After the confetti has been thrown, the champagne bottles have been emptied and the limo has driven off toward a future of marital bliss, the memory of your wedding day lives on forever in photos. No pressure, right?

Finding the perfect wedding photographer to capture every moment of your big day is one of the most important tasks on any soon-to-be-wed couple’s to-do list. Making the decision requires lots of research, questions and a good working knowledge of your own photography preferences.

Approaching your search for the right photographer can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. With a few helpful tips in mind, you can streamline your selection process and set yourself up for success. Here are some of our top tips on how to choose a wedding photographer:

What’s Your Style?

Early in the selection process, you’ll want to decide as a couple what style of wedding photography you prefer. Comb through sources like Pinterest, and The Knot and pick out images from real weddings that speak to you. Then, try to narrow down what exactly it is about each image that captures your attention.

Do you like the high contrast and moody lighting of photographers with a flair for the dramatic, or are you more inclined to choose a photographer that cultivates softly-lit, romantic scenes? Maybe you love the spontaneous, candid style that leans toward photojournalism, or perhaps you and your spouse-to-be are more traditional and prefer classic posed portraits.

You don’t necessarily need to settle on one style in particular, as most wedding photographers can provide you with a blend of images and styles according to your tastes, but the stronger your sense of personal style is, the easier narrowing down the talent pool will be!

Settle on a Budget

Nobody enjoys talking about money, but unfortunately, it’s one of the necessary evils of wedding planning! Before you begin deep-diving into research on photographers in your area or the area of your wedding, it’s important to sit down with your partner and have a realistic conversation about budget.

Check out a few wedding photographers in your area who post their rates publicly on their website to get an idea of the price range for the types of packages or services you’re interested in. Remember that the longer your photographer is on-site, the higher the price is likely to be; other services like videography, additional photographers, photo books, etc. may also have their fees if not included in a package.

Once you have a general idea of cost, you’ll have a good jumping-off point for setting a budget that you and your partner can work with as you research and vett potential photographers.

Research, Research, Research

Are you sensing a theme? Yep, the most important thing you can do before hiring a wedding photographer is . . . drumroll, please . . . your homework! Browse local listings on sites like The Knot and read reviews from recent newlyweds. Check out photographers’ websites, Facebook pages and Instagrams to look through their recent work and get a sense of their style. As you page through other weddings they’ve shot, ask yourself: How does this photographer capture the moments that are most important to me for my wedding?

Maybe you’ve always dreamed of having a photo of your groom’s face the first time he sees you in your wedding gown, whether that be at a first look session or as you’re coming down the aisle. Or maybe it’s important to you to honor the elder members of your family in gorgeous portraiture on your big day. Look for these types of photos among the portfolios of your potential photographers and see if they speak to you. You’ll know the right style when you see it!

Another great way to source photographer candidates is by asking friends or relatives whose wedding photos you admire for referrals. Talk to them about their experience with their photographer, including what (if anything) they would change about the shot list, direction given, or any other aspects of their wedding day photography.

You’ll be able to rule out many photographers on the all-important gut-check alone: If their portfolio doesn’t move you, they’re not the right fit! But beyond your instincts, you’ll want to make sure their service area includes your wedding and reception venues, that their price range is within your budget, and that their wedding photography philosophy aligns with your personality and needs as a couple.

Set Up Interviews & Get Critical

This is one decision you can’t make via Internet browsing alone — you absolutely need to meet with photographers in person before making a final decision. If you like the work on their site, give them a call to see if they’re available for your wedding date. If they’re available, go ahead and schedule a preliminary consultation. Be sure to send a brief introductory email in advance, including a bit about you and your partner, your event and your vision both for the day and for the photos. Feel free to attach examples of their work that you particularly like as it relates to your own wedding photos. 

Set up interviews with 3-5 potential photographers who are available on your wedding date. At each appointment, take a look at more of their work — most crucially, complete wedding albums — and assess whether your personalities and philosophies match. Having a fun, comfortable rapport with your photographer is hugely important to getting great shots! Be prepared to talk about your venue(s), wedding style or theme and what you envision for your photos. 

During this first meeting, it’s important to look through multiple complete wedding albums they’ve shot to get a well-rounded idea of the photographer’s work. If the full albums are as stellar as the stand-out portfolio images from their website, great! You’re likely on the right track. Be sure to ask to see one or two albums set at venues or settings similar to yours. For example, if you’re planning an outdoor wedding, don’t look at exclusively indoor affairs shot in low or artificial light!

Finally, don’t hesitate to review each album with a critical eye. Look for technical details, like the crispness of images, thoughtful composition and good lighting in addition to more subtle elements. Did the photographer get shots of both the bride and the groom’s faces when they saw each other for the first time that day? What about getting on the littlest flower girl’s level to capture her as she came squealing down the aisle? 

Ultimately, you want to see a deftness in capturing others’ emotions. A single image can convey indescribable emotion, but in order to commit it to film, the photographer must be sensitive to the moment. Subjects should look relaxed, natural and “in their element” — not forced, uncomfortable or all-too aware of the photographer’s watchful eye.

Use an Engagement Shoot as a Trial Run

If you like a photographer’s style and personality, but aren’t 100% ready to commit without seeing some deliverables of you and your spouse, an engagement shoot is the perfect test-run! This offers everyone involved the opportunity to get to know one another better, and allows you to see yourself through the photographer’s lens before signing your wedding-day contract. If the experience is enjoyable from start to finish, you may have found “The One!”

Talk Particulars

Our final tip? Get down to details. Once you’ve figured out which photographer is your #1 pick, sit down with them to hash out the details, monetary and otherwise. Here are some questions you’ll definitely want to have answered at this stage in the process:

  • What are your standard fees for your standard package and the amount of time we’d like to have you on site? 
  • What’s included in your standard package? How many hours of shooting are included?
  • What are your rates for extras, like additional time on-site, pre- or post-wedding event coverage, special effects, videography, etc? 
  • Is there a second photographer included in the package? If not, what is your rate for adding a second photographer? 
  • Who owns the rights to the images after the wedding? Will we need to buy the rights to the images to have them printed by a third party? Does your standard contract give you blanket permission to use our wedding images promotionally on your website and social media? 
  • How long does post-production typically take? How many images should we expect? What resolution will they be? Will the images we see be retouched, or does that happen after we choose our final images? How many final images are included in our package? Can we add on additional images after we see the gallery?

Capture Perfection at Earle Brown Heritage Center

At Earle Brown, our expert wedding planners have helped hundreds of couples achieve their dream wedding day, each more picture-perfect than the last. Our beautiful event spaces both indoors and outdoors can add variety and personality to your wedding photos. If you’re looking for an extraordinary Minnesota wedding venue, contact us to request more information today!