The mother of a Connecticut bride looks on as the bride gets her dress buttoned by her maid of honor.

Introduction: Tips for Choosing a Wedding Photographer

It was December 1, 2019 and my first year as a wedding photographer was coming to a close. And it was fitting, because the following weekend, I was about to get married myself! (Edit: We tied the knot in December 2019 and couldn’t be happier.) Then it dawned on me: we just had to go through choosing a wedding photographer, I was one myself, and I bet others would like to know how to choose their own.

The mentors and friends I made in the industry that year taught me a lot, as did the wedding day experiences themselves. With that said, I wanted to to share with you the following tips to consider when you’re choosing a wedding photographer. Each of these are items that I learned during my first year as a wedding photographer, too.

Quick Summary: Top Tips for Choosing a Wedding Photographer

So, the time has come for you to choose your vendors for the big day. Here are some tips for how to choose a wedding photographer:

  1. Have an engagement session

    Hiring a wedding photographer and working with them for the first time on your wedding day is doable, but practicing during an engagement session is a safer bet.

  2. Pay attention to prospective photographers’ details

    If your wedding photographer’s portfolio is filled with details of inanimate objects, it may be time to ask them how they approach actually photographing people on wedding days.

  3. Consider your wedding party members’ personalities

    Basically, your wedding photographer will be an honorary member of your wedding party. Consider how they might mesh with your attendants.

  4. See if there be equal coverage of you both

    A wedding is about a union of two people. So, when viewing sample galleries, be wary of portfolios that feature one partner much more heavily than the other.

  5. Make a First Look decision

    Even if you think you’ve made a decision on this already, reconsider the First Look option and ask your prospective wedding photographer for timeline examples with and without one.

  6. Get a feel for the communication and process that work best for you two

    When talking with prospective wedding photographers, you’ll quickly learn about their communication and process styles. You’ll be paying them a lot of money, so make sure that their approach works for you two.

  7. Trust your wedding photographer

    If you’re inquiring with any wedding vendor that you feel you can’t both trust, that’s a red flag. Additionally, once you hire your wedding photographer, be prepared to trust them as a professional.

1. Have an Engagement Session to Feel Things Out

I like engagement sessions. So much so that I’m just going to go ahead and strongly recommend that you and your significant other get one before your big day. Yes, they’re good for practicing being in front of the camera before you have your dress or tux on for the wedding day. But there’s one main reason that I recommend them. The engagement session is a golden opportunity to see if you and prospective wedding photographer are a good match for each other.

Does your photographer pose couples, capture candid moments, or both? What’s their editing style like? After the session, will you have more than just digital files to potentially purchase and hold onto? These are all important questions when choosing your wedding photographer. Hiring them for an engagement session beforehand is a great way to get them answered!

2. Details Matter, But the Types of Details Matter More

Rings? Check. Shoes and socks? Check. Flowers? Check. Folks, your wedding day material details truly are important, but there’s something else to realize. The candid moments between people–i.e. the human interaction details–are probably a lot more important.

When was the last time you saw a photo of another bride’s ring as their Facebook profile picture? Probably never. But a photo of her hugging her dear aunt that she hasn’t seen in a few years? You’ve probably seen that. And I’m willing to bet that the latter is much more special to her. The photographic and emotional appeal of these fleeting interactions is often overlooked.

This is actually a topic that I was discussing with a mentor this summer. Wedding photographers love to set up rings, shoes and socks, flowers and invitations and take artistic photos of them. We all do it! But, hopefully most of us realize that while we’re doing this, we might be missing important moments taking place between actual people. One of the things I realized quickly about my style as a newer wedding photographer is how much I like looking for and capturing the human details of wedding days.

3. Share Your Wedding Party Members’ Personalities

What if you are shy and don’t particularly like being in front of the camera? What if your nearlywed counterpart LOVES being in front of the camera? Or what if your bridesmaids are high energy while the groomsmen are pretty low-key? From the get-go, your photographer needs a chance to learn about the personalities of you, the couple, as well as those of the rest of your wedding party. So when it comes to personalities, let them shine from the start and also try to get a feel for whether your prospective photographer is complimenting them well!

Two examples of groomsmen personalities

In year one as a wedding photographer, I spent most of my time behind the camera as a second photographer hanging out with grooms and groomsmen. I’ll give you two contrasting examples of the importance of showing and noticing personalities:

  • Groom and groomsmen crew #1: Literally from the moment I walked through the door at their prep location, they were basically fighting to get in front of the camera. For pretty much all of them, posing together was their thing. They loved it!
  • Groom and groomsmen crew #2: All day, from prep until reception party, the other photographer and I struggled to get them to stand in a row together. Therefore, the majority of the groomsmen photos from that wedding are candid.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with either of these hypothetical scenarios, they’re just different from each other. In the first, the groom and his guys loved the Esquire idea while in the the second case, the group preferred to be a little more incognito. In both cases the groomsmen fed off of the energy of the groom. If I wasn’t paying attention in either case, however, I probably would’ve made the groom or his groomsmen uncomfortable. Being a wedding photographer is truly more than just taking photos, paying attention to the clients is part of the job!

So whether you’re choosing your wedding photographer, cake bakery, or venue it’s best to make sure that you feel as if they jive with you and your future life partner.

Stonington and Mystic, Connecticut

4. You’re a Couple…You Both Matter

One of my wedding photographer mentors taught me an interesting concept: the two members of the nearlywed couple are equally important. Yes, bridezillas and groomzillas, I said it! Marriage is a partnership, right? So, both of you deserve solid wedding photography coverage throughout your day.

A bride and groom hold hands and walk out of a forest. Taken by Connecticut wedding photographer Terrence Irving.

Two suggestions about couple coverage

With that said, allow me to make two suggestions when you’re choosing a wedding photographer and deciding on which of their photography packages to choose:

  1. Think about electing to have a second shooter. In my opinion, the main benefit of paying for a second photographer (or “second shooter” as we sometimes call them) through your chosen wedding studio is that both members of the nearlywed couple will be captured while getting ready. That means that both of you, along with your associated wedding party sub-groups, will have a photographer there to capture those aforementioned human details.
  2. Ensure that your wedding photographer conveys that both of you will be covered throughout the day. I like to say that a second photographer is kind of like an insurance policy (if I twist an ankle as one of you is walking down the aisle, for example, my second shooter will be there to ensure that the show goes on while I hobble around looking for aspirin). Let’s suppose that you don’t want a second photographer. Well, it’s still important that your wedding photographer is going to capture as much of your entire day as possible. In other words, tunnel vision isn’t good in this context.

Tying in with point #1 of this post, check out your prospective wedding photographer’s portfolio to ensure that both nearlyweds will receive adequate attention and coverage. As with anything else, if you have special wishes or concerns, bring them up when you contact your photographer!

5. Reconsider a First Look, Even if You’ve Already Decided

This Brides article does a great job of explaining the pros and cons of a first look. This is a setup where you and your significant other see each other for the first time before the ceremony. It makes several good points for you consideration. With that said, here’s mine: reconsider a first look from both emotional and pragmatic standpoints, even if you’ve already made a decision.

Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of capturing multiple first looks. In each case, the couples were completely comfortable and focused on each other. They had privacy, quietness, and time to just be alone during this really special occasion during their day. There were some really beautiful moments. For example, one groom nearly shed tears when he turned around and saw his bride for the first time.

First looks are a wedding photographer’s dream, artistically speaking; these are real moments and they’re (usually) scheduled perfectly! Logistically, however, a first look can go either way. Whether or not you decide to have one, the decision will have a big impact on your wedding day schedule.

Bottom line: it’s definitely personal

I consider the first look to be a very personal decision for the couple to make. With this in mind, I’ll let my couples think about it and decide, offering opinions and feedback only as requested (i.e. it’s not the photographer’s place to tell you what to decide here). The corollary to this piece of advice is, if you’re on the fence and having trouble deciding, then talk about the first time you and your spouse-to-be will see each other on your wedding day with your photographer. As you’re planning your wedding and working on your timeline with your photographer, this advice will seem a little more relevant.

That being said…

An emotional photo of a Newport, Rhode Island groom seeing his bride for the first time on their wedding day
Photographed for James Anthony Photography.

6. Your Photographer’s Communication and Process Are Key

Are you two looking for a custom wedding photography package? Prefer canvas to metal artwork? Respond well to verbal commands rather than spoken suggestions (or vice versa) when posing together? These are all factors to consider because the way your wedding photographer interacts with you, including their communication and their creative process, should be to your liking.

When I met with my first couple to discuss the schedule of their wedding day, I quickly realized that being on time, having a game plan, and planning for contingencies were all really important…but so was communicating these things with the couple! Additionally, letting them know about my artwork offerings and pricing before they signed up mattered.

Check on compatibility when choosing a wedding photographer

When deciding how to choose wedding photographer, here are a few checks to see if their process and communication style will work for you:

  1. After looking at their portfolio and social media accounts, you appreciate their style of wedding photography.
  2. When you make first contact and pose your initial questions, they actually answer them.
  3. From the get-go, you have been told what your package includes and pricing for any extras or add-ons.
  4. When you submit your questionnaire or any other information, they actually acknowledge that they have received and/or read it.
  5. When you tell them your ideas for photo locations at your venue, they actually try to accommodate them.
  6. Most important: when you interact with them, you get a good feeling. Not just “not a bad feeling,” but an actual good one.

Let’s be honest: we’re all human and sometimes communication styles don’t really mesh well. Similar is true for the way businesses operate: some methods may work for you while some may not. Correspondingly, I’ll refer you back to the advice provided in item #1 of this post: it’s not a bad idea to try your prospective wedding photographer out with an engagement session to get a feel for how they do things.

7. Trust Your Wedding Photographer

And last but not least, I will close with one of the oldest human interpersonal factors: trust. Trust your photographer! We’ve touched on this concept a few times so far but I feel that it’s important enough to tackle head on. One thing to remember when hiring a legitimate, legal professional photographer is that they do know what they are doing. Another thing to remember is that they are there to make you happy, so they want to do well. A little trust goes a long way.

Little ideas can go a long way

Before or during your big day, they might tell you little things that you hadn’t thought of, like:

  1. “During the first kiss, hold it for a few seconds.” [to make sure we capture this]
  2. “I’m going to have you take three steps to your left.” [to move away from that tree branch behind you]
  3. “I recommend that we take family formal photos immediately after the reception.” [while everyone is still around]

The truth is this: when planning your wedding, and especially on the day itself, you’ll have a million things to think about. It’s your photographer’s job to worry about these little photo-related details for you! Establishing and maintaining that relationship of trust takes a little work. I like to get things going by inviting my couples to meet in person after beginning our conversation via email, phone, or text messaging. In reality, however, trust is a two-way street, so be sure to tell your photographer what you’re after, too!

8. Bonus Tip: Communicate Early and Often

Well, the world is a really tough place right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. It feels like it’s been forever, yet it’s still not over. In addition to many people’s health and well being, many economies have been majorly disrupted. The American wedding industry, for example, has been turned on its head, with couples scrambling to postpone or change their plans left and right.

In tip #6, I suggested that communication is very important when choosing your Connecticut wedding photographer. With that said, let me reiterate that point: while we’re all in isolation, ask your prospective photographer if video-chatting or speaking on the phone is possible. A Google fan at heart, I’ve been using Meet to speak with inquiring couples. While your wedding plans may be on hold, hopefully you’re still able to get some wedding planning done.

If you’re reading this, I hope that the pandemic hasn’t affected you beyond the isolation/quarantine inconvenience. Stay safe and well out there!

Closing Remarks: The Importance of Your Wedding Photographer

Now you know what to consider when choosing your wedding photographer, you can get back to wedding planning with a little more piece of mind. There you have it! I hope that if you’re a nearlywed, you found this post useful. And once things have calmed down a bit and you begin your wedding photographer search, head over to my contact page and drop me a line so I can tell you more about what I can offer!

Thank you so much for reading!

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