How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer

When it comes to weddings, deciding who you want to spend the rest of your life with is only the beginning when it comes to choices that have to be made.  If you’re getting married in a location with all the seasons, you’re probably going to start by deciding what time of year you’d like to get married, and then narrow that down based on the venues that are still available (see a list of some of our favorite Milwaukee venues here).  Then you and your fiancé will look into photographers, caterers, DJ’s, videographers, and so on…  There are a lot of options out there, and a good first step is to find a reputable resource on all things vendor related in your area.  Here in Milwaukee one such resource is Married in Milwaukee, a website run by industry vets (and Milwaukee locals) with more than a decade of experience.

Regardless of the order of things, dominoes need to fall in order to bring the whole picture together in a way that represents your ideal wedding day.

As a Milwaukee based Wedding Photographer, I have had the privilege of not only shooting lots of weddings in the Milwaukee area and beyond, but also talking with lots of couples as they navigate their seemingly endless options and some of the confusion that sometimes comes along with it.  Those discussions have provided me with lots of valuable and helpful information, and this article aims to share that knowledge with you and your fiancé as you look to find the best Milwaukee Wedding Photographer for you, breaking things down into 6 simple considerations that should, in the end, make your decision much easier.

Consideration No. 1: STYLE

It goes without saying that you need to feel a connection to the photographic style your potential wedding photographer is creating.  A word of Caution:  If you don’t see the style you desire in a photographer’s portfolio of work, move on!  Asking a photographer to tweak and/or completely change their style to suit your tastes is a recipe for an unhappy working relationship.  I have a great mentor who described this phenomenon as “hiring Celine Dion but expecting the Rolling Stones”.  In photographic terms, don’t hire someone who focuses on great documentary work with natural colors and ask them to deliver editorial style dark and moody orange and teal photographs like the examples on your Pinterest board.  You are destined to be unhappy with the end result, and your photographer is destined to be unhappy with a process that limits their natural creative expression.

Ideas to consider if you aren’t exactly sure what your preferred style is:

  • Emotion: Do you want your photos to look serious?  Fun and carefree?  Weddings are a great mix of a lot of emotion, and a good photographer will capture it all… but what are they highlighting in their collections?
  • Approach:  Do you like a more candid/documentary/photojournalistic style?  More editorial/posed?  A combination of both?  Again, an experienced photographer will be able to create interesting candid shots as well as portraits.
  • Colors:  Do you like them to look natural, or more stylized? Think very warm/orange or dark and moody, light and airy, or exaggerated hues of any color.  You’ll know what you like when you see it.  Just remember that a highly stylized color approach will alter the look of your color choices in other areas (florals, dresses, place settings, venue decorations, etc.)
  • The “Look”: Many people are drawn to a “filmic” look (and many photographers aim to replicate it in their digital files) because it has “character” and brings a more vintage feel to some photographs.  By contrast, some photographers specialize in delivering very sharp, clean, and cutting images.  And then some photographers offer a little bit of both, depending on the situation they are photographing.
  • Natural Light?  Flash?:  Some situations just need more light.  Hiring a photographer who knows how to best harness natural light AND how and when to use flash is always advisable.  Check out my blog post about natural vs artificial lighting at weddings.
  • Trends: They come and they go, some are better than others (but it’s all subjective, isn’t it?).  Try to be aware of what they are, and decide if you like certain trends enough to date your wedding when you’re looking at your album 20 years down the road.

Consideration No. 2: COMPATIBILITY

You can learn a lot about someone online, but not enough.  If you find yourself drawn to a particular Milwaukee Wedding Photographer, reach out and set up a call, or even better, an in-person meeting.  Get to know them a little bit.  Imagine what it might be like to work with them on one of the most important days of your life.  Do you they help you to feel comfortable?  Is their energy compatible with yours?  Is it easy to engage in conversation?  These are all important factors, since you will spend a lot of time with your wedding photographer.  Maybe you’ll find out that you have many things in common, like an obsession with travel, food, music, playing bad golf, and long distance running (that’s me)!

Ideas to consider when it comes to compatibility:

  • Laid back: This may be a sign that a wedding photographer is good at rolling with the punches and taking on the day as it comes.  (Note: Make sure a laid back photographer has the wherewithal to step in and take control when needed).
  • “Type A”:  This is someone who is clearly organized, efficient, and leaves very little doubt as to who is in charge.  Type A tends to imply a negative connotation, but in a wedding photographer, this may be exactly what a couple needs.
  • The Cheerleader:  Some photographers are great at being the “hype person” and bringing tons of energy to the equation.
  • The Wallflower:  The discreet wedding photographer is often great at capturing candid moments where the subject doesn’t even know they’re being photographed.
  • Your Personality: Who have you jived with in the past?  Who have you butted heads with?  Use your experiences as a guide.

Consideration No. 3: DELIVERABLES

This is pretty cut and dry; what do you receive in exchange for your investment?  Is an engagement shoot included?  How many wedding photos can you expect?  Do they offer a video add-on?  Are any physical products part of the package?  Although we all seem to live on our phones, do yourself a favor and get a clear idea of how the process of getting prints is carried out, and make sure your potential photographer has a pipeline to trusted and quality printers.  As a photographer who is a HUGE proponent of printed photographs, you can bet I have some recommendations and ways to make getting high-quality prints easy for you.

Consideration No. 4: COST

Wedding Photography is a value based service, and only you and your fiancé (or whoever may be helping you pay for your wedding, if applicable) can decide what the upper limit of that value is in monetary terms.  You will find prices in the Milwaukee market that are all over the map, which in and of itself can be very confusing.  There are great photographers who charge at the low-end of the market, and below average photographers who charge at the high-end.  What does it all mean?!?  Doing your homework and connecting directly with photographers you are interested in will help you make sense of the value being offered.

And keep in mind that when you hire a wedding photographer, you aren’t just “buying pictures”.  You are paying for photographs, of course, but you are also hiring the skill, experience, and customer service of the individual who has the potential to greatly enhance the experience you have on your wedding day.  Intangibles (covered next) are a huge part of this.

…And being a wedding photographer isn’t cheap!  Cameras, lenses, lighting, editing software, web and gallery hosting services, insurance (make sure your photographer has this!) etc. are all costs that are wrapped into the prices you see, and the years spent honing the craft also comes at a cost, just like any other skill-based, creative industry.

Consideration No. 5: INTANGIBLES

Intangibles are hard to grasp by definition, but after an initial and earnest discussion with any wedding photographer you should be able to get a handle on what value they can provide that has little or nothing to do with photographs.  Any given wedding day has the potential to introduce stressful moments; a wedding photographer who has experienced many weddings and situations should be able to roll with the punches and find solutions, all while delivering the photos you expect.  Dealing with your rowdy wedding party and making sure they also have a good time is an intangible skill.  Stepping in to tie bow-ties when the groomsmen realize they didn’t watch enough YouTube videos to prepare is an intangible skill.  Showing up and bringing a radically positive attitude to the wedding is an intangible that, unfortunately, is not a given with every professional wedding photographer.

Consideration No. 6: REVIEWS

I mean, obviously!

Consideration No. 7: GUT FEELING

How about this…  Does it feel like a good fit?  Now is NOT the time to try and fit a round peg into a square hole; trust your gut!

If this information has helped you narrow your vision in search of the ideal wedding photographer, my aim is fulfilled.  As a Milwaukee Wedding Photographer, I love working with clients who have gone through this checklist and ultimately landed on me. It means we are set up to roll into the wedding day with a couple things firmly understood: they don’t have to worry about the photography and can focus on having a great time with their favorite people, and I can focus on creatively pursuing my passion to give them the best wedding photographs and experience possible.

Have more questions?  Connect with me here.