I’m a wedding photographer based here in the stunning city of Charlotte, North Carolina. If I were to get married again, I’d want the best of the best for my wedding photos. And it’s not just about pretty pictures (although it’s not not about pretty pictures). It’s also about the experience they give you and how they make your specific vision come to life. In my professional opinion, here’s what to look for in a wedding photographer!
When you’re looking for a wedding photographer, and you send them a message for the first time, are they excited for you? Did they use your name in their email? Or did they obviously just copy and paste a generic response that has no energy? I know this may seem like a silly thing to pay attention to, but if they’re not going to put in the effort to connect with you from the get-go, it’s possible they won’t be putting in a whole lot of thought and effort to your photos either.
There are photographer that treat each wedding like a beautiful art project. They get excited, they have goals for your wedding. They listen to what you want and try their best to make your vision come to life. There are also photographers who just go and shoot because that’s their job. Someone’s response to your initial inquiry can tell you a lot about which of those categories your photographer falls in to.
You’re not a photographer. And chances are, you haven’t lived years of your life walking around looking at what places make the best photos. Your photographer probably has. I like to offer a location guide of some of my favorite local spots, but if they don’t have a location guide, they should at least have some recommendations of where to go for your engagement photos. What looks good in person may not be the best spot for photos. And vice versa too! Some of the most unassuming spots make for the best photos. You need the eyes of a photographer to help you decide.
When thinking about what to look for in a wedding photographer, you also want to be wary of someone who think all of your location ideas are great. If you bring up a bunch of different suggestions, and they think each one is perfect- that’s probably not a good sign. They should have an opinion. After all, you’re coming to them for their professional expertise. They should be helping you make a good decision, not just agreeing with whatever you suggest.
I know this sounds like a great thing, but trust me, it’s not. I still remember getting my wedding photos back (he gave me all the images) and being so overwhelmed that it almost brought me to tears. You think you want all the photos- until you’re staring at 30 images of the exact same pose with the most minuscule differences between them. Then you have to choose between a million different look-a-likes every. time. you. want. to. post. It’s work. And it’s hard work. Your photographer should be doing that for you.
Not only can they see differences you might not be able to see (like maybe one is more in focus or clear than another), but it’s one of the most basic parts of our job description. The best wedding photographers are practiced in choosing the most flattering, breath-taking photos. You don’t want that responsibility on you. Although this is personal preference, I feel like 20-60 photos per hour is about the sweet spot. No more than 100. Any more than that and you start feeling like you’re watching a stop-motion movie. When looking for a wedding photographer, make sure to ask how many photos you can expect and really think about what that means for you.
If you’ve scheduled a session outside and they ask you what time of day you want to schedule it for… That could be a big red flag. There is a huge difference in photos depending on what time you take them. I’m sure you’ve heard of “golden hour” before- it’s that magical time of day right before the sun sets when the light gets all glowy and soft. Now, compare that to high noon where you can’t even look outside without squinting your eyes and holding your hand up to block the light. Differences in light like that make an even bigger deal for photos. So while the best photographers should be able to shoot in every light situation, they should probably have some sort of preference and advise you what time of day would be best.
Now, for weddings, it’s a little bit different. You have less flexibility when planning time for photos because it’s a huge event that probably lasts all day. The best wedding photographers will help you plan your wedding day time around photos, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a red flag if they don’t give their input. If they didn’t help you plan your your wedding with the light in mind, just make sure they know how to handle themselves in every lighting scenario.
Remember, photographers are masters at picking only the best of the best to show on their website. Make sure they show you a full wedding gallery so you can see how they work in different lighting scenarios- from bight noon sun, to dark reception hall.
Not all photographers give out the digital images when you book them. It’s fine if they don’t, but just make sure you’re understanding what it is you’re purchasing and what’s included in your package. You don’t want to be blind sighted later if you learn it’s an entirely different purchase. (Pointed look at my mom, who’s somehow found herself in this exact situation like 5 times. Love you, Mom.)
Although it may be your worst nightmare that your photographer suddenly can’t show up to your wedding, sometimes it’s unavoidable. Photographers are just people, and many of them are a one-person or two-person operation. The best wedding photographers will have some kind of back up plan in place to make sure that you’re covered in the event of an emergency though, so you’re never left hanging on your wedding day.
Congrats on getting engaged, and I wish you the absolute best in your search! You deserve a photographer that is going to put their all into giving you not only the best photos, but the best experience as well. Did I leave any important points out when it comes to what to look for in a wedding photographer?! Let me know in the comments below!