For a lot of people, figuring out how to hire a wedding photographer is usually done fairly early in the planning process.
This is probably for a few reasons. It feels like one of the bigger wedding planning tasks (because it is if you’re hiring a photographer), and if you’re planning to shoot engagement photos or additional portrait sessions, you want to go ahead and plan those out.
Plus, some wedding photographers book out well in advance (and there are only so many weekends during wedding season), which means locking in the photographer of your choice is all about timing.
Settle on a Style
I don’t mean that you need a perfectly curated Pinterest-friendly Instagram feed before you start looking for your wedding photographer, but I do mean that you should have some kind of visual idea of what you want your photos to look like. Are you into darker, moodier photography? Cool, then don’t go with someone who skews toward overexposure. Do you want someone who shoots with film?
Do any of the following appeals to you?
These are candid or spontaneous pictures of people, décor, and the action. Typical shots might include the lavish raw bar before guests start pouring in, your gang of cousins dancing, or you and your bridesmaids laughing, champagne in hand. With a purely photojournalistic photographer, you’ll very rarely see people staring at the camera—the photos capture the moments exactly as they happened, and together they tell a story.
If you prefer classic portraits (like your parents’ wedding album), go with a traditional photographer who specializes in portraiture. These are posed shots of the two of you, your friends and family in front of various backdrops. That’s not to say there isn’t room for creativity in this category. While some photographers will pose subjects in more traditional spots and in more formal poses, others take portraiture further into the creative realm with a more dramatic composition (the couple sitting on a lounge chair at their hotel reception venue, or holding hands in the middle of a nearby dirt road with the mountains in the background).
It’s similar to documentary photography, but this style gives the shooter greater artistic license to infuse their particular point of view and style into your photographs. So while the shots reflect reality, it’s the photographer’s reality. The photos are dramatic and gorgeous, but are—or look as though they were—shot on film with a grainier, dreamier, more muted appearance. Usually, the object (or couple) is in focus and the background appears to blur.
The motion also looks very natural in this style of photography. The few wedding photographers who shoot only on film tend to fall into this category, and typically they shoot in black and white, though some will do a mix of both. That said, a photographer using a digital camera can still capture this style with the right gear and camera lens. And some photographers will alternate between digital and film. Not all photographers who take fine-art approach shoot portraits, so if it’s really important to your mom to have posed family shots, look for someone who does both, or consider hiring a second shooter for the portrait sessions.
Edgy and Bold
This style of photography, an offshoot of fine art, is marked by outside-the-box, tilted angles (called Dutch angles) and unconventional framing. So instead of a straight-on shot of the couple exchanging vows at the altar, the photo might look tilted, with an object like an altar arrangement or a candle in the foreground. Or the photo of the bride having her makeup done might be shot from above, with an emphasis on the eyeshadow brush rather than on her face.
Know Your Venue Beforehand
Remember what I just said about natural light? Okay, good. I am personally a huge fan of natural light and venues that have tons of it, and a lot of my work reflects that.
That’s because I intentionally share photos that I think the best showcase what I do—and that’s what a lot of photographers do. So if you’re getting married in a dimly lit room and you hired someone who usually shoots outside in fields, just know that your photographer can’t transport all that light into a room that doesn’t have it.
Sure, your photographer can and should be able to work with any venue, but if you’re choosing a photographer because of what that person excels at, it’s helpful if your wedding fits the bill.
Search to Get Real Reviews About The Photographer
Generally speaking, people tend to give glowing reviews of the vendors who worked on their weddings, and those people tend to deserve it.
However, just because someone is amazing doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have weaknesses. If you want to know how previous couples would describe the photographer, ask if you can be connected with one or two and then ask the couple specific questions (assuming they’re okay with it).
Past couples may feel more comfortable laying out the positive and less-than-positive aspects of working with a specific person.
You Should Avoid Hiring Friends or Family
It may be tempting to hire somebody you know to be your wedding photographer. You may be drawn towards hiring someone you trust, who knows you and your partner well, and you think will understand what kind of pictures you want. While this might turn out perfectly well, it is highly likely that this person will not have the technical skills and experience to give you the best photos.
- Consider if this person has the technical knowledge of light and photography to anticipate and quickly correct any problems that may occur.
- Ask yourself if he has a spare camera of high quality.
- Does he have experience working with large groups of people?
- Would he be able and happy to spend all day, maybe 8-12 hours, behind the camera and not participating in the wedding as a guest?
Meet Your Photographer Personally
I think few things are as valuable as an in-person meeting, for both the couple and the photographer. Because trust: the best wedding photos happen when the couple and photographer could be friends in real life, outside of the wedding. This doesn’t mean you will be friends, or that you even want to (it is absolutely fine to just want a client-professional relationship with your vendors), but it always helps to know the potential is there. You want someone who is talented, who matches your vibe, and who the two of you (both! Not just one of you) hit it off with.
Sitting down with a cup of coffee or over a glass of wine is a great way to find out if someone is that person. And I’ll let you in on a secret: this goes both ways. Your photographer also needs to know if you guys all fit together because few things are harder than having to meet expectations that were never realistic.
Luckily, most of the time a couple and a photographer are a great fit, because a lot of couples do research and set up meetings with photographers they think they’ll like. But every so often, for one reason or another, it just doesn’t work out, and that’s okay. Your photographer can probably point you in the direction of someone they know who might work, and no one’s feelings will get hurt.
Don’t base your decision solely on what you see in a photographer’s highlights gallery or album. For good reason, photographers show prospective clients a portfolio of their best pictures, all from different weddings, so you’re seeing the best of the best.
The problem with that is you won’t get a well-rounded idea of their work. Ask to see two or three full galleries from real weddings they’ve shot (not someone else at their company) so you can get a better idea of what your complete collection of photos might look like after the wedding.
If you see that the full gallery photos are just about as good as the ones chosen in the highlight gallery (that is, they’re all so good it’s impossible to choose!), you’re on the right track.
When looking at a photographer’s portfolio, look for weddings shot in lighting environments similar to what you expect at your wedding. Ask how the photographer would handle your particular situation. (Some photographers use external lights for dark receptions; others may rely on a camera’s ability to see well in the dark.) If you notice shots taken in dim lighting are all processed in black and white, that’s a hint that the photographer may not be super-comfortable in darker situations.
Review Albums With a Critical Eye
When reviewing a photographer’s album, look for the key moments you want to be captured: Did they get photos of both the bride and the groom when they locked eyes for the first time? Also look for the crispness of images, thoughtful compositions (does a shot look good the way it was framed, or is there too much clutter in the frame?) and good lighting (beware of washed-out pictures where small details are blurred—unless that’s the style you’re after). It’s also very important that you detect sensitivity in capturing people’s emotions; make sure the photographer’s subjects look relaxed, not like deer caught in headlights. While you two are, of course, important, you want to see smiling shots of your friends too.
Ask Your Questions
It is always a really great idea to have at least a handful of questions ready for your photographer when you sit down. Examples:
- How do you describe your style, and how would others describe it?
- Is there any part of the day you don’t or won’t photograph?
- What do your packages include? Is any part of your package negotiable?
- Our wedding will be at the beach/in a dark room/at sunset. Do you have experience with this?
- Can we see an entire edited wedding?
- What is your favorite part of a wedding?
- How do you handle stressful parts of the day?
- How long after the wedding will we receive our photos? (FYI: Faster doesn’t always mean better.)
- How many photographers with what area of expertise would be coming on what event and day
- Travel and accommodation logistics and clarity on who would bear the charges (especially in case of destination wedding)
- Cost of extra services (drone, photobooths, LED screens)
- The timing of deliverable + Policy in case of deliverables are delayed
On top of those, don’t worry about getting extremely specific. Like, the more details the better—your photographer might shoot fifty-two weddings a year, or more!—but that doesn’t mean that they’ve dealt with something that’s happening at yours. And even if it does, then great. You’ll find out they already know how to handle potentially adverse situations
Make Sure Your Personalities Match
Liking and bonding with your photographer are extremely important. Is the photographer excited by your vision when you describe it? When they make suggestions, do they present them in a clear and respectful way, or are they timid? Are their mannerisms off?
In order to get the best photos, go with a pro who has a firm grasp of social graces but is bold enough to go out hunting for great images and who, above all, puts you at ease and doesn’t irritate you in any way. Remember: They’ll be shadowing your every move, and the more comfortable both of you are with the photographer, the better the photos will turn out. Likewise, you don’t want the photographer to offend or annoy any guests, but to shoot them in their best light in an unobtrusive way.
Ask About Your Rights
Most contracts stipulate that the photographer owns the rights to all photos taken at the wedding, even the ones of you. In other words, the photographer can use them promotionally (on their website or blog, submit them for publication and even place them in ads).
That also means you can’t just post the digital proofs they send you—most photographers have a policy that you can only share watermarked images or images with their credit on them. Also, unless you negotiate otherwise if you want to print the images yourselves or order an album from another source, you’ll have to buy the rights to the images.
Set The Budget For Wedding Photography
Maybe you don’t know exactly how much money you have to spend on a photographer, but few things are as hard on everyone as when a couple inquires with a photographer who is out of the budget in the hopes that they will magically… not be. Everyone gets invested. You get invested in work you love, and your photographer gets invested in starting the booking process and breathing a sigh of relief because, hey! They still have a job. You don’t need to know your entire budget, but you do need to know if you have Rs 10,000 for a photographer, or Rs 20,000, or more than Rs 30,000, and inquire accordingly.
Usually, couples spend 5-10% of the total budget on wedding photography. Wedding photography has evolved a lot from just a way to capture turn by turn poses to capture emotions and fun moments during the wedding, all that which is also reflected in the pricing.
Wedding photography is now a priced as a combination of art and simple service where prices are not necessarily directly proportional to efforts. The prices range from 50k to 20 lakhs and vary a lot from photographer to photographer.
A general rule of thumb I came up with is that, if you have a two-day event and you want all 4 services (candid photography, cinematic videography, traditional photography and traditional videography) then your photographer would charge 20% of total photography budget for one- day of candid photography.
Enquire About The Post-Production
You should ask about how the photographer does the post-production on the photos, or if they do any post-production on the photos at all. You may get the photos straight from the camera, which may not look as good as those which go through post-production.
Colour correction is a basic part of post-production and can make a big difference.
Be sure you are completely clear on the photographer’s practices.
- If post-production is not included in the main price, ask if it is an optional extra.