I was in your shoes 2 years ago trying to weigh all sides of the equation and find the perfect photographer for our wedding day. There are some things I did right, and some I did wrong and today I’m excited to share with you the factors that should go into your decision making for this big-ticket wedding vendor!
I know how wedding planning works, and I’m fully aware that often it all comes down to price. In my years in the photography industry, I’ve begun explaining to my friends the price brackets of photography the following way:
Level 1: $1,000-2,500: So many photographers fall into this bracket. Some whose work could easily be level 2 but choose to keep lower pricing to be more accessible, and some who have never shot a wedding before. So don’t just look at the price and say “they must be good”- evaluate them on all levels to get the best bang for your buck.
Level 2: $3,000-$5,000: 3+ years of experience. They work full-time as a photographer and their workflow shows it. They are consistent in style and service and shoot higher-end weddings.
Level 3: $7,000-$10,000: 7+ years of experience. High-end wedding photographer. Honestly just as good as the mid-level photog, just has a stronger brand, probably shoots in cities or travels and has a wealthy clientele.
I always remind my friends that you get what you pay for, so I never recommend dipping below $1,000 for a wedding photographer. Someone charging those prices is treating their business like a hobby, and you will feel the difference in professionalism, consistency, and customer service. Expect your photographer to be your second highest wedding cost (behind venue/catering), and budget accordingly.
The way they edit matters. But most likely, unless you’re a photographer yourself, it’s something you haven’t really thought much about. Let’s pause on this: you’ve spent hours slaving over your details and invitations, choosing your bridal party colors, etc. and if that perfect shade of burgundy you had the bridesmaids wear comes back looking violet (bright and airy) or brown (dark and moody) you’re going to be so sad! As a wedding photographer, I’ve heard so many stories of brides who were disappointed with their photos (not my brides!). Most often, the reason behind it was 1) they got a cheap photographer 2) they didn’t think about the photographer’s editing style.
I always encourage my friends to find a photographer that has a “true to life” editing style. Greens that look green, skin tones that aren’t orange or ghost white, editing styles that are timeless, not trendy. Your future self will thank you.
Editorial- this is your Vogue-style photographer, who wants you to stand back to back and give your best model face to the camera in a dark castle room with a chandelier (not my thing- but maybe it’s yours?)
Perfectly Posed- this photographer will tell you exactly how to stand and what to do with your hands, resulting in the classic photos everyone else has of their wedding day.
Unposed- this photographer’s biggest focus is the relationship between the couple. They use prompts and playful posing to pull out authentic smiles and reactions from their clients.
Photojournalistic- this photographer offers little to no direction and simply captures the day as it plays out- crying flower girl and all.
In my business I strive for a cross between “perfectly posed” and “unposed” and I wanted a photographer that could meet me in the middle. I wanted someone who could flatter my body type with the way they set up the shot, but who also allowed space for genuine laughter and JOY to be captured. And that’s what I offer my clients. Just enough posing that you don’t feel awkward, and just enough prompting to highlight the relationship and bring out true connection and joy.
This. This is where I fumbled in my own search. I hired an amazing photographer, who was super professional, had (in my opinion) the perfect editing style, and delivered amazing photos. BUT. I hardly knew the guy. He didn’t seem excited about our wedding day- it felt like just another work day for him. And that was hard because as much as we brides want to think we’ll spend the most time on our wedding day with our groom- in reality, we are with our photographer more on our wedding day than our bridesmaids + groom combined! So you NEED someone you LIKE.
Who wants to smile at someone when they stuff their camera in your face without first asking how your day was? Who feels comfortable kissing in front of someone who doesn’t even call you by your first name? I believe that my relationship with my couples is such a huge piece in capturing their wedding day. I cherish the one-on-one moments I have with brides on their wedding day (I mean, how amazing is it that I get to have those!?) and build a real relationship with my couples. This is why you need to talk to your photographer on the phone (at least!) before handing over a check! And this is why I have complementary consultations with all my brides and grooms AND engagement sessions where we establish a relationship. This relationship allows me to enter into their day with them- to pray over the stressed bride, giggle with the excited bride, and serve my couple throughout their day.
How much can you trust this person to take charge on your wedding day in a way that will be endearing and not bossy? Do they have an “above and beyond” attitude or are they all about the bottom line? Do they return your emails in a timely manner? Do they anticipate your questions and needs and have thought-through solutions to help you as you plan and prepare? Do they seem to have a rhythm for their work (they post to Instagram daily, blog weekly, answer emails promptly)? Is their website up to date? Do they have a solid contract? Are they charging what they’re worth? —All questions to consider in your search for the perfect photographer!
Okay…I know I said five, but here’s a bonus: I think it helps enormously for your photographer to be married. I’m saying this humbly, as someone who shot many weddings while single, but I truly believe that going through the wedding planning process for myself and being a bride has helped me become a better photographer. I know how crazy wedding planning is- so I’ve created resources for my brides to help! I know how important the images of my friends and family on my wedding day are to me- so I turn around every now and then and capture the people you love most. I know how much anticipation, and hard work, and love goes into this one day- and I work my butt off to capture it in all it’s dimensions. So for that extra bonus factor, choose a married photographer and know that they’ll get ‘it’ on a whole other level.
Well, that’s that! The five(+) things you need to consider when choosing your wedding photographer! I hope it helps you in your search to make an intentional decision (not just a money-based decision) for your wedding day! It’s going to be beautiful!
PS- Did you read this post and think, “Man Sarah, you sound like just the photographer for me!”? Well I’d love to chat! Click here to connect with me!