Choosing the perfect wedding photographer.
I once heard that when the wedding is over, you leave with two things: a life-partner and photos. Your wedding images will help tell the story of your wedding day, so choosing the right photographer is crucial.
If a photographer cares about the people before the lens and is compassionate, much is given. It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument. — Eve Arnold.
Unlike the process of hiring other wedding vendors (dessert, bouquet, invitations, etc.), photos aren't things you can hear, smell, taste or even see at first—you have to trust in your pro. The stakes are high, so you will need to go above and beyond when it comes to research to ensure you like the photographer's style, pricing and overall energy . You'll need to find someone you genuinely enjoy being around because they are one of the very few vendors that you'll spend your entire day with. Heres some tips to get you started.
Schaar's Bluff Wedding: Eunice and Jason | Minnesota Wedding Photographer - Emily's Photography.
Decide on a wedding theme.
By theme, I mean an overall vibe! Go to Pinterest, search weddings, and just scroll through everything to see what you and your partner genuinely love. Once a theme is chosen, you can then look for a venue, which you'll need to book before inquiring any photographer. Some popular themes to consider:
Boho, flower crowns and macabre table runners, think Midsommar.
Floral, garden bouquets and lots of greens.
Glamour, boujie stationary and custom drinks, screams Great Gatsby.
Modern, very minimalistic and simple, online invites to save turtles and trees.
Rustic, mason jars and antique vases - we've all seen it.
French Chic, embossed invitations and white chandeliers.
Halloween, "till death do us part", remember Beeteljuice and Lydia?
Classic elegance, black-tie dress code and pastel colors.
Island Airbnb at National Park Wedding: Lisa and Jonny | Minnesota Wedding Photographer - Emily's Photography.
Book a venue.
After deciding on a theme, it's time for the first difficult decision: the venue. Honestly, finding one that meets all your needs is tough. Most of my couples answered "venue" as their number one financial priority when it came to their budget. Which makes total sense because the venue will effect every aspect of your day. You need to make sure your venue is equipped to handle your guest count, personal needs/goals, and of course bad weather.
Invest in the quality you want.
Location booked? Perfect. Now its time to choose a budget for your photographer. Most couples prioritize a photographer over other vendors when considering their budget. Remember, the day will go by extremely fast, in fact, it will end in a blink of an eye. This is an event in your life that is unlike anything you have ever experienced before - your adrenaline is flying up and down the entire day, which makes it difficult to process memories. This phenomenon is known simply as "Wedding day Memory Loss". It's an actual thing but whats the solution? Investing in a photographer. An experienced photographer who knows how to work with a timeline in a stressful situation and still produce quality work.
Olympic Hills Golf Club Wedding: Nicole and Tom | Minnesota Wedding Photographer - Emily's Photography.
Do your research.
Photographers are responsible for documenting all the memories of your special day and delivering an edited gallery you can look back on for years to come, so it’s an important decision, no doubt. Heres some of my tips when researching:
Avoid photo/video bundles. These deals are sold by large scale companies that have a national presence, yet pretend to be local. It's a bit of a scheme, basically, they hire local inexperienced photographers and videographers - who most of the time don't have the correct equipment - and they pay them minimum wage to shoot a wedding, all while pocketing the extra money (usually hundreds). Afterwards, the company sends your photos to get edited by services in India which under-pay their employees and have no interest in any quality editing. If you're on a tight budget, I suggest just hiring a beginner photographer directly so at least your saving money. Photography is not like a value meal at McDonalds.
Find the photography style you like. Photojournalistic, Fine Art, Lifestyle, Warm, Editorial, Classic, Moody, Artistic. Theres many! Keep in mind though, a photographer might change their style by the time your wedding rolls around. Thats just reality. Theres not much you can do about this, but If its a concern then I recommend communicating that with your photographer - emphasize that their style is the reason you chose them.
Greenhaven Golf Course Wedding: Melissa and Owen | Minnesota Wedding Photographer - Emily's Photography.
Take notice of their response time. If they can't respond to the initial inquiry within 24 hours, then that reflects how they respond to everything else. They might be the most creative and talented photographer in the world, but bad business skills are a huge red flag. If they can't respond on time to an email, what makes them responsible enough to edit your photos on time? Horror stories have been shared where couples receive their galleries 8+ months out with very little communication from the vendor. Imagine the anxiety you would struggle with if that was you?
Don't get tricked with portfolios full of "Styled Shoots". A problematic trend is a "styled shoot" - which is basically a staged wedding designed to promote photographers, decorators, jewelers, bakers, florists, etc. These shoots are done in a controlled environment, with perfect lighting and paid models. The issue is that the photographers ends up producing phenomenal photos that showcase their best work. And it is their best work, and may always be their best work, since it's in a controlled setting which lacked the craziness of an actual wedding day. There is no pressure during a styled shoot but working under pressure is part of the expertise that a wedding photographer brings. Understanding posing is one thing, but knowing how to pose drunk and hangry family members in 15 minutes outside in windy, sunny weather while also making sure their hair and outfits look good is a whole different ball game.
A portfolio filled with only bride and groom shots is the biggest red flag.
If you don’t see any photos of the rest of the wedding party, the guests, or the wedding ceremony and reception, you may be dealing with a fake portfolio.
BugBee Hive Resort Wedding: Shelby and Tyler | Minnesota Wedding Photographer - Emily's Photography.
Lastly, Meeting up.
A huge green flag is a photographer that encourages a meeting, whether in-person or over Zoom. Someone who shows interest in getting to know you as a couple and wants to share about themselves and their business. It's so important for you and your photographer to bond during the meet up because if you can't have a simple conversation over coffee, how will you survive an 8+ hour day together? It should feel less like an interview and more like you're hanging out with a friend. If it feels easy, than you might have met the right one!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hi, I'm Emily, and I document people (and their dogs) at weddings! I live alongside my five amazing, crazy and energetic pups, Nessie, Peach, Sammi, Vinny, and Bobbi. They chew everything they see, take up the whole bed, but most importantly - they give the best hugs. I became a professional photographer in 2019 and since then have had the opportunity to share incredible moments with numerous couples that will be cherished forever. My goal is to tell the story not only of your wedding day, but of your love. I believe to the core that who we are matters. The imagery we create together is dependent on our connection with each other + being the right fit for each other. Let’s get to know one another, I’ll start.