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It might seem suspect for a photographer to be giving out tips on how to choose a photographer.  You’d think that the top four tips would be “choose me”.  But, being a photographer, I know that I am not the right fit for every couple, and that’s okay.  I also know that there is a lot that goes into making the decision for a photographer, and there are a lot of different voices out there giving couples advice, for various reasons, and certainly with varying degrees of expertise.  So I’d like to throw my voice out there as one who has a lot of experience at weddings. I’ve put a lot of thought into what I do, and through the years I’ve been able to more clearly identify what I feel is important.  These tips are biased inasmuch as they are things that I, being a photographer, have come to value.  So, here are the 6 best pieces of advice that I can give to couples planning their weddings and searching for photographers.  I hope they’re helpful.

1. Be intentional

This goes for every decision in your wedding.  This is the beginning of your marriage.  Make it yours.  Find ways and include elements that are significant to you.  Don’t feel like you have to do what the professionals recommend.  Don’t want to see each other before the wedding?  Don’t.  Many photographers and planners will pressure you to, giving you more time for portraits.  Want to have a “first look”? Do it. The point is to decide how you want your day to go and find a photographer that will work with that.  Remember, this day is about your wedding, not a photo shoot.  Plan around your how you want to celebrate, not around the vendors.

Madison reads her vows she's written to Billy.

Madison reads her vows she's written to Billy.

2. Look for Moments

This is kind of a style thing, but it’s also related to tip #1. I propose that good important moments on your wedding day will be much more meaningful for you to look at on your thirtieth anniversary than stylized poses.  If a photographer describes themselves as a photojournalist, look carefully at all of their photos on their website.  What kind of moments are they catching?  Compare a photographers words with their work.  Make sure they deliver what they promise.  Also, resist product salesmen.  Look primarily at the images.  Good images are worth much more than the newest type of print product.


Father & daughter embrace just before the wedding (as the bridesmaids hide).

Father & daughter embrace just before the wedding (as the bridesmaids hide).

3. Keep Price in its Place

We all have budgets.  But when looking at a photographer, remember, price isn’t everything.  The most expensive isn’t always the best, but in many ways, you often get what you pay for.  There is a flood of people calling themselves professionals.  Some are, some aren’t.  Some are inexperienced, but great photographers.  Remember that your photographs will last a lot longer than the food or flowers.  If photography is important to you, try to allocate a larger portion of your budget to it.  Also, if a photographer’s price is outside of your budget, try respectfully telling them how much you can afford.  Sometimes they can work with you, sometimes they can’t.  Remember, photographers have expenses too, and they often charge what they need to to stay in business.  But it never hurts to ask.

4. Ask Around

Friends are often the best resource for finding a photographer, but don’t blindly take a recommendation.  If a friend recommends a photographer ask to see what they received, and look at all of them.  Are the images fun to look at?  Are they repetitive or overwhelming?  Do they look like something you’d be happy to receive?  Ask about their experience with the photographer.  How did they act during the day, were they directive or passive?  What was their presence like?  There is so much more involved than just good images.  Ask your friends about it all.

Use your time to enjoy your friends and family.

Use your time to enjoy your friends and family.

5. Think Before You Click

Decide what you want in a photographer before you start emailing them.  Discuss why you want a photographer and what kind of photos you will want to see on your thirtieth anniversary. There are a lot of different kinds that provide very different results. Shop for the long-term. Photographers don’t only differ in quality, but also type.  Some produce wonderful portraits but aren’t as strong at catching moments, and vice versa.  You can hire a photographer that is wonderful at what they do, but if they don’t do what you’re looking for, it doesn’t matter.  The best built motorcycle won’t cut it when what you really wanted was a car.  Make sure you find a photographer that will give you the end result that you want, at a price you can afford, and with quality that you’re happy with.

6. Find Resonance

If you have to convince yourself or talk yourself into choosing someone, maybe they’re not the one.  There are plenty out there.  Look for someone whose style and approach really resonate with you and who gets you excited about celebrating and memorializing your wedding in photographs.

Lauren & Jamie cherish their first dance.

Lauren & Jamie cherish their first dance.

Remember that photographers can be great resources (though we will be slightly biased toward our own values).  Ask lots of questions.  Figure out what you want.  And most importantly, enjoy this practice in joint decision-making as you prepare for the wonderful adventure of marriage!

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