Taking the Leap: Choosing The Right Wedding Photographer

written by Carolyn Pongracz, In Bloom Photography – – April 13, 2012

Congratulations on your engagement!  What an exciting adventure you’re embarking on; the wedding itself will be an incredible celebration, but the marriage afterwards is really going to be something.  So as you begin the process of choosing a dress, flowers, venue and more, keep your eye on that prize:  it’s all about a celebration of the future that is to come!

One of the most daunting tasks that brides & grooms encounter as they plan their wedding is how to select a photographer that meets their needs.  It’s unlike most other purchases you’ll make, because you can’t see the photos you’re purchasing until after they’re done.  That means you’re taking a leap of faith; but you really don’t have to go into this completely blind.  A good amount of research and the right kind of questions can help you make the right decision.  Here are some tips to choosing the right kind of photographer for your wedding.

Ask for referrals!

Start early – most photographers book up about a year in advance!  So begin by asking your married friends and family members who they used at their wedding.  Find out what they liked and didn’t like about their photos afterward.  Or, in the absence of married friends, inquire with folks on Facebook or Twitter.  Start gathering the information on the ones that sound good to you and compile a list of all the contenders.

*Tip:  You can even find websites that do full reviews of photographers in your area, like The Wedding Ring,

complete with actual bride testimonials and samples of their most recent wedding work.  

Start Visiting Websites

Once you’ve gotten a pretty good list of recommended photographers from your friends and family, start to visit their websites to form your own opinion.  Can you imagine being in those kinds of images?  Are they fashionably posed?  Or relaxed and candid?   I can’t stress this enough: avoid looking at the photographer’s rates at this point.  After all, it doesn’t matter how they’re priced if you hate their images.  You just want to immerse yourself in wedding photos to get a feel for their style.  Are they consistently in focus?  Are the colours to your liking?  Are the poses awkward or natural looking?  Sooner or later, you’ll start to feel more drawn to one photographer’s images than another.

*Tip:  I like to see if the photographer has updated their blog recently.  I’m more likely to hire someone that

takes pride in their blog/website as it shows they want to give you the best first impression.  If they haven’t updated it in

a long time, it makes me wonder why: have they not done anything worthy of sharing lately?

Compare Pricing

You wouldn’t hire a contractor to build you a house just because they were the cheapest in town — you would hire someone within your budget that offers you a quality product that you’ll treasure.  Just as with contractors, in wedding photography you truly get what you pay for.  With the popularity of digital photography these days, it’s unfortunately quite common to find people buying a camera on a whim and calling themselves a wedding photographer with zero experience at all.  Wedding photography is one of the most difficult forms of photography to master — you can read my article “Uncle Joe vs. The Pro” for more eye-opening information on that.  But the point is, don’t look for the cheapest rate — instead, look for the best value.  What are you getting with your package?  What kind of experience does this photographer bring to the table?  Are the photos you see in their portfolio worth your hard earned money?

*Tip:  Even a few hours of coverage with a fantastic photographer

is better than 12 hours of coverage with a terrible one.

Set Up a Consultation

Once you’ve narrowed down your list to 4 or 5 different photographers, it’s time to meet them in person!  It’s crucial that your photographer is someone that you can see yourself being relaxed around; you’re going to be spending an important amount of time with them so you want your personalities to mesh.  Remember that this person is going to be directing your family and friends throughout the day as well, so if they’re not the type of person you would want around your Grandma, you might want to reconsider…

*Tip:  These are a few things that I do at all of my consultations that I think are really important.

If your photographer doesn’t cover these in your consultation, ask them!

1.  View an entire wedding’s worth of images.
  Anyone can put a few lucky shots on their website and call themselves a professional.  But can they show you an entire wedding with a multitude of beautifully lit, composed and in-focus shots?  This is incredibly important and I recommend it to everyone.  You are seeing an actual example of what another bride & groom received after their wedding.

2.  Go over a sample wedding contract in detail.  If anything stands out as unusual in the photographer’s contract, ask!  You want to find out (among other things):

  • what the photographer’s cancellation policies are
  • what the recourse is should your photographer become sick at the last minute and not be able to cover your wedding
  • who is responsible for things such as photo permits and shooting locations if there is inclement weather
  • when you can expect your photos after your wedding, and what will happen if you don’t receive them in a timely manner
  • how many photos you can expect to receive after the wedding (and what else is included)
  • will the photographer be using your images in their portfolio, and if so, where else?
  • what you are allowed to use your photos for after the wedding  (see my article on Copyright here.)
  • what the payment plan is for a typical wedding
  • are there any additional expenses that your photographer may add on (such as travel fees, etc.)
  • does the photographer require a meal at your reception

3.  Confirm that the photographer you’re meeting (and whose portfolio you’re viewing) is indeed the one who would be shooting your wedding.  There are several studios that employ many wedding photographers.  You don’t want some random person you’ve never met showing up on your big day taking photos that are completely not in your preferred style.

4.  Confirm that your photographer has a back-up set of equipment.  True professionals who have been shooting weddings for a while know that equipment always seems to malfunction at the worst times.  Make sure your photographer carries an extra set of everything so if something goes wrong, they won’t miss a moment of the action from your wedding.

5.  Ask to see examples of their retouching work.  Most photographers will be happy to show off some images that they’ve spent an extra amount of time on, retouching skin, removing distractions, and enhancing the colours.  Some will even show you before & after examples so you can see the transformations that this photographer is capable of.  You can confirm how many of these “fully” enhanced images are included with your package.  (Note: be wary of anyone who says they will fully retouch all of the images from your wedding — chances are they are just running a Photoshop action that might look good on some of the photos, but not all of them.  A truly “retouched” image will be individually worked on by the photographer, sometimes for hours at a time, adding specific touches, corrections and sharpening to get that one image just perfect.)

6.  Ask for referrals.  Don’t be shy, ask for the phone number of some past clients, and make sure to actually contact them!  Your photographer should be willing to provide these without hesitation.

7.  View samples of albums & prints.  Take some time to look through their album & print samples, even if you have no intention of purchasing those ‘extras’ at this time.  You never know how you’re going to feel after the wedding when money isn’t so tight.  So get a good feel for the quality of the products your photographer offers.  Are they available to consumers to purchase?  Or are they only available through your photographer?

8.  Confirm what is required to make the booking.  Don’t feel obligated to book your photographer on the spot unless you’re completely comfortable and ready to go.  Give yourself time to compare all of the photographers you have met with.  But remember:  most will not hold your wedding date without a signed contract & deposit payment.  So it’s first-come, first-served.   Don’t expect that the photographer will contact you if your date is suddenly booked by someone else.

Remember, photographers tend to book up about a year in advance so for the best choice, start early!

It can be a daunting task, putting this much effort into hiring a photographer for your wedding.  But believe me, after the last sip of champagne has been swallowed… after the last petal has fallen off your bouquet… and after your wedding gown is packed neatly into a box in your closet… the photos are a very real, tangible reminder of the day your family was all dressed up and gathered together to celebrate your love.  Invest in that memory.  :)