You’ve been asked the question. You’ve said the YES! Celebrations with your friends and family ensued. Maybe some dreaming and chatting about your ideal wedding. You go on the venue tours. You’ve found the PERFECT venue! Now you have your date.
And the reality of the rest of wedding planning sets in.
I remember when I got married, when we first started the planning process, I was SO overwhelmed. I got married when Pinterest was juuust starting (good grief I feel old), but Google was alive and well and just FULL of things that made my head spin in regards to planning a wedding. Obviously I had never been married before. I was also one of the first of my friends to get married. So I seriously had no idea what to expect and what to look for.
Since that time, I have, quite obviously, become a little more familiar with weddings. Which is why I’ve learned that, after the venue, a photographer is typically the next vendor booked for your day. That’s because it’s a really exciting vendor to book (I think, anyway, and I’m completely unbiased), especially if you want engagement photos, and a lot of photographers book up about a year in advance.
But if you’re newer to the wedding world, or starting to think about planning a wedding and have no idea what you should be looking for in a photographer, lemme help ya out! I’m sharing 5 things you should look for in a wedding photographer before you book!
I put this one first because I think it’s one of the most obvious ones. It’s also one of the easiest ones to determine right off the bat! But you need to know what style you want, and then find a photographer who creates that style. If you want light and airy photos, don’t reach out to a photographer whose website and portfolio/Instagram account is all dark and moody, and vice versa. A few people I’ve met have thought photography is kind of a one size fits all. A person finds a photographer, tells them what they want, and the photographer’s job is to make that happen.
This is not how it works with style. I’m a light, bright, and clean photographer. I can make a dark and moody image, sure, but it’s not my speciality. This means it’s not going to be consistent, and it’s not going to be as good as if you go with someone whose style is dark and moody. Myself, and most photographers I know, won’t work with clients who want a different style. I know what I’m good at creating and what I can confidently provide. You really want a photographer who is consistent and whose work looks similar across the board. This will give you peace of mind that you know what you’ll be getting when you book with them!
I think this one is HUGE! You want a photographer who is going to be good at communicating with you! Photography is a big investment, and that shouldn’t be taken lightly on either end. If you reach out to a photographer and they take a week or so to get back to you, don’t provide much information, and don’t seem interested in you or your day, try to evaluate how much you want to deal with that throughout your wedding planning process. If there’s not an extenuating circumstance, you should have a response quickly after your initial inquiry. The photographer should be interested in you and your wedding day, and should provide all information you ask for (plus some!).
If you should have any questions throughout the process about booking, payments, your engagement session, your photos, the wedding day itself, etc., you want to have peace of mind that your emails are being read and your photographer is responsive. Trust me. The LAST thing you want to be doing while wedding planning and living your life is spending valuable time tracking down an unresponsive vendor!
(Please note, this should not mean that you should expect a response moments after your inquiry. If you inquire at 10pm on a Friday night, you shouldn’t expect to hear back until Monday. Most photographers have weddings on weekends, or use that as time off and get to emails on Monday like other companies! I personally put on my website to expect to hear from me within 24 business hours, so prospective clients can know a timeframe they can expect to hear back from me.)
This one is important, and maybe a little underrated. You really want to make sure you get along with your photographer! Without exaggerating, you will spend more time with your photographer on your wedding day than your new spouse. Seriously. So please make sure you get along! A great way to do this is by meeting in person for a consultation (most photographers do this for free!) if possible. If not, see if they are available for a phone or Skype call. Just speaking with someone is a great way to see if they’re a good fit. If you get together and conversation is a little awkward and jilted and doesn’t flow, consider if that person may be the best fit for you! Likewise, if you meet with someone and they’re really loud and a little intense and in-your-face but you and your fiancé are more laid back and intimidated by that, that particular photographer may not be for you.
Again, you spend a lot of time with this person on your wedding day (and for engagement photos!), so try to make sure you’ll have a fun time!
Make sure your photographer knows what they are doing! I’ve met a lot of people who, when they get engaged, say they’re just going to have a family friend take pictures because he/she has a nice camera and can do it for cheap.
Listen. I get having a budget and needing to save where you can. My husband and I are currently on a 3 month spending freeze so I GET IT. But. Just keep in mind that this is one of the best days of your life. It will go so fast, and all you will have left is your photos to help you relive that day. You want to make sure that your photographer is capturing everything and capturing it well. Nothing can compare to that awful feeling of receiving your wedding pictures and not having shots you wanted or were expecting, or having the color and quality seriously lacking. This isn’t saying you need to spend $6k on a photographer, but try to work with your budget to make a good photographer a priority!
Also. If you don’t have a wedding planner, the photographer is the one who will end up keeping the wedding day moving. They will tell you when to get dressed and when to do bridal photos and when to do family photos. They will direct your first look and your portrait time and make sure you’re ready in time to be announced. You really want to make sure that your photographer has a plan for this and can make a timeline for this to go smoothly. Things can also go wrong on a wedding day. Timelines are pushed back, bridal parties are drunk and not cooperating, vendors can be late- and you need a photographer who knows how to not only handle all of that, but problem solve and still get great photos.
I send out a questionnaire to my brides 6-8 weeks before the wedding asking for alllll of the information. I create a timeline and go back and forth with the bride to make sure she’s comfortable with everything. I send it to other vendors involved so they know what to expect. I arrive early on wedding days to make sure I have plenty of time in case anything starts to run behind. Every photographer will have their own system, but make sure they have a plan or a system for your wedding day!
*Just wanted to mention why I said KNOWLEDGE and not EXPERIENCE. A photographer can be a photographer for 10+ years and not have a good system. On the flip side, a photographer can be a photographer for 2 years and have taken the time and invested financially in the education and mentoring and shadowing to know what to expect and create a situation around this. While it may seem the photographer of 2 years has less experience (as long as they have some experience!) his/her knowledge may outweigh years of not-ideal experience of a more “experienced” photographer. Just something to keep in mind!
Like I mentioned above, a lot of photographers can book up about a year out. Almost all of my couples only have their venue booked before they book with me. So with that- I highly suggest booking your photographer soon after your venue! If there is a particular photographer you know you want, book them! There is no such thing as booking too early!
If there is a photographer you had your heart set on working with and they aren’t available on your date, check with your venue to see about moving your date! Most venues don’t book up on Friday’s and Sunday’s as quickly as Saturday’s, and the same is true of photographers. Chances are that another day that weekend will be available (and venues are typically cheaper on a Friday or Sunday!). This gives you the opportunity to have your dream photographer without having to move your date more than a day or two!
I’m of the pretty firm belief that wedding planning should be fun and exciting! I know, though, that trying to sort through and find the perfect vendors can be difficult. I really do think that paying attention to these things when looking for a wedding photographer will help your process, and ultimately, your decision, so much easier!
If you have any other questions about what you should look for, make sure to drop it in the comments so I can answer! And, if you’re in NC (or elsewhere, I travel ;]), head over to this page and tell me a little about your day– I’d love to hear from you!