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A red dirt girl from Oklahoma turned mountain woman, with a camera in tow. Kayla is a wedding & brand photographer based out of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Tulsa, Oklahoma. She documents love and brand stories with a natural style and loves the candid, authentic moments. 

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  Kayla

12/24/2020

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

If you are planning your wedding, let Wyoming wedding Photographer Kayla of Foxtails photography give you some helps tips and questions to think over while interviewing your wedding vendors.

I know that hiring a wedding photographer can seem a little intimidating. How are you supposed to know what questions to ask? What type of photos are you going to want to make sure are captured? How do you ensure that you find the right fit for you?  Well, those are all great questions and often your wedding planner will be able to help! In case you are trying to figure this out on your ow though, here are some tips and questions to help get you started!

Starting questions to consider:

Things you might be considering:

  • How many hours will you want the photographer to be on hand for? 
  • Do you need one photographer or two? 
  • Which part of your day is most important to you? Is it getting ready with family & friends, the ceremony, the reception, or an adventurous sunset session?
  • Do you want a first look with your partner or  with a family member?
  • Are you wanting coverage of your rehearsal the day before or only wedding day?

These are just some of the many questions I ask my clients because depending on what they want will depend on what type of package they need.

How Much Does a Wedding Photographer Cost?

The first thing to have an idea about is what your budget will be. Prices range immensely between photographers due to experience, equipment, and much more. Instead of wondering how much a photographer is going to cost, I’d encourage going the reverse route and setting an ideal budget. Then when you begin your search, you will know which photographers are going to be around your range. 

The average price of an 8 hour wedding package across the states is 3-4 thousand. Keep in mind that some areas cost more than others but this is an average! You will also find that the higher the price, the more experience a photographer might have, along with having a sustainable business (you don’t want to hire a photographer that isn’t going to be in business a few year down the road – if you ever lose your images or need new copies, you want to be able to contact them). In addition, photographers with more experience will have well-defined contracts (this protects both you and the photographer), extra equipment (technology can always go wrong, and an experienced photographer will make sure to plan for this), knowledge of how to not only capture your wedding but also what to do when things go wrong, and education. 

These are just some of the elements that cause photography prices to range from $1,000 to $20,000. Every photographer will also require payment differently. Some have a retainer period, or some will ask for half 6 months before. This is purely a personal choice on the photographer’s part, and it’s definitely something you should inquire about while deciding if a photographer is the right fit for you.

Just remember, that photography is one of the few things you get back from your investment and will be carried with you throughout the years and can even be handed down through generations.

Choosing a Photography Style for You

Once you have your budget, start looking at styles. Do you want a darker/moodier photographer or someone who is bright and airy? Perhaps editorial? Maybe you want a documentary or even a film photographer. There are so many types of photography ( just like different types of painters), and sometimes you may not even know what the difference is till you start to compare side by side. 

To start getting an idea, look at images you love ( Pinterest boards can be so helpful for this) and see what they have in common! Once you have an idea of what style you prefer, then you can make a list of photographers that have a similar style.  Your photographer won’t be editing to a different style so making certain that you choose a photographer with the correct style is important. Photographers will most likely tell you about their style of photography when you chat with them but it is always good to come prepared!

How Long Do I Need to Book My Photographer for?

You will want to have a general idea of how many hours you want. Each photographer can walk you through this, but it helps if you have thought about some of it already! 

For instance, you want to think about time between locations. If you have a getting ready location, a ceremony location, and then a reception location, it will take time for the photographer to drive from one place to another, which translates into additional hours that you will need to book.

Also consider how long your ceremony will be. Some couples opt for a short 15 minute ceremony while others have a traditional hour to hour and half ceremony. Make sure to add this into the amount of time you need the photographer on hand.

There are also smaller moments that you need to make sure to allot time for. Do you want your photographer to capture candid shots of you getting ready with all your friends and family before the ceremony? Or maybe a send off at the end of your reception? Once you think about all of these things it will make it a little easier for you to know how many hours you might need and can discuss that with the photographer.

Here is a cute example of a bride relaxing with her  sisters before they started getting dressed. The more casual photographs before the ceremony can sometimes be so sentimental!

What about a first look with your parents or grandparents? Here is an example of what a first look with a dad can be like!

And then you could do  a first look or something special with your fiancé !?!? Many couples choose to be traditional and wait to do the first look at their ceremony, but others want to have a few quiet moments together first to do a first look, hold hands around a corner or a door while reading letters, or just enjoying some down time. I personally recommend for all my couples to have a few moments together before their ceremony as the day goes by so quickly and chaotically that it can be nice to have a supportive and intimate moment amidst the chaos. I also totally LOVE first looks in an intimate setting! It isn’t for everyone though, so remember that you should absolutely do you and decide which option is best for you and your finance. 

Here is an example of a  first look between a bride and groom before their ceremony

You also want to think about family and wedding party pictures. The bigger the family and/or wedding party then the more time it takes. Family pictures always seem to take the longest of anything during a wedding, but they can also seriously be so much fun! After family pictures, photographers often get the couples pictures along with the wedding party so that then everyone can enjoy dinner, dances, and evening festivities.

I also recommend having some alone time together for couples pictures at sunset to not only enjoy each other’s company, but to really capture those intimate pictures of you both while being showered in a beautiful golden light! It is GREAT to have a little down time during sunset pictures, so if your photographer doesn’t bring it up, I’d definitely recommend asking about it! 

Lastly, you should consider the reception. Some couples want to have pictures of toasts, first dances, bouquet tosses, and/or a farewell. Depending on how your schedule is laid out, this can add a little or a lot of time for the photographer. Think about all the things you dream of doing for your reception and then make a list of which of those is most important. 

On average, most couples need around 8 hours of photography to capture the getting ready pictures all the way to the reception. Many couples who opt for a bigger wedding will need closer to 10 or even 12, while the smaller, intimate weddings might only need 6 hours. Because it ranges so much, you’ll want to list out all the things you want captured to help you and your photographer and/or planner decide how many hours you will need.

Choosing Your Photographer

OK, now you know your budget, what style of photography you want, and the parts of your day you want captured. It’s officially time to start reaching out to your top vendors! Keep in  mind that many photographers book up their year in advance, so starting this process early will work to help you get the best fit.

Start by making a list of photographers.  You can do this by a little internet searching, Instagram, or even Pinterest! Asking friends or family who have gotten married is also a great option. Once you have that list, you want to review their websites to learn a little more about them, their business, and what they offer. Remember that when you hire a photographer, they are with you for most of the day and with you for all the most important parts of the day. You want someone you can be friends with and be yourself around! So find photographers who you feel a connection with and have similar hobbies or passions in addition to their style and cost. 

Once you feel like you’ve found a good fit, the first step is to connect with them through their contact form on their website. Most photographers prefer this no matter if you are working with a planner and/or searching on The Knot. Why? Because each photographer has a system and specific questions they might want to ask. It also sets you apart from others that just send a message asking prices and nothing else. 

I LOOOOOVE it when I have a client who not only fills out my contact form but also tells me all about their love story, wedding details, and other little things! We of course chat about this on the phone, but there is nothing better than reading about it initially!

Once you have reached out to your photographers, sit down with your fiancé and make a list of what you love about each one along with budgets and options. Many couples know right away which photographer they want, but if your favorite photographer is already booked, it might take a little time to decide which photographer is best for you and your partner!

Should I Consider Having a Second Photographer?

Many photographers offer a second photographer in their packages. This is a GREAT option for many couples if their budgets allows. If you hire a more experienced photographer, they most likely have a list of “ second shooters” that they hire and are responsible for. The benefit of having two photographers is that you get more images as it allows for both you and your partner to have a photographer with you at all moments of the day, ensuring no moments get missed! If this is something you are curious about, ask your photographer, as they can let you know their thoughts.

Closing Considerations

Not all photographers are created equal. Think of it as paintings you go to look at in a museum. Some are more modern and artistic, some are more detailed and traditional. Some painters have more experience, greater quality, and use higher quality paints and brushes. It is the same with photographers. 

We are an artist behind the lens but also entrepreneurs. Honestly, we often spend more time at our computers or traveling than behind the lens. It can be a demanding job and some photographers are very intentional, only taking limited amounts of clients while others take every client they can.  Make certain to know how long it might take your photographer to deliver your images. Most photographers will educate you on all of this but while some photographers are all about quantity over quality, they will get images out to you quicker than photographers who choose to be focused on quality. I am a photographer who only takes a limited amount of weddings and make certain to have my full albums delivered in 6-8 weeks during busy season 3-4 weeks during off season. It is great to be able to send a client albums early but incase of situations ( like Covid) where our schedules become hectic, we want to make certain we allow plenty of time to deliver a fully edited gallery to our clients. 

The reason why it can take so long to deliver a full gallery of images is that some weddings have thousands of images! Some photographers edit their images theirselves, others hire out their editing.  Because of all the factors, this is why some photographers get images delivered within weeks of your wedding while others take 3-4 months because they go through every image multiple times and edit it themselves rather than hiring it out. In addition to this, many photographers only give specific quantities of images while others will give you every image they capture.  I always give my clients all the images I capture, I don’t need or want to “up-sale” to clients. I care about my clients and I don’t want them to have to comb through to pick and choose their favorite images and I also don’t want or need to pick out their favorite images for them.  This is why it’s great and ok to ask a photographer how many images they deliver, how long to receive full albums, if they do their own editing/what editing they offer (remember, many photographers don’t photoshop. That is a whole separate career in its own), as well as what their whole process is.

Also ask about engagement pictures! Many photographers offer complimentary engagement sessions as it is the prefect way to get to know each other while practicing in front of the camera! Photographers either help to pose or  give out prompts, prompts can be really helpful as they make a couple feel more comfortable and forget that there is a camera around.  There is a lot that goes into this art form! It can be overwhelming for someone new to it but if you hire a quality photographer, they will be willing to help explain their process & style as well as help you. 

When it comes to being there on your big day, you want a friend as well as a trusted vendor that will tackle anything that comes up with integrity, experience, professionalism, and also a sense of humor to make your day the best day ever

To Do:

So now that you have reviewed over some things to think about, here is a quick list to review and consider before hopping on the phone with your potential photographer

  1. Budget, come up with a estimate of your low and high end
  2. List out the parts of your day that are most important to you
  3. Think about how long your ceremony will be
  4. Consider the time between each spot that your photographer will be traveling
  5. Look at which styles of photography you love and relate to.
  6. Think about if a first look, reading letters, or a sunset session is for you.
  7. Create an ideal list of reception events you want. From first dances to cake cutting and a bouquet toss or speeches.
  8. Rank your lists of event from most important to less important.
  9. Talk with family and friends about the things they loved about their weddings, ask what they regret and what they would have done differently.
  10. DO what is best for you and your partner, it is hard when family is involved and everyone wants something different. It is ok to tell others what you want and if there is something you don’t want to do.
  11. Have FUN! Wedding planning shouldn’t be stress if you hire the right vendors. Your wedding team is there to support you and make your big day along with planning fun and stress free. With a good team, no matter what happens they will be prepared and able to support you through any last minute hickups. So enjoy the process of planning out your big day and only work with vendors you can trust!

If you have more questions or want to inquire about booking me for your wedding, you can do so by filling out my contact form here!

Kayla is lead photographer of Foxtails Photography. She illustrates weddings across Wyoming & in Tulsa, Oklahoma with golden, natural light and a romantic style. Her photography is enduring and captures the authentic, candid moments along with the smallest details.

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