Your wedding photography is not only part of your experience during your wedding day but also your keepsake for many years to come. Look for photographer(s) that you really connect and jive with as a person as they are often the first person to show up when you start getting ready and all the intimate and small candid moments in between. In addition to a photographer that understand your style, look for someone who can make you feel comfortable and confident. While several photographers might be able to understand the style you are looking for, someone who can bring the best out of you, someone you feel extremely comfortable and not self-conscious for these momentous shots will make a huge game-day difference for the best results you’d be most happy with.
Number of photographers
Smaller weddings (with 100 guests or so) might go with one photographer but if you have a wedding over 150-300 guests, it can be nice to have two photographers (a second shooter as they call it) to capture other moments you don’t want to miss. More is not always better though, sometimes, for a more intimate and personal wedding, you may prefer having less photographers running around. As you might have videographer, planner and other vendors already in the background. Having as few people blending in can enable your guests to really get share in the intimacy and get front-and-center and present with you for the biggest day of your life.
Capturing the moment
No matter what aesthetic style you might prefer, whether it’s rustic, natural, photo-journalistic, HD, with effects, wide lens, etc, you want a photographer who is a great story-teller and can re-tell your day through these beautiful shots. Look at many past weddings in various style, venue settings and time of year to see how the photographer managed to capture and tell different stories for a wide variety of couples’ styles. You don’t need to totally resonate with another couple’s choice of decor, cake so don’t look at the aesthetics or decor choices of a wedding but did you feel the emotionally-charged day through these shots? Can you tell the story of the couples and their love story? Sometimes couples look for visual replicas of someone’s wedding, which can be important if you are looking for a planner or decorator who can achieve something similar but when it comes to photographers, you want someone who’s talented with any styles of weddings, it’s much more important that they can capture the soul and emotions of your wedding as those are the shots you will remember and cherish the most.
Length of coverage
How long the coverage is, meaning the length and what’s in the story is entirely up to you. Some couples want to capture all the magical moments, which is a full-day coverage that last 12 hours or more. It usually starts from the break of dawn, or whenever you are getting ready until night time when the party starts winding down. It’s incredibly difficult to shoot without good lighting so if you will have a dim venue or night coverage that won’t have bright lights, ask for example of night time shots to see how the photographers managed.
Having them photograph you during getting ready means you will get some shots of getting ready with your bridesmaids and groomsmen or just getting ready by the two of you (separately of course for the anticipation). They will often include some still shots of your gorgeous dress or tuxedo and suit, your lovely shoes, ties, bow-ties, veil and other beautiful details you have chosen for the day.
Other couples want the story of tying the knot and the celebration of love, then you might opt for 8 hours (depending on the times of your ceremony and reception), or even just 6 hours (half day if ceremony is close to the reception time) where photography coverage starts about an hour before your ceremony. Ceremony coverage usually includes shots of your guests arriving, your family taking their seats and greeting guests, groom and groomsmen awaiting impatiently at the altar and your bridesmaids walking down the aisle before you and of course, the biggest moment of all — you coming down the aisle and your groom stare at you in awe and you two connect in that moment full of love.
It’s a great idea to include your photographer at your rehearsal so he or she can anticipate when and how the ceremony might go to prepare where they can be to frame the best shot. It just gives them that little bit of extra time and preparation so they don’t have to spring into action realizing there’s a magical moment right now and that “oh! that would have looked good”.
It’s very common for the couple to take-off temporarily with family and wedding party for a short photo-shoot and wedding portraits between ceremony and reception. Find a location ahead of time that’s easy to get to and would be your perfect backdrop of the portraits. It’s nice to provide the list of family and wedding party members ahead of time so your photographer can prepare for the formations and number of shots. Depending on timing, some couples have taken their portraits before the ceremony too without having to run off in the middle of their ceremony and reception.
Having a cocktail party, a buffet dinner or a sit down reception? Having coverage for your reception usually means you will get shots for re-entering as new Mr. and Mrs. (Or Mr and Mr and Mrs and Mrs!), speeches, fun games, delicious food and guests mingling with one another. This part is generally a lot less planned and much more candid and fun. Don’t forget to include a meal for your hardworking photographer so he or she can take a small break, chow down a little and get re-energized. It’s also nice to give the agenda, if you have one that you may provide to your Emcee, so photographer know when to get up from their meal break to capture any important moments you may have for reception.
Depending on your preference, you may ask guests to be offline, meaning, not using their own iPhones and cameras during the important moments such as you coming down the aisle and standing at the altar saying your “I Do’s”. One reason for that is your guests will ALL want to stand up on tippy toes, or put up their hand attempting to take photos over someone else’s camera (all at the same time) and sometimes that becomes the focal point, they wiggle forward or backward just to get the best shot, and they aren’t actually present and engaged sharing in the moment. Other reason is that your photographer will have a much harder time avoiding the guests all taking mobile shots at you in those beautiful photos.
Besides having your photographer spend the day with you taking as many shots they can, what’s even more important is their finished products, are they shooting digital or with film? It’s less common now for a photographer to shoot with film as it’s pricier for their cost and it takes more time to process, however, it does provide a different feel that you might not get with digital. Will you have edited shots and if so how many? Most photographers will edit your photos and they may provide a certain number. Thousands might be too many but few hundreds will provide enough selections during your different milestones such as a bunch while you are getting ready, even more during your ceremony and reception and a nice variety of portraits sessions that you can choose great shots to print and put into albums later.
What about Engagement Session? They usually take about 2 hours and can be on location anywhere you like. Cost is usually a few hundred dollars, taking place anytime before your big day and after your engagement, so it’s a great way to try out a photographer before your big day. If you are not quite sure yet between two people, you can book their engagement sessions and make your decision after. If you are already set on someone, then sometimes their package can include a complimentary engagement session too to warm up and get to know each other.
Other things to consider is how long editing/turnaround will take? Mine took one month (and apparently that’s short) and I was itching daily. They will likely provide you with a teaser (a few key shots that you can get several days after your wedding, to share on social media and with friends) but the rest, you will have to wait and that waiting, my friend, will seem like eternity.
Prints & album
Will you get them as prints, or on albums, or on a USB/DVD and do you own rights to your own shots so you can use them however you like? If you are not the type that would want to fuss with getting prints and putting together your own albums, then looking for a photographer who can put all those together for you for a decent package might be the way to go. If you do like to make your own holiday cards, albums etc (which saves a bundle but does take some time) then go for USB/DVD that you get to use the file whenever you like.
Photography budget varies from several hundred dollars for an engagement session or portrait session to several thousands for the wedding day. Pricing can vary based on style, experience of the photographer and their market rate (you will generally get better rates with off-peak times when most photographers are still available). It’s very difficult to paint all photographers with one brush stroke, but very general price reference, you can find an affordable photography package around $1000-2000, also easier if you need them for shorter time frame, perhaps a half day coverage. Mid-range photography can come with $2000-3500 price tag and higher-end and more experienced photographers are now commanding over $3500+.
Since photography is so subjective and quality also really vary base on who fits your style and personality, don’t focus on price though, compare what they are including and what finished products/shots you will receive and be sure to look for a package that is exactly best for you — meaning it includes everything you would like, with a turnaround time that you are happy with, with amazing reviews and a photographer that you are absolutely in love with.