Next to your planner, your wedding photographer is your closest confidante on your way to the aisle. In addition to capturing your big day, they’ll also likely shoot the engagement photos you’ll use to share the news! These are pictures that will last a lifetime, so photography is certainly one area you don’t want to figure out at the last minute.
But finding the right wedding photographer may seem like a tough challenge. After all, you’ll show your wedding album to future generations. Poorly lit shots and awkwardly-timed moments aren’t going to cut it!
We asked wedding experts for their best tips for finding the right wedding photographer, and they offered up these seven tips to help you on your way to “I do.”
Look to your vendor team for recommendations.
Who knows the local wedding photography scene better than vendors that work with them regularly? While a photographer tends to get booked earlier in the planning process, you should already have a few helpful folks on your side!
“The best first stop on your wedding photographer search is asking your venue for recommendations,” says Sarah Blessinger of Kindred Weddings and Events. “If your venue doesn’t have a specific list, check out their social media or website to see what photographers they feature and consistently work with.”
In addition to venue recommendations, your wedding planner is in the best position to find the best fit. As Betsy Scott of Hudson Valley Weddings at The Hill explains, “Your planner understands the vibe of your wedding and your personality and has worked with a wide variety of photographers.”
So before heading into the depths of Google, consult with your team for the most qualified referrals!
Ask for referrals from friends and family.
If you’ve attended a wedding in recent years, it’s worth connecting with newly married friends in a position to refer their photographer.
“Personal referrals from recently married friends and family are one of the best ways to find a photographer,” assures Peter Mitsaelides of Brooklake Country Club and Events. “Not only can you look through their images, but you can also get a true perspective of a vendor from people you know and trust.”
And if their photographer isn’t a fit, they may also be able to recommend others that surfaced during their research. They’ve already done the work, so don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Keep your search local whenever possible.
Many photographers are willing to travel for engagement shoots and weddings, but industry experts caution against booking out-of-town photographers if local options suffice.
“I would begin with local photographers first,” confirms Laura Maddox of Magnolia Celebrates. “There is no need to pay a travel fee unless you cannot find what you are looking for in your area.”
Plus, local photographers will be far more familiar with the area (and even your venue!), allowing them to offer better suggestions for timing, lighting, and settings. As Amy Sims of Amy Sims Photography suggests, “Look for photographers who have shot in the area, the venue where you’re getting married, or in directories for your area. Also, look at photographers featured in wedding publications where you find inspiration.”
In addition to local knowledge and no extra fees, hiring a photographer in your market opens up more vendor referrals since you can tap into their network.
Know what you’re looking for before inquiring.
Photography is an art, so no two photographers offer the same results. Interviewing potential photographers without doing your research will leave you unprepared to make a sound booking decision, so make sure you’ve laid the groundwork first.
“Before ever reaching out to a photographer, discuss with your planner about your wedding budget and what is most important to you,” says Meredith Ryncarz of Meredith Ryncarz Photography. “This will expedite the process and prevent you from feeling frustrated as you already know what you want and want to invest.”
But beyond your must-haves, it’s also wise to familiarize yourself with photography styles. If you prefer a fine art style, you wouldn’t be satisfied with a photographer that uses photojournalistic or cinematic styles. Selecting a desired style will help you narrow down your options, as Julianne Smith of The Garter Girl reveals.
“Several different wedding photography styles are available, from fine art to documentary to filters and editing styles,” Smith explains. “Research to see what photography types you like and don’t like before you start looking into particular wedding photographers.”
But as you review galleries, Caroline’s Collective’s Caroline Robert cautions against giving too much credence to how a photographer edits. “The photos matter more than the editing style,” she affirms. “Most editing styles are trends and will lose popularity over time. However, the moments in the photos will be timeless.”
If you’re on the fence, look to your wedding planner for help figuring out what you like and how those preferences fit into your budget.
Look beyond the gallery when researching.
Quality of work is only one piece of the puzzle when it comes to landing the perfect wedding photographer. Great photos aren’t worth dealing with stress or disappointment on your wedding day!
Frank Guertler of Bunn DJ Company – Richmond notes that photographers are integral to the vendor team’s success, so they need to show up accordingly. “You want a team player photographer who communicates well with your day-of coordinator, venue manager, DJ, and videographer,” he assures. “By working as a team, your photographer will be in the right place at the right time to capture your memories.”
But more than being a team player, consider whether a photographer aligns with your values. For example, if diversity and inclusion are important to you and your partner, “look through each photographer’s portfolio and pay close attention to the variety of couples,” encourages Marissa MacLeod of The Treasury on the Plaza.
MacLeod continues, posing the question: “Do you see different sizes, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, and religions? Diversity and variety of photos can not only show that your photographer is open to representing love in all forms, but it can also indicate a higher level of versatility and experience.”
The right wedding photographer delivers high-quality results while respecting your value and ensuring your comfort throughout the planning process.
Meet with a shortlist of photographers.
Sorting through a stunning wedding gallery might have you ready to book right away, but it’s wise to meet with a few photographers before making the final decision.
“I highly recommend the couples meet with a couple of different photographers,” states Sam Nelson of EVL Events. “Not only does the couple have to like the photographer’s work, but they also have to vibe with the actual photographer. They need to get along with their personality and feel comfortable with them when shooting, or the uncomfortableness or annoyance will come out in their photos.”
Kelly Hornberger of Kelly Hornberger Photography agrees, adding, “I always recommend couples have an initial ‘interview’ or conversation with potential photographers, whether it’s in person, over the phone, or on Zoom. We tell our couples that we will be with them individually on their wedding day more than they’ll be with their future spouse, so it’s incredibly important that we take the time to make sure it’s a great fit on both sides!”
Getting face-to-face time with the person who will tap into your emotions and capture every tiny moment on your wedding day is key. Make sure you feel comfortable with this person following you around for 8+ hours!
Confirm your decision with online reviews.
Before signing a contract, be sure to double-check a photographer’s online reviews to see what others have said about their experience. After all, “There’s no better way to know how well a photographer serves their clients than by hearing it from the clients themselves!” promises Jenna Brisson of Jenna Brisson Photography.
“Reading detailed reviews of other people’s experiences with a vendor you’re interested in is a great way to round out your research,” Brisson adds. “Check out their Google reviews to see what recent clients had to say. Often, couples will mention how their wedding photographer made them feel — pay attention to that information.”
So while their wedding galleries may confirm the quality of their work, don’t forget to verify that other clients have had an enjoyable experience working with them!
Invest in value over everything.
There will always be vendors charging bottom-of-the-barrel rates, but hefty savings isn’t necessarily a selling point. In many cases, budget pricing comes with budget results.
“It’s important to find a wedding photographer who fits within your budget but doesn’t sacrifice quality for the price,” asserts Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Event Design. “A good photographer will be able to capture the memories of your big day and provide you with beautiful photos that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.”
“So, while it’s important to save money where you can, don’t skimp on your wedding photography – it’s worth the investment,” Vizcaino confirms.
While some wedding vendors may seem more transactional—like a rental supplier or dress store—a great photographer prioritizes a meaningful working relationship. You’ll work together closely on everything from creating shot lists and day-of timelines to making grandma smile on the big day, so be sure it’s someone you can trust.
“Pay attention to how you FEEL,” urges Jennifer Sulak of Weirdo Weddings. “I will always ALWAYS recommend that you go with your gut, but also ask the hard questions and see if you reach a mutual understanding of wants and needs.”
Booking a photographer is an exciting step at the beginning of your wedding planning journey, but it’s not a decision to rush! Take your time, find your person, and trust that your vendor team will guide you in the right direction.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.