Choosing a wedding photographer – 10 questions to ask

Guests at wedding stand in heart shape.

Most of the articles I’ve seen on choosing  a wedding photographer seem to be written by wedding photographers. Here I am carrying on that tradition!

The three key things to be sure of are that your photographer is competent to do the job, that you like the style of their work and that you get on with them. Of course, there’s more to it than that …

1. How and where should we look?

If you know someone that’s got married in the last few years, personal recommendation is a great place to start. Were your friends pleased with their wedding photographer?

Wedding venues often keep a list of recommended suppliers, so if these haven’t been provided it’s worth asking. Wedding fairs are also good places to meet photographers, but unless you visit many, you’ll only see a tiny proportion of those available. In addition, some wedding planning websites such as The Knot carry listings from photographers and other suppliers.

After that, a web search on your preferred search engine for “[LOCATION] wedding photographer” will likely produce a lot (a lot!)  of results. Do be aware that those on the first page of Google tend to be those who are best at marketing, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best wedding photographers for you. However while a good website doesn’t automatically indicate the standard of a photographer, it is at least a sign that they take their work professionally.

2. Are they available for our wedding day?

Many full-time wedding photographers are booked out a year or more in advance. Start looking as soon as you can to make sure you can have the photographer you want.

3. Are they capable of photographing our wedding?

Make sure you see the pictures from a complete wedding by your photographer, and not just a portfolio of selected shots. Shoot enough pictures and generally there’ll be some good ones in there. However a professional photographer will be able to keep capturing quality images throughout the varied scenarios and lighting of a wedding day.

What’s unique about your wedding? Has your photographer captured a similar wedding before? Dark venues, or weddings from different cultures, can present particular challenges for those not used to them.

Every professional photographer should have backup equipment, bringing at least two cameras and additional lenses to your wedding in case of equipment failure. They should also have insurance and make backup copies of your pictures.

For peace of mind, it can be worth checking reviews and testimonials, asking for the contact details of past clients who would provide a reference, or searching for the photographer by name online.

4. Does their photographic style fit with our vision?

Choosing a wedding photographer whose style fits your vision is vital

People’s tastes vary. Photographers have different styles. A photographer may be award-winning and hugely experienced, but if his pictures don’t resonate with you then you’re probably not the right fit for each other.

Do you prefer stylistically posed shots, or having a giggle for the camera, or a photographer who is more in the background, capturing things without getting in the way? Having a laugh, or romance that takes your breath away? Do you prefer natural colours in your images, a dreamy vintage look, black and white, or something else? All of these styles are valid, and working with a photographer whose work matches your tastes will give you images you’ll love.

5. Do we get on with them?

You’ll be spending a lot of time with your photographer on your wedding day and it’s important you choose someone you can relax with. This means you’ll enjoy your wedding day more, and look happier and more natural in your pictures.

6. Do they fit our budget?

How much should you spend on your wedding photography? A rough guide would be 10-15% of your total wedding budget. Exactly how much you need to spend depends on your location and expectations. I’ve looked through the websites of over a hundred Arizona wedding photographers to check out their packages, work and prices. At the time of writing, the following is a rough guide for Arizona for full coverage of your wedding day.

Over $30,000Master or celebrity wedding photographers. At this level, you are investing as much in the experience of working with a particular photographer as in their pictures and service.
$15,000, to $29,999Luxury wedding photographers, who will probably spend much more time with the couple and their pictures before and after, as well as on, your wedding day.
$5,000 to $14,999This is the mainstream price bracket where most photographers pitch themselves. Expect a competent and experienced photographer.
$1,000 to $4.999An upcoming or budget wedding photographer. Newcomers of a variety of standards will be in this price range, as well as more experienced photographers who choose to target the budget end of the market and will spend a more limited time working on each wedding.
under $1,000Hobbyist or enthusiast photographers who shoot weddings for friends often fall in this price range, as well as less experienced photographers shooting their first weddings.

If your budget won’t book the kind of photographer you want for your whole day, consider going for the photographer you want for a shorter period of your wedding day, rather than compromising just do get the whole day covered.

While there are exceptions to the above, once your wedding day is over your wedding day the pictures are what will remain to remind you. Is it really something you’re prepared to skimp on? Generally, you get what you pay for.

7. Couldn’t I just ask my friend/relative to photograph my wedding?

You could, but I would strongly advise against it. Many people know someone with a passion for photography and a good camera. However shooting a wedding is one of the most demanding jobs even for an experienced photographer. New wedding photographers still charge hundreds of pounds – would you expect your friend to spend that much on a gift? And if they took the responsibility seriously, they wouldn’t be able to relax and enjoy the wedding as a guest.

What happens if it all goes wrong? There are stories on the photography forums about ruined friendships as a result – not to mention the distress to the couple of having no good wedding pictures.

It’s up to you, but I wouldn’t take the risk. Choose someone with proven experience in photographing weddings and who will be able to focus completely on providing you with the pictures of your day that you deserve.

8. How much time will our photographer spend working on our wedding?

Don’t just consider the amount of time that will be covered on your wedding day, but before and afterwards too. Will you have a face-to-face meeting to make sure you get on with your photographer and understand how they work, and to go over the details of your day and your expectations. Will they visit your venue before your big day? Can you go to the venue together to explore ideas of where to get group and couple pictures? Is an engagement / pre-wedding session included or an option?

After the wedding, do they check and correct the exposure and colour balance of each photograph? Is removing blemishes (such as spots or stray hairs) from the pictures important to you and, if so, is that a service they provide.

9. What does their package include, and how much are extras?

How many images do they provide from a day? A few hundred is plenty to tell the story of a wedding day, and most photographers provide this. If they offer much fewer, how are they selected? If they offer much more, is this at the expense of paying individual attention to the pictures?

Wedding albums can vary hugely in quality and price, so do look at the photographer’s samples if you are considering one or their package has one included.

A second shooter (photographer) present during your wedding can provide some missing angles – and in particular cover the groom’s preparations while the primary photographer is with the bride. However I would personally only regard it as a necessity when there are more than 200 guests at the wedding.

Also, do you want a bridal boudoir shoot? Many wedding photographers will also do your boudoir photos, however they may not be very experienced in boudoir and you could end up with subpar images. That’s why I outsource my boudoir add ons to the very best boudoir photographer in Phoenix, Sin Boudoir by Michael Jones. By using a true professional like Sin Boudoir you are guaranteed to get beautiful boudoir photos taken on your wedding day.

10. Will we receive high quality digital images with permission to make our own prints?

Most photographers provide this, but it’s worth checking. Some high-end photographers do not, over concern of their work being reproduced at a lower quality than they themselves would be happy with. (Professional prints really are leagues ahead of supermarket or Boots photo printing). If this is the case, make sure to budget for prints, wall art and wedding books.

Some photographers also provide copies of the images resized for quick sharing on social media such as Facebook. If yours does, are they watermarked? I don’t watermark images I give to clients as I’d prefer people to choose to talk about me because they love my work, rather than be force them to advertise on my behalf.

What now?

Unless you just know that you’ve found the photographer for you, meet with two or three. Before making a final decision, read through their contracts and query anything you’re unclear on. Be clear on what times your photographer will be present, and when and how you will receive your pictures.

And then relax and enjoy the rest of your planning, knowing that your wedding pictures are in good hands.

I’m a wedding photographer based in Phoenix, AZ and available for weddings anywhere in the world. Please get in touch whether you’re interested in having me shoot your wedding, or even if you’re not but just have some questions about booking a photographer.