I’ve been a wedding photographer for nearly 13 years and I’m taking all that experience and packing into one really helpful article – a guide to choosing a wedding photographer! COVID has forced a lot of couples to adjust their priorities when it comes to their wedding day and based on the couples I’ve been meeting with, I’m seeing a lot of folks come in really unsure about what they’re actually looking for in a wedding photographer. Time to shed some light on that.
How to Choose a Wedding Photographer:
In order of priority, these are the things you should consider when hiring a wedding photographer. You may think the last one is out of place, but I’ll explain why I put it there – I promise!
Like any business, each and every owner has their own set of values and sometimes you may completely love their values and other times you may find that their values are contrary to yours. For example, if inclusivity and body positivity are important values to you yet you see a vendor constantly use the word “brides” or “brides + grooms” or only showcase non-marginalized body types on their website, you may not share the same values and this could greatly affect how comfortable you are in a working relationship with them.
As a person with a marginalized body type, I can speak from my lived experience: if you don’t see people that look like you in portfolio or blog images, you’re probably not going to love your photos. There’s a reason they aren’t showing people that look like you; so if you’re not represented – NEXT!
Your wedding photographer will be one of the people you spend the most time with on your wedding day. They’ll be there for the sweet moments, the emotional moments, the personal moments and maybe even some difficult moments as you navigate through day-of troubleshooting. They’ll also be directing you into poses, providing you with prompts to evoke emotion and adventuring with you into beautiful locations – for all those reasons and more, trust is necessary for a good working relationship.
Vibe + Personality
Values and trust aren’t completed without vibe and personality; together these three elements are the basic trifecta in your guide to hiring a wedding photographer. Yes – I’m very well aware that we haven’t even talked about what the photos look like yet and that’s because who you’re working with matters more than anything else. You want your photographer to have a vibe and personality that matches the vibe of your friends and family and what you’re trying to achieve on your wedding day. This is how a photographer will seamlessly blend into the day and be able to capture natural images. If your photographer sticks out like a sore thumb and can’t read the room, you’ll be very aware you’re being photographed and that can affect your final product as well as your overall experience.
Esthetics of the photos
How a photo LOOKS is the esthetic of the photo – it’s not what was done to capture that moment (that’s approach). So when people say “I like candid photos” that’s the approach they like, but the esthetic would be things like brightness, contrast and saturation. Do yo like bright and airy photos? Do you like really dark and moody photos? Do you like photos with vibrant colours? Do you like photos with muted colours? Do you like photos with realistic colours + skin tones, or do you like photos that have a nice warm glow to them or a cooler high fashion tone to them?
The esthetics of a photo are unique to each and every photographer. We achieve the esthetic of our brand by a combination of how we shoot on the day of and how we edit afterwards. Most photographers have spent years honing their style and only work within their style. This means it’s not reasonable to ask a light + airy photographer to “edit moody” for you. You can’t go to an Italian restaurant and try to special order sushi.
Approach in taking photos
When you’re wondering how to choose a wedding photographer, you also need to think about what kind of moments you want captured. Do you want someone who will only hit that shutter button when you are absolutely PERFECT? When they adjust clothing, move each and every hair into the right place and finesse each and every pose? Do you want someone who is capturing authentic moments as they happen without intervention? Do you want someone who is going to focus on a lot of formal portraits and detail images or do you want someone who will also focus on your family, friends and guests? Knowing what you want captured on the wedding day
Moments are difficult to show in portfolios because they don’t always work as standalone images. Sometimes moments are more meaningful in a series of photos, like as a blog post. This means that if you’re a moment-driven couple looking for a photographer, make sure you take a look at not only their portfolio but also their blog articles – it’ll give you a greater indication of how they approach the day.
I’m very well aware that in a guide to choosing a wedding photographer I put budget last and there’s a reason for that – people who are searching for “how to choose a wedding photographer” guides are already aware that most good, professional photographers are within +/- 15% of each other for pricing. The cost of a wedding photographer really doesn’t vary that much when you’re comparing service to service; of course it may vary more if you’re comparing packages with albums to packages with no albums, but when you’re doing an apples to apples comparison, things are generally pretty similar between levels of experience and expertise.
If you can check the box on the first five elements in this guide, then budget is something you can easily accommodate for. Would you rather save a few hundred dollars and work with someone whose images are “fine” and whose personality is “ok” or would you rather reassess your budget and invest in someone who feels more like a new friend with a good camera than a vendor?
How to Choose a Wedding Photographer: Summary
Understanding how to hire a wedding photographer certainly isn’t an easy task; it takes a lot of self reflection about your own priorities and values as well as discussion with you and your partner about what your goals of photography are. There’s no right or wrong style or approach to prefer; but if you’re ultimately going to let your wallet decide and not your heart, you may risk disappointment.