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Wedding Talk: Advice on Selecting a Wedding Photographer

When it comes to finding a photographer for your wedding, the options out there can be overwhelming.

Do you want a photojournalist? A fashion photographer? A classic traditionalist? What if you’re not sure? Or what if you want a little bit of all three? How do you go about doing that?

A few weeks ago My Portland Photographer shared a great article about DIY inspiration in the wedding world.  Britney with Turn Loose the Art says, “One of my favorite things about weddings is seeing how the couple makes their wedding unique. I love it when a couple injects their personalities into a wedding!

There is another side to wedding details, though, and that is the proliferation of stylized shoots and wedding blogs making it seem as if details are the ONLY important part of a wedding. And while nearly any photographer of any skill level can take a beautiful photograph of a table setting in even outdoor lighting, it takes a photographer of a much higher skill level to take beautiful detail photos of a dimly-lit reception room. Some of the popular wedding blogs out there help boost photographers that are great at photographing wedding details, but might not be good at photographing the actual wedding. Most inspiration shoots show only a bride and/or groom with the details or just details alone – this is one of the easiest parts of photographing a wedding and does not indicate the skill level of the photographer.

Looking through a photographer’s portfolio with a critical eye is not the kind of thing most brides are capable of doing unless they took a random art history class in college or work in a visual medium every day.

Several years ago Britney’s best friend planned her wedding and asked her to look over the photographer suggestions her coordinator sent her. Britney was appalled at the options she sent! One of the photographers didn’t have a single image in his portfolio taken in the evening or indoors; every single image was photographed outdoors in flat, even lighting.  Britney’s friend thanked her for pointing that out, because all she noticed were the pretty photos and didn’t realize the photographer was probably a one-shot wonder.

Britney with Turn Loose the Art wanted to offer a tip sheet to help brides narrow their choices down to quality and skilled photographers.

1.    Look for a variety of settings and scenes in the photographer’s portfolio. Look for scenes from the same kind of wedding you are planning. If you’re having a November wedding in a ballroom, look for evidence the photographer has photographed weddings on cloudy days and in ballrooms. At the same time, look to see if the photographer is capable of photographing in a variety of settings such as full sun near a gazebo, mixed lighting from trees, indoors during both the day and evening.

2.    Their portfolio should show more than just a few couples. Only a few couples in a portfolio likely means the photographer is inexperienced or hasn’t photographed many weddings. And if you only see one couple in a beautiful setting, all the more reason to look carefully.

3.    You should also see guests and bridal parties in photos. If you only see brides and grooms and flowers, it’s possible the whole portfolio consists of stylized shoots. It is much easier to photograph a stylized shoot at optimal lighting than it is to photograph an entire wedding day worth of events and timeline constraints.

4.    The photographer should be willing to show you multiple complete weddings. You want to see whether the photographer can photograph your toasts with the same skill they photograph your couple portraits. The photographer may have a blog – check how far back the blog goes in the archives. And look at the blog posts to see if they show more than just portraits. Do they also show parents of the couple, show ceremonies filled with people? Do the weddings consistently show the photographer covering all aspects of the day?

5.    Are the details only closeups? Closeups of wedding details look great on blogs, but rarely make the wedding album. When it comes to your wedding album, you’re probably going to end up choosing images that show both the people you invited AND the pretty things you chose for decor. Also, if the photos are only showing closeups, they might not be from a real wedding but a mock setup instead.

6.    Unless you only want images of your place cards and portraits, make sure the photographer showcases real moments throughout the day! Portraits usually make up a much smaller percentage of the day than wedding events. And remember, a good photographer can easily show all your wedding details throughout the day in photojournalistic moments as well!

Inspiration shoots are a lot of fun to photograph, and I wouldn’t begrudge any photographer for participating in stylized shoots. But a wedding photographer should have more experience than just inspiration shoots before committing to photograph an entire event with real people, real emotions, and real moments. A wedding is a beautiful, chaotic, emotional event, and you want a photographer that can photograph all of that with patience and skill.

Portland photographer Turn Loose the Art has over ten years of experience photographing weddings of all kinds.  They pride themselves on giving equal focus to all parts of your wedding day.

Looking for an experienced wedding photographer?  The My Portland Photographer Availability Checker offers you a convenient and easy way to see which photographer is available for your date with links to their websites and phone numbers.

  • Great ideas about how to select a photographer for your Portland Wedding! Thanks Britney!

  • Lelia Marie

    A wonderful, and very true post! Wise words, and absolutely amazing photos! 🙂