When you begin the process of planning your wedding, there are a few key vendors that you will likely reach out to first. Typically, you’ll start with your wedding planner and your wedding vendor (friendly reminder that if you’re planning on having a wedding planner for a full planning package, it’s often smart to wait to book them before you finalize your venue booking! They often have incredibly helpful tips when it comes to finding the perfect venue for your wedding aesthetic.). Once you have those secured, your wedding photographer is often next on the list. Although your wedding photographer won’t be your first vendor booked, they’re going to be one of the most important vendors you book for your wedding day. Your wedding photographer is the one who ultimately determines how your wedding will be remembered for years to come, and is in charge of taking the photos that you will pass down to your children and grandchildren. That being said, here are a few helpful things to consider when you begin to search for your perfect wedding photographer.
First, Figure Out What Kind of Look You Want
When it comes to photography, there are many different options. Light and airy photography, dark and moody, photojournalistic, fine art film photography, the list goes on and on. If you’re new to the photography world, and not very familiar with the different styles of weddings, this may be a hugely daunting thing to try and sort through – but ultimately, it really just depends on your personal preference.
One great way to get an idea for the style of photography that you love is to pull up your wedding venue’s website, or their tagged feed on Instagram. Start to look through the photos of other weddings that have taken place there, and save the ones that you can visualize having from your own wedding! Additionally, look through the galleries that your closest friends have posted from their weddings, and see which ones were photographed in a style that you love.
If you have absolutely no idea where to start when it comes to determining your personal style for wedding photography, my favorite recommendation to give is simply start by going on an inspiration spree. Log on to Instagram or Pinterest and save as many different wedding photos as you can to one specific board. From there, scroll back through and try to pull out similarities in style – this will help you know what to look for when choosing your photographer.
Secondly, Figure Out How Much of a Priority Wedding Photography Is
This will help you determine how intensely you want to vet your wedding photographer, and how much time and energy you spend getting to know that person. If you’re investing a lot of time and energy (and money) into planning an absolutely stunning wedding day, then you’re going to want to put aside a sizable amount to invest in an equally amazing photographer to capture the day. If you’re hoping for a more casual and laid-back backyard wedding, then you probably don’t need to invest thousands and thousands of dollars on a fine art film wedding photographer.
That being said, I know I may seem biased, but please trust me when I say that wedding photography is not an area of your wedding planning where you’re going to want to skimp – if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that an incredibly simple wedding can look absolutely gorgeous with the right photographer. And, unfortunately, the most expensive and elaborate weddings can look much less beautiful than they actually were with the wrong wedding photographer.
I realize that I may be a little bit biased when it comes to this, being a dedicated film wedding photographer myself, but if you landed on a timeless and classic look for your desired wedding photography, consider searching for a film wedding photographer. Chances are that a film wedding photographer is going to be a decent bit more expensive than a digital wedding photographer, but the investment is absolutely worth it. Film wedding images create an unparalleled sense of emotion in wedding images, and often when you see wedding photos that have a specifically dreamy sense of depth, it’s because they were shot with film. Just like some of your favorite photos of your grandparents still give off a feeling of coming to life in the frame, it’s well worth the investment to have a similar feel to your wedding photography. It’s also worth noting that film wedding photographers aren’t more expensive than digital photographers just because they choose to be – in addition to having a necessarily superior understanding of their craft, they also often spend up to $1,000 per wedding just buying and processing the film that they use to shoot! So it’s an investment all around, but when it comes to your wedding, it’s definitely a worthwhile one.
Get to Know the Personality of your Potential Wedding Photographer
This may not seem like it matters, but it’s actually incredibly important. You’ll spend more time working with your wedding photographer than any other vendor, except maybe your wedding planner. At the end of the day, connecting with your wedding photographer is a very important part of the booking process. That’s not to say that you two need to hop off your consultation call with a wine night on the books (although, it’s been known to happen…), but at least get a strong understanding of who this person is, what their values are, and what their personality is like. Spending a few extra minutes on a potential photographer’s website before submitting your inquiry can be incredibly helpful. How do they write? What is their background? Do they have a sense of humor? Do they seem outgoing, or a little more reserved? Just like everything else on this list, there isn’t a right or wrong answer – it’s more about what you think will fit best with your personality and style.
Ask Potential Photographers to see a Full Wedding Gallery
It’s important to know how your potential wedding photographer handles the full wedding day, as far as photography goes. While there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to photograph a wedding if you’re a professional wedding photographer, you want to make sure that you set your expectations accordingly. For example – there are many different ways that photographers like to photograph wedding receptions. Some photographers bring a lot of big equipment and set up flashes around the reception room that trigger when they take the shot, while other photographers prefer to have a minimalist gear load, and work with whatever light is available. Some photographers work with an on-camera flash, and still others will shoot with film that allows them to not use flash at all. Sometimes, reception photos are bright and colorful and documentary, and other times, they are black and white with a little motion blur or film grain. Every photographer has a different style and approach when it comes to capturing a wedding day, and for that reason, it’s so helpful to see examples of their previous work!
Finally, Do Your Research!
I recognize that there are so many factors in play when it comes to picking the perfect wedding photographer for your big day – and often, budget is a big one of these. But if you take nothing else away from this post, take this – it’s so important to do your research. I’ve had countless calls with future brides who recieved their engagement photos from another photographer, weren’t happy with them at all, and were frantically trying to find someone different to document their wedding day. The thing that these women most frequently say is “I wish I’d known to look for _____.”
Take the time to sit down and really try to think about what you want from the photos of your wedding day, and then begin the search for your photographer accordingly. And once you find someone who creates work and gives off a feeling that deeply resonates with you – trust your intuition and begin the process of forming a relationship with them. Although not everyone you talk to will be the right fit, I cannot recommend enough trying to slow down and take a more mindful approach to searching for the person who will document your upcoming wedding day. Instead of sending out ten inquiries to local photographers, and booking the first person who responds within your budget, start your search with a list of what matters, and find the photographer who checks your boxes.
Best of luck!