5 Tips for Finding the Right Wedding Photographer

Monday, January 4th, 2016

With the holidays behind us, many people celebrated Christmas or the new year by getting engaged.  Congratulations!  And while it is exciting to start asking your best friends to be bridesmaids, building your wedding Pinterest boards, and buying every edition of The Knot you can get your hands on, here are 5 tips for finding the right wedding photographer.

1. Define your style and wedding priorities.

I drive a truck.  It is white and carries all of my equipment while still comfortably seating the bride and groom after their first look.  It suits me and my needs.  A sports car, on the other hand, would be of no use to me.  Both get you from A to B, but do so in different ways.  The same is true with your wedding – no matter where, how many guests, or what meat is being served at dinner, you will both say “I do” and start your life together.  When I bought my truck, I researched, budgeted, and planned it out so that it would meet my style, needs, and preferences.  Your wedding is no different.  When you start planning your wedding, the first thing I encourage couples to do is prioritize things.  How important are centerpieces and linens to you?  Videography?  A band versus a DJ?  How about photography?

For some people, photography is a top priority.  I have had many honors from my clients – some have made me a major portion of their budget and proudly display their wedding photos on their walls, others have based their wedding date around my availability.  If photography is a major priority, then go with someone who specializes in weddings.  I hear people say “My uncle has a nice camera” or “my friend is getting into photography” or even worse, “I am going to get a college student who is looking to build their portfolio.”  These people often times regret their decision when their expectations are not met and they cannot get back those lost moments.  You wouldn’t go to a Chinese restaurant if you feel like Italian food; don’t hire a non-specialized photographer to shoot your wedding.

5 Tips for Finding Your Perfect Wedding Photographer

2.  Ask your friends for referrals. Keep reading for more 5 Tips for Finding the Right Wedding Photographer

A great place to start your wedding photographer search is by asking friends.   So many of us are either married, know someone who recently got married, or stood up in a wedding.  A simple Facebook post asking “Just got engaged!  Know any good wedding photographers?” will yield you more names and websites than you expected.  An easy way to thin this out is to first ask yourself, “What photos have I recently seen online that I liked?”  Reach out to that person first.  Lastly, ask your friends why they liked their photographer?  Was it the images they produced?  The turnaround time?  The personality on the wedding day?  Ask for the good and bad. 5 Tips for Finding the Right Wedding Photographer below.

5 Tips for Finding the Right Wedding Photographer

3.  Good photographers book 8-12 months (or more) in advance.

The good ones go quick.  With every email inquiry I receive, I get excited when I check my calendar for availability.  Sometimes, this action ends is a bittersweet emotion – I am already booked.  I tend to book 8-12 months in advance.  It isn’t uncommon for me to have two or three weddings booked 16 or more months out.  While I am honored by every inquiry I receive, it pains me to have to turn people away, especially people who admire my work.  When you are engaged, I would suggest booking things in the following order: date, venues, photographer, DJ.  By having your date and venues locked in, your photographer may be able to talk specifically about great places to shoot around the venue, problems or rules specific to the venue, or show you a portfolio of work from the venue.  I know that I also give specific advice on the timeline based on the date or season:

  • If you are planning a winter wedding, your formals needs to be done by 5:00 p.m. due to the lack of light (in Michigan).  Consider doing the First Look.
  • If you are are shooting on a weekend, steer clear or add additional time if photographing in popular parks or places, like Belle Isle.
  • If you are traveling downtown to take photos, check with sports schedules, road construction, and special events to see if areas will be closed.

5 Tips for Finding the Right Wedding Photographer

4.  Ask to See a Whole Wedding.

Ever take a selfie and look dang good in it?  The random profile picture where you look like a model?  Even photographers can get lucky when taking a photo.  That is why it isn’t enough to just look at the photographer’s “Best of” portfolio on their website.  Ask to see the portfolio for a full wedding.  How many photos are in it?  Is the style (editing and shooting) consistent?  Does it look like they can handle various situations – large family formals, dancing, low light, toasts, candids?  The more of the images you view of a photographer, the better your understanding and expectations of their delivered results. Keep reading for more 5 Tips for Finding the Right Wedding Photographer.

5 Tips for Finding the Right Wedding Photographer

5.  Read Reviews.

Most photographers will have some sort of social media presence.  Whether it is The Knot, Wedding Wire, Facebook, Yelp, there is some place where others have an opportunity to leave feedback.  Read the reviews!  Is there a recurring theme in the reviews?  Are they positive overall?  If there is a negative one, ask the photographer about it; what happened and how did the photographer respond to it?

Last one of our 5 Tips for Finding the Right Wedding Photographer

Remember, there are no redo’s on your wedding photos.  A few months ago, I photographed a couple’s 50th wedding anniversary.  The couple was lively and adorable.  The “bride” brought their wedding album (a book of 8×10 prints) and was kind enough to seek me out, show me the album, and tell stories about their wedding day in 1965.  As lovely as a day as it was, she still had a chip on her shoulder when she told me “This photographer had no idea what he was doing.  We had to make suggestions to him!  And why…WHY would he photograph us in front of a hanging blue bedsheet and tell us he could make it white?”  50 years later, this bride was still bothered by her choice of a photographer.

Take your time, research your decision, and put your trust in a professional.