Everything You Need to Know About Hiring a Wedding Photographer

Have you found that hiring vendors can be stressful?

Well, don't worry, love muffin...you're normal!

It's hard to be sure who is going to work well with you, what you should budget, and what style to choose. That's why I am going to help you, step by step, through the entire process...right now.  BUT FIRST...I need you to do a little something for me, okay?

Repeat after me..."I will go through all the steps before hiring the first photographer that's in my budget."

Hiring the wrong wedding photographer is one of the biggest regrets of brides after their big day.  Don't be like them. ;)


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STEP 1: DETERMINING YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE

You may not know how to do this, but it's a LOT easier than you think.  Go to pinterest and create a new board called "wedding photo ideas".  Then, search wedding photography and pin the ones that speak to you.  I don't want you to pin just the ones you sorta like or the ones you think are acceptable...the ones you LOVE.

Now, as you are doing this, I want you to keep you venue in mind and what you envision you wedding to be.  For instance, if you are having a church wedding, it won't really be relevant to pin photos of an outdoor garden wedding, ya feel me?

After you've pinned at least 50 images (although, I'd say the more the better), I want you to take a look at your board.  What is the most prominent?  Did you favor dark, sultry images, or black and white images with a lot of contrast?  What about images that are rich and magical?  Did you prefer landscapes or closeup, intimate photographs?

Congratulations.  You now know your photography style, AND THAT is going to make the rest of the process so. much. easier.


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STEP 2: SETTLING ON A BUDGET

Your budget largely depends on your total budget and your priorities.  Let me explain...

According to theknot.com, you should budget a minimum of 10-12% of your budget on wedding photography.  That means, though, if your budget is $10,000, a max of $1200 is going toward photography.  When the average wedding package ranges from $2000-10,000, $1200 isn't going to get you much.  

So, here's the bottom line. If great photography isn't important to you, and you just want a few shots of the ceremony, that's completely fine!  You may spend even less than 10-12%.  If that's the case, you can find amateur photographers for under $1200 who are building their portfolio.  If you go this route, make sure to manage your expectations.  Do not expect professional quality work and consistency from someone who is building their business. If I'm being honest, it isn't fair to you or them.

If photography IS really important to you, then depending on your budget, you may spend up to 25% on your wedding photographer.  Take the quiz to see how important wedding photography really is to you.

What was your score?

90-100

Wedding photography is the most important thing to you.  You want someone who can teach you how to pose and make you and your fiancĂ© look your best.  If you don't invest in a professional, experienced wedding photographer, you'll wish you did.

80-89

You need someone who can shoot everything...the small moments, the posed photos, and low light reception.  If you invest in a experienced professional, you won't regret it.

70-79

Wedding photography is definitely in your top three wedding vendors, and you want your photos to accurately show how happy the two of you are together!

60-69

Getting photos to capture your day is something you want, but they don't have to be high end.  You want to at least find someone who's been doing it a few years, and has at least a couple dozen weddings under their belt.  

50-59

Wedding photography probably isn't a big deal to you.  You really just want a record of the day, but you don't care if they are edited or not.  Hiring an amateur for $500 is a great way to save money on for you find more important. 

49 or below

Wedding photography?  Who cares about that?  You'll just have your cousin do it on his cell phone.


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STEP 3: FIND SOME PHOTOGRAPHERS YOU LIKE

Now we are getting into the really hard stuff, because let's just be honest...there are probably hundreds of photographers in your area alone.  You obviously have to find a way to narrow it down.  Here are some ways to narrow down the search.

1. Do they match the style you liked most while doing your Pinterest board? If they don't, they probably aren't the photographer for you.  

2. Do they have a facebook page?  Do they have at least 4.5 stars? If they have low reviews, that may mean that their customer service history is poor.  If they don't have reviews turned on, it could be because they had bad reviews and didn't want them to show up on their facebook page.

3. Do they have a website? If they are invested in their business at all, they should have a website with a portfolio so you can learn more about them and their business.

4. Does their portfolio showcase several different brides and wedding photos? If they don't show many brides in their portfolio, that probably means they have limited experience with weddings.  

5. Are they in your area or do they serve your area?  Obviously, you're photographer needs to be able to get to you.  You can look at photographers in your immediate area, or within a couple hundred miles of you.  Some photographers (like me) include travel for certain places in their packages.

6. Is it easy to find at least three forms of communication?  (messenger, phone, email) If you can't easily find a way to communicate with your photographer, they may be hard to communicate with them later on.  It can be a sign of unreliability.

7. Do they have photos that show they can proficiently photograph low light situations? The biggest difference between wedding photography and every other kind of photography is that the photographer has to have the ability, knowledge, and equipment to take photos in all different situations.  The reception is a low light situation that you don't want your photographer to miss.  Make sure they have samples of this on their site.

8. Do they seem like a person you would like to hang out with, or are they all business?  When you are hiring a wedding photographer, you aren't just hiring someone to take pictures.  This is someone that is not only going to follow you around on the biggest day of your life, but is also going to help you through the wedding day planning details and to tell your story.  How can they tell your story if they don't take the time to get to know you?


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STEP 4: CONTACT YOUR TOP FIVE

Once you've narrowed your choices down to the top five, it's time to connect with them.  When you contact them, you include the following:

Your Name

Your Fiancé's Name

Your Wedding Date

The City/State of Your Wedding

Your Email

Your Phone Number

All of these are important for them to know in order to give an accurate quote, and will keep you from having to send so many emails back and forth.  Some photographers have emails sent automatically so they can get you the information as quickly as possible.  They know how valuable your time is!  If you don't get a response within 48 hours and if they won't do a free over the phone consulation, they probably aren't for you.


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STEP 5: ASK QUESTIONS

If you've never done this before {and chances are, you haven't}, you can't always know what the right questions are to ask.  So, I'm going to give you a list of 20 questions you need to know before booking with a photographer.

1. Do you use a full frame camera? {the answer should be "yes".  crop sensor cameras do not have the capacity to photograph weddings well.}

2.  Do you have your own lighting system? {Again, yes!  A wedding photography needs to be able take photos in all lighting situations.}

3. How many images do you deliver and are they all edited, or just the sneak peek? {Some photographers only edit the photos they showcase online and only color correct the rest.  Make sure your photographer edits them all}

4. Do I get the printing permission to my images so I can have them printed anywhere? {You should get the permission to print your images.  Verify that this is for sure listed in your contract.}

5.  Do you have a full wedding gallery I can look at? {If your photographer has any consistency, he or she will be able to provide a gallery from start to finish of a wedding so you can see what the final product looks like.}

6. What happens if something comes up and you can't be there? {Make sure your photographer has a backup in case they get sick or have an emergency.}

7. What happens if I have to reschedule or cancel my wedding? {Unfortunately, this happens.  So, make sure you know the penalties for rescheduling or cancelling your wedding with your photographer.}

8. Do you have an assistant or second shooter?  What is the cost of adding these? {Depending on the size of your wedding, you may not need these, but larger weddings will definitely need additional coverage.}

9.  Does the package quote include tax and traveling fees? {Don't get blindsided.  Make sure you know what exactly you are spending.}

10. Are there any products included in my package? {This is just a preference.  Be aware, that if some includes products in your package, they raised the price of your package to include it.  You aren't getting it for free.}

11. How many hours does the package include? {Make sure you have enough coverage for your schedule.  If you aren't sure, ask if you can add on later if you need to.}

12. How long will it take for my final images to be delivered to me?  How will they be delivered? {Get an exact number of days/weeks/months it's going to take to get your photos back.}

13. What is the retainer amount?  When is the rest of the payment due? {You can also ask if you are allowed to make payments until your final payment is due to split it up.}

14. How many weddings have you photographed? {With weddings, there are so many moments your photographer must be able to anticipate.  They could be missed if they don't have the proper experience.}

15.  Is an engagement session included?  If not, how much would it be to add one? {It's always a great idea to to your engagement session WITH your wedding photographer.  It gives you an opportunity to get to know each other, and helps prepare you for your wedding day.}

16. After I've signed a contract, can I change my mind and add hours, another session, or a photographer to my package? {Always know the limitations of your contract, and if it can be altered if/when necessary.}

17. Is there a discount to booking an engagement and wedding together? {Most photographers will give a discount on bundles.  Make sure to find out before you book your engagement shoot to see if you can save money.}

18. Will you be the one photographing my wedding? {Some studios have multiple photographers, so make sure you know which one will be shooting yours.  If it isn't the lead photographer, make sure to look at the other photographer's portfolio to make sure it's comparable.}

19. Are you insured? {You'd think this would be obvious, but please make sure your photographer is insured.}

20. What do you love most about photographing weddings? {Do they love weddings?  Don't hire someone who is just there for the money.  Hire someone who loves what they do, and they will be better at it.}


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STEP 6: YOU ARE READY TO BOOK YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER!

Now you've sifted through all that information, and you are ready to book!  Tell the photographer you've chosen you are ready for them to send you their contract.  Once you've received it, resist the urge to sign it without reading it.  While you should NEVER book with a vendor that doesn't have a contract, the purpose of a contract is to protect BOTH parties.  Don't sign a contract that only protects your photographer.  Make sure you ask for clarification for anything you are unsure about, and that it includes the terms of your agreement.  

Once you feel comfortable with the contract, sign it, pay your deposit, and check it off your "to do" list!


Want more information about my wedding photography services?  Click HERE.


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