How to Choose the Best Wedding Photographer

Wedding photographer shows the couple a few shots on his camera

Heather Featherston

September 19, 2023

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Choosing a professional photographer is one of the most important things you will do when planning your wedding. Trust, empathy, compatibility, and customer service should be the primary qualities you consider in choosing a photographer. Of course, they must be talented, creative, well-trained, and knowledgeable about the latest techniques in photography, too.
But even the most outstanding photographers will not do a good job if they are grumpy and make you unhappy on your wedding day. You’ve got to like the person you hire! They will be with you for many hours before, during, and after your ceremony. They will be the person you see whenever you turn around, capturing your mood and feelings.
If you don’t like your photographer or are uncomfortable around them, your photos will show it. You won’t enjoy your wedding or your photo album.
The relationship with your photographer is the most intimate one you’ll have with any wedding professional you’ll hire besides your wedding planner. You will spend hours together on location, in a studio for engagement photos, and another eight to ten hours on your wedding day. The ability to work with you and your family and friends is crucial.

When and Where to Start

It would be best to start looking for a photographer right after you and your fiancé set the date. Top-notch photographers book six months to a year in advance, and you’ll have a wider choice of talent if you start looking early. Some photographers recommend reserving your ceremony and reception site first, just in case you have to change your wedding date to get the facility you want.
Ask your friends who they recommend, search Yelp, check the photos & video section on our Vendors We Love page, and then visit several photographers’ websites. You can learn much about photographers before making your first phone call.

Ask Questions

Plan on interviewing several photographers and making appointments to meet them personally. Go prepared to ask many questions, and you’ll learn a lot about planning your wedding. Professional photographers will be glad to share their past experiences at the facility you have chosen.
If, for example, you want to be married outdoors in the evening at a winery in the foothills, an experienced photographer will advise you about the photographic pitfalls and possibilities at your chosen location at that time of day.
Or, say, if you want to be married in a park on a summer afternoon, your photographer will remind you that it could be 100-plus degrees in the Sacramento Valley that time of year. In that case, the camera may record squinting, sweating guests, and wilted flowers. Not the look you want for your photos!

View Their Portfolio

When you meet with photographers, ask to see actual photos of a complete wedding and a complete album rather than just the best photos they have taken from several different weddings. Does the work inspire and excite you? Is it original and creative? How do you feel about spending a lot of time with this person?
Be sure to ask how many weddings the photographer shoots in a day. Will yours be his only assignment, or will he be trying to photograph two weddings in one day? You’ll also want to inquire about overtime charges. Ask if photography is his full-time career or part-time hobby and whether or not he brings along a working assistant or second photographer.

Get it in Writing

Finally, of course, ask about prices and a written contract. Photography is one of the most significant investments you’ll make in your wedding.
Get quotes from several people and get them in writing. Does she offer wedding packages? What does she include in the packages? What is extra? How will he work with you and your budget?

You Get What You Pay For

Having said all that, we caution you that a low-cost, bargain photographer may cost more than you realize. Many professional photographers have shared stories about unhappy brides who asked them to “fix” their wedding photos that someone else had taken.
As the old saying goes, you get what you pay for, so ask lots of questions and choose your photographer based on our guidelines, not price alone. And don’t expect a family friend or relative with the newest digital camera to provide the quality and post-production a professional can. They may not get all the shots you expect or know how to properly stage and capture those important moments.
You are putting a lot of planning into your wedding. Make sure that the photography reflects that.

Photographic Styles

You can’t know what to request unless you know what’s available. It helps to understand what the photographer means when she says she’ll shoot traditional, high fashion, candid, or photojournalistic pictures.
Most photographers take photos in every style to capture the day’s energy, passion, and emotion. Talking about styles is important because you have many options in photo albums nowadays. Discuss with your photographer what you want in yours.
Below, we’ve listed a brief description of each typical photographic style. Ask each photographer you interview about their style and technique.
Traditional: These are formal, posed photos usually taken with sub­jects facing the camera and standing still.
High fashion or high drama: These are the photos you see in bridal magazines in which the bride or groom strikes a dramatic pose and looks chic.
Photojournalistic: These are action shots, free-flowing with lots of expression and emotion. They capture the moment without “interfer­ence” from the photographer. Nothing is posed in photojournalism, or at least it doesn’t look that way.
Candids: As the name implies, candid photos are straightforward and spontaneous. The photographer snaps people in the act of being themselves.
Sit down with your photographer and list all the pictures you want of individuals and family groups. Most photographers will help you create a checklist and itinerary to ensure they know which images you want them to capture and when.

Mutual Respect

It’s important that you establish rapport with your photographer and that you have mutual respect. A professional photographer will be forthright with you and answer all your questions. He will show up on time for photo shoots, work rapidly when necessary, and deliver proofs and your final photo album on time.
You should expect nothing less. All things being equal, customer service sets one professional apart from the rest.
Your photographer also deserves your respect, which you can show by being on time for photo shoots. If your hair will take two hours to style on your wedding day, plan for it in your timeline, and don’t cut into your photo time.
Busy photographers take about one photo a minute, so if you are 20 minutes late for your photo shoot, that puts your photographer 20 photos behind schedule.
If you have hired a videographer in addition to the photographer, make sure they are both clear on sharing space and time with you to ensure you’re getting all the images and video you want. You are paying these professionals to give you quality results, so ensure both cooperate in working together.
And remember to be considerate; your photographer needs to eat, too. We suggest you provide a place for him to eat with your guests but place him where he can get up and down easily to capture the action at the reception.

Rough & Ready Vineyards

As you search for your wedding photographer, our team of professionals at Rough & Ready Vineyards is here to help. Contact us today by email or phone to learn more about our outdoor wedding venue and how we can help make your wedding day unforgettable.
When you choose Rough & Ready Vineyards as your venue, your photographer can tour our grounds before your big day to scout out our best photo locations. Our venue manager will be on site to answer any questions your photographer might have. In addition, you can have your photographer take your engagement photos at our venue, during one of our Booked Couples Open Houses.
It helps to hear directly from the professionals themselves as you conduct your search for the best wedding photographer for your style and budget. We’ve featured four wedding photographers here on our blog, and each shared about their experience and journey. Click on each photographer’s name below to hear their story and get samples of their work:

Ashton Imagery

Bay Area Fotowagen

A Moment of Joy

Heather Featherston

Written by Heather Featherston

Heather, an Event Manager for the Rough & Ready Vineyards, oversees the day-to-day operations. She takes satisfaction in seeing everyone happy and is always grateful for the opportunity to make this happen. Heather enjoys meeting with brides-to-be in order to gather the details needed to ensure their wedding day is perfect! “Every wedding and reception at the Rough & Ready Vineyards is so beautiful,” she says. “I love being able to see people enjoy the amazing venue we have created here!”

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