There are so many articles out there about choosing a wedding photographer. They’ll tell you the “right” questions to ask and remind you to see sample weddings rather than a highlight reel on instagram. Having this information is helpful, but it doesn’t get you started in actually finding photography you like. Over the years, I’ve helped quite a few of my girlfriends find their wedding photographers. I have found that the hardest part for each of them has been knowing where to start. I thought I’d compile my tried-and-true tips into a blog post. I hope you’ll find them helpful.
Step One: Collect images
If you already have a wedding board on pinterest and/or a collection of saved images on instagram, you can go ahead and skip down to step two. If you don’t, you’ll want to spend a little time looking through images and saving anything that speaks to you. I recommend looking at Vogue Weddings, Martha Stewart Weddings, Harper’s Bazaar, Brides, The Knot, and Style Me Pretty.
Step Two: Determine what photography style you like
As you look over your collection of saved photos, allow any trends or similarities that you observe to help you determine what you like. Most wedding photographers shoot in either an editorial photography style (i.e. Style Me Pretty) or a photojournalistic photography style (i.e. Vogue Weddings).
You likely prefer an editorial photography style if:
-your saved photos include a lot of detail shots of invitation suites, florals, and tablescapes
-you hope to incorporate styling elements into your wedding, and it’s important to you that your photographer capture these details
-you prefer posed portraits over candids.
You likely prefer a more photojournalistic style of wedding photography if:
-you would rather have photos of your family and friends than photos of your rings and invitations
you prefer photos of real moments rather than posed photos
-it is important to you that your photos tell the story of your day.
Step Three: Determine what editing style you like
Many wedding photographers lean either towards a light and airy editing style (i.e. Style Me Pretty) or a dark and moody editing style (i.e. Dirty Boots and Messy Hair). Editing is important because no matter how much you like the images a photographer can capture, if you prefer bright editing but they use moody editing, the photos will look different from your own memories of your wedding day. To be truly happy with your wedding photos, you need to choose a photographer who shoots and edits in a way that you like.
Step Four: Find potential photographers
Now that you know your preferred wedding photography style, it will be easy to spot photographers whose work you like and rule out anyone whose work doesn’t line up with what you are looking for. Here are my suggestions for how to source potential wedding photographers:
Referrals from friends
Do you remember loving the photos from a wedding you attended? Ask the bride and groom about their photographer; chances are, they’ll be thrilled to refer you. Maybe you didn’t even attend a particular wedding, but saw an album on facebook and thought the photos stood out. Reach out and ask who took them. You can also ask any friends who work in a creative field or in event planning. Don’t rule out photos you’ve seen and loved even if the subject has not been a wedding; I have booked weddings referred from my family photography clients, so if you see photos you really love, ask if the photographer shoots weddings. Even if they don’t, they themselves may have a referral for you. Word of mouth is so powerful in the wedding world, and what better than to find a photographer who has already been vetted by someone you trust?
Wedding blogs and publications
Similar to how you sourced photographs you liked, you can browse wedding publications to find photographers; just use the site’s search bar to find photographers in your area. For the budget-conscious, keep an eye out for a “second shooter” credit; these photographers are often more junior and can be less expensive. The trade-off is that they have less experience; make sure you ask them whether they have experience shooting weddings on their own.
If you happen upon any photographers whose work you love but who aren’t local, it can be worth writing to them anyway, as many photographers will travel to shoot a wedding. You will likely need to cover transportation and lodging, but this may not be as expensive as you think. The same goes for destination weddings; if you will be traveling for your wedding, look at photographers at your destination and photographers near you who might be able to travel for your wedding.
Instagram geotags and google searches
If you have chosen your venue, look up its geotag on instagram to find photos from weddings that have been held there in the past. Look for a photography credit on any photos you love. I recommend browsing instagram on a desktop rather than on your phone so that you can keep more than one profile open at once.
Referrals from other wedding vendors
If you have already selected your venue or if you are working with an event planner, chances are they will have a few recommendations for you. The same goes for recommendations for bands, florists, and anyone else you’re looking for.
Step Five: Get in touch
Now that you have a list of photographers whose work you like, email each of them to introduce yourself, see if they are available on your wedding date, and learn about the wedding photography packages they offer.
Remember that the purpose of this first email exchange is to gather pretty straightforward information about rates and availability. It’s fine to add a few additional questions, but it’s polite to save your other questions for when you’ve narrowed down your search to a few favorites, rather than when you still have a lot of photographers in the running.
Step Six: Ask questions
Finally, it’s time to ask all your questions. Most online wedding planning tools have lists of questions to ask; pick the ones that are important to you, and any other questions you’ve compiled, and ask away. You should get a good vibe from any photographer you are truly considering; don’t forget that you will be spending a huge portion of your wedding day with whoever you choose, so important to feel comfortable with them. You should be excited to have your photographer at your wedding!
If you are still undecided, step away from the photographer search for a few days and see whose work continues to come to mind. A few years back, one of my friends had almost landed on a wedding photographer when she expressed to me that she couldn’t get another photographer’s work out of her head. The other photographer was more expensive – but not so much more expensive that she wouldn’t be able to make it work. Whatever the reason, trust your gut if there is one photographer whose photos you continue to circle back to; that photographer is probably your photographer. That friend ended up choosing the photographer she couldn’t get out of her mind; her wedding photos are stunning, and she and her husband truly adore them.
I hope this blog post was helpful! If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. Thank you so much for reading.