Let’s jump in with some tough love and reality: you only get one chance to get your wedding photographer right. No do-overs. No second chances.
But don’t worry! I’m going to share everything you need to know before booking a wedding photographer. There is no “one size fits all” photographer or single photographer out there who can serve everyone (including me!), so you’ll have to find the perfect wedding photographer for you! .
It’s so important to me that everyone has an amazing photography experience on their wedding day, and has memories that will make them say “awwww, remember that?!” instead of “ugh, how awkward did we feel there?!” or “dang, I wish we would have taken photography more seriously.”
I’ve been one of those people. Trust me, after almost 14 years of marriage, I’ve learned that the two things you get to keep from your wedding day are your marriage and your photos. That is it.
So, let’s get some basics of hiring a wedding photographer out of the way, and then dive right in!
Wedding photography basics
Look together when looking for a professional wedding photographer! This is the person who will not only be providing you memories of your day, but they will be attached to your hip most of the day! It’s important that you both feel comfortable with your photographer and have all your important questions answered before your day!
When to book a photographer for a wedding
When should you book a wedding photographer? As soon as you secure your venue and date, begin inquiring! In Minnesota, June, September, and October book insanely fast. When wedding planning, think ahead if you’re getting married in one of those months!
Where can you search for your photographer?
Lots of places! Here are some to get you started:
- The Knot
- Wandering Weddings (elopements)
- Last Minute Wed (if you’re on a tight timeline)
- Search Engines like Google and Pinterest
- Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
- Recommendations from your venue and other vendors
- Recommendations from friends and family
Are there any red flags we should look out for?
Unfortunately, yes, there are things to look out for when hiring a wedding photographer. The world of photography, in general, and wedding photography, in particular, is pretty much a free market. That is great for providers and consumers, but that also means there is a lot to consider!
Make sure you BOTH meet with your photographer before you book with them, and that they have a contract that you both have to sign. Contracts are meant to protect you and the photographer, so there is no exception to this rule!
Generally, avoid larger regional studios. While they’re not all the same, two have gone under for financial issues since 2021, leaving couples and photographers to scramble last-minute to make sure weddings were covered. No one needs that stress in their life! Read more about Glasser and Tolman, if you’re curious.
Basic Steps to Finding Prospective Photographers:
- Consider wedding photography styles, photographer personalities, and what is most important to you on your wedding day
- Determine budget (something like 10-15% of your total wedding budget for traditional weddings, 40-70% for elopements)
- Do some searching within the parameters you set together. Ask yourselves:
- Can you see yourselves in the photographer’s portfolio?
- What do you know about the photographer — do you have anything in common with them that makes you think you would get along with them?
- Is the wedding day you’re planning reflected in their portfolio?
- Chat with 3-5 wedding photographers and choose the one that fits you the best!
Style of wedding photography
First thing’s first: your professional wedding photos should reflect you, your personality and your style! If you are a super fun-loving and goofy couple, a photographer that specializes in fine art and editorial photography is probably not for you, and you are probably not right for them.
When you look at images on a photographer’s blog or portfolio, try to react quickly. Do you like the photo or not? Now why or why not? Are there any individual qualities you like or dislike about the photo? There is no wrong answer here; art is VERY subjective!
Things to consider here are when booking a wedding photographer:
- Style — do you like more of the straight on to camera or more candid style? How about natural light vs. external lighting?
- Editing — common styles include light and airy, natural, dark and moody, and warm tones.
- Composition — are body parts cut off? Are the images straightened? Is it obvious what you should be looking at?
- Feel — how do you feel when you look at the image? Again, no right or wrong answer here!
It takes some practice to notice different qualities in different photographer’s work, but if you take the time now to check people out, you are less likely to find someone after your wedding that you like better!
To get you in the photo-studying mood, I’ll walk through mine for you!
My shooting style is mostly candid, with some posed formal photos sprinkled in (so your mom can print one out for her wall or holiday card). I primarily shoot in natural light, but of course during your reception I will break out the flash!
I edit my images using the mantra “enhance, don’t change” so that your wedding day stays intact — the colors, the location, you, your memories. This way, when you view your photos decades from now, they’ll represent you and not a trend.
With years of practice, full-body photos are full-body photos in my portfolio. That means no cutoff toes or feet in your family or wedding party portraits! I also straighten every image so that, again, the photos represent how you saw your day without the additional distraction of a tilted image!
Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how to feel when looking through my portfolio 😉 You can certainly take a look for yourself though! If you like the images, YAY! If you don’t, that’s ok too! It’s like I said, not every wedding photographer is for you, and I also cannot be for every couple!
Personality of Wedding Photography
On to personality! When you meet with your photographer for the first time (and yes, you should meet with them before you book them — more in the next section), pay attention to how you feel after the chat! Are you stressed out? Indifferent? Excited? PUMPED?
Your photographer will set the tone and the mood of your wedding day. Choose someone you are comfortable with and who can match your needs and personality! This will pay off more than almost any other factor in your wedding experience!
Again, there is no silver bullet here, just how you feel! It helps if you have some things to connect with your photographer on as well, like interests or values.
For example, my business is based on sustainability in weddings, I like running and going to basketball games, and work as an election judge in my city as well as a clinic escort for Pro-Choice Minnesota. If those are things you connect with, we should totally chat! If your values are different or polar opposites, it’s likely that there is a better fit for you out there.
Logistics & Budget
Alrighty, logistics…what even is that? I’ll give you a hint, It’s more than just photographer cost.
Think of it as processes and procedures. I know, I know, that seems dry when we’re talking about your wedding day. BUT if you have a roadmap from now until your wedding day and through your final gallery delivery, you won’t be left wondering what to do next.
Make sure you discuss the following with your photographer before making your final decision:
- What does the rest of the booking process look like?
- Typically, a retainer and a signed contract are due to officially book.
- Is there anything in particular you’d like to highlight about the contract?
- After we book, when will you be checking in with us?
- How do we make sure you know everything about our wedding day before it arrives?
- How can we reach out when we have questions? When can we typically expect to hear back?
- When can we expect our final gallery? How long will the gallery be available?
- What are we allowed/not allowed to do with our photos?
- Do you watermark final images?
Besides making sure you have a contract, there are no right or wrong answers for any of these questions; only ones that work for you or don’t! For example, if a photographer watermarks their images and you don’t want that, probably best to find another. If you are ok with the watermarks, go for it!
After all these questions are answered, take a look at your budget. Consider if the photographer who you’d like to work with is within range, or if it’s worth splurging a bit when hiring a photographer to have the very best fit with you on your day.
When reviewing wedding photographer cost, refrain from asking photographers to give discounts or make concessions or changes for you. This is often considered a red flag in the industry, and can make photographers less likely to want to work with you. There are lots of us out there, so it’s easy to say that someone else can better suit your needs.
This is another area that is totally different across the industry! Deliverables can be anything from digital galleries to photo albums to prints or print credits. Photographers even offer different add-on services like second photographers or engagement photos or boudoir sessions.
Along with the fit of the photographer, you want to make sure that what is promised to you is something that you want and can use, and that everything that you do or might want is offered.
Let’s pop back into an example: All of my wedding packages come with coverage time, an engagement shoot, and digital galleries with no watermarks and full print/sharing rights. My longer hour packages also include a second photographer. Albums and boudoir sessions are add-ons since not everyone wants those, so I leave them to personal choice!
Pro tip for booking a wedding photographer: Ask your prospective photographers to see a full gallery example. Our portfolios often show the very best, curated images rather than full wedding days!
Gear, Storage, and Backups
Gear. You should be able to tell from all the photographer research you have done what a professional quality camera produces. Let’s just say as long as you like the quality and style of a wedding photographer’s work (including daytime and nighttime), that is good!
For interested parties, Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, and Sony all have great full-frame cameras and prime lenses that produce amazing images when an experienced photographer is using them! Both DSLR and mirrorless cameras will get you a professional gallery, though mirrorless is a newer technology. Check out this list of the best cameras for wedding photographers for additional information.
After your wedding is captured, you’ll want to make sure that your photographer has solid storage and backup systems in place so that you know your images are safe! Afterall, anything can happen to digital media at any time!
Ask your photographer the following questions:
- Does your camera have dual memory card slots? (Dual slots should be used by any wedding photographer to make sure that in the event that one card corrupts, the other is an exact copy.)
- How do you handle images once the wedding is over?
- When do you reformat/delete the images off the memory cards you use at weddings?
Once again, I’ll give you an example by going through what I do!
I shoot with two Canon R6 bodies with 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm prime lenses. The Canon R6 has dual SD card slots, so whenever I take a photo, there are immediately two copies.
When I get home, I transfer the files to two identical hard drives in a Synology NAS system (not physically connected to my computer) as well as a third external hard drive for safe keeping.
I only format/delete the memory cards once the final gallery has been delivered, in the very unlikely event that something happens to my computer and/or all three hard drives. NO RISKS TAKEN HERE.
When it comes to booking a wedding photographer, experience is a two-sided coin: How experienced is the photographer, and what experience are they providing you?
And remember, the number of years in the industry is not always better — sometimes fresher eyes are called for! However, specialty can be taken into consideration. If you have a photographer that provides everything from branding to portraits to weddings and one that specializes in weddings, you are likely to receive a better and more personalized experience from the one who specializes.
I spend virtually all my time thinking about weddings, my couples, and their wedding day experience. By focusing on one type of work, I am able to think of any scenario and have processes in place to care specifically for those couples. The more specialized I am, the more experience I gain in my one niche!
That’s not to say that only people who specialize should be photographing weddings, but if you’re choosing between two photographers, that may sway you to one or the other!
Let’s Sum it Up!
As soon as you get engaged, start browsing wedding photographers together so you’re ready to reach out once you’ve found your venue and date!
While in the searching and booking process, consider:
- Style & Personality
- Logistics & Budget
- Gear, Storage, and Backups
- Experience (the photographer’s and yours!)
Ultimately, go with your gut. If you feel good about a photographer, you are going to have an amazing day, and the investment will be well worth it!
A little unsure who to choose? Book an engagement session with a couple photographers to get a chance to work with them before committing to your wedding with them! Just be aware that they are under no obligation to hold your wedding date while you go through the engagement process.
If you’re looking for a wedding photographer in the Twin Cities who has a natural shooting and editing style and will take THE BEST care of you throughout your engagement, on your wedding day, and after your wedding, reach out here! I am PUMPED to meet you!