Capture the Day: Expert Tips for Finding Your Wedding Photographer
Make sure every moment of your big day is captured with these tips on finding a photographer best fit for you.
When you have the right photographer, you can stay fully in the moment, knowing that every detail and emotion will be beautifully documented. Three of our favorite pros offer field advice on finding someone you really click with.
Start Perusing Portfolios
Cast a wide net out to friends and family for photographer recommendations, then scroll through pros' websites to narrow your list to three. Call to see if each is available on your date and within your budget, then carefully review their work. Ask to see entire weddings—from rehearsal dinner to send-off—rather than just highlights, suggests Santa Barbara-based photographer Jose Villa.
Do a Gut Check
"See which images resonate with you," says Corbin Gurkin, a Charleston, South Carolina, photographer. "Can you picture yourself in the photos? Do you have an emotional reaction to their work?" You'll soon discover whether you're drawn to classic, more formal portraits; shots that feel gently directed; or images with unique angles and a candid feel. Villa also advises checking for consistency of quality in different settings and lighting scenarios, like a small dressing room as opposed to a sun-drenched outdoor ceremony.
Meet in Person
"You want a combination of talent and personality," says New York City photographer John Dolan. "Cameras are smarter than they used to be, which makes it easier than ever to find someone who creates beautiful images. The tricky part is finding a person you jibe with. This relationship will be much more intimate than you think; you'll be seeing him or her out of the corner of your eye on a very important day." When you get along with your photographer, odds are you'll look more relaxed in photos (release those shoulders!). Dolan's rule of thumb: "Ask yourself if you'd invite them to a dinner party." If you're hiring from afar (that's you, destination-wedding couples), Villa recommends scheduling a video chat, so you can connect face-to-face.
Right-Size the Staff
Extra shooters increase the fee, but they can be well worth the added cost. "If a wedding has hundreds of guests and different venues for the ceremony and reception, it's important to have enough photographers on deck," says Gurkin. Villa's guideline is two pros for 150 or more guests, and three for 250 or more.
Read the Fine Print
Your contract should spell out all of the logistics of your day, including venue locations, timeline, and any other expenses you agree on (like travel, if your photographer is coming in from out of town). Double-check those details. Villa also suggests inquiring about additional fees down the line; some vendors charge extra for access to digital files.
Consider a Videographer
Video clips aren't just Instagram fodder. They're heartfelt highlight reels from an event that goes by in a blink. "It's amazing to see the moving parts of your day and watch people's facial expressions during such a happy moment," says Villa. If you hire a videographer, tell your photographer early in the process so he or she can map out how they'll work with (and around) each other.
Plan a Practice Round
Engagement photos are a nice touch on save-the-dates and a worthwhile excuse to do a mini practice shoot. Think of it as a first date with your photographer; you can learn how he or she operates. The session will also give you and your fiancé a chance to get comfortable posing together, and to discover flattering angles for when it's go-time, says Villa.