How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

This is a question that most brides ask themselves when they are ready to look for a wedding photographer. You want to find a wedding photographer that is not only highly skilled in the art of photography to ensure they will capture amazing images of your wedding day, but also one that will understand you and your fiancé as a couple and be invested in your personal story. It may seem odd to interview a photographer to see if they have a personality and passion for their clients that will mesh well with you and your fiancé’s personality and vision for your wedding photography, but wedding planning and your wedding day is a journey that you’ll be glad you found a perfectly matched photographer for.

Main things to consider:

1. What Style of Photography Do You Like?
2. Who the Potential Photographer Is - Large Studio vs. Individual Photographer
3. Gear and Experience
4. Do They Include a Second Photographer?
5. Packages and Pricing

There’s no wrong way to start your search for your wedding photographer. Often times brides will ask family and friends if they know of any good photographers or maybe do an internet search for “wedding photographer”. It really isn’t important how you search for your wedding photographer, but it is important to know what you’re looking for when you do search.

1. What Style of Photography Do You Like?

Every photographer has their unique style of photography. This is achieved through their composition and editing style. These are related to how each photographer sees the world around them and how that translates into the art of photography. It is important that before you start searching for and interviewing photographers you know what style you like. While there isn’t any kind of standard dictionary definition of photographic styles, there are a handful that are generally what most photographers tend to fall into.

Types of Photographic Styles


Documentary (also called photojournalistic):

A photojournalistic or documentary style is very common in this era of wedding photography. It is a candid style that allows your photographer to capture your wedding day as it unfolds rather than trying to pose or direct the images they capture.


This is often thought of as portraiture and generally what you think of when you think of your parent’s wedding photos. The photographer directs every aspect of the images taken from the background to the specific bodily alignment of the subjects being photographed.


This style is a blend of photojournalistic and traditional/classic. It is often used during engagement and husband and wife portrait sessions because it allows for your photographer to organically direct you two in an environment with good lighting and background and then encourages you to interact naturally with one another as they capture images. This style allows for candid captures while still allowing the photographer control the pose.

Natural Light:

A natural light photographer will only use light found naturally in the environment they are shooting in rather than using lighting equipment of any kind. This style creates a warm, soft, and natural feel to the images. A photographer who shoots only natural light must be highly skilled to deal with lighting challenges that arise in darker environments.

High Fashion:

A high fashion style tends to have an edgy and artsy feel and dramatizes the subjects being photographed.  Generally, this style is found in commercial photography, but even though it’s not as common, it can be incorporated into wedding photography as well.

The styles listed above are composition related but a photographer’s editing style also plays a big part in their style. Editing styles tend to range widely and include looks that are matte or film like, black and white only, and vividly clean and crisp. 

I personally have a blend of documentary, illustrative, and classic styles, taking a documentary approach during much of the wedding day, an illustrative approach during the husband and wife posed portraits, and a classic approach during the family posed portraits; and my editing style falls into the vividly clean and crisp category. 


2. Who the Potential Photographer Is - Large Studio vs. Individual Photographer

There are some wedding photography companies that have many photographers on staff and you won’t necessarily meet the photographer who will photograph your wedding until the day of your wedding. These types of companies are often referred to as Wedding Photography Mills because they basically file couples through their milling process and make a huge profit. They seem trust worthy because they are a large and seemingly successful company, but in reality it ends up being a gamble for couples who hire them. This process works out great for the company because they can hire out wedding contracts to photographers, outsource all their editing, and they make a huge profit this way. For the client, it may or may not work out so well. You don’t know for sure the quality of work or service the photographer will offer since you don’t necessarily know or have a relationship built with them at all. What if the photographer that shows up just rubs you the wrong way or is too obtrusive during your ceremony? These are things that you will be irritated about and that are sure to cause a damper on, if not ruin, your wedding day and no one wants that!

 Large Photography Studio (Wedding Mills) vs. Individual Proprietor Photographer

Large Photography Studio (Wedding Mills) vs. Individual Proprietor Photographer

I highly recommend choosing a photographer who is the proprietor and photographer in their business. This could be a single person or maybe a husband and wife photographer team or even just a couple photographers who have partnered together in wedding photography. It’s these types of photographers who typically not only have a passion for wedding photography but also for providing their clients with the great experience they deserve. I personally will only take one wedding per weekend so I can ensure that I give the couples I work with my undivided attention on their wedding day. I also do this because any wedding photographer will tell you that the day after shooting a wedding, our bodies are out for the count and need some time to rest and recoup. I would never want to show up to a wedding feeling anything less than 100% ready to capture and serve my clients to the best of my ability.

You can easily get a “first impression” by checking out the about or bio section of a photographer’s website or checking out their blog. If you like what you read and see there, then scheduling to meet them in person may be a good idea.


3. Gear and Experience

Now let me preface this section by saying that the gear doesn’t make the professional…but a professional does use proper gear. I’ve read some magazines tell brides to ask the potential wedding photographers they meet with what camera they use, but let’s be honest here, unless you’re a camera buff getting that answer is not going to be helpful in making your decision. What you should ask is whether the photographer uses a full frame camera or not.

The reason is because varying brands of cameras have the lower end cameras that they label “consumer level”, which may be DSLR or what is called a point and shoot, then they have middle of the line cameras that are labeled “pro-sumer level”, which are right on the fence between consumer and professional level cameras, and then there are “professional level” cameras. It is my personal and professional opinion that all wedding photographers should be primarily working with a professional level full frame camera because while the gear doesn’t make the professional, the professional can’t make a lower end camera magically gain higher quality. 

When it comes to experience, this is going to be up to each couple to decide what level of experience they’re comfortable with. Every photographer starts somewhere and while they may not have much or any experience being a primary photographer, maybe they have a great deal of experience as a second shooter and are now starting to branch out and try to book their own weddings. If you’re on a tight budget and established photographers in your area are too far out of your budget, then you may consider finding a newer wedding photographer as their rates may be less expensive. The thing that matters is that you like their style of photography and that they will make a great fit as your wedding photographer.


4. Do They Include a Second Photographer

This is something you’ll want to know, but it is not a deal breaker by any means. Some photographers include this in their wedding packages and other photographers may offer it at an additional rate. Either way, I do recommend having a second photographer for at least the first half of your wedding day to ensure that all aspects of the bridal party getting ready, the fine details, and the ceremony are fully covered. Can one photographer effectively do this alone? Technically, they probably could if they stretch themselves thin enough, but do you want to risk them not being able to on one of the biggest, most memorable days of your life? I personally don’t ever want to make my client choose between the price of their package and whether or not they can afford to add a second photographer, which is why I include a second photographer in all my wedding packages.


5. Packages and Pricing

We’re getting down to the final decision making details here…packages and pricing. You can love a photographer’s style, you can mesh so well with their personality that they could practically be your new best friend, they could use the highest level photography gear and been shooting weddings forever, and even include a second photographer, but if you don’t like the packages they offer or their pricing is too high for your budget, then it’s not going to be a good match for you. Generally you can look on a photographer’s website to find this information as well. They’ll typically either list a starting price point or list all their pricing on their website. I list a starting price point on my website because I don’t want couples to feel like they have to fit into a cookie cutter package. I don’t mind customizing packages to best fit couple’s desires for their wedding photography. So don’t let a starting price point scare you away from a photographer, just make sure your budget fits within their starting price point.

Some photographer’s do not offer any products, they only offer digitals. I personally believe this is a huge shame because pictures are captured to cherish not captured to sit on a computer hard drive. It’s for that reason that I offer fine art products such as canvas prints, framed prints, and leather bound photo albums and recommend getting at least one art piece that you can enjoy for years to come.

If you're finding that a lot of the photographers whose style you're drawn to has a higher price tag, you may want to read the blog post on Why Are Wedding Photographers So Expensive? It may help explain some of your questions and give you information you need to decide whether or not a certain photographer is worth going with based on a higher price tag or not.

Questions to ask at your consultation

Once you’ve gone through these 5 important points as you consider photographers you’re searching through, you’ll come across at least one, maybe a handful, that you’ll want to meet in person and see if they indeed will be a good fit as your photographer. When you do meet for your consultation, here a bonus freebie list of questions you can take with you: (here is a printable version)

What kind of style do you have?
How long have you been photographing weddings?
How many weddings will you photograph per weekend?
Do you use a full frame camera?
Do you use lighting equipment or are you a natural light photographer?
Do you have insurance and can you provide my venue with a certificate of coverage?
Will you help me plan my wedding day timeline?
If my wedding lasts longer than scheduled, will you stay longer? Is there an extra charge?
How long after my wedding will I be able to see my pictures? Do you do a social media preview?
How many pictures will we receive?
What format will my digital images be in?
What kind of copyright license will I receive for using my digital images?
Do you outsource your editing?
Why are you worth the amount you are charging?

If you’d like to see my answers to these questions and more, you can check them out here: Frequently Asked Wedding Photography Questions

 Krystal Craven is a licensed and insured professional wedding photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA.

Krystal Craven is a licensed and insured professional wedding photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area, CA.

Are you or someone you know getting married in the San Francisco Bay Area? I'd love to be considered as the journey to search for a wedding photographer begins! Feel free to contact me and we can schedule to grab some coffee or do a phone or video conference to see if I'd make a good fit as your wedding photographer!


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