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how to pick a wedding photographer

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

With a beautifully decorated venue and a gorgeous wedding dress, everything at your wedding will be picture-perfect. To make this moment last forever, you’ll need to find an excellent photographer.

Choosing a wedding photographer is not an easy task, but there are a number of strategies and steps to take in order to pick a wedding photographer. 

If you’re deep in your wedding planning process but you’re not sure how to choose a wedding photographer, read on to learn how to pick the best photographer for your big day. 

Set Your Photography Budget

As you’re starting to plan your wedding and hire vendors, think about budgeting your wedding. Are photos one of your priorities? If so, you can look at more expensive photographers and large wedding photo packages.

If you’d rather splurge on a gorgeous venue, then you might need to cut back on your wedding photo budget. Once you’ve set your photography budget, try your hardest to stick to it so you aren’t shocked by any costs that come along the way.

How Much Do Wedding Photographers Cost?

wedding photographer

Like with most purchases that come with weddings, photographers charge a wide range of prices. Their price depends on experience, time, and the photography package, among other factors. Photographers in cities like New York often charge a higher price.

Wedding Wire says that the average couple spends anywhere from $1,150 to $3,000 on their photographer. The website also says that a photographer comprises about 12 percent of the wedding budget. Use these numbers as a guide as you’re budgeting and researching to find your photographer. 

What’s Included in Wedding Photography Packages?

Wedding photography packages vary from studio to studio. To get the most accurate idea of what’s being offered, visit a studio’s website or call the studio directly.

Basic wedding packages usually include a full day of shooting, which is typically eight hours long. This should be enough time to cover your ceremony and reception, as well as squeeze in some photos with your bridal party and family before the festivities begin. This time frame can also cover photos as you prepare for the wedding in the morning. 

So how many pictures will you receive? Typically, you can receive around 500 photos for a wedding photography package. As always, this number isn’t definite and should be something to discuss with the studio or photographer you book. Packages also tend to offer prints in addition to a digital gallery. 

confettiAside from the pictures themselves, wedding photography packages may include consultations before the wedding. Take advantage of every opportunity to speak to your photographer before your wedding day! The more you know about the photo process, the easier your wedding day will be. Consultations also give you the chance to ask any questions you have about styling the photos, receiving the photos, and the photo schedule for the wedding. 

If you’re looking for more than the basics, look for the right add-ons. For an additional charge, studios and photographers offer many other options for your wedding photos. For example, a wedding album is an add-on that’s a beautiful way to display the best pictures from your big day.

It’s also a good idea to put together your own wedding album using the prints, and depending on how much the photographer charges for this service it may be less expensive to look into hardcover book printing to create your own photo album. 

For additional hours of shooting or more photos, there’s extra charges. After eight hours or the set number in the package, photographers usually charge by the hour.

Rather than taking more pictures on your wedding day, studios can take more photos at an earlier or later date. With these photos, you can be more artistic or choose another location to take pictures. Additionally, you can book a studio for your engagement photos as another add-on. 

Do You Tip Wedding Photographers?

Did you hire an independent contractor? Is the owner of the photography studio taking your wedding pictures? In these cases, a tip isn’t 100% necessary, but if your photographer went above and beyond, it’s a nice gesture. If your photographer works for a studio, then tip your photographer after they’ve finished taking pictures at the ceremony and reception.

A recommended tip amount is $50 to $200. If there are multiple photographers or assistants at your wedding, you can tip a little less. Photographers work tirelessly, so consider the tip as a thank-you for capturing one of the most special moments in your life! 

Pick a Wedding Photography Style

What kind of look, mood, or tone are you striving for with your wedding photos? Do you prefer something simple or do you want to emphasize the fine art details in your wedding dress and decor?

While you’re looking for a wedding photographer, don’t forget to peruse wedding photography styles. Different photographers have experience in various styles, so discuss what photography style your photographer specializes in.

Traditional wedding photography is a go-to for many photoshoots, especially for pictures that have the whole family or bridal party. Along with portrait photography, these photos look beautiful in a photo album. Your friends and family are sure to want to take part in remembering your wedding day. Besides traditional wedding photography, there’s a few other common styles for photos.

portrait wedding photography

For a more candid telling of your wedding day, consider photojournalistic or documentary photography style. In this style, a photographer captures your wedding day as it unfolds without asking you to pose for pictures.

With photojournalistic photography, you still receive pictures of all the big wedding moments, like your first kiss and first dance, but you might find a few surprises. You never know what unique perspectives or angles your photographer will be able to snap a picture of you and your partner holding each other closely.


For an artistic style, consider fine art photography. If you’re particularly interested in fashion, this style could also fit your photo needs. Fine art photography focuses on creating a visual and aesthetic set of photos. Talk to your photographer to determine which details you’d like to focus on during your wedding ceremony and reception.

Besides overall style, decide whether you want your photos in digital or film. Film photography is great for weddings because the pictures have excellent, sharp colors and a dynamic range, meaning that it’s better for black and white photography. The downside is that film is usually more expensive, and digital cameras shoot more quickly.

Other considerations into whether to use black and white photography or whether to shoot exclusively using natural light. Whatever you decide, make sure to speak to your photographer to make see if it’s possible with the given venue or time of day. 

Research Wedding Photographers in Your Area

black and white wedding

Start your wedding photographer search in the local area. Professional photographers in your town or city are great sources for help. They’re usually familiar with wedding venues in the area and have worked at them previously. Plus, photographers who are close by might not charge a travel fee to get to your venue, unlike photographers who are farther away or out-of-state. 

To find photographers where you live, request recommendations from your friends and family. You never know who might know a talented photographer who is the right fit for you.

If you don’t have any personal connections that can help, a quick Google search can work wonders. Simply search for professional photographers in your city, like “Philadelphia wedding photographers“, and be sure to check reviews and websites before taking the next step. Review their portfolio of real weddings to see if it matches the photography style you’re looking for!

Before you book your venue, ask the staff at the venue about approved vendors. Some venues have a list of vendors, including photographers. Any approved vendors will likely be from the area as well.

Interview Potential Photographers

Before you choose your wedding photographer, take the time to interview and get to know all the potential photographers. Since you’ll be spending so much time with your photographer on your wedding day, it’s necessary to be comfortable with them. If you clash with a photographer and have different visions for your wedding photos, it’s best to hire someone else. 

One way to see if you and your photographer get along is to hire them for engagement photos. If you love your engagement photos, then considering hiring the same photographer for your wedding. Even after engagement photos, you should still go over details specifically about the photo process on your big day. 

silly wedding photo

If you’re booking a photographer through a studio or company, you might not be speaking with the photographer who will be at your wedding. Ask if who you’re meeting with will be taking your photos and arrange a time to talk with your personal photographer.

Whether you’re able to meet with your photographer in person or simply set up a phone or video call, get to know potential photographers so that you can make the best choice for you. Ask them to bring photos from real weddings so that you can review their work.

Ask Questions and Review Portfolios 

As you’re searching for the ideal photographer, consider factors like price and style. Be sure to understand the package options and prices. When it comes to your budget, ask about a deposit and potential payment plans. Don’t forget to ask about hidden fees, like travel or overtime fees. Have all these components outlined in a contract. 

Part of your package might include edits. See what a photographer can do in terms of color correction and retouching your photos. Find out when all the pictures will be finished. Be patient! Uploading and editing all your photos to look their best takes a while, especially if you’ve chosen a package with many pictures. 

In addition to the price and package, inquire about the photographer’s qualifications, specifically with shooting at weddings. More experienced photographers have taken pictures at weddings for years, and some photographers may have already worked at the venue you’ve booked. Experience with your ideal wedding style should also be taken into account when you’re making a decision.

romantic first look

To get a sense of how your photographer works with others, ask what a typical day looks like when shooting a wedding. Think about if their schedule works with what you have planned, and explore what options you have on the wedding day for timing photoshoots.

Your photographer may have assistants or a second photographer to help them. Ask about this and what additional fees may come with it. If you plan on hiring a videographer, see if your photographer has worked with any videographers in the past and who they recommend.

Be sure to discuss the details of the big day while you’re hiring a photographer. Figure out what the best time is for your photographer to arrive. Even ask your photographer what they plan to wear! It might seem like a small detail, but your photographer should be blending in with the crowd.  

Finally, clarify what the rights are to your wedding photos. Although you and your guests are in the pictures, the photographer still has the rights to the photos they took. Some packages include the rights to your photos. Make sure you know what you’re able to do when you print, download, distribute, and share the photos of your wedding! You can also ask how long it takes to get photos back.

If there’s something specific to your wedding photos you’d like to request, speak to your photographer before the big day! Write down a full list of questions to ask your wedding photographer so nothing is missed. 

How To Save on a Wedding Photographer

Is a wedding photographer completely out of your budget? There are other ways to get pictures of your wedding day without hiring a photographer. However, a professional will be able to take photos with a much higher-quality. If wedding photos are a priority for you, booking a professional wedding photographer is essential. Still, there are a few different options to save on a wedding photographer.

Cut Down on Your Package 

Most wedding photo packages last hours so both the ceremony and reception are covered in the same package. When it comes down to it, you’d probably rather have pictures of your wedding ceremony. See if you can hire a photographer for a couple hours to take pictures of the ceremony and a few group photos and portraits.

The reception has plenty of photo-worthy moments like the first dance or cake-cutting. Consider hiring you photographer for the first hour or two of the reception. Overall, this comes down to customizing your own photo package and cutting down the hours. You can also limit yourself to hiring either a photographer or videographer rather than both.

Get Friends and Family Involved

If customizing your own package isn’t possible or is still out of your price range, ask your family, friends, or relatives to take pictures. Do you have a professional or even amateur photographer in your family? Ask them if they would be willing to take pictures of your wedding instead of giving a traditional wedding gift.

Since this is a lengthy time commitment, see if there would be one person willing to take pictures during the ceremony. Then, split time with another relative during the reception so everyone has a chance to enjoy the celebration. 

iphone photo

Collect Photos via Social Media

Family members and friends may not be able to take photos throughout the entire day, but that doesn’t mean that can’t be part of the photo-process. With social media, everyone attending your wedding can be a part of the photo team. By creating a wedding hashtag, you can easily find your photos on social media. Just remind everyone to use the hashtag when posting on Facebook and Instagram!

While having phones out during the ceremony might be disturbing for some people, this route for photos relies on people snapping pictures at the ceremony. Don’t know where to begin when it comes to coming up with a wedding hashtag? Check out some wedding hashtag generators for a starting point. 

Use Disposable Cameras 

Instead of using social media and hashtags, you can also choose an old-school method as an alternative to hiring a photographer. Place disposable cameras on your tables for your guests and around your venue. This is another way for guests to participate in your wedding festivities and get them involved with taking pictures.

With disposable cameras and hashtags, guests will also post pictures of themselves enjoying your wedding, so don’t expect quite as many photos of you! Nevertheless, your guests and loved ones are a significant part of your big day, so these are still fantastic memories to treasure.


No matter how much you decide to spend on hiring a photographer, your choice will also depend on the photographer’s experience in your favorite wedding style photography. Carve out some time in your busy wedding planning schedule to chat with your photographer.

Although wedding planning is a stressful ordeal, your wedding pictures will remind you of this wonderful day for years to come. Now that you’ve chosen a wedding photographer, you’re one step closer to your wedding day!

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Sophia Lo

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