Hiring a Wedding Photographer 2

In this 2nd part of my post about hiring a wedding photographer, I’m heading into what must surely be the most confusing array of choices.

The Packages

wedding_civilMy head spins when I think about how many photographers are willing to bend over backwards to seal the deal.

There’s so many customizable options here and I don’t just mean black and white or color pictures!

A friend of mine who’s a wedding photographer burns a DVD of every image shot, sends it to the couple and tells them to choose maybe 200 pictures from say a 1000 images?

Then from those choices, he goes over the images and fixes those and creates the album from there. His rationale: he doesn’t have the time to go through all his pictures.

Civil ceremonies that are very casual can sometimes produce wonderful images too.

wedding_ringboyHe charges a lot upfront $5,000 so that he doesn’t feel like he’s going to lose out on sales of the pictures.

His package is for both video and stills. I have no idea how that works for a photographer but my friend keeps busy!

I would say that if you can buy the digital negatives from the photographer, that’s always a good idea.

If they are already charging you a lot for the album and prints, they may throw that in just as my friend does.

It’s a foregone conclusion that there is a slideshow with music thrown in to the package too.

Used to be this was such a big production and so high-end. But with availability of software and powerful computers, this is now expected of most packages.

You might want to ask if the authoring of the DVD is in-house or outsourced. Why is this important? Some photographers who are new to digital will inevitably find the challenges of creating slideshows beyond what they want to learn, so they send those out.

Will you get a more meaningful slideshow if the photographer authors it himself? Probably. Who is better than the person who shot the images at re-creating the sequence of events of your special day?

A word about the music is in order here. Contrary to what many people think, the CD music you buy doesn’t belong to you to do as  you please. It is licensed for you for personal use. The recording companies has not licensed you to use your favorite song with any videos or slideshows. You have to pay the piper as they say if you choose to use it. What can it hurt if the video is not displayed in public? Most photographers don’t consider this a big deal until someone uses one of their pictures then the gloves come off.

I guess the advice here is clearly: get the most bang for your buck. Expect to pay extra  if you want the digital files. It is worth the extra expense because these are your memories and no one will safeguard them as well as you will.


There is really only 2 that come to mind:

  • Traditional
  • Photojournalistic



These are very formal.

Everything is posed and hopefully technically perfect.

In short, these  are the pictures couples pay to have enlarged, matted and framed to be displayed in their home.

A dating couple waiting for the ceremony to start in church share a playful moment.

Previously, when churches and other religious places and even some today, didn’t allow any flash photography or even any photography during the ceremony, everything from the exchange of vows to kiss had to be staged after the actual ceremony.

If it appears that the “traditional style” is becoming less popular, it’s probably because of 2 things. There are less restrictions in religious houses except for the case of ceremonies in some denominations like the Mormons.

Also, as technology has improved light gathering ability of cameras, pictures can now be taken without the use of flash in low light settings typical of church altars. This makes possible the “photojournalistic style.”


Weddings are great places to watch people. The more observant a photographer, the better they are able to pick out the ones who are caught up in the emotional aspects of the ceremony.


Exactly what can you expect from this? Everything is more loose and spontaneous. Hair and clothing can be disheveled but it’s more the way the couple’s wedding day unfolded.

The photographer just documents the day as an observer. Except for the formal portraits, nothing is posed.

Something to bear in mind here. Not every photographer can work like this. They may claim to be able to but it really requires ability to concentrate and stay focused for long periods of time.

This is where asking to see the edited images from one weddings will help you. You can see how the photographer handles the spontaneous moments and I don’t just mean the bouquet and garter toss –those are staged.

If you don’t see say unposed candid pictures of guests and the happy couple laughing during the reception, mothers teary-eyed during the ceremony or even dressed up kids playing, that’s a tell-tale sign that they aren’t very used to working this way.


“Pictures of kids are a dime a dozen” as my photojournalism instructor used to say, so if you don’t see pictures like that among the pictures from a wedding, then that photographer is not very skilled in this “style” as much as he claims to be.

It either means they’re not getting into position with the right lens or worse, they weren’t even aware of that possibility and wasn’t ready to anticipate.


The number of weddings a photographer has done is a legit question to ask. But after say the 10th or 20th, does it matter anymore? Or for that matter how many years have they been in business?

The photographer’s background is important. Besides wedding photography, you should ask if where they acquired their photography skills.

Did they work at as a newspaper photographer? Were they in public relations?

I don’t believe that doing 100 hundred weddings necessarily makes one a better photographer.

On the contrary, I think it may have the opposite effect of making the photographer less excited about the work. It’s human nature after all.

There is no magic number of how many weddings. Naturally it is important to know that your wedding is not going to be the very first one they’ve ever done. This is too important a milestone to be left in the hands of a novice.

The Contract

The least favorite topic of discussion is probably one of the most important one. If there isn’t one, you should move on. As a customer this will be your recourse if your pictures don’t meet your expectations.

Most photographers will have some sort of non-refundable deposit to reserve the date for you. It’s pretty standard.

Also they will have you sign off that your images may be used for his self-promotion. Some people have problems with this. If they do, this would be a good time to discuss this. Most photographers would rather have the work than not, so you can always remove that from his contract.

Since there are too many variables. I offer this bit of advice. If you have a list of pictures especially the formal portraits, that you would like.

Be sure to mention this somewhere in the contract. Then give this list to your photographer so that he can check them off as he works.

Proximity of photographer to your wedding location

If your wedding is in San Diego and you hire someone who lives in Los Angeles, you have to be realistic about how well they’ll perform after a 2-hour drive.

Photographers are human after all. When I worked at the newspaper and I had assignments all over Riverside County, I could tell my ability to be creative and perform was tied to how much drive time I had.

It is just not possible to stay as sharp, focused and be ready to work after stepping out of the car after a long drive.

How relevant is this? It surely is something to think about. If you live in Southern California where traffic is a major headache, this can be a big, big deal.

Showing you what you missed at your wedding

toastRemember you are hiring a still photographer.

Someone who is grabbing moments you might  have missed because you can’t be everywhere.

You will be busy getting dressed, groomed or visiting with other guests.

He isn’t a videographer.

It’s not about the number of exposure he makes, but rather what moments he found worthy of capturing for you.

Something else to bear in mind:  if your wedding is at a location that is not so ritzy, you should be realistic about what kind of setting the photographer has to work with.

Your photographer will no doubt show you the best wedding locations he has worked. If he is competent, he should be able to get great pictures  especially the photojournalistic kind. It shouldn’t matter if it’s someone backyard or the Laguna Niguel Ritz Carlton. It’s just that it will be easier at the latter location for obvious reasons.

Your choice of location is not a reflection on you per se. It’s probably about how practical you are. Perhaps you rather spend more on great food and all the liquor for  more guests instead of the venue.

Hopefully this will spur some discussion and give brides who are interviewing wedding photographers some ideas what to ask for.

11 thoughts on “Hiring a Wedding Photographer 2”

  1. Hi Thomas,
    If I were more motivated, I would fix the blog so it renders right in Internet Explorer but that browser has always been a pain for web content.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and more importantly taking the trouble to comment.

  2. Anthony,
    Depending on bride’s expectations, this restriction may make it easier for you. If you have remote camera triggering capability this may be your chance to use it. Otherwise you’ll have to recreate the ceremony afterwards.

    All depends on how much time you have between the ceremony and reception and also bride’s wishes.

    Set a camera on a tripod up front? Are they objecting to your presence or the camera noise. If the church has “crying room,” you may be able to shoot from there? Or just set up your camera there, prefocus on the “spot.”

  3. I wanted to link your blog under my tips section of my website 🙂

    I have to shoot a wedding on saturday.
    I not only cannot use flash, but am only allowed to shoot from the back of the church……

  4. Nice article about wedding photography! Well written and informative. This will be very helpful to all brides who are looking for direction with wedding photographers. Thanks for sharing!

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