Your photographs will be your most treasured wedding keepsake — you’ll immediately post them on Facebook when your photographer gives them to you, and you’ll look back at them 50 years from now, reminiscing about your vows, the kiss, and the first dance. Choosing the right photographer to capture those poignant moments is an important decision and it’s crucial to find a pro who understands your vision for your wedding day and can document it with style. But you’ll also want someone you trust and feel comfortable with, since he or she will be by your side the entire wedding day.
To help you find the right person to entrust with this task, follow our guide to selecting the perfect wedding photographer.
1. Book your venue first.
It’s a smart idea to hire your photographer after you’ve secure your venue. Aim to book his or her services about nine months before the wedding (or a year, if your photographer is in high demand).
2. Hit up your social network for recommendations.
Did you love the wedding photos your sorority sister posted on Facebook? Send her a message asking who her photographer was and if she would recommend his or her services. Ask your other recently married friends, too, and solicit recommendations from your wedding planner or the manager of your reception site. Also, pick up a bunch of wedding magazines at the newsstand and pay close attention to the photo credits in the “Real Weddings” section.
3. Figure out the style of photography you like.
Do your homework and spend some time online browsing a variety of wedding blogs to get a sense of the style of photography you like. Maybe it’s bright and pop-y, with lots of saturated color. Or perhaps your prefer a more vintage look, with more washed-out tones and a dreamy, nostalgic feel. Once you’ve found a handful of photographers whose aesthetic jives with yours, email each person and inquire 1) if they’re available on your wedding date and 2) about their photography rates. If the ones you’re interested in are available on your date and if their fees are within your budget, then you can schedule initial meetings.
4. Interview the photographers.
Most photographers will email you a link to their portfolio of images before your first meeting. Be sure the collection includes recent weddings he or she has shot from start to finish, not just a “best of” highlight reel from dozens of different weddings. This is a more accurate way to gauge the photographer’s work. Also, ask if the photographer has shot at your venue and if so, request to see those photos. During the meeting, find out who exactly will shoot on your wedding day. Some larger studios employ several photographers, and even with single-person operations it’s not unusual for the photographer to have an assistant handle shots of the groom getting ready while he focuses on the bride and bridesmaids. In all cases, request to see the work of the photographer (or photographers) who will be handling your wedding.
See More: The Secret to Getting Great Wedding Photos
5. Discuss the fee.
Some photographers’ fees include everything including albums, prints, and high-resolution images (saved on a disc or thumb drive); others have a flat or hourly rate, then charge you à la carte for any pictures or albums you want. Many photographers offer a price list that details several different packages they offer at different price points. Make sure that you understand what’s included. Ask how long the photographer will spend with you (seven to nine hours is ideal) and whether there will be a second shooter, as you’ll get more detail shots this way. Lastly, also inquire about when you can expect to receive everything, from a sneak peek of images (some photographers can give you a handful within a few days) to prints (usually up to three months) to your album (up to a year).
6. Go with your gut.
Once you’ve evaluated each photographer’s work and fees, and narrowed down the options, it’s time to make your decision. Don’t forget that you’ll be spending the entire wedding day with this person, so you want to make sure you feel completely comfortable with the photographer. Do you and your fiancé genuinely like this person? Do you feel like the three of you click?