First and foremost: LOVE their photography
Your wedding day is going to reflect this person’s skill level and vision. Their portfolio should make your knees weak and your heart say, “This is the guy. I want my wedding photos to be like this.”
You may not be able to explain why you like the photos, but you know you love his photography. It may be how he poses people (or doesn’t), how he processes the photos after the wedding, or simply that everyone in the photos looks natural and comfortable. These factors matter and are what make for great wedding photos.
Does their photography style match yours
Do they shoot with a “say cheese” approach? Or with more of a journalistic style? I am most certainly the latter. This means that you and your guests are left alone to be natural and experience the day as it unfolds. I don’t direct people (except during formal photos). I want to capture people in that moment of authentic joy, when their smile is naturally beautiful. Your wedding day will be captured as its own unique story, told through a journalistic photography style while most people don’t even know a photo is being taken of them.
The other option is a photographer who engages with you and your guests to create a photo. This may mean directing bachelors to do a chest-bump, positioning people so a composition is stronger, etc. Basically, your wedding day will feel more like a photoshoot at times.
Does their experience comfort you?
As you look at their work, is it obvious that they have the experience you want in your photographer? Life happens and sometimes the wedding planners perfect schedule may have an unexpected hiccup (i.e., the cake fell, the band was late, a generator isn’t working, it started raining as the ceremony begins, etc, etc.) Do you get the impression that this photographer can adapt and respond to the hurdles of a wedding day? Has he shot in multiple environments and faced diverse challenges?
Do you “click”?
Keep in mind that your wedding photographer is going to be around you and your favorite people a lot on your wedding day. If you are a quiet person, you may not want someone who takes over a room. If you have a sarcastic humor, you may want someone with a similar trait. When you meet your photographer, you should feel so comfortable speaking with them that you could see yourself becoming friends with this person. You’ll never have to tell them a thing on your wedding day, because they will understand exactly what’s important to you.
Don’t assume that you are limited to local photographers
I have had several clients who hired me for their “local” weddings over 1,000 miles away. Why? Because the reasons above applied for them. The local photographers weren’t the right fit for them and there was no way they were going to take a chance on something so important. It’s not like you can say, “These don’t work for us, let’s do it again.” They were able to stay “in the moment” their entire wedding day, confident I was there, capturing everything, everyone and every moment— authentically.
Most people are surprised by how little the extra expense is to have a destination photographer for their local wedding. And the small expense, by far outweighs the worry of ending up with photos you are not happy with.
Clear communication is good
Working with your photographer should be easy in every way. Contracts should be clear and thorough. If your photographer’s contract has omissions or terms are vague, this is a red-flag. The contract should define when payments are due, what product is due and a deadline for delivery. I have heard so many stories of couples waiting over 9 months to see their wedding photos. That to me is a red-flag. You are going to be eager to re-live your wedding day through your photos—Get them soon. I strive for my clients to see a wedding slideshow while they are still on their honeymoon, (because how awesome is that!?!) My clients LOVE this.
Are you buying more than you need?
Let’s be honest, weddings are expensive. Make sure you are buying what you need. A lot of photographers lump things into their photo packages that aren’t needed. Do you really need two hours of dance photos or a 4×6 inch print of every photo? Clients pay for these items in the packages, though they may be called “complimentary” on a price sheet. Maybe a portrait session is more valuable for you than what is “included” in the photographer’s package. A photographer should be able to explain what you are paying for, and respond with what you want. You deserve this.