Hi, we're Hunter and Sarah, a husband-and-wife, luxury wedding photography team. We’re also educators, helping other photographers build profitable and sustainable photography businesses.
As wedding photographers who were married a little over two years ago, Hunter and I have the unique experience of having been on both sides of hiring a wedding photographer. Not only did we interview five or six photographers for our own wedding (we don’t necessarily recommend that, but we had some really specific items on our checklist), but we’ve also sat across the table from more than 60 couples over the last few years as they’ve searched for their own wedding photographers.
Through these twin experiences, we’ve come up with a few tips for all the engaged couples out there who are beginning the search for their wedding photographers. Although we know there are SO many factors to consider, we landed on these five that we think are most important.
At the end of the day, we know that we’re not the perfect fit for everyone, and understand better than anyone how important the photographer-client relationship is on a wedding day. So as you begin your search for the people who will document the most important day of your life so far, here’s a few tips to avoid hiring the wrong wedding photographers for you.
We love TJ Maxx and thrift stores as much as anyone, but your wedding day is not the time to bargain shop. We understand that everyone has a budget, and most of those budgets feel tight during the planning process – we know ours certainly did!
But consider this: when you and your spouse sit down on your 10th, 25th or even 50th wedding anniversary, what will you remember? Will it be the way that your cake tasted? Probably not. Will it be whether your meal was plated or buffet-style? Again, not likely. Will it be how professional the transitions were between songs during the reception? Maybe, but we doubt it. What you will do is look through your gallery of wedding photos, whether digitally or in a physical wedding album. The beauty of the day – from the flowers to the venue to your dress or his suit – all of that will depend on the person who captured your day.
Understand, we are NOT saying that you shouldn’t book a venue that you’ve absolutely fallen in love with, and we certainly aren’t saying you shouldn’t hire a DJ or a florist or a caterer who makes delicious food. We are saying that if there were one SINGLE area that you do NOT want to skimp on, it’s photography. Because while memories fade, photos won’t. As the years go by, your wedding photos (and video) will be the only concrete reminder of your wedding day. So don’t take that decision lightly.
And we promise we aren’t just saying these things because we want to make more money; Hunter and I lived this out ourselves. When we planned our own wedding, we liked to joke that we were “balling on a budget”, but even on our budget, we had our priorities straight. We knew how important photography was to us, which is why we spent more on our photographer than we did on renting our venue, or catering for 185 people, or on my dress, flowers and decorations combined.
Now that you hopefully appreciate how important photography is, it’s time to find someone you absolutely love to capture your day! The first question to ask yourself is what photographic style you enjoy. Much like finding your spouse, this is less a checklist and more a you’ll-know-it-when-you-see-it.
For reference, we describe our photographic style with words like bright, colorful, timeless and joyful, and we’re confident that you’ll see those qualities in our photography. If you’re looking for dark, dramatic, and moody imagery, that’s great! We know and are friends with some wonderful photographers out there who will capture your day in that way, and do it with incredible beauty. But we know we wouldn’t be the right fit for you, and your preferred photographic style.
It’s crucial that you take the time to find photographers whose work matches your vision for your wedding day so you’ll be proud of the images, not only when you post them to Instagram a couple weeks after the wedding, but in the decades to come as you show your children or even grandchildren one day.
If you love having lots of options, then here’s some good news: whether you’re looking for bright and airy photography or dark and moody images, whether you prefer a hands-on approach or a more photojournalistic team — or anything in-between — there are likely still many photographers in your area who match your style and preferences.
So how do you continue to narrow things down? We recommend you ask yourself this question: could I be friends with these photographers? A lot of couples don’t realize this as they plan their wedding day, but you’ll spend all of the most important and intimate moments of your wedding day with your photographers, so having someone who you enjoy being around is crucial!
When a couple reaches out to Hunter and I about their wedding, we could easily just send them a price sheet and a contract and tell them to sign if they like our work. But we take the time to meet with Every. Single. Couple. We meet either in-person, or over video chat if they aren’t local to Charlottesville. We do this because we believe one of the most important factors for success on a wedding day is how well you connect with your photographers, so we want to begin that relationship as early as possible. We also want to give our couples an opportunity to feel whether or not they connect with us.
Whether you’re browsing photographers’ websites or sitting across a table from them, ask yourself if you could see yourself being friends with them. In a stressful moment, are they going to exacerbate your stress, or be the calming presence to bring you back to earth? When you’re putting on your wedding dress surrounded by your dearest friends and family, is her presence going to comfort you or make you anxious? If you spent an hour or more taking photos with them, do you see yourself being annoyed by the end of it, or having a great time? These are super important questions, and just as important as style.
While this fourth point may be more difficult to discern on a website or even in an hour-long meeting, it’s still an important thing to think about. Your wedding day will likely be the most monumental and jubilant day of your entire life so far. But for your photographer, will it be just another day of work? Will they be as excited as you are as you plan and set details and experience the day? Or will they approach things with a no-nonsense, this-is-my-job-so-let’s-get-this-done attitude?
Hunter and I try to stay humble and remind ourselves each and every time we step onto a wedding day that someone has honored us with the privilege of capturing their most intimate moments and the highlight of their life thus far. We try to honor every single wedding day like we wanted to be honored on our own wedding day, and we know that it makes a difference.
We do a LOT of fluffing trains and veils. We’ve sewn bridesmaids into their dresses when zippers broke. We’ve gotten water on hot days. We’ve carried bags. We’ve reassured and calmed nerves and brought brides (and moms) back down to earth. We’ve discreetly taken care of emergencies so our couples never even knew there was ever a problem. Do we hope to do these things? No – we’re here to capture beautiful imagery. But first and foremost, we’re there to serve. There’s a reason most of our couples consider us friends at the end of our time together – we serve them like we would serve our own best friends!
This final point is maybe a bit more nuanced than the first four, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention it. It should go without saying that you want two photographers to capture your wedding day. But over the years, we’ve heard horror stories from couples, friends and other photographers alike of professional photographers who hire their second shooters a week or two before their weddings, and are sometimes left with total amateurs, people they’ve never worked with before, or even people who have never picked up a camera.
Of course, all beginner photographers need their first experience, but for how important your wedding day is and for how much you’ll pay for photography, do you want to potentially leave your wedding day in the hands of an amateur? What if the main photographer’s camera breaks during the ceremony or they get sick the night before your wedding? Although these occurrences are rare (like, REALLY rare, so please don’t stress too much), they are still a possibility, and you should know who your photographer uses as a second in advance to give you some additional peace of mind.
It’s during the ceremony especially that Hunter and I are SO grateful for each other. We’re not just one professional and her second shooter, but two professional photographers who, at this point in our career, could each shoot a wedding day start-to-finish totally on our own. Aside from the awesome couple-couple relationship that makes every meeting or photo session more like a fun double-date than a boring photoshoot, we know the added insurance and comfort that we give our couples helps them sleep better the night before their wedding, because they know they got the best BOGO deal of their lives: buy one professional wedding photographer, get one free!
We hope that this short guide has been helpful as you think about the right (and wrong) wedding photographers from you. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to click here to contact us, or check out some of our own wedding photography here!