How to choose a wedding photographer

First of all, congratulations! If I am to wager a guess you are reading this because you recently got engaged and you are trying to wrap your head around a number of checklist items as you start to plan your wedding day. These are exciting times for you and your partner; let’s not let planning for the event ruin this moment in your lives. Deep breaths. You've got this.

Before you embark on finding a wedding photographer, start with the wedding venue. Because venues book up far in advance (especially in hotspots like Prince Edward County and Toronto where I most often shoot weddings), you may have to explore a few options if you are committed to a specific date. Similarly, if you are heart-set on a venue, you may have to be flexible with your wedding date. The reason why you will want to nail down a venue first is because every wedding photographer will want to know the date and location. We are not concerned about the food, the wedding planner, the decor or the toilet choice (because let me tell you, if you are planning an outdoor wedding, portable toilets are often necessary and options are plentiful; I know from experience!). We will want to know the date to make sure that we are not already booked and the location to ensure that it is manageable for us. Photographers are often willing to travel to a venue that may be a couple of hours away; however, if we are shooting a wedding across the province the day before, we may not be able to manage both (but we will try!)

Wedding venue and date. Check! Now you can really dig into the wedding photographer search. You will want to consider these two questions above all else before you even begin looking: 

What kind of look do we want for our photos?

What is our budget for a photographer?

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Every photographer has their own style and approach to the day. What we capture may or may not be what you were expecting, so it's important to do your research. Many photographers (myself included) have a photojournalistic or documentary style, meaning that we are looking to capture the candid moments throughout the day and the finer details including the decor and surroundings. We want to capture the day as it unfolds and try to avoid creating a cookie-cutter stereotypical image of your special moments. In the age of Instagram and social media, many photographers also have a “look” to their edited photos. It may be that they reduced the saturation of certain colours in post-processing, or that they like to boost the contrast. The photos tend to look great on social media because there is a consistent feel across different weddings. If you are into the edits that they make to their photos then this could be an attractive option for you. Personally, I don’t aim to have one uniform look for all of the weddings that I photograph; when I edit my photos I want to preserve the colours as they were at your wedding and keep things as authentic as possible. Find a style that you like and start taking note of the names of some photographers and follow them on social media.

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Once you have a shortlist of photographers and you like their work, explore their websites. A photographer’s website will often give you a more accurate snapshot into what we bring to the work that we do. Social media is great, but at the end of the day, our websites will contain much more information including who we are, portfolios and (often) pricing. As you explore websites, you may find that some of the photographers you like are simply out of your budget. Don’t get discouraged! There are many, many photographers out there with a similar style to whatever you are looking for. Most wedding photographers also have different packages based on the amount of time required for their services. Maybe you only want photos at the ceremony and reception, or maybe you want “getting ready” shots right through to late-night dancing. Logically, the amount of hours will impact the cost.

Once you have decided which photographers you want to reach out to and who you suspect will fit within your budget, contact us and make sure to ask for our price lists or wedding packages. All photographers will also want to know:

Your names

A bit about each of you (profession, where you live, etc)

The wedding date

The wedding location and venue

A brief vision for the day (size, decor, etc)

The approximate number of hours of service required (or not. A conversation with a photographer will help with this, too)

Hopefully, the photographers that you have reached out to are punctual with their responses. If you want things to go smoothly on your wedding day, your vendors should be punctual. If you don’t hear back from a photographer within a day or two, this should be a red flag (the same goes for all vendors!) When I respond to potential clients, I emphasize the importance of fit. There are photographers out there who will take on absolutely any client, but it’s important to me that my clients and I gel. Common values are nice and we must connect positively. I want to know that I can capture your true, authentic selves on your wedding day. Make sure that the photographer that you settle on understands you. If they respond to your inquiry and don’t ask to meet in person or set up a Zoom call (or something similar), it may be that a connection with you as a couple is not a priority for them. Connection is key to getting a collection of wedding photos that you will be thrilled with and that you will want to look at again and again for decades to come.

At this point, based on your gut feeling, budget and the look and style of their photos, you will want to meet with one or two photographers, either in person or virtually. Ask questions - lots and lots of questions; literally anything on your mind. We will have questions for you too, like how you two met, what you like about our photos, how you imagine the day unfolding and what your hopes are for me, the photographer. The whole conversation will likely last somewhere between 20 minutes and 45 minutes. After these meetings, I will always ask myself “can I envision myself working well with this couple?” You should be asking yourself “Is this the photographer who will be able to capture our true selves on our wedding day?”

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Take a day or two to discuss with your partner. Consider your budget (again), the style of photos and your gut feeling after leaving the meeting with the photographer. If you’ve decided on a photographer, great! Send them a note saying that you want to work with them and ask for next steps (often a contract). If the meeting has left you with questions or concerns, reach out and address them. If it’s just not working out, look elsewhere. There are so many photographers out there - you will find the one, just as you found your spouse-to-be.

Let’s break it down one more time:

1) Lock in a Wedding Venue and Date

2) Figure out what style of photography you like and establish a budget

3) Make a shortlist of photographers that fit with your criteria and explore their websites

4) Reach out to a couple of photographers and express interest

5) Set up meetings (virtual or in-person) to ask questions and figure out of you connect with them

6) Discuss with your partner and get back to your top choice about next steps

Nighttime sparkler fun in Prince Edward County
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