Photography is one of the biggest investments you will make on your special day. The photos will be one of the only tangible things you will have after your wedding is over, so choosing the right photographer for you is super important to ensure you love your photos. Here are my top 13 tips to finding your ideal photographer and some questions to ask them during your consultation to ensure they are the best fit for you.
1) Have a consultation with your photographer with both you and your fiancé. Yes, the quality of the photos is obviously super important, and if you love their Instagram and portfolio that is a good sign, but the most important thing in selecting a photographer is making sure their personality works with yours. They will literally be your shadow on the big day, so getting along with this person and enjoying their presence is huge! If you are enjoying yourself, feel comfortable, and are having fun with your photographer, your photos will look better and more natural.
2) Ask to see a FULL gallery of a (3-4) of the weddings they have shot, not just the highlights. You want to be able to look through all the images and see how many total photos you like within the full gallery. You should also assess how comfortable the couples and subjects look in the photos. Is there a good variety of locations, poses, and compositions? Do you love all the photos? Awesome! Do you only love maybe a handful of the photos? Not so good.
3) Ask how they back up their images. Most photographers will have a crazy complicated answer to this, with multiple contingency plans, and several back-up drives etc. You may not completely understand the technical details, but you will be able to tell just how seriously they take this! If you ask a photographer this question and they do not have a response or stumble through the answer; it may be a red flag. Unfortunately, images do sometimes get erased, so making sure your photographer has a plan in place to keep your images safe is critical.
4) Ask them how many weddings they have photographed as the lead photographer. Wedding photography is very different from landscape photography and portrait photography. Your photographer needs to be well versed in how best to capture images on the fly and in fast paced, candid situations. Unlike, landscape and portrait photography, wedding photographers do not have time to recapture those important moments and play around with your poses or the lighting. They need to be able to capture the image in the moment. This takes practice. Wedding photographers also have to wrangle many people to make sure you get photos with everyone you have specified. They need to be pros at getting those images fast and efficiently.
5) Make sure you like their editing style. Most photographers have a very specific way they edit images and it should be consistent for every single wedding. If you like a more light and airy photo, don’t book a photographer who shoots and edits a more dark and documentary style, and vice versa.
6) Ask if they are familiar with your venue. Photographers who are familiar with your venue will know all the best places to take photos and secret little spots. They will understand the lighting and have an overall smoother experience shooting your wedding there. If your photographer has not shot at your venue before, ask if they would be open to coming to the vendor walk-through or if they will scout the location in advance. I would also ask them how they approach working at a new venue and how they ensure success. This one isn’t a total deal breaker, but it is important that they understand your venue and aren’t trying to figure it all out on your big day.
7) Do your due diligence by checking reviews and asking other members of your vendor team about the photographer. Read their online reviews and ask other members of your vendor team if they have worked with them before. Reviews are such a great way to learn more about how they interact with everyone on wedding days and to also see how happy couples were with their images! It is important that our photographer leaves a positive impression on your guests.
8) Ask them for a typical photography timeline based on the package you are considering. This will help you understand how much time you will have for photos and understand the overall flow of the evening. It will also help you determine if you need to book more or less time with the photographer based on what images are important to you. This may lead you to realize you actually want to extend your photography package to make sure you capture more images earlier or later in the day.
9) Ask if they will be alone or if they will have an assistant or second shooter. Many photographers I have worked with bring an assistant or second shooter to make sure they have an extra set of hands to change lenses and capture all of the images needed for your gallery. Typically, a second shooter will hang with the groomsmen while the main photographer will be with the bride and bridesmaids for the “getting ready” photos. They will also split up throughout the night to capture different images. For example, one will be capturing the groom’s reaction as the bride walks down the aisle, and one will simultaneously capture the bride’s reaction; or one will be at cocktail hour while the other is inside the reception space shooting the table set-ups before guests enter the ballroom. During dinner, one photographer may be backing up images and eating while the other is taking guest table photos. A second shooter is a nice touch and really helps to get a well rounded and robust gallery of images. They also help the main photographer work more efficiently and capture EVERYTHING. Not having a second shooter, is not a deal breaker, but if it fits within your budget, I would highly recommend adding it to your package. Also, if you have a large bridal party (over 20 people) or wedding guest count (over 150 people) a second shooter may be absolutely necessary to make sure everything is captured.
10) Do the engagement session. Getting to know your photographer before the big day is huge! Most photographers use the engagement session to get to know their couples and get them comfortable in front of the lens. Consider it your trial run to make sure you understand the process and are happy with the outcome. They will also teach you little posing techniques and ways to make your images look fabulous. This will help you flow right into taking photos on the big day and you won't need to learn the poses on the fly.
11) Ask how they pose their couples. This is a big one for me. I personally prefer a more candid photography style and don’t tend to love the super posed photos. Make sure you understand how your photographer will interact with you on the big day and that you feel comfortable with their style. Your photographer should have ways to make you feel comfortable in front of the lens and have little tricks or cues to make you pose a certain way and look natural in photos.
12) What happens if they are sick or have an emergency on your big day? This is a very important question to ask your photographer and really any vendor working your big day. As a wedding professional, I have NEVER missed a wedding and I know most vendors will do everything in their power to make sure they are there on your big day; but they should have a back-up plan in place and it should be a plan you are comfortable with.
13) How do you deliver your final images and how long does it take to return final images? Finally, how will you receive your images and how long do you have to wait? This answer may vary based on when you are getting married and how many weddings your photographer shoots.
I wish you the best of luck in your search for the best photographer for you!
Owner & Lead Wedding Planner
Blue Sapphire Events
Kolena is a wedding planning professional with over 8 years of experience. She owns and operates Blue Sapphire Events, a boutique wedding planning firm based in Arlington, VA. Her specialty is unique and vibrant event design paired with flawless day of wedding management. She serves couples in love throughout Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC.