Planning your wedding is no doubt one of the most exciting times of your life. You're planning one of the most monumental days where you get to say "yes" to the love of your life with your family and friends by your side - or not, if you decide to elope. Either way, after all of that planning, you'll want to make sure the memories of the day live on forever, which is why choosing a wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions within the process. A lot of people don't know where to start though and often second guess whether they're making the right decision when choosing their "big day" photographer. I've broke down a list of tips for choosing your ideal wedding photographer to make this part of the wedding planning process a little easier.
Tip #1: Determine Your Budget First
The worst feeling is finding a photographer you love and then realizing after talking with them that you can't afford them. What a let down, right? The best way to avoid this is to determine your photography budget BEFORE you do too much research on wedding photographers. I say "before doing too much research" because to help set your budget, you should do some basic market research about the cost of photographers in your area and gauge what a certain dollar amount will or will not get you. This doesn't mean that at this point you're on the hunt for your photographer, you're just doing a little research to see what you can afford. After doing that, determine what is important to you and your loved one for the day of and how much you're willing to spend on making these memories last a lifetime. Keep in mind, it's not only important to determine your budget beforehand, but to also stick with it when it comes to making the final decision - there's a reason you set a budget, remember?
Tip #2: Let Your Style Guide Your Search
When hiring a wedding photographer, remember that you want to be in love with the end product which includes the posing, final edits, creativity of the shots and more. Because of this, you'll want to determine your ideal wedding photography style and search for a photographer based on that. If you have a particular look in mind, such as photos that are edited to be a little more muted color-wise, then it's likely not a good idea to go with a photographer who has a portfolio full of only super colorful photos. Sure, they may be able to accomplish what you're looking for, but it's likely not their specialty and if you're going to spend the money, find someone who specializes in producing your ideal style.
Tip #3: Use the Engagement Shoot as a Trial Run
Many couples opt for an engagement session to showcase their love story before the wedding day. Why not hire the photographer you're thinking about using on your big day for this shoot as a trial run? This gives you the opportunity to see how they work and collaborate with you. It also gives you an idea of how they'll be on wedding day and if you want them to be a part of it... it's important to actually like the person you hire. Oh, and most important, you'll get to see what kind of work they produce before you make the leap to sign the larger wedding day photography contract.
Tip #4: Really Get to Know Your Photographer
This tip kind of ties into tip #3, but it stands alone in case you don't hire your wedding photographer as your engagement photographer. Whoever you decide to go with for your wedding day, be sure to take the time to really get to know them. Spend time "interviewing them", collaborating with them on your day of wants/needs, and getting to understand their process as a whole. This is important because it aids in building the trust that you want to have in your photographer. You are literally handing them the biggest job on the biggest day of your life. You want to build trust beforehand so that you can actually enjoy the day and not worry about if the photographer is capturing what you want them to. Essentially, make sure you mesh.
Tip #5: Understand the Contract and Your Rights to the Photos
This is the least exciting tip of the list, but one of the most important. It could save you a world of headache and back and forth at the end of the day. Before signing a contract with a photographer and proceeding, be sure to understand what you're actually signing and what your rights to the photos will be after your wedding day, as the terms can be blurry and differ from photographer to photographer. You'll want to know who owns the rights, what you'll receive as your end product (such as digital files), what you can do with those digital files, if you have to go through your photographer for printing, etc. Once you understand what is being laid out in the contract, you can agree or disagree and decide how to move forward, BUT get an understanding of the terms before signing the dotted line.
Do you feel ready to pick your photographer yet? As you can see, there's a trend in this list which is: trust. Whoever you choose, they should be someone you mesh with and someone you can trust to bring your vision to life. When you build a friendship with your photographer, you're more likely to have a worry-free wedding day and a better experience. Don't forget about tip #1 though - budget is just as important because you're investing in them and memories that you want to last forever.