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3 Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Wedding Photographer

Some of the first things newly engaged brides do is go dress shopping, reserve a ceremony and reception location, and hire a wedding photographer. Chance are, this is the first time any of them have hired a wedding photographer. It can be an intimidating and overwhelming experience, filled with explanations of packages, prices, albums, contracts, portfolios, and what’s the difference between flush mount and matted albums again? In an effort to give you a few pieces of advice, ISPWP member photographers have provided a few insights into what mistakes you should definitely avoid when hiring a wedding photographer. Many ISPWP photographers have the experience of shooting hundreds of weddings so they’ve seen it all.

# 1 – Don’t Make the Mistake of Overlooking the Photographer’s Personality

When you are hiring a wedding photographer, don’t hire someone whom you don’t really like on a personal basis! Their photos might be great, but remember that your photographer is going to be a very substantial participant in your wedding day, not only capturing your memories, but becoming a big part of them! So make sure you’re comfortable with their personality. If you find your photographer irritating, abrasive, or if you think their jokes are cheesy, keep looking. You REALLY don’t want to look at your wedding photos, and think “Oh wow, remember the incredibly inappropriate joke the photographer told right before he shot this?” or “That guy got on my nerves – I remember feeling irritated with him as this photo was being taken.” Your day is about your happiness, first and foremost. The most beautiful photo in the world won’t mean as much if your memory of the photography experience sours it!
~ Buffy Goodman, Edmonton, Alberta

Bride and Groom | Edmonton Wedding Photographer

The number one mistake to avoid when hiring a wedding photographer is to listen to everyone else. Your best friend might have loved her photographer, and your cousin probably swears by hers. So you meet with both of them and their pictures seem good enough. But did you like them? Your photographer will be with you all day, so it’s important you get along with them and enjoy their company. Your instincts will tell you a whole lot!
~ Britney Gardner, Turn Loose the Art, Huntington Beach, CA

Happy Bride | Huntington Beach Wedding Photographer

#2 – Don’t Make the Mistake of Prioritizing Products Over the Photography

If you have a limited budget for wedding photography, invest the money in the photographer and not the album. If you look for a less expensive photographer so you can have money left over for an album, you will likely end up with bad photos in a pretty package. You are better off with great photos in a shoe box. You can always get an nice album down the road after you win the lottery or get that big raise, but if your photos are bad you are out of luck.
~ Dennis Drenner Photographs, Baltimore, MD

Flower Girl | Baltimore Wedding Photographer

One thing I think a bride and groom don’t pay enough attention to is considering the quality of the photography aside from the album and wall prints. Clients get easily excited by the look of the album, the size of the album, or the fact that parent albums are included, or a large wall print, etc. However once the event has taken place and all is said and done the photography can’t be redone and clients will be disappointed if they have wall prints and 3 albums filled with mediocre photography. If clients can only afford the services of an exceptional photographer, with little or no product, at least the day is captured forever in images that inspire and take one’s breath away. Albums or other products can always be ordered when budgets allow, but hire a photographer based on his or her professionalism, integrity and photographic skills. Do not hire a photographer solely based on the biggest package deal they are offering.
~ David A. Barss, Photographer, Portland, OR

Beach Wedding | Portland Wedding Photographer

#3 – Don’t Make the Mistake of Expecting Pro Results From an Amateur Photographer

I can’t tell you how many brides I’ve had come in to look at my albums, and tell me: “My sister got married last year. They had Uncle Bob take their pictures because he only charged them $200. But she didn’t get a single picture from her wedding that she likes.  Every time she looks at her pictures, she cries.” The biggest mistake a bride can make is to undervalue her wedding photography. Countless brides have tried to save a few dollars by hiring a friend, or having a family member take their wedding photos. And countless brides have little but tears to show for it. Think of professional wedding photography as an investment in your future joy. It will cost a little now (although it will cost less than the food you serve at your wedding), but it will pay off in great dividends, as you enjoy the memories for the rest of your life.
~ Fritz Liedtke, Fritz Photo, Portland, OR

Don’t leave your wedding photography up to chance! “Cheap” doesn’t necessarily mean good, and “good” doesn’t mean cheap! Do you want to risk one of the most important days of your life to an inexperienced photographer, or Uncle Bob, or Cousin Lenny who has a digital camera, instead of cutting corners on the hors d’oeuvres?
~ Joanne Bartone, Photographer, Pittsburgh, PA

Groom Dancing | Pittsburgh Wedding Photographer

In wedding photography, you generally get what you pay for. The less you spend, the more disappointment you risk. A friend or family member who happens to be a photography hobbyist will have much different results than a dedicated wedding professional. Ask yourself: ‘Am I willing to look at my wedding photos for the rest of my life and feel let down?’
~ Michelle Ross, Under Grace Photography, St. Louis, MO

Bride and Groom with Cameras | St. Louis Wedding Photographer

Pro photographers pride themselves on their equipment and generally they have the best gear available. People who dabble in wedding photography on the side can’t justify the expense of professional gear, reliable backup gear, and proper business insurance. And then consider experience – an amateur can show you a few good images, but can they do that day in and day out? Do they have the experience to deliver high quality images on a consistent basis? Probably not, or else – they would be running a real business. And one last point, when you hire a Pro – they are indeed putting their reputation and their livelihood on the line. You have trust, you have references, and you have a proven track record.
~ Mike Topham Photography, Richmond, VA

Bride kissing mom | Richmond Wedding Photographer

You’ve heard it before but believe it; once the party is over, the band has packed the van, the flowers are in serious wilt and your mind is a warm humming buzz, before you hit the pillow you will say, “I can’t wait to see the pictures”. You will say this. You will repeat this mantra for weeks. You might be a little nervous because you left the wedding photos in the hands of family and friends. But, you should be covered, you think, after all there were disposable cameras on all the tables, and cousin Ted has an SLR digital camera and has taken some beautiful vacation pictures. Plus your bridesmaid said her new boyfriend takes really good pictures and is offering his services for free so he can get some portfolio material! What a deal! What a savings! What a disaster. The thing with weddings is that there are no do-overs. Very likely, it will be the only time that a couple will hire event professionals in their lifetime. If you truly want things to go smoothly and have a wonderful memorable event, you need to hire proven professionals. Would you leave the cake to your bridesmaids boyfriend because he is eager and willing and has the ingredients? Nope. But surprisingly, many brides are willing to take a chance with their photography. The number one regret of brides is that they wished they hired a better photographer.
~ Rebekah Johnson Photography, Portland, OR

Wedding Party Under Tree | Portland Oregon Wedding Photographer

Looking for an experienced, talented, and professional wedding photographer in your area? Find your photographer on the ISPWP Wedding Photographer Directory.

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  1. Personality is important when picking a photographer. There are some clients you click with and know they will be easy to work with. Others seem like your personalities clash and it make photographing difficult.

  2. cinidy brown says:

    Great article. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told folks that they should get the best photography they can for their money (and worry about the albums later, if they have to.) What good is an album full of mediocre pictures?

  3. Kate Gass says:

    Great article. I try to inform all of our potential clients before they choose a photographer how important it is to make sure they enjoy their photographers personailty. If you like someones work but don’t like them how fun will that be on your wedding day? It’s your wedding you should have it all.

  4. As an aspiring professional, I appreciate this post so much! A good friend of mine asked me to be in her wedding instead of shooting it, which was tough for me to handle at first, but I volunteered to help her hire the photographer. She declined, spent too little on a “professional” we are both now convinced used someone else’s images as portfolio images, and hates every single one of them.

    With a photographer, it’s okay to be incredibly picky. Interview a dozen if you must! And if for a second your gut feels like it’s not right, keep looking.

  5. Great article. That is so true about ensuring your personalities ‘gell’. It’s so hard to work with clients if you really feel that you just don’t fit together. I honestly feel half the battle is won if you can really relax and relate to each other.

  6. Paul Gavin says:

    I am in the UK, and although this site is written for an American reader i agree 100% with all that has been said here.

    I know us pro phtographers have a financial interest in people choosing us, but I would rather a couple choose another pro than an amateur if they decide not to chose me ….. THe disasters are out there, they are numerous and they can be avoided.

  7. Juliana Naim says:

    this post should have come up before my wedding in ’08. I have yet to receive my ‘sanding’ photos from the photographer my husband had engaged, and i think the photos are already somewhat nonexistent just so because I told the photographer to redo his artwork cause I really did not like it, it seemed he was rushing to finish it. he’s uncontactable now. aargh. there goes my money. but most of all important moments.
    luckily this guy had passed me the raw copies.

  8. Tony Sale says:

    I totally agree with this article. As a photographer I think it is vital to meet with clients prior to taking a booking. Not only so they can check out me, but also so that I can check them out. To make sure that I like them and that I feel able to work with them.

  9. Jen Hecht says:

    Thank you!! This post so clearly sums up the issues I’ve been trying to find my own words to express to potential clients. It’s so important to feel you have a personality fit with your photographer. They’ll be glued to your side all day, through teary moments and intimate moments alike (and yes, sometimes that’s the same moment).

    To choose your photographer based on “getting a great deal” is only okay when, in your heart of hearts, you absolutely know and trust that this person will

    a) make you feel safe and relaxed in front of the camera and in close proximity with each other
    b) reliably capture all the meaningful moments and forgotten glances so you can save them forever, no matter what, and…
    c) deliver beautiful, acclaim-worthy photographs of your wedding day that summon up all the emotion and love of the day. Because you want to be able to look back proudly and joyfully at your wedding photos for the rest of your life, I promise.

    Thanks for putting this together, everyone!

    – Jen

  10. Pradeep says:

    “The number one mistake to avoid when hiring a wedding photographer is to listen to everyone else” – the best advice anyone can give! It’s a very personal affair and the same style can evoke different reactions from different people. See as much sample work as you can. And yes, equipments DO matter.

  11. I agree with that first point very much. I would even find it hard as the photographer to do my job well if I knew my client wasn’t meshing well with me.

  12. Hi

    Very nice read and thanks for sharing.

  13. Saneesh says:

    Nice tips! for selecting a photographer for onetime celebration of wedding. Thanks

  14. These are all great points. Personality is key because you’re with the photographer all day. For more tips, we put together this webcast:

  15. leading New York Wedding Photographers,and i like this site.Thank you wedding photographers.

  16. Lily says:

    Great insights here. I agree that the photographer’s personality is really important–if you want to be in charge of all the posing, you don’t want to butt heads. If you are timid or don’t want to worry about it, you want to make sure your photographer will get the shots you want. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Great article indeed.
    The proper blending of personalities between the couple and the wedding photographer is probably the no.1 reason for excellent wedding photos.

    However, advice #2 about prioritizing photography over products and “materials” is equally important. Products are a derivative of photography. If you don’t have excellent wedding photography to show, products are completely useless. Of course, they are a marketing tool for those that try to sell photography based on “how much things weight in total”… As if wedding photography is something to be bought at the supermarket.

  18. These are some handy tips which really play a vital role in selecting a wedding photographer for one time wedding celebration. Thanks for sharing

  19. Nash says:

    I agree as a certified photographer, brides are trying to save few bucks and due to this cheap services popping up th……. and many more where they post fake posting to collect money in return for a business lead. be careful out there. look for certification, style, album, actual pictures of the weeding not the one is displayed on a web site where some time pictures are taken under perfect condition.
    feel free to leave me a message as well should you have any questions.

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