Choosing a wedding photographer, like anything else you do for the first time, can be a little tricky. Regardless if you hire Friends First Photo or not I want to help you fast forward through the learning curve. Here are the “top ten” things to consider.

1. Artist-owned, or chain?

When you take the large studio/chain route, you typically don’t get to meet your photographer before your wedding day. To me, that’s a big mistake. You want a photographer who will take the time to get to know you and your family beforehand. This will help them to create wedding photographs that feel real and personal.

2. Awards

Industry awards show a deep commitment to a photographer’s craft, but I would not put much faith in those little blue ‘Best of’ stickers from the Knot. Instead, rely on your own research, referrals, reading reviews and social proof like a active Instagram following.

3. Weekender, or dedicated pro?

We’ve all heard about Malcom Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule. No judgements here just be aware of the risks and set your expectations accordingly. Are you ok with a novice who’s learning on the job at your wedding? Or do you prefer a battle tested professional who’ll make you look your best no matter what? We believe in the apprentice system. Your photographer should want to tell you who they’ve worked for and look up to.

Will they perform well at your wedding? Ask them how many weddings they’ve shot as the primary photographer. Then ask them for examples of mistakes they’ve made and what they’ve learned from those mistakes.

4. Flash vs ‘Natural Light’

We all love soft cloud cover and dramatic sunsets, but what’s the plan if there’s a harsh noon sun with no cover, or a dark church or venue? With modern eTTL flash systems there is no excuse for raccoon eyes, or that overly flashed look. Don’t buy into the ‘natural light’ nonsense. A real pro needs to know how to light anywhere, anytime. Ask them to show you church and dark venue lit photos and ask them how they were lit.

5. Wedding Albums

Unless you want to swipe your wedding left we recommend getting an album. A well made album is part of your home and serves to remind you what you loved and value about one another. Look for a photographer that shows finished albums on their website, and has samples to show you in person. Do you like their design aesthetic? What is their exact plan for getting the album finished and delivered into your hands on a timely basis?

6. Personality

How did you feel when you first met the photographer? Were they genuinely interested in getting to know you and your family on a human being level? Did they have good questions that made you think? Or, did they stick to standard vendor questions in order to quote you. Pay careful attention to your first impressions. Trust your intuition.

7. Portfolio

You don’t have to go to art school to know what you like. Ask yourself how their work makes you feel and you’ll have your answer! Most couples tell us they want natural and relaxed photos of them enjoying their day with their family and friends. If you want a few creative photos make sure your photographer has the talent and a concrete plan for you on wedding day that includes where, when and how long they’ll take.

8. Contract

Does the photographer’s contract look like something they downloaded, or is it in plain English? A well-written contract is a unique window into how a photographer operates their business. Ask your photographer to read and explain their contract to you. If they refuse, or if they stumble through it because they don’t understand their own contract consider that a window into what it would be like to work with them.

9. Digitals

What does the contract say exactly about copyright use and does it make sense? About watermarks here is our suggestion. Promise to tag and mention your photographer each and every time you post. Giving credit where due should eliminate the need for a watermark altogether and make everyone happy. Most photographers offer digitals optimized for social media, but does yours offer print quality backup files?

10. Pricing

You won’t be able to nail down an exact dollar figure until you’re sure of what you want, but studios should publish price ranges on their website. When a photographer isn’t transparent with pricing, it indicates a lack of confidence, or worse. We believe pricing should be super up front, easy to understand, and based on value and service.

11. About ‘Style’

When people talk about ‘Style’ we think they really mean how sensitive the photographer is in capturing people’s emotions. Make sure their subjects look relaxed, not like deer caught in headlights. To get the best photos, your photographer needs to be assertive enough to seek out great moments, cajoling enough to coax relaxed smiles and natural stances from guests, and calm enough to be a positive force. They should ask lots of questions and be a good listener.

There’s a saying that you get what you pay for, but that’s only a half-truth. Even if takes a little extra time and effort, find a photographer whose work pleases your eye, whose pricing fits your budget and who is focused to helping you enjoy your wedding day to its fullest. You deserve that.

This article took only a few days to write but more than a few years to understand what makes a smooth professional experience for our couples. We’d love to hear from you especially if you found this article useful so please share in the comments below!

Jake Miller

Obsessive empathic personality type. Photographer. Old man jiu jitsu. Dog crazy. Lover not a fighter.