If you’ve ever looked at a friend’s wedding photo album and found yourself feeling all the feels of that incredible day—even if you weren’t there in person—well, those feels you’re feeling can be chalked up to the talent of the wedding photographer. It is the photographer’s job to not just document the wedding, but to capture its magic and majesty, its uniqueness and grandeur, and, of course, all the small details and fleeting moments that make it such a momentous occasion. Now that it’s your turn to walk the aisle, it’s time to find the artist who will preserve, in glorious visual form, the beauty of your one-of-a-kind celebration. And you can start right here, with these valuable words of advice, from some of the finest photography pros in the business.
Start Your Search
It’s perfectly OK for you and your spouse-to-be to relax and savor the excitement of your newly engaged status—for a bit. But once you’ve settled into the bliss of engagement, it’s time to plan. And that planning starts with selecting the photographer who will document the biggest day of your life…and the days both leading up to and following it.
Choosing the right photographer, kind of like finding the love of your life, takes time: You want someone who is reliable and trustworthy, someone with a positive attitude (even in the most stressful situations), someone who truly gets you. But if you have no idea where to begin, photographer Adam Nyholt says it’s a good idea to “ask for referrals from people you trust,” and who have a similar style as you. “This could be a friend who was recently married or your wedding planner,” or a trusted resource such as Weddings in Houston.
Trust Your Instincts
Once you have a few reliable recommendations on hand, let the browsing begin. Most professional photographers have their own website and blog, which makes it extremely easy for prospective clients and curious couples to peruse their photos, read about their experiences on the job, and get a feel for their artistic style.
Don’t be afraid to cyber-stalk their sites for inspiration, and then let your emotions do the deciding: “Samples of a photographer’s work should spark a feeling inside of you,” says photographer Christa Elyce, who describes her photographic style as reflecting “an all-over feel of romance.”
Lindsay Elizabeth Strode of Lindsay Elizabeth Photography says that the easiest way to determine your favorite photography style is by “picking images you’re drawn to.” In other words, think of your future wedding photos as paintings on a wall. What kind of art pieces would you choose to hang up in your own home? “If a couple would love to see bright, clean and airy photos of themselves, they should look for a photographer who specializes in shooting natural light,” adds Strode.
If edgy, artistic photos are more your thing, go with a photographer who can use shadows, dim lighting and sharp lines to their advantage. When you find yourself completely enamored of a photo or collection of photos from a certain photographer, chances are you’ve found your style doppelganger. Add them to your list, and set up a phone call or in-person appointment, pronto.
Ask And Research
You’ve received several promising reviews of local photographers from friends, scoured the internet for WOW-factor wedding photos, and constructed a list of at least three to five potentials that you can easily see documenting your momentous trek down the aisle. So far, so good!
When you’re ready to reach out to these photographers, it can be tempting to skip the phone chat altogether and simply rely on email to do the talking for you. This is fine for introductory inquiries, like pricing and availability, but David Jones of D. Jones Photography encourages brides- and grooms-to-be to “interview or meet with the photographer” in person as well. Aside from being confident in their photo-taking abilities, you also want to find out if they are someone with whom “you truly feel comfortable,” he adds, “since there are a lot of emotions that clients will experience on the big day.” The only way to know if the two of you will click? Face-to face communication!
If you’re not sure exactly what to ask, take a cue from the professionals. Photographer Steve Lee suggests that couples first inquire about the turnaround time, or the time it will take after the wedding is over to receive your edited photos: “I’ve heard many horror stories about couples who had to wait six months or longer,” says Lee, whose team takes no more than two to three weeks to get photos back to the couple.
According to Elyce, it’s also crucial to “find out what the photographer does to protect their images and prevent them from being lost, corrupted or misplaced.”
Ideally, you want a photographer who has a backup plan—and insurance—for any worst-case-scenario disasters that might arise on the big day. “There are no do-overs at a wedding,” says Jones, who, in his more than two decades of experience, has seen it all. Accidents happen, and the ideal candidate is someone who will be totally prepared come showtime.
The once-in-a-lifetime aspect of wedding photography demands that your photographer be not just a professional, but also a specialist. “There are a lot of photographers out there who do a little wedding photography, and a little of everything else,” cautions Deb Turner of MD Turner Photography. “For your wedding, you want a photographer who specializes in weddings, a photographer who knows how to keep the day flowing, and knows how to ensure that photos look natural. Ask to see an entire wedding they’ve shot, not just highlights—this will help you find an experienced professional.”
Just as important as photographic style and process is the photographer’s attitude toward being a part of your wedding. “Ask your photographer how they would react to family and friends who may want to take pictures on your wedding day,” advises Barett Henry, of Civic Photos. “We are very easygoing, and I don’t mind if people who are attending the wedding, who have known you your entire life, want to take photos—just as long as they don’t get in the way of our professional shots, or step in front of the ceremony processional when it’s taking place.”
On a lighter note, Nyholt recommends asking a few fun questions as well—such as, “How would you define your approach and style, how would you describe your ideal client, and what gets you excited about a shoot?”—in order to grasp the personality of your potential photographer. “These three questions will reveal a photographer’s passion and vision, and you want a photographer that is passionate about the same things you are,” he adds.
Engage And Connect
Choosing one photographer over another can be as simple as going with your gut. So, once you’ve found the perfect fit, don’t hesitate to book that person for your big day.
If time (and budget) allows, consider scheduling an engagement session as well. This is a great opportunity to really get to know your photographer, and, more importantly, for them to get to know you. “I find out what makes my clients laugh, the features they love about themselves, and their personal history as a couple—plus we’ll take some amazing photos in the process,” says Strode.
“The engagement session is a great time to get to know your photographer better, and to get used to their style of shooting, so that the wedding day flows more smoothly, and you are comfortable throughout the day,” adds veteran wedding photographer Taylor Golden. When it comes to the engagement session, “I say the more diversity the better!” she says. “Something I like to do for my couples is shoot their session in another city. It’s particularly great when we can incorporate a city that is meaningful to them personally, such as where they got engaged, where they love to vacation, etc.”
The Big Day
By the time your wedding day rolls around, there will be so much going on that the last thing YOU need to worry about is documenting your big occasion.
Golden reminds couples that it’s vitally important that your photographer be able to handle the wedding day in its entirety, including, perhaps most importantly, those classic family portraits that will become heirlooms for generations to come. “Remember, your wedding is likely to be an activity-filled day, and you may not actually be around your family members all that much,” she says. “These family photos may be the only pictures you have with your nearest and dearest, so you’ll want to make sure you take a family photo with anyone that is important to you.”
To ensure excellent portraits, prior to your wedding, “Be sure to look at that photographer’s examples of family wedding formals to see if you like the posing, lighting and composition the photographer offers. It also helps to create a list of the different family groupings you want to document. Your planner or maid of honor can assist during this part of the day by calling out people’s names for each picture, grouping them, and crossing them off your list once the photo has been shot, to ensure you don’t miss anyone.”
Adds Strode: “Fifty years from now when you’re looking back at your wedding photos, you won’t remember the tiny details everyone gets so wrapped up in, but you will be reminded of the beauty and fun of your big day,” two things that a talented wedding photographer will capture completely. “So enjoy every minute,” she adds, “because it’s over in a flash.”