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How to find your wedding photographer in just 3 steps

bride and groom on staircase at Guardian Works wedding venue in Atlanta, GA

Finding a wedding photographer is similar to shopping at a mall. Your expectation and hope is to find everything you need through one big place. We all do it because we all want convenience. We especially look for convenient ways to check the boxes off of our wedding planning list. However, in most cases, "one-stop" wedding sites often promote their paid contributors regardless of the quality of their service. That is predominantly the downside of a wedding photographer search, but don't fret because we're here to give you some pointers on finding and hiring the best photographer for your big day.


STEPS AT A GLANCE:

  • consider the product

  • ranking

  • recommendations


#1 PRO TIP: Find your photographer FIRST!

Many articles and blogs on this topic always advise couples to find their venue first. Mistake! What will represent your wedding for the rest of your life? Certainly not a venue owner's iPhone photos! The best way to negotiate this is to consider your wedding day time frame first, like month/year, and location. This way you can simultaneously coordinate with your top venue and top photography company. Most often they can pencil in your tentative date and check back in with your commitment level if someone else is interested in the same date. Generally, dates aren't locked in stone until you've paid your deposit. Another reason to find your photographer first is because they're familiar with many wedding venues, planners, DJ's, and other industry professionals who would enhance your wedding day and complement the visual aesthetic you're already drawn towards. Moreover, photographers should be able to help with your mood board, and create a rough timeline for your wedding day. Okay, now on to finding them!


Step 1: Consider the product.

Groom singing at reception at Guardian Works wedding venue in Atlanta, GA

What style of photos best represents you and your partner? Maybe you're drawn to a vintage film look or photos with crushed black tones and vibrant colors. Or maybe you've never noticed the nuanced differences in the saturated market of photography. Don't let that discourage you, and while you have a moment, begin researching photography styles before searching for photographers to capture your wedding. The reason for this is because we often don't know exactly what we're looking for in a field that we're unfamiliar with.


Two great places to start your search are Instagram and Pinterest. For each, search for hashtags like #weddingphotographer to open up a wide range of wedding-related photos. Create a board on Pinterest with photos that are similar to the styles/vibes you're looking for for your wedding day. When you start your specific location-based search, compare your Pinterest board to the photographer's portfolios that you find. Do they match up?


The most important thing for you to understand in your search is that everyone has a list waiting for you to choose from. This can be a blessing or a curse. For example, you end up booking your wedding venue on your first tour of the property. Those venue managers/owners will provide you with a list of their preferred vendors. Maybe they have three or more photography companies that have worked at their venue. It's good in a way because that venue is intimately familiar with whomever they recommend. However, just because a professional photographer isn't on their list doesn't mean they are worse or incapable of taking great photos at their venue. It simply means that venue is comfortable with their professional relationships. And this same concept exists on all the wedding sites or search engines as well with the exception that internet recommendations are based on cash.


So, what to do? Well, take in all the recommendations you can get, but narrow down to the style you both love. The extremely important part is looking at an entire wedding day album that photographer has photographed. And don't look at just one wedding, check out multiple full day wedding albums they've produced. The worst thing you could do is to select a photographer based on singular one-off photos they post on their socials.


If a photographer does not show you full-day galleries on their website, we would recommend to steer clear. There are so many aspects of a wedding day beyond the couple's portraits that most photographers post on their Instagram that impact your wedding day as a whole. What do their family photos look like? How do they handle flash photography or indoor-lighting? Do the skin tones look consistent throughout the day no matter the lighting? Do they capture good candid moments or are there minimal photos of guests? Is there a good variation in the details throughout the day, like the table settings, cake, and decor? These are some questions you should ask yourself as you look through a full-day wedding gallery. It will give you a good feel for how your wedding day would look with that particular photographer.


PRO TIP #2: Don't settle for the status quo wedding websites. Yes, the Knot and WeddingWire have huge lists of photographers and every other vendor for that matter. But they're not well-organized and if you've followed step 1 and you know what style you're looking for, good luck on narrowing your search down on the Knot. If you've stumbled across our blog, you're probably a little if not fully out-of-the-box. For that reason, we'd like to provide a list of other places to look for your photographer and other amazing vendors:


Step 2: Ranking

Bride and groom dancing at Guardian Works wedding venue in Atlanta, GA

Okay, now you know the style you're after and you've found several companies with amazing portfolios. Next, between you and your partner, create an importance checklist to narrow your search even more. Your checklist might include package pricing options (including travel costs, albums, or engagement photos), photo return time post-wedding, other incentives unique to that company, and most importantly whether your choice company has two internal photographers present at your wedding. As a pro photographer, I cannot stress to you enough that you should desire two photographers at your wedding, but that those two photographers are employed by the same company and regularly work with each other. In other words, look for two LEAD photographers. Don't settle for a second shooter. The reason for this sticking point is that many photography companies outsource additional photographers to assist them on a contract basis. This means the photo albums that represent their company are misleading if they contract multiple alternate photographers with varying skill levels. Additionally, a contracted photographer has zero incentive outside of money to work harder, to dress professionally, or to be hospitable towards your friends and family on your wedding day. With this information, narrow your ranking to your top three company choices.


Step 3: Recommendations


This could be the most crucial step in selecting the best photographer for your day. It's one thing to form your opinion about a company based solely on their work and website. It's another to read the words of those who have come before you, taken that step, and have written about their tale. What do people say about your top three choices? Are there extensive, thorough reviews, or are there five start reviews with little-to-no detail about their experience? Do couples gush and rave about the photographers or is it hard to find an authentic-sounding review? These questions should be considered before reaching out.


Bonus Step: Reach out.


Bride and groom neon lights at Guardian Works wedding venue in Atlanta, GA

You've got your number one photography company in mind! Personally, my next step would be to speak with them over the phone, not simply to get questions answered, but more importantly to gauge their personality and if yours meshes with theirs. Chances are that if they're awkward to speak with over the phone, it will be worse behind a camera. Remember, of all the people on your wedding day, especially out of the vendors, you will be with your photographer the most. If they're socially awkward and that doesn't jive with you, you may want to reconsider. Ultimately, you will remember how they made you feel that day, perhaps even more than the quality of the photos they provide.


If these questions are not answered on their website, I would recommend asking the following:

  1. Are you available to photograph our wedding date?

  2. Do you have any venues in mind that would best represent us and our style?

  3. Can you describe your shooting process on the wedding day (i.e. documentary, directing)?

  4. Do you have a list of vendors we should consider hiring?

  5. Do you offer a planning guide?

  6. Can we review your contract?

  7. What's your booking process?


Their contract should contain the most detailed information regarding their work and answer questions you may not have considered. Once you return their signed contract and paid your deposit, in most cases, you're all set. If you follow the above the recipe, we believe that your pro photo team can help alleviate much of your stress through their experienced guidance. If you believe that we are that pro photo team, we are firstly, extremely flattered. Please send us a message on our website to get the ball rolling. If you haven't taken a look at our full day galleries, you can view them here: https://www.appleheadphotographyanddesign.com/weddings.


Keep it Chi-zee!


Pheather (a.k.a. Philip and Heather)






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