You just got engaged! You’re over the moon to spend the rest of your life with your love and you are beyond excited to start planning your wedding! After touring different venues you’ve decided on the perfect spot for your ceremony & reception and have solidified your date! Holy heck, now it’s real!
For most couples, hiring their wedding photographer is the next step in their planning process! If you’re feeling overwhelmed at this step don’t worry! There’s so many wedding photographers that it’s totally normal to not know how to start looking and inquiring. In this blog post I’m going to explain how to the find the perfect photographer for your wedding!
Before we start I want to preface the tips with a few words:
Please give yourself ample time to find your photographer! The worst thing is having to rush to find a photographer. It can be incredibly difficult especially if your wedding is in a popular month like September or October. It’s totally normal to hire a photographer a year or more in advance so don’t wait! You shouldn’t be forced to compromise on your photographer just because you waited too long!
Next, I know how important the budget is to your wedding, but I would advise you to not use price as the be-all end-all factor to who you hire. There are so many other things to consider (which we are going to talk about in just a little bit so stick with me!) and if you only look at price you could potentially miss out on someone who’s work you really enjoy but was maybe just a bit over budget.
Here are my tips on how to find the perfect photographer for your wedding:
*these are in no particular order*
1.) Ask your previously married friends who they used
In my opinion this is the best place to start if you have no idea where to look! Think about a wedding you were at or in that you really enjoyed! Ask that friend who their photographer was and what they thought! The benefit of this is two fold:
First, you can ask your friend to see all of their wedding photos! This will give you an amazing look at what a full wedding day looks like with that specific photographer! I should add that most professional wedding photographers will gladly send you multiple full galleries for this exact reason but this is still a great way to get an idea of what you’re looking for! Take note of anything that you really love or really don’t like. Pay close attention to any part of the day that is really important to you and make sure that you like how that photographer handles that part of the day!
Next, your friend can tell you any important things you should know about this photographer that might not be on their website or social media! The personality of your photographer is super important and this can be an incredible way to find out if you’ll jive with this photographer for not! Another benefit is that wedding photographers typically LOVE working with friends of their past couples! I always get super excited when a friend of a bride that I LOVED wants me to document their day!
I would advise against asking your friend how much their photographer cost because depending on how long ago their wedding was they might have raised their prices since. It can certainly give you a ballpark but if you ask this question, do not expect that photographer to have the exact same prices. Most photographers raise their prices a couple of times per years by varying amounts.
2.) Ask your venue for recommendations
This is another great option that I would recommend doing as well as the tip above! I’d also recommend this for finding other vendors for your day as well! Unlike your recently married friend, wedding venues see tons of different photographers and will likely be able to show you exactly how a specific photographer works in their venue! Some venues even have an entire list of recommended photographers that can be a great place to start!
The obvious benefit is that before reaching out you know that this photographer has experience at your venue. Especially if you’re getting married somewhere unconventional or not as popular it can be very reassuring to know that your photographer has shot at your venue before! Also, this photographer will likely have great advice as to where to go in your venue for photos, and they’ll also probably know surrounding areas that will look great as well!
Make sure that your venue doesn’t have an outside vendor fee for photographers. Some venues require you to pick from a list of approved photographers or pay a fee. Obviously it would be a waste of time to do all of this searching only to find out that it costs an extra $1,000 to have your photographer shoot at that venue!
I’d recommend scoping out any potential photographers on Instagram first before reaching out! I say this because many photographers show much more of their personality on their Instagram vs their website! So any recommendations you get from your recently married friends or venue you should check them out on Instagram if they have one!
If after asking your friends & venue you still haven’t found anyone that you really like, then you can start to use Instagram to find photographers in your area! Hashtags are an amazing way to see who’s out there producing awesome work! Usually once you follow a few photographers you’ll get recommendations on other photographers to follow as well! This obviously requires more vetting and more searching on your part, but the extra time is worth it if you find someone who’s work you seriously love!
Some great hashtags to start with are #nebraskawedding, #nebraskaweddingphotographer, #lincolnwedding, #lincolnweddingphotographer etc. You can change out “nebraska” and “lincoln” for your state and city. These are typically pretty large so you should have a decent number of photographers to look at!
Another benefit of Instagram is that it makes it very easy to start a casual conversation with any given photographer! Sending them a DM can be a great way to get a conversation started! I would not expect to get a full pricing breakdown on Instagram, most photographers will want to hop on the phone or meet in person for that stuff, but it can be a great way to ask a few smaller questions!
If after looking at a photographer’s Instagram you think you might want to hire them, shoot them a DM asking if they’re available on your wedding date! If they’re available they’ll usually have a contact form to fill out just to get more basic info or they’ll jump right to scheduling a phone call to learn more! If they aren’t available they’ll usually be able to give you more recommendations! Wedding photographers themselves know a bunch of amazing photographers so now you’ll have even more people to consider!
4.) Google Search
Google searching for photographers in your area is another great way if you don’t know where to start! A nice part about this is that the first results you see in Google are actually from Google Maps based on who is closest to you! Keep in mind that after Google Maps, most of the results on the first page will be from places like The Knot and Weddingwire. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but keep in mind that those are paid services so the only photographers you’ll see on those lists are people who pay for it. Being on either of those platforms is NOT an indication of any given photographer’s skills or professionalism.
What’s great about Google is that the results you are seeing are generally direct links to a photographer’s website which is the most ideal place to contact a photographer! With all of the methods above any given photographer will likely direct you to their website to make an official inquiry! Understand that this is because the information provided on a contact form on a photographer’s website gives them so much more to work with when they reach out to you! Again, your photographer’s personality is so incredibly important so this makes figuring out if you’re the right fit super easy!
5.) Social media ads
There is a 100% chance that if you’re engaged that you start to see advertisements on your social platforms from photographers and other wedding vendors! These ads can be great places to find photographers that you might not have seen otherwise and some photographers host giveaways for things like engagement sessions on Facebook & Instagram so definitely be on the lookout for those as well!
6.) Bridal Shows
If going to a bridal show is in your future then there’s a good chance that you’ll see multiple wedding photographers there! This is great if you want to shop around for other vendors as well! A great part of bridal shows is that you get to see and talk to the photographer in person! That being said, keep in mind that bridal shows are typically very fast-paced so don’t expect to have a 30 min pre consultation at a bridal show. Most photographers will simply ask for your email and/or phone number so that they can follow up after the show!
Another benefit is that if a photographer offers physical products they will often times have them on display at their booth! If you’ve never considered getting a wedding album made or certain kinds of wall art this is a great time to be able to pick them up and hold them! At my last bridal show I had 3 different albums and 3 framed prints on display and brides LOVED it!
Facebook is an amazing platform to find photographers but can be a bit hit or miss depending on how connected you are over Facebook! Posting a status looking for recommendations can be a great way to start, especially if multiple people recommend the same person! Maybe one of your friends got married and you weren’t able to go to their wedding but they had an AMAZING experience with their photographer!
If you are a part of any local Buy/Sell groups I would advise against posting in them trying to find a wedding photographer!
So now you have a list of photographers who’s work you like, but what do you do with that information?
Only inquire with someone who you are legitimately interested in hiring.
It may be tempting to reach out to a bunch of photographers at once but I would strongly recommend only filling out a photographer’s contact form on their website if you genuinely want them to shoot your wedding.
Like I mentioned above, this is why it’s important to not let be price be the only thing influencing who you reach out to. Most photographers don’t have all of their pricing on their website because they want to TALK with you either over the phone or in person. Most photographer’s pricing structures are pretty complex so they want to be able to walk you through their entire process to make sure that you are well informed on their services!
So identify the photographers whose work you absolutely LOVE & reach out to them. Most photographers will respond between 1-3 days with the proper next steps! If they aren’t available they’ll let you know right then and there. If they are available then they’ll usually outline their next steps for moving forward! Every photographer does this a little differently, some photographers will do everything over email and some will want to meet you in person! Give them your time and they will take great care of you during this process! This is also why it’s so important to give yourself enough time to find a photographer! This obviously will take time but is so worth it to find the perfect photographer!
After you’ve met with a photographer they should give you some kind of document either physical or over email that will contain all of their pricing and important info. This is key for you to be able to compare different offerings and price points to find what works best for you. Think about what photographer made you feel the most comfortable and who seemed like they truly care about you and your partner’s day! After meeting a photographer you should have a good idea if their personality is a good fit for you. So once you have pricing in hand and have met everyone, decide who is your number one pick and see if you can make their price fit into your budget.
If your favorite photographer’s price falls into your budget then perfect! You’ve found your photographer! Make sure you let them know that you’d like to move forward as soon as possible as wedding days go quickly and most photographers will not hold dates until a contract is signed and a deposit is paid!
If your favorite photographer is out of your budget, take some time to think about any ways that you could possibly make them fit. Is there another area of your wedding that you can scale back to make room? Maybe invite less people or scale back on certain decorations? If you truly love a photographer’s personality, work and couldn’t imagine anyone else on your wedding day, then it’s worth it to try everything to make them fit into your budget!
Sometimes there simply is no way to make it work, and that’s okay! But make sure you TELL the photographer that! You will not hurt our feelings if you tell us we were too expensive. We’d rather know right away versus not hearing anything back from you at all! Some photographers are also willing to make adjustments to certain things in their packages to make it fit better, but don’t expect that all the time!
In general, I would always advise against asking for a flat discount on a photographer’s prices. If you both really want to make it work, it’s better to see if one of their lower tier collections could fit your needs! Sometimes photographers will be willing to add certain things to a lower priced collection to make it fit. For example, if a certain collection doesn’t include an engagement session but you really want engagement photos, sometimes they will be willing to add that in as a gift! In general, asking for a flat discount will not work.
So those are my tips to finding your perfect photographer for your wedding! I know it can seem daunting but trust me, finding the perfect photographer will give you more peace of mind than anything else on your wedding day!