Looking For a Wedding Photographer? Here's What to Do.
Unlike the work of your other wedding vendors (like music, flower arrangements and cake), photographs aren't things you can hear, smell, taste or even see at first—you have to trust in your pro. The stakes are high, so if you're wondering how to choose a wedding photographer, we're here to help. You'll need to go above and beyond when it comes to research to ensure you like the photographer's work. But more importantly, you'll need to find someone you genuinely enjoy being around, as you'll be spending a lot of time with them. "Your photographer will be one of the only vendors that you'll spend your entire day with," says Lessie McFarlane, owner of Lessie Blue Photography. "Choosing a wedding day photographer that you completely trust and get along with is huge. You must make sure that you vibe with them in every sense of the way and makes you happy and is able to put you at ease."
Put into other words: Find someone who has the same kind of energy as you. " If you hire a serious brooding artist type, but you're a very happy-go-lucky and silly person at heart, there's going to be a mismatch of personality there," says Pat Furey, co-owner of Pat Furey Photography. "It's like any relationship in your life: Surround yourself with good people. The photography will be better for it, and more importantly so will your experience during your wedding day."
How do you do that? Careful research and selectiveness regarding professional skills, artistic style and personal demeanor. We put together a step-by-step guide on how to choose a wedding photographer to ensure you find your perfect match. It has everything you need to help narrow down all the choices onThe Knot for your big day.
Decide What Photography Style You Like Best
First thing's first: You and your partner need to decide which photography style you like. There are several options (think: fine art, photojournalistic and dark and moody) and photographers generally specialize in one or two styles. "Try to identify what you don't like before understanding what you like," Furey says. "Once you've nailed down what you're attracted to, you can do a deeper and more specific dive in that direction." Knowing which aesthetic suits your wedding best will help whittle down your list and allow you to find a pro who can bring your wedding photography vision to life.
Set a Budget
As with every aspect of wedding planning, it's best to set a budget before booking. (Unsure where to begin? Read up on the average wedding photographer cost ahead of time.) If you're feeling completely lost on how to pick a wedding photographer, here's one thing you can do to narrow down your options instantly. Set a budget for your wedding photo pro and input it into The Knot. In just seconds, you'll be able to scroll through experts who are in your area and in your budget so you can find the perfect wedding photographer.
Book Your Venue
Another efficient way to find a photographer is to book your venue (which is one of the first things you should cross off your wedding checklist anyways). By committing to a specific location, you can begin your search for pros in the area. Often, venues will provide you with a list of recommended pros (also known as a preferred vendor list). They're a great starting point, but proceed with caution: These lists can sometimes miss the mark in terms of inclusivity. "Venue recommendations can be hit or miss but certainly give them a look," Furey says. "Don't hire a photographer just because they've been to your wedding venue before. We're visual people and artists and a new venue to us is incredibly inspiring."
Another pro tip? "Look at at least two entire wedding galleries from a photographer in a similar type of setting or venue as yours," Furey says. "If you're getting married in a church and a photographer is only showcasing weddings on the beach at sunset, you may have no idea what the end result will look like."
Scroll Through Social Media and Online Reviews
One of the easiest ways to choose a wedding photographer is to research online. Moesia Davis, owner of Mo Davis Photography, highly recommends checking our reviews to gauge whether or not this person will be a fit. "Before you hire a photographer, read the reviews to make sure their past couples consider them as trustworthy vendors," she says. (Psst: You can read through several testimonials over on The Knot.)
Another tool you can turn to is social media. "Social media has become a popular and pivotal tool in the wedding industry," Davis explains. "Searching hashtags and following wedding blogs can often lead to finding a great photographer."
One of our favorite pro tips is to search your wedding venue (or similar ones in the area) and check out the tagged photos. Often, you'll be able to discover many talented pros (and maybe fine the right wedding photographer) with a swipe of your finger.
Ask Your Connections For Recommendations
"Personal recommendations (if you like your friends' wedding images, for example) or recommendations from another wedding professional you've already hired, like a planner, is usually the best bet," Furey says. That's because they can attest to the pro's work as well as their personality.
Wedding planners are particularly great resources, Davis says. "Wedding planners are knowledgeable in providing the best photographers for your wedding," she explains. "They will usually offer some suggestions based on the wedding style and budget."
Interview Your Favorites
The pros agree: You should do most of your research before the interview so you can focus your personal connection with any potential photographers. However, there are some important questions to get out of the way, according to McFarlane. They are:
- Are you licensed and insured?
- How many years of experience do you have shooting weddings?
- What is the turnaround time for receiving back a full gallery?
- Can we please see a few full wedding galleries?
- Will we receive print rights?
- Do you backup up your photos? If so, for how long?
Once you get the technical questions out of the way, turn to more personal questions. "Talk about your personal style: What does your home look like? Where do you shop? What excites you on a personal level or what's most important to you about the wedding photos?" Furey says. "The more we get to know about what you're drawn to, the better we can serve you."
Next, ask specific questions about their process. "Make sure the photographer is photographing for you," Davis says. "Ask a photographer about their wedding day approach. The photographer should explain their pre-wedding, wedding day and post-wedding process." One of Davis' favorite questions is: "What makes you different from other photographers?" Their answer will reveal more information about your pro so you can make an informed decision.
Finally, don't be afraid to ask the tough questions, McFarlane says. "Ask them about how they handle last minute changes, how they help with posing, how they help calm your nerves and even give you reassurance when you least expect it," she says. "You want someone who will be your best friend and be your ride or die on your wedding day."
State Any Concerns Upfront
Another great way to test your connection with your wedding photographer is to state your concerns upfront. For example, maybe you're camera shy or you don't know how to pose or you're worried about certain wedding party members (like some groomsmen, for example) not cooperating in the group shots. If you're dreaming of specific pictures not typically included on a wedding shot list, bring that up too. "This goes back to the idea of building a relationship: If you would tell something to a close friend or confidant, you should tell the same to your photographer," Furey says. "If you don't feel comfortable enough to do that, you're not working with the right photographer."
Schedule a Test Run
If you're feeling nervous about your day-of photos, we recommend booking a test run ahead of your wedding date. Not only will it give you some gorgeous engagement photos (which you can even use on your save-the-dates), it'll also give you more time to bond with your pro. "Engagement sessions allow everyone to get to know each other," McFarlane says. "You can get a feel for the photographer's personality and posing style—overall it's a glance into what is to come for the future."
It's also a great way to test out how comfortable you are communicating with your pro too. "After the session, you're able to discuss your photos and how you felt about your interaction," Davis says. Plus, your pro can ease any nerves you have "These sessions are a great way for couples to get comfortable in front of the camera," she adds."
Of course, an engagement shoot isn't necessary. You can always head over to the photographer's website. "An important step is doing the homework before you hire someone: Look over the photographer's portfolio and Instagram with a fine toothed comb," Furey says. "Do any of their couples look awkward or uncomfortable? They shouldn't."
And remember: Hiring a wedding photographer is a big decision, so don't feel rushed to choose one right away. "Take your time—this is one of the most important days of your life," Davis says. "You are entrusting someone to preserve this day through photos."