How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer

It's key that you book a great photographer to capture your wedding. Follow these steps to find the perfect wedding photographer to document your day.

By The Zola Team

Couples often say that their wedding day passes by so quickly that it’s difficult to soak up every little moment and commit all the emotions to memory. All of your wedding vendors will take care of the details so that you can hopefully sit back and take everything in, but your wedding photographer plays the biggest role in preserving the magic of the day. Your wedding photos will take you back in time and give you the opportunity to relive everything—from incredible moments you might have missed to your favorite memories to reminisce about.

Needless to say, it’s key that you book a great photographer to capture your wedding. If you aren’t sure where to start or how to choose your wedding photographer, you’ve come to the right place: follow these steps to find the perfect photographer to document your day.

Steps For How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

1. Set Your Budget

Your first goal is to set your wedding photography budget. There are a lot of photographers out there, so knowing what you can spend will help you narrow your search right away to photographers who are in your price range. Keep in mind that the cost of wedding photography varies a lot depending on your location, the photographer’s experience, and their package offerings. Today, the average price of wedding photography is around $2,000.

2. Figure Out Your Style Preferences

The next step is to figure out what photography style appeals to you. A photographer’s style will determine:

  • how the photos are taken
  • what your photos will look like
  • how the photographer will interact with you and your guests on the wedding day.

See our breakdown of Types of Wedding Photography Styles below for a look at key terms to know and the different styles you might encounter.

3. Do Some Research

After you’ve set your budget and settled on a style, explore wedding photographers online that fit your criteria and start compiling a list of your favorites. Or, ask your recently married friends and family about their photographer and if they recommend him or her. As you explore, make sure to look through each photographer’s portfolio of work and read reviews from other couples. Zola vets each vendor we place on our directory, so you can find trustworthy wedding photographers from New York to San Diego, and everywhere in between.

4. Connect and Request Quotes

When you’re ready, begin reaching out to the photographers on your list to introduce yourself, request a price quote, and ask questions. See the section below on how to request a wedding photography price quote, which includes a sample inquiry template and questions you should be sure to ask.

5. Meet With Your Favorites (Optional)

Having a great connection with your photographer is important. He or she will be by your side throughout your entire wedding day, so it’s essential that you feel comfortable and relaxed in their presence. A great way to get the know the individual behind the camera is to request an in-person meeting (or a video or phone chat) to talk through the wedding details and get a feel for each other.

That said, if you feel that you can bond just as easily over email, this step is entirely optional and up to your personal preferences.

6. Compare Your Top Choices

If you’re considering multiple wedding photographers, begin to narrow down your options by thinking through how they compare in the following categories:

  • Cost — Is one of your options significantly more expensive or cheaper than the others? Does the quality of their work align with the cost?
  • Personality — Is there anyone with whom you made a great connection? Do you feel comfortable with all of your options?
  • Experience — Who has the most experience? Does level of experience matter to you?
  • Reviews — How are the reviews for each of your candidates? Are there any trends—good or bad—in the reviews you read?
  • Offerings — How do the package offerings compare across your options? Which package gives you the most bang for your buck?

7. Book!

Now it’s time to book the wedding photographer of your choice. Keep in mind that if you wait a significant amount of time between your initial outreach and when you’re ready to contract their services, they may no longer have your date available. So while we encourage you to weigh your decision with care, it’s also important to not delay too long.

The booking process is different for every photographer, but it typically looks like this:

  1. Let the photographer know that you want to book them and confirm that your wedding date is still available.
  2. Your photographer should send contract for your to review and sign. Pro Tip: Never work with a wedding vendor who does have a contract. The contract serves to protect you and the vendor in the instance of legal disputes, outlines the exact nature of your business relationship, details what services and products you will receive, and communicates the vendor’s policies.
  3. Sign the wedding photography contract, return it to photographer, and pay the deposit.

Types of Wedding Photography Styles

  • Shooting Style: A photographer’s shooting style is basically his or her approach to taking photos. This impacts their photo composition and how much (or how little) they pose their subjects. Here are some of the most common methods:

    • Photojournalistic/Candid/Documentary — You can equate this style of photography with documentary video. These kinds of candid photos are based in reality, generally informal and unposed, and require the photographer to follow the couple around in order to document the events of the day. The goal is to capture real, authentic emotion and action.
    • Fine Art/Editorial — Fine art photography is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s generally more dramatic and artistically composed—almost dreamy, with a strong sense of movement, mood, and texture. It’s often (but not always) shot in film to achieve that grainy quality, and fine art photographers also place strong emphasis on composition.
    • Traditional/Classic — This approach produces deliberately composed photographs. A photographer shooting in this style will often work from a shot list—i.e., a list of requested photos—and direct the couple to pose a certain way, adjusting the background or details in the shot accordingly.
    • Artistic — A photographer with this approach may shoot from unique angles and use interesting lighting situations to create photos that feel more like works of art. This style varies widely depending on the photographer and is not a common choice for weddings.
    • Natural Light — Natural light photographers snap photos with a soft, warm glow thanks to the exclusive use of natural light. Artificial light of any kind is a big no-no for this photographic style. Natural light photography is best for outdoor venues and weddings that take place during the day.
  • Editing Style: This describes how a photographer chooses to edit their images by changing the exposure (darkness or brightness), the tone (warm or cool), the saturation of the colors, and the overall appearance of the image. Here are the main photography editing styles:

    • Dark and Moody — Images tend to be darker and heavily shadowed. Some colors, such as greens, may be desaturated to create a more muted look.
    • Light and Airy — Images are brighter, typically shot in natural light, and may have softer tones.
    • Black and White — Images with black, white, and grey hues only.
    • Desaturated/Matte — Images where the overall brightness and saturation of color has been reduced to create a flat, almost vintage look.
    • Vintage (Film) — Images that are shot digitally but recreate the film look, and typically feature heavy grain.
    • RAW or Realistic — Images are either entirely unedited (RAW) or feature minimal editing to look as natural as possible.
    • HDR (High Dynamic Range) — Images with very saturated, bright colors and high contrast. This editing style falls on the opposite end of the spectrum than realistic editing.
  • Film vs. Digital vs. Hybrid: Photographers also define themselves by the type of camera and format they use to save, process, and develop the images. Here’s an explanation of each type:

    • Film — Photos are captured on traditional film rolls. Typically these images are less sharp and have a grainy look. Since they need to be developed in a lab, film photos tend to be more expensive and have a slower turnaround time.
    • Digital — Photos are captured on digital memory cards and that do not need to be developed. These images often are very sharp and clear, depending on the photographer’s skill level and shooting style. They required no developing time, so are generally available quicker.
    • Hybrid — Photos are captured in both film and digital formats.

Factors That Can Influence Wedding Photography Price Quotes

Keep in mind that even if a photographer lists starting prices on their website, there are certain factors that might influence the estimated cost to photograph your wedding, such as:

  • The popularity of your wedding date
  • Travel and/or accommodation fees (ask the photographer about their specific policy)
  • Package add-ons, such as albums, prints, second shooters, etc.
  • The number of hours they’ll be asked to photograph
  • Special equipment they may need to photograph your venue
  • Taxes and fees (ask the photographer if these are already included in their price quote)

Requesting a Wedding Photography Price Quote: What to Include and a Sample Template

An initial email inquiry to a potential wedding photographer should include as many details about your wedding day that you can share at this point in your planning process. Here are some key details to include (to the best of your ability) to help the photographer give you an accurate estimated cost:

  1. Your wedding date
  2. Your wedding venue
  3. How you found the photographer (Zola, personal recommendation, etc.)
  4. A little background on you and your spouse-to-be
  5. Your vision for your wedding day photographs
  6. How many hours of coverage you think you may need Pro Tip: It’s fine if you aren’t sure on this last point—the photographer should be able to provide a suggested timeline based on your budget and vision.

Sample Email Template

Hi Audra,

We found you on Zola and we love your work and style!

Our wedding is February 20, 2020 at Grace Estate. Are you available on this day to photograph our wedding?

We’re looking for at least 6 hours of coverage (maybe more if the dance floor is as packed as we hope!) and would like our package to include a second shooter and an engagement shoot.

We met 5 years ago as UVA undergrads and just got engaged this past Christmas! We’re still working on the details, but we envision a very laid-back, boho-style celebration with our guests. We’d like our wedding photos to capture that vibe, so we’d like lots of candids of our friends and family having a good time.

Can you provide us with price quote to photograph our day?

Thank you!

Antoni & Charles

Questions to Ask a Potential Wedding Photographer

  1. What packages do you offer and what is included?
  2. What are your à la carte options?
  3. Do you include engagement shoots?
  4. How far in advance should I book you?
  5. When did you start photographing weddings?
  6. What is your shooting and editing style?
  7. Can we provide you with a shot list?
  8. What type of equipment do you use?
  9. Do you shoot in digital, film, or both?
  10. How many weddings have you shot?
  11. How many times have you worked at my venue?
  12. How many weddings have you shot that are similar to mine in size or style?
  13. Can I see some of your full wedding albums?
  14. At what time will you arrive on the day of the wedding?
  15. How many hours will you shoot for?
  16. If my wedding runs over the expected end time, is there an extra charge?
  17. How many other events will you shoot that weekend?
  18. Have you worked with any of my other vendors before?
  19. Do you have a list of preferred vendors I can look through?
  20. Can you give me a list of references?
  21. Will you be the one photographing my wedding?
  22. Do you have a second shooter? Is that included or an extra charge?
  23. What will you wear to my wedding?
  24. What happens if you are sick or otherwise unable to make it on the wedding day?
  25. Do you have insurance?
  26. Do you have a business license?
  27. Do you charge a travel fee (if applicable)?
  28. How much of a deposit do you require? When is it due? Is it refundable?
  29. What is the total fee?
  30. Do you offer any payment plans?
  31. What is your cancellation policy?
  32. Will you provide a contract?
  33. What is your post-production process?
  34. What kind of editing or retouching do you offer, and what is included in my package price?
  35. How long will it take after the wedding to get the photos?
  36. In what format will I receive the photos?
  37. What is the process for ordering prints?
  38. Do you offer albums?
  39. Are there any restrictions for sharing or printing the photos after we receive them?
  40. Will you share our photos on social media?
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