How to Choose a Great Wedding Photographer

Post-holiday blues are so very real but the one redeeming quality of January/February is seeing my newsfeed filled with so many wonderful engagement announcements! Everyone probably already knows that most people get engaged in December around Christmas or New Year’s Eve. As a Washington D.C. wedding photographer I can confirm the truth in this as my email inbox just becomes flooded with inquiries as soon as the New Year starts!

There are two things I hope for every single bride and groom that I communicate with, whether or not they end up booking with me: a great marriage and a wonderful wedding photography experience.

As a wedding photographer who gets to see dozens of weddings from start to finish (as well as the behind-the-scenes dynamics with other vendors), I really believe that finding a great wedding photographer is one of the most important wedding day decisions you’ll have to make. Your wedding photos are the only thing you’ll be left with, days, weeks and years after your wedding day. But how to choose a great wedding photographer can be a difficult task.

Having the experience of being both a bride and a wedding photographer under my belt, I’ve learned a few guiding considerations for how to choose a great wedding photographer that I hope will help you in your search.

KNOW YOUR STYLE

My first piece of advice would be to define what style of photography you like, stick to your guns and then find someone who embraces and executes this style. Between the faded vintage look, high-contrast photography, the “film look” and dozens more styles, it can be really confusing to start your search without first deciding what you like. I think it’s a great idea to browse websites and get a feel for various styles – but narrow down the aesthetic that you like and that fits your style and personality. It will make finding “the one” (photographer that is) in a sea of great choices with widely varying styles a lot easier! Here are a few options elements to consider:

Colors: Are you more into muted greens? Bright greens? Pastel colors? Bold/bright colors?

Contrast: Do you like high contrast and pronounced shadows and highlights OR more even contrast?

Lighting: Do you like dramatic lighting that creates darker more contrasty photos or do you prefer bright, light and airy photography?

Posing: Do you prefer the photography be focused on artistry, composition and your surroundings OR on you/your future spouse, people, emotions? Do you prefer more staged and dramatic posing OR posing that’s more natural and organic?

DO THEY KNOW OFF-CAMERA LIGHTING?

I think this is an area where a lot of couples trip up in their wedding photographer search. Natural light photography is a wonderful thing – especially when that dusk sunlight catches in strands of hair so perfectly and lights everyone up. But make sure you get a wedding photographer who knows their OCF (off-camera flash) because there are no guarantees that you’re going to have dreamy, swoon worthy light the day of your wedding. On top of that, receptions and ceremonies are of course usually indoors and OFC is often essential to balance out harsh or colored lighting.

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CAN THEY MEET YOUR NEEDS?

This sounds like a no-brainer. Of course you’d consider this question before hiring any vendor….but think outside the box with your wedding photographer. Your needs will go beyond just having wedding pictures taken, and you might not realize it until it’s too late. Make sure your photographer offers engagement sessions, venue site visits, albums, photo wrapped canvases, professional prints… or whatever it is that might be important to you. A common issue that arises that I find clients don’t know much about is photo rights and print purchasing. Some photographers require that you purchase all digital files AND prints through you. That means you will only own the files (even digital) of the photos that you have chosen to pay an additional fee for after the wedding. Other photographers, such as myself, include ALL digital files in the total price of your package so you can keep them forever and do whatever you’d like with them! This is a really important piece of choosing the best wedding photographer.

ARE THEY GENUINE?

It might go without saying but make sure the wedding photographer you have your heart set on has legitimate business practices. Do they have a good reputation? Are they insured? Does their website look personal to them and like they actually care about the weddings they photograph? Or does it look commercialized and void of any genuine personality. Good photographers pour their heart and soul into their business. They care deeply about their clients and providing the best personal experience for them – with legit photographers this comes out through their website and their work.

DO YOU CLICK?

This is kind of the crescendoing conclusion of my above points of guidance. It might be something you’ve considered, thought long and hard about, or think is completely irrelevant. Clicking with your photographer might seem like it won’t add anything to your wedding day – and it’s certainly not the end of the world if you don’t. As a former bride and wedding photographer myself, however, I can say with certainty that your photos will be that much more special, genuine, authentic and fun when the person taking them is considered a friend and can bring out the best in you.

Expressions flow freely, laughter comes easily, the true you can emerge and embarrassment and shyness go flying out the window when you have a great connection with your photographer. And I think that’s something worth prioritizing and adding to your list of search criteria when finding someone to capture the most important day of your life!

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