Tips for Finding Your Perfect Wedding Photographer

photo by Heather Waraska courtesy of The Wedding Artists Collective

If you’ve recently gotten engaged (congrats!!!), you are probably on the hunt for the right wedding artists to take part in your day. Securing the right photographer is most likely at the top of your list, so we reached out to some wedding photographers to share their tips to help you find the right photographer for your day!

Lisa Raffo Ashley, owner and curator of The Wedding Artists Collective shares with us, Selecting a photographer may be one of the biggest decisions you make when planning your wedding. It may also be one of the most difficult. In a time when Instagram-worthy moments are filling our feeds every minute, it’s easier than ever to fall in love with so many things about a wedding. From the stationery and florals to the grand sweeping backdrop of a jaw-dropping venue. It’s also easy to get caught in a daydream from a photo of a stunning couple in a faraway land with endless natural light (when your wedding is actually going to be in a Hotel in NYC).

The good news: there are so many talented photographers in this industry, with such unique styles, that you are bound to find a match. But researching and committing to the right wedding photographer can intimidate even the most prepared newly engaged couples. So here are some tips to help you navigate the process.

Tip #1: Be Informed

photo by Meg Smith courtesy of The Wedding Artists Collective

Instead of starting with a hard and fast budget for photography, begin the research phase by getting a solid grasp on the range of photography styles and price points in the market. Then let that dictate what you feel most comfortable spending. While many photographers don’t post their pricing online, a photographer’s portfolio can be a great indicator of their specialty and pricing.

For example, if you see many large private estate events or destination weddings with highly specialized decor, you can assume that their fees likely start at a higher price point than a photographer who showcases intimate elopements or heirloom / DIY inspired events.

Keep location in mind, always. Weddings near major Metropolitan areas tend to cost more (and thus photography budgets are usually larger). Understanding these nuances will make the ‘numbers’ discussion much easier to navigate, leaving you to feel excited and confident when researching a photographer. – Lisa Raffo Ashley, owner and curator of The Wedding Artists Collective 

Tip #2: Look at Full Wedding Galleries in Serious Detail

photo by Liam Smith Photography

The degree of image saturation in our culture makes it incredibly difficult to consider what your images will be worth in ten or twenty years, but the cool thing about photography is that you don’t need me to tell you how valuable they will be, you just need to look in your parent’s house. Look at the pictures that are printed and framed or stuck in an album. In my experience, the photographs that last in people’s lives are the ones that capture the people that are important to you. Having beautiful couple portraits is a wonderful thing, but taking these images will only take up a maximum of 5% of your day, what is your photographer shooting for the other 95%?

This is why you need to scrutinize full galleries and not be seduced by Instagram posts, if your photographer is going to deliver 500 pictures but will only show you a blog post of 30, what are we to assume of the remaining 470? Are they only of the couple? Are there more detailed shots than people shots? Do you find the images emotive? You need to be confident that every single part of your day is going to be photographed beautifully, not just a very select part of it. – Liam from Liam Smith Photography

Tip #3: Know the Key Differences Between Wedding Photography Styles

photo by Liam Smith Photography

Fine art wedding photography focuses on recording your day in the most beautiful and elegant way possible. Think soft colors, clean whites, couple portraits and details. Stunning pictures that would look amazing on the mantelpiece or in an album. Fine art wedding photographers are masters of light and styling. Being able to find soft, even light is a must, and a keen eye to arrange details for that editorial feel is a sure sign of a good fine art photographer. 

Documentary wedding photography refers to capturing natural moments, with no staging or posing. The intention is to provide the couple with a narrative of the day, and record events as they unfolded without interfering. This is the real stuff. Pure emotions. No pretending. Great documentary photographers are masters of composition, patiently waiting to create beautiful, engaging and emotive pictures out of serendipitous moments.

Which style speaks to you? – Liam from Liam Smith Photography

Tip #4: Refine your taste.

photo by Sasithon Photography courtesy of The Wedding Artists Collective

Overall I believe choosing a photographer is an intuitive process. Look for photographers who have a client base that share a similar style and wedding vision – that will help you quickly filter out those photographers who may not be a natural match. Are you seeing a lot of rustic barn venues or rather city hotels? Small city-hall or large tented country club affairs? Do you feel like you could be friends with the brides and grooms you see in their portfolios?

Selecting a photographer who works at venues similar to yours can be a huge help – they are already comfortable shooting in those environments. One of the biggest mistakes people can make is looking at wedding photos for inspiration from a wedding where there were big open fields and lots of natural light, when they’re actually getting married in a darker space in Manhattan with city streets as a backdrop for their portraits. Photographers should have no issue adapting to their surroundings, but having that common ground can always help ensure your photos will look how you envisioned them to. – Lisa Raffo Ashley, owner and curator of The Wedding Artists Collective

Tip #5: Meet in person or video chat before booking

photo by Liam Smith Photography

Weddings are extraordinary events. Not only are they intimate and personal, where emotions can spring up and overwhelm you at a moment’s notice, but they are also carefully orchestrated and require experienced hands to handle any issues that arise. With that in mind, you want people around you who you feel you can trust. I mean this sincerely. In order for a photographer to get the best out of you, you need to be relaxed and feel comfortable in their presence. You’ll be emotionally vulnerable, hugging loved ones, shedding tears and belly laughing like never before, you need someone with you who you like and who will take photographs that respect the moment.

If you can meet your photographer in person then you definitely should, but a video call will certainly suffice. Spend time getting to know them. If you build a rapport with them and they put you at ease, you know that when they show up on the day with a camera, you won’t greet them as The Photographer, you’ll greet them by their first name, as you would a friend. This sets the tone for the day and helps not only you relax, but also everyone around you. – Liam from Liam Smith Photography

Tip #6: Ask the Right Questions.

photo by Norman Blake courtesy of The Wedding Artists Collective

On working style: What is your working style at weddings? Do you tend to direct or shoot in the background? Do you work off of a ‘shot list’?
On communication: How often will we speak/email before the wedding? Do you recommend an engagement session as a “warm-up”?
On the final product: When should we expect to receive our final images? Roughly how many images will we receive? How will they be delivered? Will they be edited or retouched? How can prints be ordered?

Tip #7: Appreciate the Craft

photo by Heather Waraksa courtesy of The Wedding Artists Collective

A word to the wise: don’t hire your cousin or your friend’s brother “who’s a photographer” just to save a buck. Trust me, it never ends up well and the inexperience will show in the final product. Shooting weddings is a fine-tuned art that, for many, takes years to get right.

The pacing of a wedding is entirely different than an editorial or commercial shoot. There are so many more people and personalities to navigate and the timing goes at a lightning pace. Wedding photographers know where to be and when and how to anticipate the unpredictable nature of the day. So, unless you are totally cool with throwing the dice and seeing what happens I’d recommend you hire someone who’s made it their main focus to master wedding photography. – Lisa Raffo Ashley, owner and curator of The Wedding Artists Collective

photo by Lion Erel courtesy of The Wedding Artists Collective

Would you add any tips of your own after going through the wedding planning process? Do share in the comments section below!