Finding Your Wedding Photographer

You’re engaged! Yay! It’s such an exciting time of your life. You’ve got the ring and, more importantly, the person you want to spend your life with! Maybe you’ve started pulling your favorite wedding magazines. Do people do that anymore? Because I really love thumbing through magazines to this day. That was the first thing I did when I got engaged. Okay, not the first thing because the first thing I did was call all my family and friends, and then I had dessert *priorities*, and then I went to bed, but… it was one of the first things I did. I went to HEB and picked up an issue of The Knot. We didn’t have Pinterest back then, so The Knot, Brides, and Real Simple were my go-tos for bridal inspiration.

Once you’ve got your inspiration, then what? Booking your wedding planner, venue, and, guess what, your photographer are the first things you’ll want to do. And there are so many factors that go into booking. And not only that, there are a lot of amazing photographers to choose from, so I’ve created a list of 10 things you should be doing in order to book your photographer and have a great experience for your wedding day. This can also vaguely apply to other vendors, but since I’m a photographer, I want you to have the most information when booking me!

10 Tips for Finding Your Wedding Photographer  | Fine Art Film Wedding Photographer | Sarah Carpenter Wedding Photography | Paris, France Wedding Photography

1) Figure out your budget for your wedding and for the photography specifically. I believe this is the number one thing you should do before choosing a wedding photographer. Photographers can range from giving away their services to charging over 30,000 dollars for your wedding day. Before you contact that super expensive, fine art photographer, make sure you can afford it. There’s nothing worse than finding the photographer of your dreams only to find out that their prices equal your entire wedding budget. There are amazing photographers in all price ranges, so make sure you find one in yours!

2) Decide how you want your wedding shot. Are you wanting Documentary or Portrait? A mixture of Both? Don’t know the difference? Here it is.

  • Documentary or Photojournalistic photographers are known for capturing weddings in a completely candid way. They don’t give direction, merely stand back and allow the events to unfold as they happen. To my understanding, there are no posed photos at all. I think this style can be absolutely breathtaking when done right, and it’s so special for people who literally want to remember their wedding day exactly how it happened with no extra interference from the photographer.

  • Portrait or Traditional wedding photographers are known for giving direction, posing group shots as well as bride and groom portraits, creating and setting the scene for getting ready photos, and possibly asking for guests to pose for pictures during the reception.

I personally do a mixture of both photojournalistic and traditional wedding photography. I love to clean the space during “getting ready” photos, curate the room, give the bride and groom suggestions for detail items to bring. I might style those items (include invitations, shoes, rings, perfume, etc) to photograph or I may ask a planner or designer to style them for me. I will give poses that I feel are genuine and natural for my clients during the formal portraits (bride and groom, bridal party, family portraits) and ask various guests if they want a picture during the reception. I’m very hands off during most of the getting ready moments (minus cleaning the room and giving suggestions for where in the room to put the bride’s dress on or additional images of putting the shoes and jewelry on, maybe a group shot with the mother of the bride or bridesmaids.) During the ceremony, I won’t interfere at all and as for the reception and cocktail hour, I’m almost totally hands off, taking only candid photos and a smattering of “do you guys want a picture?” images of guests.

I also personally think that fine art photography is a slightly altered version of the photojournalistic and traditional wedding styles with slightly more curation. When I work with a client, I typically give suggestions from the beginning of what items to bring for styling, where to get hair and makeup done, how to clean up the room, what time of the day ceremony should take place, etc. There’s more involvement from me to give you beautiful images that are both candid and posed, genuine with a touch of professional help.

3) Decide on the colors: Are you looking for darker, moody photos? Light and airy? True to the natural tones? Are you wanting photographic colors that are timeless or a little more on the trendy side? Make your pick and eliminate photographers who don’t match your style. While we’re at it, make sure that the photographer you choose can stay cohesive with their editing style. You don’t want one photo to be light and airy and the next to be dark, moody and have a filter over it. Whichever you prefer, the photographer should stick with that color profile throughout all of the wedding photos. This is one (of many) great reason to ask for a full wedding gallery.

Bonus: Another reason to ask if you can see a full wedding gallery is to see exactly the type of photos your photographer is going to take on the wedding day from the start to the finish, make sure that you like the moments they capture. This reason isn’t the most fun, but make sure that the photographer behind the website is actually the person who has taken the images. It’s not often, but there are people who use other photographer’s images to boost their own portfolio and don’t have a full shoot or wedding to back up the pictures they’ve stolen.

4) Find the photographers you like! There are lots of blogs, magazines, and wedding vendor listing sites to find photographers. If you know what kind of style you are looking for, you can narrow down what kind of blog or magazine you’ll be looking at. My favorite blogs are Oncewed, Magnolia Rouge, Wedding Sparrow, and Style Me Pretty. I also love The Knot, Brides, Martha Stewart Weddings, Vogue, and Harpers Bazaar. You can look photographers up under vendor listings or find your favorite features and see who the photographer is for that shoot or wedding. You can also search on Pinterest, Instagram, and good old fashion Google (or Bing. Pick your browser).

5) Inquire! This one seems obvious, but you should definitely contact any photographer who is within you budget and who’s style you love. (If no pricing is listed on their site, it doesn’t hurt to reach out and let them know what price you’re hoping to stick with). Ask to see a wedding guide and ask about availability! If the photographer you like is unavailable, you can ask them to refer a photographer who is similar to them who might have the date open.

6) Make sure you connect with your photographer. Make sure you trust them and click with them. This is so important! This person spends one of the most important days of your life following you around for anywhere from 6 hours to multiple days. I always request to have a pre-booking consultation with all of my potential couples. I use them to answer questions you have, let you know how I shoot weddings, give you the reassurances you need in order to book. I also want you to make sure you trust me and feel comfortable with me! This consultation is either over the phone or in person (I love taking my couples out for coffee, drinks, ice cream! Let’s make it a fun process).

7) Make sure that your photographer is client centered. This day is about you, and your photographer should be working for you, not the other way around. My clients mean everything to me, and I work endlessly to give you the experience you deserve on your wedding day. Make sure that your photographer is going to give you what you want. A great experience, timeline planning, blemish edits and color corrected images are all part of what I offer. I also offer tangible goods like prints in multiple sizes and fine art albums. I love to travel, so that’s another thing I offer for my clients. Not all photographers want to travel and may be more likely to stay local.

8) Figure out what kind of coverage you are looking for. How many hours do you want? My typical client books 10 hours of coverage for a traditional wedding (less for an elopement), but talk to your photographer and ask for their suggestion. It all depends on the size of the wedding and the events that need to be photographed. Decide if you want an engagement session, bridal portraits, rehearsal dinner coverage, extra hours of coverage that your photographer doesn’t already offer. Are you having a welcome dinner? Do you want a pre or post wedding session with just you and your fiancé/spouse?

9) Talk about the booking process. Ready to take the plunge? Ask for a contract so you can move forward. Find out what kind of retainer you’ll need to pay for the photographer to hold your wedding date.

10) Read the contract all the way through and ask any questions you might have about it! Pay your deposit and get ready and breathe!

Sarah Carpenter