How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

A guide to finding the right photographer for your tastes and budget

If you’ve recently engaged to marry you have plenty of big decisions on your plate.  What venue to choose, deciding whether to hire a wedding planner and how many guests to invite will all require a good deal of your time.   To save you time (and stress) we’ve developed a guide to help with one of your big decisions: choosing the right photographer for you.

Hiring a photographer is a major decision.  You want someone who matches both your needs and your budget.  On average, couples spend more than a tenth of their total budget on the photographer alone.  More importantly, you want photos that are as amazing as your big day.  It’s important to take the time to find the photographer who can deliver the quality you desire.

Start with the portfolio

If photography isn’t your thing, or even if you’re an avid amateur photographer, sorting through dozens of portfolios can feel overwhelming.  In Denver alone, a Google search will result in 20+ pages of wedding photographers with new listings on each page.  Luckily there’s no reason to go through 20 pages.  There are simple tricks to manage your portfolio search.

You start by knowing what to look for.  In other words, you need to determine your preferred style.  Knowing what type of photography you favor will save you time by not aimlessly clicking through portfolios that aren’t suited for you.

There are two things to consider when determining your photography style.   The first is recognizing what appeals to you visually.  The second factor is making sure to consider your own personality (i.e. are you the type who prefers to spend more time with guests or posing for pictures?).

For example, if visually you favor the look of candid interactions and personally you want to maximize the amount of time you spend with your guests without being pulled away from the party for posed portraits then you’ll want to consider a wedding photojournalist. However, if you admire the look of formal portraits or are the type who prefers to be given a little direction then you might consider a traditional wedding photographer.

If you have no idea what each of these styles are about, don’t worry; you’re not alone.  We’ve included an article that explains the different wedding photography styles to give you an idea of what to look for and how to decide which might be right for you.

For now, here’s a list of different wedding photography styles:

Once you know what style you prefer, you can limit your search to those photographers who primarily fit that category.  This will save you a lot of time by dramatically narrowing down your pool of choices to select from.

When viewing portfolios, it’s important to keep in mind that the photographer’s portfolio represents his/her best work.  You should not expect your wedding album to look the same since it is not possible for the photographer to create her best work with every photo.  However, you should expect that the more stunning the portfolio, the better your photos will look compared to a photographer whose portfolio is merely average.

Decide what you want to be reminded with

As you’re going through the various photographers’ websites it’s important to consider what you want to do with the photography.  Do you want prints, a wedding album or perhaps a multimedia slideshow?

If you want an album that tells the story of your wedding day then that will require hiring the photographer for the entire day.  If your budget only allows for a portion of the day, you may want to spend less on an album so you can budget more for prints.

Albums and prints come in a multitude of formats and levels of quality.  Ask to see a sample album and find out what types of prints the photographer offers.

Some photographers incorporate prints and albums in their packages while others offer them only as after-sale items.  Consider any additional costs for printing in your budget.

You’ll probably also want to share your photos with as many friends as possible.  Find out if the photographer provides an online gallery, which is great for sharing photos of your day with friends and family.

Determine your budget

Before you fall in love with a particular photographer and realize he’s the most expensive game in town, decide how much of your budget you’d like to spend on photography.  Keep in mind the average couple in the U.S. spends $2,300 on wedding photography (not including prints or albums).

In determining your budget, ask yourself how much you value your photos.  Are they worth spending a little less on flowers or party favors to capture great memories?

Take into consideration that some wedding photographers are better than others.  Some can produce breathtaking photos, while others will provide basic shots.  Decide how much you can afford and seek out the best quality in your budget.  When doing this, here are two important tips to remember:

  • Keep in mind you’re paying for experience and creativity.   Photography is a skill and like any skill takes years of education and experience to develop.  The better a photographer has developed her craft the higher the cost of developing that craft and therefore the higher the price.

“Don’t assume higher prices mean better quality.”

  • However, don’t just assume higher prices mean better quality.  Some photographers will raise their price because they want to target “high-end” weddings.  There’s no point in paying a high price for mediocre work.  When you’re searching for a photographer, set a maximum price but not a minimum.  For example, don’t tell yourself “I won’t spend any less than $3,000.”  Keep yourself open to a range of prices within your budget so you’re not excluding talented photographers who don’t target high-end weddings.

Meeting potential photographers

After you’ve settled on your style and budget, its time to narrow down a few favorites.

Some photographers will not include prices on their website so you’ll have to reach out to them to find out.  We include prices on our website because we feel it’s easier for couples and saves us all a step.  This way couples have a solid idea of what they’re getting before we arrange to sit down.

Reach out to four or more photographers (assuming some will not be available) to determine their availability for your wedding date. After that it’s time to meet them.

It is hugely important for you and your fiancé/partner to meet with the potential photographer.  Your wedding photographer will be by your side throughout your wedding day and therefore his personality is nearly as important as the quality of his portfolio.  No matter how stunning his photos are you need to make sure you feel comfortable with him.  Like any interaction and relationship, when you take a moment to sit down and have a conversation, you’ll have a feeling if this is the right fit for you.

If you do not get along with your photographer it may become apparent in you pictures.  You’ll be less agreeable to his suggestions and may even miss some opportune moments.  On the flip side, if you hit it off with your photographer, you’ll inevitably feel more comfortable around him and this will only improve your photos.

Meeting with the photographer is also a great opportunity to ask questions.  Come prepared with a list of thoughts on your mind and have the photographer walk you through your wedding day as he would see it.

Making the decision

“Make sure you hire someone with experience.”

Sure, you’re friend’s cousin has a nice camera but find out how much experience he has operating it. The less experience a photographer has, the more mistakes he will make and the fewer high-quality photos you’ll end up with.  Ask the photographer about their experience with both weddings and photography in general.

At this point, you’ve narrowed down your list to the photographers who fit in your budget and match your style and you’ve had a chance to meet a few of them.  The decision may be obvious or you and your fiancé may need to have a discussion about which photographer you preferred the most.  Either way, if you follow these steps, it will make your decision-making process much easier and you can feel confident in your choice.

Now that you’ve chosen a photographer, all you have left to do is tackle the dozen other decisions on your plate…!


Additional Resources & Information for Planning Your Wedding: