show up on your day, months in the future. Um, freaky, right!? Having the right people in your corner not only on your wedding day, but also as you plan, is so important!
I've had the opportunity to chat with so many brides before and after their wedding days and learn what worked, what didn't, and all their best advice for future brides. I've put together this list to help you figure out what to look for when hiring a photographer for your wedding day.
1. A killer personality that jives with yours
I honestly think finding someone who you can have a glass of wine with (or cup of coffee / or plate of tapas / or share a bag of Skittles with) is the biggest factor in hiring your wedding photographer! This is someone you are going to be working with a lot over the coming months/year; this is someone who you are likely going to be investing a chunk of your wedding budget in; this is someone who you will be trusting to help run your wedding day. You better like them!
It makes life so much easier if you can feel comfortable shooting your wedding photographer a text to ask a quick question, or confirm a detail. This person can be a huge asset to planning your day if you want them to be–and if you let them. So take advantage of that and make friends!
Last year, I had a bride text me asking for advice on what kind of undergarments (a-hem) work best under wedding dresses, and while that may sound funny to anyone else, it seriously made my day. I love that I get to be friends with my brides, and I love that they can text me questions like that! I always tell brides, "You've probably never done this before, and I have! So lean on me, boo." Find a photographer who you can lean on.
All that said–keep in mind that this is going to be different for everyone! Someone your bestie loved may not be a great fit for you. That is OK! It doesn't make the photographer a terrible person and it doesn't make you picky. It makes you smart! A winning personality doesn't matter if you don't think it's winning, too. This person is probably going to be spending more time with you and your new partner on your wedding day than anyone else. I know right!? It's crazy! So make sure you like them!
2. A photography style you absolutely love
Do you find yourself looking at a wedding photographer's photos wishing that wedding was your wedding so you could hang them on your walls? Do you scroll through a gallery and think, Even if that was the only photo I had from my wedding, I'd be thrilled. Do you stalk their Instagram and tap tap tap on every single post because it's seriously just so dang good? Congratulations, you've found a style you love. Ding ding ding!
Finding a style you love is so important because we photographers are creatures of habit. Yes we experiment and keep things fresh, but you shouldn't find a wedding photographer who cranks out one wedding gallery that's moody and matte, and another that's bright and airy. We find our niche and stick to it. That said, if you find someone who seems a bit inconsistent, it might be a red flag that they're still experimenting to find their style. That's fine! Just be aware of that if you book 'em.
When you find your dream style, try to imagine how that will look on your wedding day. Does the wedding photographer share a ton of super wide, landscape shots with a bride and groom in the distance? Or are a lot of the images more intimate and close up? Chances are any wedding gallery is going to have a variety, but understanding what your wedding photographer really specializes in and excels at will help you envision how your wedding day images will look.
3. Someone who isn't afraid to take charge
Have you ever been to a wedding as a guest, family member, or part of a wedding party where the photographer is trying to organize folks for some pictures, and it just isn't happening? Nothing fires me up more than to be on the other side of the camera across from someone who is too nervous to take charge. Come on - speak up! Every minute of a wedding day is precious, and if your wedding photographer isn't comfortable leading the madness, that time can slip away faster than you can say 'bouquet toss.'
This doesn't mean you're looking for a meanie! A good wedding photographer should be able to command a room without being a total witch. They should be able to pal around with the wedding party, and still get everyone to "Look here and smile!" when they need to. And they should be able to give polite but assertive direction from everyone to your 90-year-old grandpa in a wheelchair, to your 3-year-old cousin who missed nap time, to your groomsmen who snuck a flask in his suit jacket. It's a fine line, but such an important one.
Now, you've got some homework to do - this is something that may be a bit more challenging to learn from a website or email exchange, so don't be afraid to ask around (you can totes ask for references, or just start snooping), or ask if you can meet in person.
4. Someone with experience
I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but now is not the time to hire your mother's cousin's teacher's wife who just got his first Nikon and wants to shoot a wedding. Everyone starts somewhere and that is fantastic and necessary! But wedding memories are not the time or place to take a risk of that magnitude.
If I had a dollar for every couple that I've talked to that wishes they could go back in time and hire a professional for their wedding photos...I would sadly have a lot of dollars. It's honestly heart breaking to me anyone doesn't have wedding photography that they absolutely adore. Everyone should have that!
This doesn't mean you need to hire someone who has done 82 weddings a year since they were 12! Just look for a level of experience you are comfortable with. The first wedding I shot, I actually wasn't yet looking to book a solo wedding.
I had a sweet bride (another photographer!!) approach me about being her wedding photographer. I explained that while I had been shooting portraits for 4+ years, and I had been second shooting other wedding photographers for a while (so important!), I had not yet shot a wedding on my own. I made sure that was explicitly clear, and quoted a low price to reflect that. She was comfortable with my portfolio, experience, and the price, and I was excited for my first wedding. The rest is history! As long as you are both on the same page, everyone can still be happy.
5. Someone who offers packages you like
Are you wanting a photographer who hands over the digital files and sends you on your merry way? Or would you prefer receiving a gorgeous album in the mail before all is said and done? Or maybe something in between? Make sure you understand what your photographer offers, and what is delivered after the wedding day.
Keep in mind that while packages with just digitals may cost you a bit less than packages with products, the difference is likely going to come down to your time. Are you going to want to sit down and design your own wedding album after you tie the knot, or will your images be stuck on a flash drive collecting dust? It just depends on the type of person you are! I've had brides who are super into DIY and want to do it themselves, and I've had brides say, No way, I want your help! I like to offer both kinds of packages as options as I've found it works best for a lot of brides-to-be.
Also - make sure your photographer offers engagement sessions, and better yet, includes them in the wedding package. An engagement session is such an important step to making sure everyone works well together, and you know what to expect on your wedding day, and from your images! Don't skip it!
6. Someone with a price tag that makes sense
Everyone's favorite topic: money! Just kidding, it's the worst, sorry.
It's true - you probably can't talk about wedding photography without talking about money. Wedding photography will likely take up a chunk of your wedding budget. And for good reason! Wedding photographers spend 8-12+ hours of your wedding day with you, and their work is far from over when your wedding day is. It's not uncommon for a tog to spend around 6 weeks or more perfecting your images before delivery. And none of that is counting the time before the wedding planning and shooting your engagement session, designing your photography/wedding timeline, and answering any and all of your questions.
Keep in mind that a photographer's higher price tag likely also means they are set up as a professional business. Your wedding photographer should be collecting and paying sales tax, paying income tax, business and liability insurance, and possibly even a contract lawyer.
They should have protocols in place if (God forbid!) something terrible happens and someone breaks an arm during family formals, or images are inexplicably wiped off a memory card, or your little cousin trips over a light stand at the dance. If your photographer is protected, so are you, and that's always a good thing. When you see a higher price tag, you're likely also getting a professional who understands their cost of doing business, and is ready to give you a fantastic client experience. And that's what any one wants on their wedding day!
All in all, your wedding photography is an investment you and your family could enjoy for years to come. Take your time to research and make the right choice for you, and don't feel bad about following your gut!