Questions to ask, average budget and what to look out for when choosing your wedding photographer.
So you’re planning your wedding, you’ve heard that capturing the day is something that you miiiight want to look into, but you aren’t sure where to start. Let’s talk about choosing your wedding photographer. Photographers are all SO expensive, you’ve heard horror stories about cousin Lisa’s photographer getting wasted at her wedding, and the photographer you half heartedly inquired with wants you to speak with them over the phone (and let’s be honest, you get a little nervous even booking your dentist appointments let alone having some professional call you, to chat about something you know nothing about and are eventually going to spend thousands on).
Don’t-cha worry. I’ve got your back.
Even though it may not feel like it. I’m about to get real with you, no sugar coating. But trust me, if you take these tips and use them, you will make the best decision for you, and it won’t bite ya in the butt later on. Let’s dive in to everything you need to know to make an informed decision and arm you with knowledge to avoid the horror stories!
Step 1 : Find Your Desired Style
First things first, you have to figure out what style of photography you love most, AND if it would fit your personal style and personality!
What I mean by this is, I LOVE moody posed photographs. However, I am a ball of fun and if I were to choose a photographer with that style for my wedding day, they wouldn’t capture my essence. And that wouldn’t be their fault, because they were just fulfilling their style!
How to avoid the let down:
Go on instagram and look through some work. You’ll probably notice that there are certain trends that are really in, and then a few other styles (if you like the trend, be sure that the photographer won’t just jump ships when the next trend arrises). Look for how they pose (or don’t pose) the couple. What moments they tend to capture (quiet and intimate, or loud and fun?). The general colouring of their editing (true to life, dark and yellow, vibrant?). And how they speak of their couples (do they tell their couples love story, do you feel as if they are invested in the day, or do they just post a little quote?). There is NO WRONG ANSWER. Choose what you like, what would tell your story best, what would make you feel comfortable and what you think you’ll still love years down the road.
Step 2 : Create Your Budget
Create that budget! This is SUPER important and will play a huge role in finding the perfect person for you. Create that number so when you ask around you can let people know what your budget is. So you can tell the photographer and they can see what package they offer that may work for you etc.
Average wedding photography for a full day of coverage (around 8-12 hours) should cost you between $3000-$9000. Keep this in mind! Of course with packages that don’t include as much, you can be looking at a cheaper price. However please be wary of photographers charging little to nothing for tons of images and ample hours of coverage. YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. If you pay someone $800 to photograph a full wedding day, you have to expect a lack of skills or service somewhere along the line. If you’re okay with that, then finding a beginner photographer who charges lower than average may be up your alley. But in that case you have to hold some responsibility for what may go wrong and give them room for mistakes and growth.
Step 3 : Find Potential Photographers
Now that you know how you’d like your day to be captured, find specific photographers that you think use that style. When choosing your wedding photographer, check out their website, their instagram- get to know them. Really think about if *so far* you can see yourself getting along with them. Look at their package prices and if they would fit your budget. Or if you think you could make it work.
An important note from a photographer!
Please refrain from noticing that the photographer is out of your price range but inquiring to ask for a discount. This not only wastes your wedding planning time, but also wastes the photographers time.
Instead, if you REALLY like the photographers work and REALLY can’t afford it, explain the entire situation to them and discuss somewhere you may be able to cut down their work and in turn your costs.
You are much more likely to be successful if you say “I LOVE your work because _____ and I don’t think I can hire someone else because ______. I don’t have the budget for your rates because _______ but I was hoping we could create a custom package that could fit my budget which is $______”
You are guaranteed a better result with that, than if you were to say “Do you have any discounts?” “I want the cheapest package, biggest bang for my buck, ya know?” “Oh man, I actually lowered my budget to $______ can you still give me the same package?”. Ya catchin’ my drift? Either way, NEVER expect that any vendor – or any self employed person for that matter – can personally afford to offer you a discount or a special rate or a custom quote. Consistency is important when running a business so some owners just straight up never offer discounts. Also keep in mind that your wedding is paying for their house, food, children, pets etc. Sometimes, us vendors just can’t stretch our income thin enough to offer any price cuts, no matter how badly we want to work with you! So never let their answer offend you!
Too long didn’t read… Give me the bottom line!
When choosing your wedding photographer, choose someone who you love their style and think it would match your personality, you think that they’re rad and can get along with them and they are in your budget/you’re willing to raise your budget for them!
Step 4 : Inquiring
You may inquire with one photographer who you are nearly certain would be the perfect fit, or you may inquire with a few! Do what you feel comfortable with, but be sure that it is a manageable amount! You don’t want to lose inquiries in the midst of your inbox. You want to be able to keep up with each one to properly vet the photographer!
Most photographers will have an intake contact sheet on their website that has a few questions. If they don’t, be sure to include your:
-A little bit about you two, your story, or your wedding plans
When you get a reply, look for an email that sounds like they’ve done this before, is informative, briskly moves you along towards the next step, doesn’t sound desperate or on the other hand, like a robot response and most importantly, still sounds like someone that you can get along with (remember, this person will be with you ALL DAY at your wedding, you if you feel even the slightest bit off, beware!)
Step 5 : The Consultation
The price list makes sense, you can make it work with your budget and now you have either an in person consultation or an over the phone consultation with one or more of the photographers.
This is super helpful to gauge your photographers experience, see if you’re a good fit, and ask any questions you may have without the email back and forth.
What will this look like? Or in other words, what should it look like if everything goes well.
-You book a time
-They are easy to communicate with while booking and over the phone
-They sound like your kinda person (whatever that may mean to you)
-They sound like they are on your team. They make it clear that they aren’t pressuring you, they seem like they are in it for more than just the money, and that they would let you know if they didn’t think they were the perfect fit for you two.
-They are confident and know what they’re talking about.
Some questions they may ask you:
-About your wedding day and wedding style (traditional, ethnic, laid back, rustic, funky etc)
-About what you’re most looking forward to
-About your concerns
Some questions to ask them:
-What happens if you’re sick
-How do you back up your images, and for how long do you keep them
-Do you have legal business licensing and insuarance.
And really, those are the only UBER important ones. Of course you will have your own questions that you’ve thought up that are specific to your situation, but don’t feel the need to google and ask other questions. The three up above, are seriously important. The answer to the first should seem well thought out and confident. And for the second, PLEASE be sure that your photographer is backing up their images as soon as they get home. At least on one external hard drive but ideally two or three! Trust me, the biggest horror story that could happen, is losing all of your images.
Curious about covid rescheduling/cancellation policies? Click here!
Now, the next logical step would be booking.Other than the fact that your photographer MUST have a contract (one that sounds like you don’t even want to bother reading it because its long and boring as heck), everything is fairly case specific and laid out by the photographer. So instead I wanted to touch on why certain things that I mentioned are important (or reiterate like a crazy person).
Why All of This Even Matters in the First Place
Choosing you wedding photographer may seem like it’s not that important. I know that weddings cost anywhere between $18,000 and $48,000 on average and most of you are wanting to stay closer to the $18,000 mark. Personally, I find that many people on a budget fail to think anything other than “Oh sh*t that’s expensive” when looking at wedding photography. I get it, but trust me, in 5 years, you’ll truly thank your past self for the investment. You’ll spend thousands on things that will only last the day. Photographs and videos are your only opportunity to truly capture the money, effort, time and love that created your wedding.
Please Do’s and Don’t’s for success:
-Choreograph your photographers day. You spent time choosing them and love their style, so trust them to capture your day to the best of their abilities in that style.
-Have a Pinterest board full of “must capture” photos. The majority of photos on Pinterest are actually of models in “Styled Shoots” where one photograph may have taken hours to create! Pinterest inspiration is great, but manage your expectations. Time is given to the photographer, their style, the quality of the location and details (whether a vendor created them or you DIY’d them) are all important factors when managing your expectations. It is impossible to recreate a styled shoot photograph unless you are prepared to match the same level of effort, time and money!
-Get mad at a new photographer because their finished work doesn’t look like another well established photographers work. In general, as long as their work is on par with the rest of their work, fulfills the contract and they expressed any areas of concern where things could be changed to create a better photograph before or during the day, then they shouldn’t be punished for unrealistic expectations set because saving money was number one.
-Send them a timeline of your wedding so that they have an idea of how the day will flow
-Invest time and money into your photographer
-Let the inquiries you made know if you have decided to go with someone else
-Be honest and vulnerable with your photographer about budget, expectations and concerns
-Manage your expectations if you are cutting corners when choosing vendors
-Ask them questions, keep in touch and create a relationship with them! They will be able to better capture you and what matters most to you if they know you fairly well!
-Try to have a test shoot or an engagement shoot to get to know each other
-Have fun and get stoked for your images!
Take your time choosing your wedding photographer for who they are, not just their price tag. With open communication, respect and a contract, nothing will go wrong. You can rest at ease knowing that many of the horror stories you’ve heard only happened because one or all of the steps above were missed resulting in absolute chaos. I hope that you found this advice helpful and I know you only want to do right by your vendors. You now know some of the less talked about areas of caution when it comes to not only choosing your vendors, but your expectations when you choose your budget. No budget is a bad budget, just don’t have champagne taste on a tap water budget.