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How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

If you’re reading this I assume you are just starting your wedding planning and don’t know where to begin! This guide will hopefully answer the question, “How to choose a wedding photographer?”

Like food, there are several different styles of wedding photography. When it comes to photography, there are little to no barriers to entry and one can be overwhelmed with so many different websites it can be intimidating.

Below I have broken things down to try to make understanding the things to look for in a wedding photographer easy to understand.

TLDR :

View full galleries to ensure the photographer can shoot in both daytime and nighttime, and to make sure the photos speak to you and look exactly what you want for your wedding day in terms of candid vs posed, romantic vs goofy, etc. Write down 3-5 words that describe what you want in your wedding photography and they should line up with the images on the website (ideally the home page). Make sure you see a photo of your photographer on the website to make sure you aren’t handed down to someone with a camera the site owner found on the internet to shoot for them instead of shooting it themselves (it happens a lot). And finally…meet / talk with your photographer to make sure they are not someone randomly picked off the street for your wedding and to make sure your personalities fit. 

Ask to see full galleries

If you don’t read anything else…this is my #1 advice on how to choose a wedding photographer. Photographers will have some of their best images on their websites or social media profiles, but if you want to get a clear idea of their ability and style, ask if you can view at least 3 full galleries (ideally a similar setting and guest size). While you don’t need to request a full gallery from every potential photographer, if you’re down to two or three, it is highly recommended.

Viewing a full gallery will allow you to gauge whether or not the photographer is capable of shooting in ANY situation (see my post about What Happens if it Rains on your Wedding Day). If you are throwing the most important party for yourself, you better hope the photographer you hire is fully capable of producing quality images in any situation.

When you view the full gallery, pay attention to how the images make you feel. Do they speak to you and give you an idea of the couple, guests, and wedding day? Do the images elicit an emotional response to you? Do they capture emotions of the couple, and the VIP guests of the day?

If family formals are the most important to you, are the groups well lit and composed? Are there cropped feet or crooked lines?

Your wedding day isn’t ONLY in daylight. Can they shoot in the evening?

SO many photographers ONLY put daylight photos on their website or IG because that’s what they prefer…no problem with that.
Sadly, there are many “photographers” that don’t even know how to use flash. It’s like a chef only using the stove and not the oven! When reading on how to choose a wedding photographer make sure that includes all lighting scenarios.

Make sure they can shoot evening photos (with flash)

This ties into the number one recommendation above – see full galleries!

RUN! When you DON’T see a photo of the photographer on the website!

With a more anonymous photography company, chances are you will have a photographer assigned to you, who may or may not even have their photos on the website you love! 

One of the “dirty secrets” of the industry is that large companies outsource the photography so you don’t get the same person who took the photos you see on the site. You may love the photos on the site, but you don’t get that person since it is a different photographer every time. There are many posts in FB photography groups asking for a “main/lead photographer” because the “Photo Company Name” outsources their work. It is very deceitful.

A photo of your photographer will allow you to trust you will get exactly who you are looking at, and won’t be “pawned off” to someone else. Hopefully, the photographer will take the time to meet/talk with you personally, ensuring that you feel comfortable working with them. You will have the opportunity to discuss the details of your wedding and any specific moments you want the photographer to capture.

What style of images do you want?

If you don’t know…that’s OK! An easy exercise is to write down 3-5 words that describe your photos and the entire day. Some examples can be fun, candid, natural, glamourous, emotional, detail focused, bright, moody, and so forth to give you examples.

Hopefully, the photos on the home page of a website depict your words and images you can imagine…since those first images are ideally the photos that the photographer values the most as well.

Every photographer has a different style. Deciding how to choose a wedding photographer starts with this concept. Are you looking for more candid, photojournalistic images? Or do you want posed portraits? Maybe you have your heart set on natural light photos, or maybe you like a ton of detail photos. Whatever you want, it’s important to know what style and type of images you’re looking for, so you can choose a photographer who can meet your specific needs.

When you look at your wall and imagine framed images on it…what do you want to see? Do you see those reflected in the galleries?a

Instagram isn’t all that

Boo ONLY Instagram!!! Anyone can make a half court shot in basketball and make a mix tape of it. But to do it consistently is the difference between Steph Curry and you! Basing your decision on how to choose a wedding photographer by only seeing the greatest hits on an Instagram page will hurt in the end.

Basing your choice on Followers and Likes? Social proof of course has its value, but just keep in mind pages can easily pay for followers and likes (I get those ads all the time) and quite simply, “Likes don’t pay the bills.” And I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Instagram vs Reality” in that a page doesn’t really show the truth about skill or experience for a photographer. 

Seeing a full gallery is a better gauge of skill not their IG page

Are all couples portraits kissing photos? Are they just smiling looking at the camera?

9/10 of my couples tell me they are awkward in front of the camera and don’t know what to do. That’s totally fine!

If you only want smiling looking at the camera photos then great! But a great photographer will be able to guide and direct you and the guests for better images with more variety. Looking closely at the photos allows you to understand what level they are on. Kissing photos are the most obvious and basic portrait and scream “entry level skill.” Getting more emotion in the images is the difference between an advanced photographer and an amateur one.

Anyone can take a posed smiling photo. Anyone with an Iphone can do that. Capturing laughter and natural reactions is one of my tell tale signs as to whether or not I respect a photographers work or not personally. 

An experienced photographer will be able to get emotion out of you and not just take smiling photos…why pay lots of money for something anyone else can do?

“Featured On” means nothing…

If you are impressed by how many websites featured their work…I’m sorry to tell you 70% of the time they don’t mean that much. It more likely than not means they paid to be on a website, so they are “featured on” their website. It is a “pay to play” type scenario.

WeddingWire and the Knot Awards aren’t that hard to get

As told by a representative on the phone for WeddingWire when I joked about it, they confirmed that they give them out to vendors who have (something like) 5 reviews for the year. Not difficult. Remember, wedding vendors pay to be on WeddingWire and The Knot so those companies want to encourage them to continue annual subscriptions with these “prestigious awards.”

Their portfolio page has a lot of decor or formal group photos shot at an angle where no one is looking at the camera

When you are inexperienced, you try to second shoot with other established photographers to gain experience and portfolio. 99% of the time, as second photographers at a wedding, they are asked to photograph decor since no one likes to do that…but also the main shooter is with the couple so they don’t have time to photograph an empty reception area. In addition, the important family photos are being taken by the main shooter…and the second photographer who doesn’t have experience will sneak in photos of the groups since they are taking them for their own portfolio. No one needs to see 10 people not looking at the camera. This is a telltale sign the person is inexperienced.

How long have you been photographing weddings, and how many weddings have you shot?

It’s a great idea to ask about your potential photographer’s experience level, as well as their workload. Shooting at a particular venue isn’t necessarily mandatory, since a highly skilled photographer can shoot in ANY lighting situation, not just outdoors in the sun. 

Make Sure They’re a Good Fit

Sometimes personalities mesh perfectly, and you become instant friends. Sometimes you and another person are just too different to work comfortably together. If you and your photographer don’t mesh, your session may be awkward or just no fun, and that’s the last thing you want. Meet with your potential photographer before you book your session to be sure they’re a good fit for you.

Ultimately, choosing your wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions in capturing your MEMORIES and will stand the test of time for generations. 

Generally, I’d suggest booking your wedding venue first (see this post for Questions to Ask a Wedding Venue) since they book way faster in advance than any other vendor and then your photographer.

Hopefully, you find a photographer and style that best fits how you want to remember your wedding day.

If you think that’s me (yippee!) please CONTACT ME to discuss your epic day!

Interested In More Information? Please Fill Out the Form Below!

415 756 9335 

ianchinphotography@gmail.com

762 10th Ave San Francisco, CA 94118

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