Planning a wedding is an inspiring, time-consuming, exciting, and often expensive task. And hiring your wedding photographer is one of the most important things on your to-do list.
From knowing how many hours to purchase to whether or not you need to have a second shooter, there’s a lot to consider before choosing your wedding photographer. I’ve simplified things for you by compiling everything you need to know about booking a wedding photographer into one blog post.
Here is everything you need to know about booking a wedding photographer.
A professional photographer is more than just a person holding a fancy camera. They are someone who knows how to use that fancy camera, work in all kinds of lighting conditions, plan a shot list, direct you to look your best in portraits, and capture every moment of your ceremony on the fly. After the wedding, you’ll want a professional who can sift through thousands of images to share the best ones with you. They also need to be able to edit those images for both cosmetic corrections and color.
Truthfully, your wedding photography is one of the only things from your wedding day that you will continue to benefit from years later. Traditionally, you only wear your wedding dress or suit once. You’re only at the venue for one day. You only get to eat the catering once (or twice, if you take home leftovers).
But your wedding photos will last as long as your marriage does. (So, hopefully forever!) You will have them framed in your home and share them for years with your friends, children, and grandchildren. Wedding photography preserves your memories of one of the biggest and most expensive days of your life.
You’ll want to look back on those memories fondly. Not with disdain that your photographer didn’t deliver high-quality images or worse, missed important moments.
There are plenty of published surveys (like this New York Magazine one) that shows that couples routinely regret not investing more in their wedding photography.
It might seem like wedding photographers charge thousands of dollars for their services just because they can, but wedding photography is expensive because it’s a lot of work. Couples typically only see photographers working on the day of their wedding. But they do so much more than that. There are hours of communication via email, calls, and in-person meetings with you and other vendors in the months leading up to the wedding. A typical wedding day for a photographer is also a few hours longer than the time they’ve agreed to be at the venue. After the wedding, the editing process can take weeks. Some experts suggest wedding photographers spend as much as 60 hours on a wedding. For a $2,500 wedding, that comes out to about $40/hour.
Additionally, the gear required for quality photography is expensive. Camera bodies alone cost thousands, and lenses, memory cards, flashes, hard drives, and a good laptop with editing software only make it more costly.
Of course, market demand also affects the price of wedding photography. More popular photographers charge higher prices. You’re also likely to find more budget-friendly options in saturated wedding markets.
The answer to this question depends on your priorities. What is the most important aspect of your wedding? I’ve already given you my argument for why I believe wedding photography should be your top priority. But it’s up to you!
Most wedding experts say you should pick your venue and date first, then book your wedding photographer. That way you can easily filter out photographers who are unavailable on your date.
Alternately, if you’ve got a dream photographer who you know will have limited availability, you should book them and pick one of their open dates. Then book your venue.
Even if hiring a wedding photographer is not at the top of your priorities, you should lock one down roughly 9 months before your date.
Again, this is definitely a personal choice. I’ll break down what you typically get depending on how many hours you choose in your package.
4-5 hours — ceremony + group photos + first 30 minutes of your reception
6 hours — ceremony + group photos + reception
8 hours — getting ready photos + group photos + reception
That is just an estimate. You’ll get to work with your photographer to decide when they arrive on your wedding day and the shot list.
You should hire at least one wedding photographer. If you’re expecting over 100 guests, you should purchase a package that includes a second shooter. That ensures every special moment of your wedding is captured.
However, a second photographer is arguably always a good idea because they’ll provide you with multiple perspectives of the day. For example, you don’t want your photographer to have to choose between capturing you walking down the aisle or your partner’s reaction. You’ll also want photos of you saying your vows and your parents tearing up in the front row.
Having a second photographer ensures that no moment goes missed.
Honestly, however many photos it takes to capture the entire day.
Many photographers will give you a ballpark of how many to expect based on the number of hours covered (me included). I typically deliver roughly 100-200 images per hour hired, but I don’t limit myself.
Your wedding is one of the biggest days of your life, so you want a thorough wedding photographer who captures everything on your shot list and delivers all the special moments that you want to remember forever.
Before choosing a wedding photographer, spend some time on Pinterest or Instagram exploring different styles of photography. Figure out what appeals most to you.
It’s also important to pick a photographer with a timeless style. You want your photos to age well. Certain trends look cool now, but they may not age gracefully over 40 or 50 years.
It’s just as important for you to find a wedding photographer whom you jive with on a personal level and who makes you feel comfortable. You’re going to be spending a lot of your big day with your wedding photographer — make sure they make you laugh and feel confident in front of the camera.