Choosing a wedding photographer ultimately comes down to 3 questions:
Do I like their photos?
Do I like them personally?
Do they fit my budget?
Make sure you shop around and get a sense of the market (the prices!) in your area, and find someone whose work you respect and whose approach you enjoy (after dealing with them). Only if you appreciate and trust someone’s style and abilities and click with them personally will you be happy with your wedding photos. Here are some things to consider:
This is the biggie. You should view as much of the photographer’s work as possible and see if their version of “good photography” matches yours. Style is a very subjective thing, and if you and your photographer disagree on it, you will not like your photos.
Which style/approach do you prefer? Portraits? Photojournalism? Artistic? Experimental? Epic landscape?
Most photographers (especially wedding photographers) offer a mix of these broad categories, but you will find that certain photographers lean heavily (or are really only good at!) one or some of these.
I believe nothing makes or breaks wedding photography as much as the personality of your photographer – scary, eh? If the subjects are not comfortable with the person behind the lens, it invariably shows in the pictures. Others may recommend a photographer that they loved working with, but within a few emails and conversations, you can sense you don’t click – back out! Make sure you find a photographer that YOU get along with.
Do you trust your photographer?
Do you feel relaxed with them?
Do they display appropriate confidence and leadership without being overbearing or demanding?
Anyone can put together a few shots and pay someone to make them a slick website. That doesn’t equate great photography. In this industry especially, it pays to be a careful shopper. Do your research! Ask the questions! Make sure your photographer has a solid portfolio, the skills, equipment, and personality necessary to come through in the end. A good strategy is to start shopping early, and follow a photographer’s work (through their blog or website) for some time. Soak it up! If possible, view all the photos from at least one couple’s wedding – not just the 30 best.
Are they a 1-hit-wonder or do they deliver time after time?
Are they great at taking portraits (for example), but unable to cover other parts of the day as adequately?
Equipment: You can take great photos without a 30-thousand dollar kit, and you can take awful photos with a 30-thousand dollar kit. Don’t think someone is skilled or professional just because they wield A Big Camera. But if you’re dealing with a professional, they are using professional gear.
Do they shoot with professional SLR cameras, lenses and lighting equipment?
Do they have backup equipment in case anything goes wrong?
Do they have an assistant or second shooter?
Every photographer has their own workflow – the routine they go through from preparing their equipment the night before to taking the pictures, organizing and editing them, and delivering them to their client. Find a photographer that offers what you want (prints? an album? just the high-resolution files?). Editing photos is an art unto itself, and is a big part of a photographer’s “look”. Some go crazy with the filters and effects, while others opt for a more subdued style.
Do they offer/specialize in the end-product I am looking for (albums, prints, files, a mix of these…)
Do their finished images look professional, but still display crafstmanship in the editing process?
And of course, the variable at which many people (unfortunately) begin and end their search: show me the mulah! Photography is possibly the fastest rising business in the whole wedding industry. It is a serious investment, often consisting of several thousands of dollars. Why do photographers charge so much? I can’t speak for them, but feel free to check out the adjacent article “How I Work” which explains my pricing. Doing your research, as I’ve outline above, should ensure you are happy with your photos in the end – but is it worth the investment? That’s for you to figure out. But remember that once your big day is done, what you have left in your hands is a bunch of prints or a disc of images. Here’s a good strategy:
Research the industry: find out what wedding photographers in general are charging. Focus especially on photographers who are in your area and/or whose work you admire.
Based on your overall wedding budget, determine how much you are willing to spend on the photos.
Find a few photographers whose work you love, and inquire as to their prices. If you can’t find anything within your price range, you’ll either have to adjust your range or find another photographer.