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10 Things You Should Know Before Hiring a Wedding Photographer (2021)

Updated: Mar 21, 2021

Planning a wedding is a complicated and extensive process with so many decisions to make along the way. The venue, your DJ, your hair, your make-up, your wedding dress, your suit, your bridesmaids' dresses, food, time of year; it's a lot. But as you start to plan and make your way through the list, your perfect day will start to unfold before your eyes.

All that work you put into crafting your vision into a reality and how the final product will be documented should be one of the most important decisions you make; because the right photographer will capture that vision for you and provide you with the images that will serve as the reminder of the perfection that you worked so hard to create. Here are some things you should consider before entrusting a photographer with that responsibility.

Let's dive in.

1. What are some characteristics that a good wedding photographer will possess?

Now this question you can’t really ask over an email or text message. More likely you’ll figure this out yourself during your engagement shoot or if you meet for coffee (does this still happen with corona...). Knowing if your personality meshes with your photographers' is absolutely crucial to the success of your wedding day. I mean, you've brought all your best friends and family together and now you're asking a stranger to come in point a camera at them. It's important that your wedding photographer is amicable and easy-going and, by the end of it all, practically feels like family. Make sure you get to know this stranger so that you ensure they won’t go around insulting your great Aunt Suzy’s dance moves. And if you hire someone who thinks enough to dry off your wedding bouquet before you head off for the First Look, you know you've hit the jackpot.

The bottom line: Your perfect wedding photographer should do these four things:

  1. Understand your vision for the day.

  2. Be supportive and encouraging while still getting the job done - so that you don’t have to worry about whether or not you’re killing it (even though you will be for sure).

  3. Stay cool under pressure

  4. And put you at ease. The last thing you want is to feel any more stressed out than you naturally feel during your big day. Your photographer should bring good air with them, not detract from a bad attitude.

2. Besides taking photographs at the wedding, what are some of the other tasks that my wedding photographers should be doing?

Wedding photographers must also be good with people and be willing and able to hold conversations with guests at a wedding. This means that they can’t just snap away and then go lock themselves in the bathroom. Even if they take freaking amazing pictures, this would absolutely take away from your wedding day experience (and frankly just be super weird).

Your photographer should be someone you can count on to keep the excitement of the day going so you don’t have to worry about doing that yourself. Your photographer should also have good insight into taking cute pics of your wedding rings, greeting cards, and table settings. After the fact, your photographer should be skilled at putting the finishing touches on your photos by efficiently and tastefully touching them up.

The bottom line: Your wedding photographer should take amazing pictures, but also be actively trying to make your job easier because your job is only to enjoy the day and get married!

3. Why should your photographer have stellar examples of their work to show you before your wedding?

It is very important your photographer shows previous examples of their work to bridal couples before their wedding so the couple can feel more comfortable entrusting them to capture the most important day of their life. Their portfolio is what you look at to decide if your styles and visions match. It’s also the collection that you will reference when trying to figure out what to expect from your own photos. As clients, feel free to message your photographer about their own portfolio and ask questions so you can understand more about their skills and what to expect from your own big day.

A portfolio can also help you to answer important questions like:

  • How would you describe your photography style? What would you compare your work to?

  • How would you describe your working style? Do you prefer to blend into the background to capture candid moments, or do you like to be more visible and take charge to choreograph images?

The bottom line: A portfolio can quickly answer the most obvious questions about the style and expertise of your wedding photographer.

4. Your wedding day: should it be captured on film or digital?

Now, I don’t know a lot of wedding photographers who still exclusively use film for weddings, but it’s not unheard of. Film cameras can undoubtedly provide a stylistic choice for capturing your big day. And yes, you will definitely see the difference if your photographer uses a film camera; your photos will have more of a classic and timeless look. However, film cameras are obviously becoming less and less commonplace for weddings because digital cameras allow photos to be taken by the masses and provide the photographer and client the freedom to choose the best ones afterward.

The bottom line: It depends on your vision, but I think a good rule of thumb for wedding photography is:

"The greater the number of photos taken, the better the odds of capturing the perfect one."

5. What are traditional wedding photographs like?

When you first think of wedding photography, this is the type of photography that most likely comes to mind. Traditional wedding photographs are the ones with posed subjects and manipulated lighting. The photographer has complete control over all elements of the photograph making the likelihood of capturing a perfect photo more likely. These types of photos are directed by the photographer and take time from the wedding party. These photographs are centerpieces of any wedding day, but will not necessarily capture the emotion of the day.

The bottom line: A typical traditional wedding photograph might be a picture of the bride and her bridesmaids, standing in a uniform manner, all smiling at the camera.

6. What is wedding photojournalism?

When considering the style of photography you want for your own wedding, this question is important to consider. Wedding photojournalism is a very candid version of wedding photography. The photographer photographs the events of the day and captures the true emotions of the people involved. Instead of posing his/her subjects, the photographer will move him/herself to capture perfectly candid photographs. These photos portray much more emotion than the traditional wedding photographs and are more likely to be the ones you hang up on your wall and celebrate. A goofy smile, a loving look, the laughs, the tears: that’s what an emotionally charged photo shows and that’s what will tug on your heartstrings for years to come. Your wedding day is your special day and these types of photographs will reflect this!

The bottom line: A photograph taken in this manner might be a picture of the bride and groom walking and holding hands while the groom looks at the bride lovingly.

7. What are some good composition rules for my wedding photographs?

Especially when taking group shots, rules of composition are extremely useful. It is important to remember the rule of thirds when you shoot a group. This will naturally bring viewers' eyes from one side of the photograph, inwards, and back out to the sides (so that the focus of the photos is highlighted). There are tips and tricks when considering how to best compose a photograph, but simple things like lining up your party according to their height will help to draw viewers' eyes toward a central subject.

When taking candid wedding photographs it is important to keep in mind what you want the focus to be. If you want the focus on the ring, excluding faces and heads can help to draw attention where you want. If you want your beautiful background to be displayed, a photo taken at eye level is what you want, but if you want a photo that shows more of the sky or mountains, those taken from a lower angle and pointed up will keep you to the bottom third of the frame and highlight the environment.

The bottom line: You can mostly leave these logistics up to your photographer, but make sure you communicate your vision so that you’re 100% in love with your photos at the end.

8. How has wedding photography changed over the years?

This is just good background knowledge to have so you can understand where your own photos stand in time. Traditional wedding photography was the go-to form of photography until just a few decades ago. And this makes sense when you consider the development of cameras. A hundred years ago, cameras weren’t fast enough to be able to capture movement. When you think back to photographs produced during this time, you can imagine the family photographs where absolutely no one is smiling. No laughing, no crying, no giggles allowed. The reason for this was simple: if the shutter of the camera needed to be open for 30 seconds to take the photo, then having an individual keep a grin for the whole time would have doubtless created a movement (producing a blur) and made their mouth muscles absolutely want to die. Once digital photography became popularized in 1990, it quickly overtook film cameras and traditional styles. No longer did the bride and groom have to stand absolutely still for their photos. Gradually, photographers were able to whip out their cameras (and their moves) on the dance floor marking the birth of “wedding photojournalism”.

The bottom line: With the development of higher quality cameras, the need to hold poses for extended periods of time has disappeared and allowed for the current mix of wedding photojournalism with the more traditional style of photography thrown in.

9. What does my “style” or “vision” for my photography session mean?

This one is a little less straightforward to answer. Your vision could be something as simple as wanting an authentic representation of your wedding day in your wedding photographs, or maybe an editorial style shoot, or just “I want my photos to be moody”. It can vary. What's important is that whatever half-formed idea you have, you communicate to your wedding photographer. Their job is to understand what their clients want and deliver on it, so they’ll be able to understand what you mean when they ask you this question and you say “ummm”, “idk”, and “maybe something like this…”. They want to help you create your vision come to life, and they’re professionals, so as long as you have a convo with them about it, you won’t have much to worry about.

I have found that one of the easiest ways to communicate whatever you have in your head to your photographer is to compile a collection of reference images that you can use to show what you’re looking for.

But if you have more specific ideas and necessities for your photos, make sure your photographer is aware. Why?? Because if grandpa really is traveling 3,000 miles to make it your wedding, then you for sure want him included in at least a few photos.

The bottom line: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

10. Why is wedding photography so expensive?!

Yeah, when I started out and began looking at rates for other wedding photographers I was blown away too. But you pay for what you get. Top-notch photographers charge a lot. But there’s so much going on behind the scenes that you may not realize. When you send that initial inquiry, your photographer is already pulling out their calendar and holding a day for you in their busy schedule. The conversation that goes on before your first phone call or meeting requires them to do a ton of background research and work to ensure they come prepared. Then they have to draft up contracts, send you an invoice, and pay anyone they may have as a second shooter or general helper. When your big day rolls around, they’re there for the long haul - even if it's hot and maybe they put on the wrong shoes. After the fact, they spend hours upon hours downloading, editing, uploading, and finally sending you your specialized album and prints.

Whew. That’s it.

The bottom line: It's an investment. But you deserve it because you're freaking awesome and it's your once-in-a-lifetime day!


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