Written & photographed by Kimber of Darling & Dear
While I may be a wedding photographer now, I was a bride with a budget in 2015. My husband and I received hundreds of beautiful images from our special day, but knowing what I know now, I would go about selecting my wedding photographer differently today than I did six years ago.
Pulling from both experiences as a past bride planning her own wedding and a current full-time wedding photographer, there are five steps I’d recommend following to help you choose your best photographer and have zero regrets before, during or after your wedding day!
Following these five simple steps as a couple will help you experience all the joy in your wedding photo experience instead of stress or regret.
1. Stick to your values
Be honest with yourself about what you value most about your wedding photos. Whether it’s the dream wedding location or spending time with all of your guests during your reception, knowing your wedding priorities will help you better interview and communicate with your wedding photographer. Prioritizing your values should leave you with 1 to 3 priorities and clarity on which wedding vendors are worth a larger investment to you.
When I got married, the family portrait time was important to me. My parents have been divorced since I was four years old, and I really wanted at least one photo with just my two siblings, our spouses, my mom and my dad. I still regret making this a priority for myself, so when the family portrait time on our wedding day arrived (along with unexpected sub-freezing temperatures), many combinations of family photos were missed including my immediate family photo.
Echoing the advice Jeanene Lillie Events gave in her blog a few weeks ago, prioritizing what’s most important to you is the best first step to a regret-free wedding experience!
2. Know your budget
Before you start making deposits and signing contracts, be sure to understand who’s contributing what and budget accordingly. In line with your top wedding priorities, decide on which wedding vendors or aspects you’re willing to expand your budget and likewise, which are less important that you’re willing to spend less on if necessary.
Planning my own wedding in 2015, I chose my wedding photographer based on the fact that I knew he took good photos, was photographing a few weddings and was someone I personally knew. I recall being “that bride” that essentially asked my photographer how low he would go on price to photograph my wedding day (cue me cringing in embarrassment). Had I considered widening my search and my wedding photography budget, I could have found a more experienced wedding photographer who would have helped me better prioritize my wedding photo needs.
3. Research wedding photographers
Equipped with your top 1-3 wedding priorities and budget, now you can efficiently start researching wedding photographers. If you’re on a strict budget, there’s no harm in contacting photographers about their price ranges at the get-go in the interest of not wasting your time or theirs.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by how many wedding photographers you find in your Google search, start with referrals from friends and family who loved their wedding photo experience with photographers from the past 1-2 years. Referrals are a great starting point because if your friend had a positive experience with the photographer, you will likely have one as well.
Most importantly, make sure the photographers you consider have experience photographing real weddings and can be honest about their experience. The proof will be in their portfolio.
- a wide variety of weddings (do you see at least 3 different couples throughout their wedding portfolio?)
- types of shots (do you see photos of wedding details, bride and groom portraits, bridal party portraits, candids and venues?)
- a variety of photo crops (do you see all photos that are up close or is there a variety of close-ups, head-to-waist, and head-to-toe photos?)
Once you’ve found 3 or 4 wedding photographers in your price range, with a good wedding photo portfolio, who may be a recommendation from a friend, it’s time to dig a little deeper.
4. Interview your top 3 photographers
Some brides will stop at the previous step and just book the photographer that gave them the cheapest quote. If choosing your wedding photographer based on budget alone was not one of your top priorities, it’s likely that you will not be happy with your decision sooner or later.
Interviewing your top 3 (at most 4) photographers may take you up to 3 hours in total on phone, Zoom or in-person meetings. Only 3 hours in exchange for the confidence and care you’ll receive on your wedding day from your photographer? Heck yes, it’s worth it!
As a wedding photographer, my introductory calls with couples range between 30 and 60 minutes; it just depends on how the conversation goes! In every intro call, however, I discuss the couple’s wedding photo needs, my photo processes, pricing and answer any questions they may have. Then I send them a detailed booking proposal with a written quote, copy of the agreement and expected retainer and payment plan.
During your interviews with your potential wedding photographers, be sure to share your wedding priorities, so you can feel reassured your photographer can support you in your wedding day wishes. Had I shared with my wedding photographer how important the family photos were to me on my wedding day six years ago, he could have helped make sure those photos were captured despite the post-ceremony chaos.
Don’t be afraid to ask as many and specific questions you may have, especially in this brave new world concerning COVID-19 adaptations. This interview process is intended to give you all of the details and information you need to make the best decision.
Remember, your photographer is the one vendor who is by your side throughout your entire wedding day experience, so being confident in the processes, pricing, picture quality and personality of your photographer is vital to having a regret-free experience!
5. Discuss and decide
At this point, you have your priorities, budget and detailed information from your top three potential wedding photographers. Now it’s time to pour yourselves your favorite drink and talk it over with your fiancé. If others are helping you with your wedding planning or payments, include them in the final decision making as well.
Most times, there is one wedding photographer that your gut just says “YES! ABSOLUTELY!” about, and if you’re sticking to your priorities, your gut won’t lead you in the wrong direction.
From here, sign an agreement and submit your wedding photography retainer to secure your wedding date with your chosen photographer! As a courtesy, it’s polite to also contact the photographers who you did interview that you will not be working with.
Ideally, your photographer will keep in touch with you between your booking date and wedding date about helpful wedding tips, your upcoming payments, and planning your wedding day timeline together.
Stick to these five simple steps in choosing your wedding photographer, and you will find it easier to enjoy a regret-free wedding photo experience knowing your photographer will support you and your wedding priorities!
About Darling & Dear
Each Darling & Dear bride works directly with me, Kimber, to ultimately enjoy both the experience and photos her wedding day deserves. With many brides booking customized wedding photo experiences, helping couples focus on the meaning and emotions of their new marriage together so we can capture all their best wedding photos is my top priority for each wedding day.
Darling & Dear is a wedding photography and videography service that is grateful to work with couples and weddings of all types in the western and central Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland regions.