How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

Wedding planning is overwhelming, especially with so many important decisions that need to be made. Your photographer can make or break the wedding day, and the preservation of your memories is in their hands. Here is some great info to help you choose your wedding photographer.

Be sure to hire a PROFESSIONAL

Your wedding photographer needs to be skilled and experienced at capturing weddings. A wedding is a whole other animal, and an ameture will not know what to do. A professional portrait photographer won’t know what to do. Weddings require me to create a timeline, provide superior customer service, think on my feet, find and properly use the best light, work in less-than-ideal (ugly) locations and produce beautiful photos, wrangle bridal party, family, and guests, etc. Just the family formals alone are enough to stump any ameture or portrait photographer. There is a right way and a wrong way to do them, and if you’re not careful, your entire family will be disappointed with the formal family portraits.

We did a Day After session for a couple because their photographer did such a terrible job at their wedding. It was a friend of the groom who worked for the Modesto Bee newspaper. Every family photo is so blown out and contrasty that they are unusable. The ceremony photos are all blurry. The bride’s son was murdered a few years later, and she didn’t have good wedding family portraits with him. You just never know what’s going to happen.

A professional that specializes in weddings will also know how to capture the candid moments, the special, tug-at-your-heartstrings moments, the laughter-is-golden moments. These are such important photos because they will show the emotion of the day. Without emotion, photos lack soul and don’t tell a complete story.

Be sure to check their portfolio for WEDDINGS. If all they’ve done is portrait or commercial work, they’re not a good fit for a wedding. Ask to see a complete wedding gallery so you can see how they capture a wedding beginning to end. Check their credentials, such as business license and insurance. (I talk about that HERE.)

Read online reviews. Check Wedding Wire, The Knot, Yelp, and reviews on their web site. When researching your potential photographers (or any wedding vendor) on Yelp, be sure to read the HIDDEN REVIEWS.  Did you know that if you pay Yelp, they will hide your bad reviews? Shady, I know… Here’s how to look for those hidden reviews:

Scroll down to their last review that is showing, and there will be a grey sentence that says, “Other reviews that are not currently recommended.” Click that link and more reviews will show up. Recently I was researching a DJ for a client and they had great reviews, but when we opened the hidden (other) reviews, they were TERRIBLE.


If you aren’t going off of referrals from friends or past brides, ask the photographer for three referrals. If the photographer is legit and great to work with, they should have no problem connecting you with three of their brides. Ask these brides about the quality of the work and customer service, as well as personality. It’s no fun hiring a wonderful photographer who is a total hag. That will ruin your wedding day.

READ THROUGH the disclosures on the contract! The fine print can be very important here. For instance, make certain that the photographer you hire is the one that will show up at your wedding. (This applies to all wedding vendors.) Some wedding vendors will send an associate to an event, and that’s not who you chose.


Avoid Serious Pitfalls


  • Hiring a cheap photographer from Craigslist

You only have one wedding day, so don’t trust someone without credentials or experience to capture it. You get what you pay for.


  • Letting a family member or friend shoot your wedding for free

Again, you get what you pay for. A lot of times people want to shoot a wedding for free or cheap to gain the experience and add to their portfolio. Your wedding day is not the time to let them experiment; it’s simply too important of a life event. Instead, tell them they can photograph part of the reception after your hired photographer leaves, or dress up in your wedding clothes some time after your wedding so they can take wedding portraits of you.


  • Shopping around and making a decision based on price alone

Even if you’re shopping around with professional wedding photographers, your main concern shouldn’t be price. Your main concern should be finding someone that produces a quality product whose prices fit within your budget.  Be sure to take notes at each consultation and get printed quotes, then, when it’s time to compare and make a decision, compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. One photographer may be significantly less expensive than another, but their package may offer a quarter of what their colleague’s does.


Take Notice of Red Flags

  • If you ask the photographer a direct question during a consultation, and they beat around the bush and never really answer the question, it either means they are hiding something, or they aren’t experienced enough to know the answer. Either way, it’s a bad thing.
  • If they insult another photographer’s work, run. It’s extremely unprofessional to insult another professional’s work just to get the job. It also shows they don’t have the confidence in their own work to rest on their skills. This also includes telling you film is poor quality (if they’re a digital photographer), or that digital is poor quality (if they’re a film photographer.)
  • If they say, “How much did the other photographers quote you? Whatever it is, I’ll do it for less.” If a photographer is willing to “undercut” another photographer’s pricing, that shows they are unprofessional and desperate, and can be an indication that they aren’t confident in their work. Plus, it’s downright disrespectful to the photographers who have worked so hard to build a fantastic business.
  • If they say, “Can I see the contracts and/or quotes from the other photographers you met with?” This is just…. I can’t even.
  • The Hard Sell. There is nothing I hate more than a “hard-sell,” (except like, war and world hunger and stuff.) If I’m shopping in a clothing boutique, and a salesperson is following me around, bugging me every two minutes, shoving dresses in my face, saying, “This is soooo your color!”, I walk out. If I get a phone call from a wedding web site or magazine that wants to sell me ad space, and they are trying to force me into signing up, and they are calling me twice a day, and being very forceful, I get very honest. “Look,” I say, “I don’t like a hard-sell. I don’t like it, and I don’t do it to my clients. So stop.” Then I never work with them, because that hard-sell was such a turnoff.
  • The Bait & Switch. This is a common practice of luring you in with one product, then trying to force you into another more expensive product, OR offering you a great product, then delivering a much less valuable one. In a nutshell, it’s a dishonest way to lure you into the store/company’s grip so they can “hard-sell” you. In the wedding photography world, a “bait-and-switch” would look something like this: You look at a photographer’s web site, review their pricing, which looks like a great deal. Hey, score! Six hours of coverage for $700! Then you get into the consultation with them, and they explain that if you want actual photos, and not just a CD of 200 raw images, it’s actually going to cost you $2,000.


Hopefully this info has helped you with your wedding planning. If you have any questions at all, comment below and I’ll be happy to answer!

Ciao for now!

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January 29, 2020

I like that you mention how an organized wedding photographer can help you gather your family for group photos. My sister is planning on getting married in an indoor venue and would like to make sure that all of her guests are photographed, but she worries that a group photo will be difficult to take in a smaller venue. Maybe she should hire a professional that can help ensure that everyone fits in her wedding photos.

February 3, 2020

She should definitely hire a professional photographer. If she doesn't, she risks having terrible photos or no photos at all.

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