Here Are the Most Important Things to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Photographer
A wedding photographer is one of the most essential vendors to check off your wedding vendor checklist as you plan your big day. The tricky part though is how to choose a wedding photographer. What should you look for in a wedding photographer? How do you actually hire a wedding photographer? What does that entire process entail? To answer these questions and more, we chatted with Danielle Determan, a film, digital and editorial wedding photographer based in Los Angeles and Asha Bailey, a California-based wedding photographer. Read on for everything you need to know about how to choose a wedding photographer to capture your special day.
In this article
But First, What Is a Wedding Photographer?
A wedding photographer is exactly as it sounds: a professional photographer who specializes in shooting weddings. You may also be wondering how to find a wedding photographer. Bailey recommends searching on Instagram and Google as well as getting referrals from married friends and family members and asking them about their experience with their photographer. Pro tip: The Knot Marketplace is also a great resource for finding wedding photographers.
When to Book a Wedding Photographer
The short answer: The sooner the better. Determan advises booking your wedding photographer as soon as you secure a wedding date and venue. "Many photographers, myself included, take on a limited number of weddings each year before closing their books," she says. "Time is of the essence and you don't want to miss out on having your dream photographer." As a rule of thumb, Bailey shares that about a year in advance of your wedding date is a good timeline.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Wedding Photographer?
As with all wedding vendors, the cost of a wedding photographer will vary. Determan and Bailey note that the investment will be based on the photographer's experience, location, the wedding destination (which may or may not include travel costs) and different packages they may offer. For example, Determan says some may offer both digital and film photography or pre-wedding engagement photos as well. To give you a ballpark number though, Bailey says for an experienced, professional photographer, couples can expect to spend at least $6,000. However, data says that the average wedding photography cost in the U.S. is $2,500.
What to Look for in a Wedding Photographer
Finding your dream wedding photographer becomes a whole lot easier when you know what to look for. According to the pros, there are two main factors that should help drive your decision: the photographer's style and how you get along with them.
A Style You Love
First and foremost, Bailey's biggest piece of advice on what to look for in a wedding photographer: "You definitely want to love their work and not just the work you see on their Instagram and website," she says. "Ask to see full wedding galleries so you know exactly what to expect from your own."
Specifically, Determan recommends picturing you and your partner in the photographer's photos. She suggests noting if you like the tones they gravitate towards. Or, if you desire candid photos with a mix of thoughtfully posed portraits with an editorial touch, look for examples of those in their work. Noting how the photographer's photos make you feel, Bailey adds, can help you ensure the photographer will be a great fit.
Someone You Connect With
Second, but just as important, Bailey adds that you also want to like your photographer not just as a photographer but as a person. "You'll be spending a huge part of your wedding day with them," she says. "They should feel like a friend, not just a hired vendor."
Determan seconds this advice. "Hire a photographer that you vibe with," she says. "The couple/photographer relationship is truly a collaboration. The better you gel, the better the photos will be." Plus, she adds that because your photographer will be with you throughout the entire wedding day they will wear many hats (keep you on time, ensure your hair and veil look perfect, guide you in movement during portraits, etc.) so it must be someone that you have a good connection with from the get go.
"At the end of the day, these will be your wedding photos—the only ones you'll have," Bailey says. "Hire someone you love and trust. It will put you at ease on your wedding day and the photos you will get from it will be priceless."
How to Hire a Wedding Photographer
Now that you know what to look for in a wedding photographer, next comes actually hiring a wedding photographer. The exact process may look different depending on how the photographer operates, but generally, here are the steps you can expect to take.
Reach out via their website.
Once you know your wedding date, Determan says the first step is to reach out to the wedding photographer via their contact information on their website. "After you confirm the photographer is available and within budget, you should hop on a call, meet virtually or schedule a coffee date to get to know each other better," she says.
Set up a time to chat.
Bailey agrees that setting up a time to chat is essential in the hiring process. "This will give you the opportunity to feel them out as a person and make sure you feel comfortable with them," she says. Remember, ensuring you get along well with the photographer is one of the most important things to look for.
Share wedding details.
So when it comes to what to tell your wedding photographer during the call, Determan recommends telling them all the details about your wedding. Here's why: "They want to ensure you're a fit just as much as you do," she says. Bailey adds that it's also important to let them know what your expectations are for your wedding day photography. You can also share wedding photography trends you're attracted to and your must-have wedding photography shot list. Again, this is important to help the photographer assess whether you'll be a good fit to work together.
Ask all your questions.
And, of course, ask any and all questions that come to mind. For instance, Determan says, "You'll want to know how long it will take to get the gallery back, do they send sneak peaks, if they are a film photographer ask how much film they'll shoot in comparison to digital," she says. "No two photographers structure their business the same, so there are no silly questions."
How Long Should You Hire a Wedding Photographer For?
The answer to this question will vary based on the type of wedding you're having, Bailey says. For instance, an intimate elopement would need less time than a full wedding day. Generally though, Determan and Bailey agree that at least eight hours of coverage is standard for a wedding.
How to Coordinate With Your Photographer After Booking
So you've booked your wedding photographer, what's next? The first step, Bailey advises, is asking them what their preferred method of communication is (email, text messages, phone calls, etc.), if they haven't already let you know, because every photographer does things differently. Determan agrees that having that open line of communication that goes both ways is essential. " I love when my couples keep me in the loop about all their favorite details," she says. "It's not required, but definitely welcomed."