When I was planning my wedding a few years ago, this was one of the most daunting tasks on our to-do list, and not just because I’m a photographer myself. There are literally thousands of photographers to choose from in just the Colorado market. Googling “Colorado Wedding Photographer” or “Denver Wedding Photographer” returns pages and pages of results. How do you even know who to click on? Even if you go through The Knot or Wedding Wire, there are still hundreds and hundreds of listings to go through.
So, how do you even begin?
A couple things that can help right off the bat—if you are working with a wedding planner, or have friends who recently got engaged or married, ask them for recommendations. They usually have had the unique experience of working alongside multiple photographers, and will know who is reliable and easy to be around on the wedding day. If that’s not an option for you, don’t worry!! I’m going to break down how to simplify your search for you!
Find your style (the instagram and pinterest phase)
I know what you’re thinking—”Really, Kate, Pinterest?? Instagram??? I don’t even have a Pinterest account!”
Trust me, I was a little horrified at myself the first time I opened Pinterest to look for wedding planning inspiration, but there is something special about these two search engines. They are visual! Instead of just looking at a list of names and site descriptions, you can start narrowing down what type of images you are drawn to. Go with your gut here, and just start pinning or saving posts that you like. It’s best to do this with your partner, because you may discover that you like different things, and it’s easier to come to an agreement early on in the search process. As you’re scrolling through all the gorgeous wedding pictures, you’ll start to notice some different styles of photography and editing. Start paying attention to common themes in your favorite photos. Here’s some of what you might see:
Traditional: Posed photos of couples and wedding parties smiling right at the camera. Again, the photographer will be interacting and posing a lot during the wedding day.
Editorial: It looks like Vogue or Vanity Fair—beautiful soft lighting and dramatic, serious poses. Lots of time is spent by the photographer to pose and perfect each photo.
Modern: For lack of a better word—It’s what’s trendy right now: couples on top of mountains staring in opposite directions, generally more serious expressions, not a lot of focus on interaction. They are posed, but there is an effort to make it look more natural than in the Editorial + Traditional categories. The photographer is still posing these moments and likely hands-on during the wedding day.
Documentary: Photos that focus on interaction or storytelling, but the photographer may have a hand in lightly directing the moment. There is likely a focus on “unposed moments” or “direction” rather than “posing.”
Photojournalistic: This photographer is just capturing what is happening in front of them. No posing, no interaction with guests or the wedding party, and no fussing with furniture to create the perfect image backdrop.
Artistic: The couple is just a part of a piece of art that the photographer creates with each image. The photos could stand alone hanging in a modern art gallery. At the extreme, these photographers won’t work off of a timeline or shotlist, they are there to make art out of your wedding day and any constraints from you will hamper their creativity.
Wow, so simple right?? There’s only six options!—unfortunately, this is a bit of an oversimplification. The majority of photographers out there are a mix of these categories, and a few don’t fit into one of these boxes. For example, most wedding photographers have to be a photojournalist at some point— you can’t direct during a ceremony. So, to narrow down the style that you love, look at the portraits of the couple and wedding party. That is usually the part of the wedding day where the photographer has the most control, so you’ll see closer to their fundamental style in those images. Keep in mind, their style will also impact their priorities during the rest of the day. More Traditional photographers might focus on getting posed photos of your guests smiling at the camera during the reception, while a photojournalist is going to be looking for candid moments and images that tell a story.
Dig deep and figure out what is important to you in your images, AND figure out how you want your photographer to be interacting with you and your guests on the wedding day. Do you want someone who will be posing and finessing what’s happening during the day? Or, would you rather they are like a fly on the wall just capturing what happens in front of them? There isn’t a right answer here. This is 100% your preference.
Editing styles vary pretty significantly. For example, two different Traditional-leaning photographers will have very different final images. Keep that in mind as you narrow down your searches. Here are some key words that might help: Light + Airy, Moody, Natural, Contrasty, Colorful. Sometimes a photographer’s editing style will strike you even more than the photographic style, and that’s totally okay! Make it one of your priorities in your search.
Once you know where you want your photographer to fall in all these categories, it starts getting easier to find the right person! You can start doing some more targeted searches, and even reaching out to some of the photographers that you loved during your Pinning and Instagramming.
decide your Budget
Every wedding is different, every couple is different, and you can absolutely choose where you want to allocate your money to make your wedding day exactly what you want. You can find photographers in almost every style and almost any budget. So, start by figuring out how much you want to invest in your images. In the Colorado market, most photographers range from $2,000-$5,000 for full day wedding coverage.
Here’s a little of my bias (I can’t help it, this is what I do for a living for a reason): photos are one of the few things that actually last after the wedding day is over. If they are important to you, I think it’s one of the few things on a wedding day that’s worth spending money on. An experienced photographer can also make the day flow so much more smoothly, and cope with conditions outside of the norm (dark receptions, twilight ceremonies, or harsh direct light for portraits).
Now, you can narrow your preferred photographers down based on how much they will charge for the wedding day (most people have at least a starting price on their websites). If you find someone you really love who is out of your price range, ask them if they have suggestions on how to cut the costs. I work with plenty of couples who only have me at their weddings for 4-6 hours rather than 8-10 (as is often standard). Maybe you don’t need a second photographer or you don’t want an engagement session. Not everyone is willing to be flexible and alter their packages for their couples, but I would rather a couple talk to me about it than book another photographer without knowing they actually only needed a photographer for 6 hours instead of 10.
Contact your favs
So now you know what you want and how much you want to spend, start actually contacting your favorite photographers! Because you know your style preference and the way you want your photographer to interact with you and your guests, you can ask very targeted questions that will suss out whether or not the photographer shares your priorities. Skip the list of “standard wedding photographer questions” on Pinterest and dig deep. Make sure that they are a good fit for what you want from your photos and for how they will interact with you and your wedding guests.
While all the other considerations are important, I think it’s SO important that you vibe really well with your photographer. They are going to be hanging out with you almost all day, and working with someone who rubs you the wrong way will end in disaster. You don’t want their personality to rub off negatively on the way you think about your wedding day. Make sure you trust them, feel like you are important to them as a client, and that they understand what your priorities are. Go with your gut! If it sounds like they are just saying “yeah, I’m totally photojournalistic” because it’s what you want to hear, keep looking. There is someone out there who will have the same priorities as you and the right balance of different styles of photography.
Do your due diligence
I have heard too many horror stories over the years about people never getting their photos, having photographers not show up on wedding days, or huge miscommunications that end with no one happy. Customer reviews exist for a reason. Odds are, your photographer collects them somewhere. If you can’t find any, ask! Many times, when I hear these disaster stories, I look up the company and see multiple clients complaining about the same thing. You can avoid disaster by doing your research and making sure your photographer has happy clients.
Lock them in!
When you find the right person, don’t hesitate. When you know, you know! Make sure that your photographer has a contract that protects both of you in the event of an emergency and read the whole thing so you understand what your deliverables are at the end of the process. Some photographers will give out the digital files and let you print them, some only give you web resolution files and you have to print through them, some only offer print packages and you won’t get your digital files. Make sure you know this beforehand so you don’t get a nasty shock after your wedding day.
Sign your contract, pay your retainer fee, then guess what??? You can sit back, crack a beer, and pat yourself on the back. You found your photographer! Now on to the next thing :) Do you want advice like this for hiring your other vendors? Head down to the footer of of my site and download my vendor guide. It has interviews with other vendors giving insight just like this!
Want to know where I fit into this whole picture? Awesome!
I’m a mix of Documentary, Photojournalistic, and Artistic. I love capturing authentic interactions during your portraits, but I will help you get there with some direction and gentle guiding. I’m a fly on the wall (or photo ninja) for most of the wedding day, letting my experience dictate where I need to be to artistically capture the important moments as they happen. I don’t want my voice to be part of your wedding story, and would rather honestly document what unfolds in front of me. Couples often say that they hardly noticed me on the wedding day, or remark on a candid that I captured “I didn’t even know you were there when that happened!”
At my core, I have always been an artist. I love finding unique angles, and using my training in painting to create a composition that’s unique and striking. I might do some super weird photo yoga to get just the right framing for the perfect shot, then wait for your
My editing style is somewhere between colorful and moody. I don’t desaturate fun colors, and like my photos to be a little darker and more dramatic.
Does that sound like it fits your style? Awesome! Hit the button below to reach out and tell me all about your wedding! If not, no worries. I hope this article helps you find the best wedding photographer for you.