Bridal Tips: Hiring Your Wedding Photographer

Jacksonville Wedding PhotographerIf you are a Bride and Groom that is planning your wedding day, you have already discovered that there are hundreds of things you must consider from the guest list to the jewelry you will be wearing. Add to it, the various vendors you will be using from the venue to the cleanup crew, and you find yourself nearly overwhelmed with anxiety and maybe even wishing you had 20 “you” to handle it all.

Choosing your Wedding Photographer is one of those things you will be experiencing all soon enough, so here are a few tips to make it one you will enjoy, rather than dread.

Discover your Style

Often you will see a series of wedding photographs that you love. Start a Pinterest board and collect those photos you love. See if your “style” leans more toward the Traditional or Photo-journalist styles that you like the most. If you love the candids, you have a style of photography that is more Photo-journalistic and if you love the “posed” shots, you have a more Traditional style in your future. And if you like both fairly equally, you need a photographer with a “blended” style of photography. Most any top notch photographer can do either and will work with you and want to see your Pinterest board to get your vision of what needs to be captured on your wedding day.

Hire a Professional Photographer

All too often, brides and/or grooms, want to take the easy route in hiring a photographer. They look through their portfolios and send an email out asking for prices. They get back a few price lists and a few that want to sit down and discuss your ideas. So which one are you going to choose? If you are going to take the “cheapest price” you get, you could get a nasty surprise 2 weeks after your wedding day.

Anyone, and I do mean ANYONE, can put up a website and call themselves a “Professional Photographer”, but you might discover that either they really aren’t one or are just starting out to become one. They have their “day job” down at the local pizza shop delivering pizzas and depend on that for their primary income and “shooting weddings” is their plan for extra cash. Perhaps they are a decent photographer, or perhaps they are far less experienced in wedding photography than they present themselves to be. Often times, you get that “cheap” price and you could pay for that mistake later.

Look for a Professional with passion for wedding photography. Some do it because it’s an income stream and not something they love doing, but do so because they have to to bring in revenue. A true passionate wedding photographer will throw 110% of themselves into your wedding day and leave totally exhaust because they captured the very best images they possibly could. This is who you want to hire.

Hiring should involve actual CONVERSATIONS with several Professional Photographers, and not “wannabe” Professionals. This is your most special day in your life and you don’t want the day to end with “my camera broke” and you have nothing to see. Pros carry backups to everything they own, have the experience at weddings to be in the right location to match your style, and use assistants to get things where they need to be and to help you during your day.

If you use nothing but an email to “hire”, you might also discover that the person you just hired doesn’t match your personality. Unless you are actually sitting down and discussing everything you want in a face to face meeting, you are subject to a tough wedding day. The value you get from spending a little more to hire a true professional is well worth that extra. And having someone you like and offers more in terms of service and skill is invaluable.

Hire Your Photographer Early On

The really good Professionals are going to be booked 9-12 months in advance. If you wait until the last minute, thinking it won’t matter, you could end up with one of those “wannabe” Professionals or depending on someone with little or no wedding day photography experience. Booking early should mean that it’s before you actually select the dress, the jewelry, and shoes. As soon as you have your date, booked your venue, start photographer shopping. Get a few ideas on your Pinterest board and start making a few phone calls. Notice I didn’t say EMAILS, unless that is the only way you can contact them initially. You will want to speak to them first and sit down with them if that conversation goes well.

Don’t worry about price just yet, but look for styles you like first. Your first contact should be to determine if you actually like the photographer you are speaking to and want to meet them face to face. You wouldn’t buy your wedding dress without first trying it on, so don’t expect to hire your photographer until you have “tried on” more than one. That is unless you absolutely know that is who you want and his/her skills are ones you must have.

Remember that your wedding photographs will be with you forever, so hiring early to assure you get the right photographer is as important as the dress you select.

Look for Value, Not Price

Great value in a Photographer comes in many different ways. First, is their experience in Wedding Photography and hiring someone who has photographed a lot of weddings, and do so in your style are invaluable. Their lighting skills are excellent and their use of lenses and other techniques will only enhance your experience. You want photographs that tell the story of your day and not something that looks like anyone with a camera would take.

What final products do they offer? Are you going to get just a DVD or thumb drive or do they offer prints and albums and all sorts of things you might want? Are they offering design services for your photo album or is that left up to you? Do they archive your photographs in the event something should happen to yours? Do you have an online Gallery/webpage for you to order prints or share with your friends and family?

Do they have backup equipment for things like cameras, lighting, etc.? What about portable studio equipment in the event your outdoor event is rained on? How about a backup photographer if something happens and they are sick or injured, or a second photographer if your wedding style would require one? Can they meet with you at 2 pm on a Tuesday afternoon (you can spot the true professional this way since the “part timer” is usually at their primary job and can’t!)?

Each of these things add value and things you should consider. It’s the difference between buying gold plated jewelry vs. 14 carat solid gold. One will last forever and the other might turn your skin green.

Spend the Time and Make it a Priority

Far too often, couples start getting overwhelmed with all the things they need to do in planning their wedding. Rather than take one thing at a time, they sit at their computers looking at dresses and tuxes for 20 minutes, looking at flowers for another 20 minutes, invitations for another 20 minutes and then mass hysteria breaks out. What to do NEXT?

Make choosing your photographer a top priority and one task you complete before moving on with others. Start early and find 3 or 4 you want to actually interview. Go see them, sit down, ask questions and see if they are asking YOU questions about your plans and day. If they aren’t, then you have someone far more interested in their ideas than in yours. For the true professional wedding photographer, it’s all about you and your desires and capturing the emotions and feelings on your wedding day rather than how great his photographs will be.

Interview and interview and even interview some more until you find the one you want. I can’t stress this enough since what your end result will be is the lasting memory you have forever. If your experience is good, you have great photographs, and if you hire the right photographer, you will have just that. Perhaps, in this age of a 24/7 communication and technology world, you think you can text and email your way to a good photographer, and that could be the biggest mistake you make. You wouldn’t buy a new car without first test driving it, so go “test drive” your wedding photographers as well. To many people, as you will discover 10 years from now, your wedding photographs will mean more to you than that “new car” ever did mean. You can always replace that “bad car” but you can never replace “bad wedding photographs”.

But What About My Budget?

A great wedding photographer is going to cost you more than you perhaps expect. On average, nationwide, a true professional will cost you upwards of $3,000 for your photography, your final products, and a great experience. Anything under $1,000 and you are probably NOT getting a true professional that is going to be dedicated to your wedding day experience.

BEWARE of “low-ball prices”. That $495 wedding photography “package” is usually from someone starting out, with little experience photography weddings, and trying to make a name for themselves. Now ask yourself, is this what you want? Is this someone you would trust to get it right on ONE try, because that is really all they ever get to “get it right”.

If you have to cut corners on your wedding photographs, then expect something far less than you envision. You could actually spend more than you would on your wedding dress. But if your beauty on that day and all your tears and happiness are not expressed in your photographs, you will be left with an experience far short of your ideals.

I once knew a couple who had the idea that they would give everyone a disposable camera for their wedding day, collect them and have the greatest wedding photographs ever! They had 5 images that were even somewhat decent and none of the pictures gave them what they expected. Great wedding photos takes planning, commitment from your photographer, and a true professional that has the experience and knowledge to capture your day in images. You may not realize how important it is today to hire a great photographer since your budget is getting short, but you will appreciate the fact you didn’t scrimp in a few short years- especially when you share those with your kids!


Mike Yost is a dedicated Professional Wedding Photographer based in Jacksonville, Fl. and can be found at and has been behind the lens for over 30 years. He specializes in fine art wedding, individual and family portraiture, and Corporate photography.


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