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Step by Step Guide For Hiring Wedding Photographer

Hiring a wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions you, like a bride, would have to make. Recent surveys rates it on the top of bride's priority lists and also as a major regret point for not spending enough time on prior to the wedding.

And it's not that most of the brides ignore or underestimate the importance of hiring the best wedding photographer they can afford. It has more to do with the fact that picking one is not as easy as it sounds.

For the most wedding items and services you would purchase before the big day, there will be samples and touch-and-feel option. You can see the floral designs your florist would offer, you can taste the cake or desserts your pastry service can offer and you can hear samples of the music your DJ would play on your wedding. You can visit and walk the wedding venue and meet with the staff to get a feeling if they are the one you are looking for.

But not that easy with the wedding photographers. As with movies or art, where one person might like but other absolutely hate it, photography style and appeal is hard to explain and qualify. One has to be able to feel it and love it from a first sight.

Related: How To Chose a Wedding Photographer

So to help answer the question: How To Hire The Best Wedding Photographer For Your Wedding? , I have created this simple to follow 12 step-by-step guide. The steps below are in a chronological order and I hope would to follow. So let's dive into it.

1. Pick a Photography Style You Like:

Let's face it. Photographers have different styles and produce images that look different. It's like a restaurant: There are many Italian restaurants but the food tastes different in each one. Same with cars too: Many sports cars to choose from but they all drive and feel differently.

So, first decide on what wedding photography style you are looking for and what look and feel you want for your wedding images. If you are not clear on the styles, consider reading this guide to understand the different Wedding Photography Styles. Once you have an idea what you are looking for, start looking for photographers that have portfolio images matching the style. Most likely you will look for a fusion of different styles, so make sure you can see examples in the wedding photographer's portfolio before reaching out.

2. Narrow Your Photographer Choices:

Second step is to shortlist the wedding photographers you like. You can rate and stack rank them based on their portfolio images, recommendations on social media, personality (read the About Me section on their websites), service fees, etc. You will be amazed how much you can learn from their website design, look and feel. Is it too artsy, too boring, just the right blend you like?

Most likely their images would be similar to their website design and believe me, in many cases it reflects the photographer's personality. Same as hairstyle or dressing choices. one does what he or she thinks best represent the vision and personality they have to offer. Don't overlook the pricing too. If you like the style but cannot afford it because it doesn't fit into your budget why continue? If you cannot get the pricing information easily, this could be a warning sign. Do you want to beg and send multiple emails or text messages to get your questions answered? More on: Why Some Wedding Photographers Hide Their Prices

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3. Check The Availability:

Now that you have a short list of potential wedding photographers, the third step is to check who has your wedding date available. Many brides book up to 16 months ahead of their dates so the photographer you might like, might not have your date available. Checking that before spending additional time to meet, discuss styles and wedding plans will save you precious time and energy, time you can use to talk with other photographers who are available.

So pick up the phone or send an email to confirm the date availability before investing more time and energy. Hopefully the photographer you like has "Contact Me" page on his or her website and you don't have to spend lots of time figuring out how to get in touch. If it does take you a while to get the contact info, think twice before pursuing this photographer further.

4. Meet in Person:

Meeting your photographer in person is a must. You will spend a good 6 or 8 hours with that person and need to feel comfortable for him or her being around. During the in-person meeting you can get clues on if your personalities match, on the body language and energy levels, and determine if you can trust this person.

Plus, during the meeting you can get answers on all of your questions. Believe me, you will learn a lot about your photographer and how it answers your questions. Is it in organized or chaotic manner, does he or she present the ideas in an easy to understand and logical way or simply throws hard to understand terms and vague answers? Do you get the answers you are looking for or your questions are being ignored? Take a mental note of these as they will help you later to make the right decision.

5. Review a Full Wedding Day Image Gallery:

By now you most likely have 2-3 photographers you feel very strongly about it. It is time for some deeper look into their portfolios and past work. Keeping in mind that portfolio is just a selected, top of the cream, image collection, you should ask the photographers you are considering to share a full set of wedding day images. This will be for example a set of all wedding images they have created for a client or two.

Why is this important? Simple, you will be able to see their style in many more examples and see how they handled different lighting conditions: low light ceremony (church), bright light (cocktail hour), artificial lighting (reception), natural light (bridal preparation and bridal portraits). As well how versed they are in different photography styles: posed, photojournalistic, candid, action.

It is important that you see a consistent and high quality look across all images. If the photographer can show you images from the venue and time of the year / day as your wedding, this would be the best. Seeing is believing as one ever said.

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6. Background Check:

If you have strong gut feeling already, you can skip this part but would not harm you to spend 1 hour on this step either. In today's interconnected world, you would expect to find an information and reviews about your wedding photographer online. Reading these reviews can boost your confidence that you found and hired the right professional. Check review and online reputation sites as: Yelp, Yellow Pages, Google+, Facebook. As well wedding planning sites as: The Knot, Wedding Wire and Weddings as they have reviews for the wedding photographers you might be considering.

Things to look for are:

  • the number of reviews (few or sizable amount can show you how many couples before you used their services)
  • quality of the reviews (one liner or elaborate with plenty of details about the service, experience, etc)
  • age of the reviews (from 2-3 years ago or most recently as last week)
  • how the photographer responded to negative reviews (blaming the client for their problems or in a professional manner)

Also, don't be afraid to ask the photographer for references. Nothing better than speaking with past clients about their experience with the photographer you are planning to hire. And lastly, if the photographer claims to be associated with any professional organizations as: PPA, WPPI, etc, check if he or she is really a member and since when. The last thing you want to do is to hire a phony photographer.

7. Finalize the Details of Your Wedding Package:

This step is very important as I found to be the one most clients care for the most but yet often neglect. And if you read regularly the news, is the most common ground for a lawsuits. Many photographers offer their services as a package: wedding coverage (the photographer's time), digital files, prints, albums (the product you will receive). Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you will receive at the end and in what quantity and quality. If you need prints, questions to ask are:

  • how many prints are included
  • what is the cost for each print
  • what is the prints size
  • what is the type of paper used for the prints
  • if you need to order additional prints, how much each print would it cost

If you are planning to purchase the digital files and print them yourself, then find out:

  • what is the resolution in pixels and ppi for the files
  • what format they will be in (RAW, JPEG, TIFF)
  • how you will receive them (digital download, DVD disk, USB flash drive)
  • how much would be an extra copy of the image set

Other things to finalize are:

  • is online image gallery to share with friends and family included (helpful so you don't have to upload and send mail attachments to everyone)
  • price and quality of pictures slideshow
  • wedding albums (sides, finish, size)
  • retouching price and if certain number of retouched images is included
  • proofs: print or digital, format and timeline to get back to you

Once you have all this clear, make sure it is included into the contract so you have a way to protect yourself later if things don't end up as promised.

Related: 50 Money Saving Ideas For Your Wedding

8. Sign a Wedding Photography Contract:

It's time to put everything on paper now. All your hard work and efforts. Most legitimate wedding photographers would draft and present you with a contract before they commit and confirm your wedding date. The contract is a legal document which will state the terms and conditions of the agreement between you and the photographer.

Make sure you review it and consult a legal professional if required. You can propose changes to the terms if you think any are required, so don't take it like it is written in stone. Once you sign it, it will be legally binding, so ask and think before you sign it. Here are some of the things (just a short list) to look for into the contract:

  • the total service fee you will have to pay (check for any hidden fees)
  • list of services and items you will receive (hours of coverage, prints or digital images, etc)
  • timeline to receive your final images or album
  • your rights to terminate the contract and the cost of it
  • release of the copyrights for the images
  • how photographer inability to come to your wedding would be handled (illness, emergency, etc)
  • images resolution (low, medium high and how the photographer defines these in pixels and ppi)
  • watermarking on the images (if any, how these can be removed and at what cost)
  • number of images you will receive (the entire set or certain number the photographer would pick for you)
  • etc

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9. Book Your Date:

Most photographers would confirm your date after you sign a contract and provide a service retainer in either an email or with their appointment or booking systems. The contract should already have a clause for what happens if the photographer is unavailable for medical or emergency reasons to photograph your wedding.

Also it won't harm you to ask for a sales receipt for the retainer and any payments you make. This will get handy in case you have any service issues later and go into dispute. Be diligent on your paperwork. It's like the spare tire for your car. You might not need it, but when you do, you better have one.

10. Provide All Required Wedding Details:

Next step is to provide all wedding details to the photographer. This is important so that he or she can understand the sequence of wedding events, locations and people who would participate in them. Don't assume he or she would know all of this or would be able to figure it out.

Most wedding photographers have wedding questionnaires where they collect this info. This is a time saver for you as a bride or a groom, as would guide you on what to provide. Wedding itinerary or schedule from your wedding planner, if you have one, is also very helpful.

11. Meet Before The Wedding:

Don't be surprised by missing wedding photographer. Plan to meet and check with your photographer at least 2-3 weeks before your wedding day. There is nothing better than knowing that he or she is ready for your big day. If fails to respond or unable to return your phone calls, you might be a victim of a wedding scam (consider reading more on How to Avoid Wedding Photography Scams).

If you are able to meet with your photographer and have any wedding plan changes, discuss them. Make sure that your photographer doesn't have any open questions or concerns. You still have 2-3 weeks to resolve this, even to find a new photographer.

12. Trust Your Photographer:

If you have done all the eleven steps diligently then your job is done. The last step if to trust your wedding photographer and not to try to macro manage it. Nobody likes it, plus your photographer has more experience than you, so why would you pretend to know it better?

Enjoy your wedding and relax. You are suppose to have fun on your wedding day. Your wedding coordinator would keep an eye on the schedule and for any red flags but let the people you hired resolve them (unless things get terribly wrong and get out of control).


I hope this 12 step-by-step guide provides brides and grooms easy to follow process for selecting their wedding photographers. It's like any other purchase or service: be educated, have a plan and do your due diligence. There are so many talented and hardworking photographers in San Francisco Bay Area and around the world. But there are also some who you should definitely avoid.

So, don't shortcut this. Look around, choose wisely and pick the very best you can afford. The wedding images will not fade away as the taste from the wedding meal and beverages, they will not wilt as your bridal bouquet. They will be there to remind you of the best day of your life and help you recollect how you felt about your husband on your wedding day. You will be a beautiful and happy bride and deserve to have the best memories to remind you that.

If you have any questions or feedback for this article, feel free to Contact Us.

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