6 Tips on Finding the Right Wedding Photographer

Anyone planning a wedding knows there are A LOT of big decisions to make and that choosing the right photographer tops the list. After all, a wedding isn't something you can go back and redo if the pictures don't turn out well; the photographer's only going to get one shot at this. (Get it, one shot?) Here at the Savoy, we've had the pleasure of working with hundreds of brides and grooms and some of the region's best photographers (click the photos/captions below to check out their websites), and here's what we've learned and we'd do if we needed a shutterbug for our special day.

Photo by Jessica Yahn Photography

1. Research, Research, Research

In the world of digital cameras and photo-editing software, shopping for a wedding photographer can feel like deciding what pancakes to order to IHOP; there are SO MANY options. We suggest choosing a photographer whose style you like. Trust your gut. Also, notice if all their portfolio photos look the same or if they offer a variety. Photographer Jared Hoffpauir says, "Pay close attention to photographers that claim to specialize in natural light photography...it could mean that they simply haven't mastered anything else. An experienced photographer should be able to tackle any lighting situation if the need arises. They should understand how to light a scene and create stunning photographs even in the darkest of rooms."

Years ago, photographers offered mostly staged photos or posed photos, but now the trend is toward capturing the candid moments. Both styles have value, and most couples like having a mix to choose from. Jared says, "The growing popularity of photojournalism or documentary style photography is a breath of fresh air to the wedding industry. Storytelling is at the forefront of a wedding photographer's mind, and a playful mix of storytelling and candid portraiture is a winning combination perfect for your wedding day."

Photo by Christine Bonnivier Photography

2. Interview, Interview, Interview

Once you find a photographer that feels "like you," you'll need to make sure they're available for your specific date. (You have set a date, haven't you?) If your venue is out of town, ask if they're willing to travel. Then ask if you can meet them in person. Remember, your photographer will be with you (and in your face) all day long, and you want to make sure you're going to get along and that they seem personable. Next to you and your partner, of course, your photographer will be seen by and come in contact with your friends and family more than anyone else at your wedding, so don't be afraid to ask the hard questions, like, "What are you going to wear?" If your wedding is formal, you don't want your photographer showing up in jeans and a t-shirt.

Once we knew a photographer who had an amazing memory for names and faces. It didn't matter if it was the bride's mom or her ninth bridesmaid, he'd call them by name. On top of that, he made all the kids laugh. Consequently, his photos were extra fabulous because everyone in them felt at ease. This is how you want to feel when you meet your photographer--comfortable. Again, they'll be running the show for a good part of the day, so it's important they instill a sense of trust.

PRO TIP: Jared says don't be afraid to ask for more examples of their recent work. "If your wedding is in June or October, ask to see weddings from the same month you've chosen. If you're wedding is going to be candlelit, you want to make sure your photographer is capable of shooting in that scenario."

Photo by Jared Hoffpauir Photography

3. Talk about A Timeline

Talk to your photographer about SCHEDULE. Find out when they'll show up and when they plan to leave. Some photographers offer packages that include them being there all day--they won't leave until the birdseed has been thrown in your hair and you've driven off into the sunset. However, others are only there for set number of hours. If this is the case, you want to be sure they can capture all your special moments--getting ready beforehand, the ceremony, your first dance, the cake cutting, the bouquet toss, and exit--whatever's most important to you.

Also in terms of schedule, ask your photographer when you can expect your images--either in digital form or print. Six weeks is a common turnaround time, but remember that it can take longer, especially if a lot of editing is involved.

Photo by Turner Creative Photography

4. Figure out When You Want to See Your Future Spouse

Tradition says that the couples shouldn't see each other on the day of their wedding before the big moment. However, in terms of photography, this means that pictures of the bride and groom either together or with their friends and family can't be taken until after the ceremony is over. This also means that there's a lot of pressure on the photographer and their staff to get everything done quickly so the couple can get to the reception, where their loved ones are patiently or not-so-patiently waiting on them.

As an alternative, many couples choose to take pictures before their ceremony, which allows them to get to their reception as soon as possible and celebrate and party down. Plus, you can still have that special "reveal" moment. Talk to your wedding planner, venue, and photographer, and arrange to have the main room or sanctuary to yourselves. If you want, have the groom waiting at the end of the aisle with his back turned, then have the photographer open the doors and let the bride walk in to meet him. This will allow the photographer a few moments to snap some candid shots, and once they close the door, the couple can spend time together alone before all the chaos begins.

Photo (and featured photo at top) by Adam and Dawn Photography

5. Talk to Your Venue

Ask your venue if they have any special rules about photos. Some churches consider the wedding ceremony sacred and therefore don't allow photographers to be "on stage" or use flash photography. Better to find out in advance than to find out at the last minute! Likewise, talk to your photographer if you don't want them doing certain things--like circling two feet away from you during your father-daughter dance.

Photo by Cable's Photography

6. Think about Pricing and Priorities

Obviously, price is a factor for almost any couple, and when it comes to wedding photography, you can easily spend anywhere from $500 to $5,000, or more. In an age when everyone's uncle has a digital camera, just remember you often get what you pay for. And that's what we'd suggest--regardless of price, find out what you're paying for. Are engagement or bridal shots included? How many photographers will be on staff? Do the packages listed include editing? In lieu of providing actual printed photos, it's popular now for photographers to offer all digital images. This option is wonderful for sharing pictures on social media. Just remember that any printing will be an added expense. Along these lines, ask your photographer if they provide a release, since many places won't print professional photos without one (because of copyright laws). Also, ask if they recommend a professional printer. Sure, you can take your pictures to Walmart, but they won't look the same. (Sorry, Walmart.)

Photo by J Rosa Photography

As always, we at the Savoy wish you all the best--and all the best photos--on your wedding day.