Choosing your wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions you’ll make during the wedding planning process because your wedding photos will be one of the only things left after the big day. Top wedding photographers in Charleston book up to 18 months in advance, so it’s a decision that should be taken seriously with a lot of careful consideration – and it’s also a decision that shouldn’t be left until the last minute if photography is important to you. Not all wedding photographers are created equal and it’s important to remember that pretty much anyone can buy a camera, put up a website, set up a Facebook page, and call themselves a ‘professional photographer’. So I wanted to put together a few good tips for couples to consider when they are looking for a wedding photographer:
Look at their reviews online. Check out The Knot and WeddingWire, as well as Google and Facebook to read real reviews from real couples. Look at the content of the reviews, as well as the number of reviews each photographer has. Experienced photographers will have plenty of reviews for you to read through. Newer photographers, or those that don’t shoot often, will have less. A photographer with 10 reviews and averaging 3 stars obviously isn’t in the same category as a photographer with 100+ reviews and all 5 stars! Content and quantity matter when it comes to online reviews, so do your research carefully.
Look at their blog. This is where most photographers showcase their most recent work. If they don’t have a blog, look for Facebook albums or Instagram posts. Are these posts fairly recent? Are they consistent across platforms? Are they shooting frequently? This is all good information to have when comparing wedding photographers.
Check out their online portfolio. Do their images look like photos taken at a real wedding or do they look like they were taken at a styled shoot? Believe it or not, I’ve seen full wedding websites built using ONLY stylized shoot images and it makes me sick. This is SO deceiving!! Styled shoots are perfectly styled, perfectly lit, immaculate set ups with beautiful details, “clients” who are actually professional models who didn’t need to be posed by the photographer at all… literally ANYONE could take an amazing photo at a styled shoot, even with just an iPhone! Make sure you’re looking at REAL weddings with REAL clients and REAL details. With that being said…
Ask to see FULL wedding galleries. Anyone who shoots weddings can create a handful of gorgeous images on a wedding day and post them to social media. But what does the entire collection of images look like? What does the reception look like? What do family formals look like? What do the “not so pretty” parts of the day look like? This is where you’ll see a big difference in photographers, so always ask to see full galleries from any photographer you’re considering.
When looking at their work, is it consistent? Between Facebook, Instagram, their website… does it all look consistent and cohesive? Do their full wedding galleries all look consistent and cohesive? This is not an easy task on most wedding days, because the lighting + location changes a lot throughout the day… so you’ll know if a photographer is experienced and detail oriented if you see that their work is consistent throughout.
Experience matters. Sure, we all start somewhere… and we ALL owe our start to someone who took a chance on us. But experience does count for something! I’ve learned SO much over the past 6+ years of shooting weddings full-time and I am confident that I can handle anything that is thrown at me at this point… and I can’t really say that I always felt that way when I was just starting out. Experienced photographers will cost more, but in an industry where new photographers pop up overnight, there is a definite peace of mind that comes with hiring someone who has been around and successful for a while. If photography is important to you, you may not want to take a chance on someone who doesn’t have a lot of wedding photography experience because there is a DEFINITE learning curve to becoming a good, consistent, reliable wedding photographer.
Is their online presence professional? Do they have a website or just a Facebook page? Is their website updated and ad-free? Are their posts free of grammatical and/or spelling errors? Is their branding professional-looking? Photographers who invest in these types of things for their business should stand out.
Does their portfolio cover a variety of different types of weddings? Indoor AND outdoor weddings? Sunny AND rainy weddings? Let’s be honest… it’s SUPER easy to become a “natural light wedding photographer” – the barrier to entry in the photography world is extremely low. But not all wedding days are sunny with perfect weather! Not all wedding venues are outdoor or have a light + bright place for photos. You need to be sure your photographer can handle a variety of settings and lighting conditions!
Do they respond quickly? How someone treats you as a potential client is a glimpse into how they’d treat you as a real client. If it takes them weeks to respond to your initial inquiry, they may not be very responsive overall. It’s something to consider, especially if prompt communication is important to you.
Ask your venue and wedding planner for their input. They both deal with photographers regularly and they can definitely give you insight into who is good and who isn’t so good. Their recommendations shouldn’t rule out anyone you’ve found on your own, but if they have not-so-good things to say about someone… you should probably listen!
Talk to the photographer! Most good wedding photographers will insist on “meeting” you before they agree to shoot your wedding. That could be in-person, via Skype, or even just a phone call if meeting up isn’t feasible. Good wedding photographers know that it has to be a good fit on both sides, so making sure you are on the same page, have the same style vision, that your personalities mesh, etc. are all VERY important! If a wedding photographer is willing to book you without having much information about you, that may be a red flag!
Don’t allow price to deter you from booking someone whose work you love. Good wedding photography is ALWAYS worth the splurge. At the end of the day, your photos will live on and you don’t want to be filled with regret because you went with someone cheap. Trim your guest list down, book a DJ instead of a band, forego wedding favors… there are a ton of ways to reallocate money within your total budget to allow for good photography.
Not splurging on a good wedding photographer is one of the #1 regrets that most people have after their wedding day and that absolutely kills me. I am so passionate about what I do and I just want every couple to find the perfect wedding photographer for them. These are just a few of my tips for couples to consider when they are looking at wedding photographers. Have any other tips? I’d love to hear them, so feel free to comment below!