No Regrets: How to Choose the Right Wedding Photographer for You

The photographer, (me!) on a ladder, shooting a large group photo at a wedding in Hood River, Oregon.

The photographer, (me!) on a ladder, shooting a large group photo at a wedding in Hood River, Oregon.

Last week I shared a link to the cautionary tale of Tulsa bride who received a handful of dark, blurry and incredibly disappointing pictures after hiring a “cheap” wedding photographer.

"I was planning this [wedding] since I was a little girl. It turned out just the way I wanted it and I have no pictures," Natalie Barney (the bride) said.

The photographer she hired misrepresented herself - sharing images stolen from dress designer Jenny Yoo and others as “wedding samples”. During the wedding, it became clear the photographer was using either faulty equipment, or else had no idea how to work her flash in the dark reception venue.

This story hit a nerve with my friends and followers - I got a lot of responses from people who regret their own budget wedding photos, or know someone who hired a “family friend with a camera”...and wished they hadn’t.

All weddings require some budgeting and I never blame a bride who's looking for ways to save money. But choosing the cheapest wedding photographer you can find is ALWAYS a bad idea.

If the thought of finding and hiring a wedding photographer seems daunting, never fear! Today I’m sharing my tips for finding a photographer who’s talented and trustworthy - so you can LOVE your wedding photos with no regrets! Read on and enjoy!

No Regrets: How to Choose the Right Wedding Photographer for You
  1. Discuss Your “Three Things”

Newly engaged? Sit down with your fiancé and ask yourselves an important question - what three things do you most value when it comes to your future wedding? Do you want extravagant floral arrangements? Are you excited for a truly delicious meal? Are you hoping for a dance floor that’s packed to capacity all evening? I ask this question to every couple I interview to get a sense of their priorities and personalities - answer separately and compare!

Use your “three things” to guide your budget discussions, and help prioritize your wedding spending. The opportunity to exceed your budget will inevitably present itself, (over and over...) potentially causing confusion or tension. Return to your three things, together and separately, to help you make decisions on where your money should and shouldn’t go.

No Regrets: How to Choose the Right Wedding Photographer for You

2. Consider Your Investment

Of all things you pay for during your wedding, your photographs are the only thing you *keep* once the day is over.  Cake is eaten and flowers die, but a talented photographer will capture the important people and the tiny details that make your wedding day unique. Your wedding photos are an investment! With any luck, they’ll endure through decades of marriage - through moves, life changes, joys and tragedy; ultimately becoming part of your family’s history and legacy.

Professional photographers accrue thousands of dollars in expenses maintaining successful businesses. If you’re tempted by someone who seems to be charging substantially less than the pack, consider where they might be cutting their costs. Are they using outdated or unreliable gear that might fail on your wedding day? Are they lacking in the knowledge or experience required to create beautiful images despite temperamental weather, difficult locations, and poor lighting? Do they have liability insurance in case of an accident? Do they have systems and software in place to protect your images from being lost or damaged once your wedding day is over? It takes more than a “fancy” camera to be a wedding photographer!

Even if photography didn’t make it into your “top 3” wedding priorities, professional photographers will exist at just about every price point in your region. Research the rates in your area and choose someone priced near the middle.

No Regrets: How to Choose the Right Wedding Photographer for You

3. Find a Professional

Use common sense and do your research on any wedding vendor you find online. In 2019, a legitimate studio or business should have an active and consistent presence on multiple online platforms and social media outlets. They should have positive reviews from past clients (on third party controlled websites like the Knot, WeddingWire, or Facebook) that they’re eager and willing to share with you. They should have a detailed contract that outlines what you can expect in terms of booking, payment, delivery of your photos, and your usage rights.

Always take the time to connect personally with any vendor you hire from the internet, whether that means a phone call, a video chat, or an in-person meeting at a local coffee shop. Whenever possible, get recommendations! I have a list of recommended vendors here on my website (talented individuals I’ve worked with in the past.) Some vendors may even give a discount to past client referrals - I offer 10% off to friends and family members of past brides and grooms.

No Regrets: How to Choose the Right Wedding Photographer for You

4. Ask the Right Questions

Aside from providing info about prices and package options, there are a couple other questions your photographer should be comfortable answering:

  • “How long have you been in business?”

  • “What’s your philosophy or style while shooting a wedding?” (Do you want someone who will pose you? Who will disappear into the background? Think about it and listen to what your photographer has to say!)

  • “Will you be the actual photographer present the day of our wedding?” (Some larger studios hire multiple associate photographers, which can be completely fine, so long as you’re expecting it!)

  • “Can I see a full gallery of wedding images?” (A photographer with a highlight reel of stolen images obviously won’t be able to supply this to you, but a full gallery will also give you a good sense of what to expect in terms of family portraits, dance floor shots, and other images shared less frequently on social media etc.)

  • “Are there restrictions on printing or sharing the images?”

  • “What’s your philosophy on retouching / photoshop?”

  • “Do you charge fees for travel?”

  • “Do you have liability insurance?”

  • “What steps do you take to backup and protect our images after the wedding?”

A solid photographer will want to determine that you’re a good for their services and will likely have questions for you as well!

Hopefully these tips will help you choose a wedding photographer you can afford, feel comfortable with, and trust to beautifully capture your special day. If reading this post will help you go through this process with no regrets, post a comment and let me know!

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Emma Dallman

Emma is a wedding and portrait photographer serving the East Coast and the world beyond. She lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband Mark and her puppy Hildy. The things that make her happiest include slow weekend mornings, live music, Mexican food and Netflix comedy specials. She is endlessly fascinated by the uniqueness and the beauty of every person she photographs. Read more about Emma here!

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