How to Get the Most Out of Your Wedding Photography Investment, Part 1

The other day I was sitting in my studio chatting with a super sweet prospective bride and she was telling me about her journey to finding the perfect wedding photographer. She had a unique tool available to her that a lot of brides do not: a family member who is an experienced professional photographer. Instead of hiring this relative to photographer her own wedding, she asked him to help her find the best photographer for her day so he could be present and enjoy the wedding.

As the story goes... she sent a list of photographers to this cousin and he responded back fairly bluntly that he wouldn't recommend ANY of the photographers on her short list. She was shocked and confused! But he explained...

"I don't see any reception or indoor images shown on their websites... half of your wedding day will be inside and you don't want to hire someone who is unable to capture that entire half in a way that they'd be proud to share their work..."

"All I see are pictures from styled shoots... which means this photographer may not have sufficient experience photographing real weddings at the rate they are charging."

She told me how surprised she was that she hadn't considered these things. "If I do it right, I'm only going to do this once... how am I supposed to know how to do it the best way possible?"

Ding ding ding!!

And that's why I am here, friends! A few years ago I wrote a series of blog posts for Hill City Bride and I am bringing them back... new and improved! I'm officially dubbing Wednesday as WEDDING WEDNESDAY around here. I'm excited to help brides make the MOST of their wedding photography investment, ensure they end up with the products they really want, and feel confident and satisfied in their choice of a wedding photographer.

I am a firm believer that no matter who you book as your wedding photographer, every couple deserves to get the most for their money whether their budget is $500 or $5,000.

With that, I welcome you to the first part of this four-part series:

Know What You Want

In my personal search for a wedding photographer (back in 2008 - woooohoo!), I thought I knew what I wanted. "Digital files, please! That's all I need." The truth is, all I was thinking about were the bride and groom portraits we would have after the day was over and my desire have full control over printing those portraits. 

But, friends... there is SO much more to wedding day photography than bride and groom portraits. YES they are super important! But, if I could do it all over again, I would readjust my priorities and do it differently.

Why? I completely overlooked other important pieces of our wedding story that I wanted captured but didn't make a plan to have captured. You know - the candid moments, portraits with my grandparents and my favorite cousins, and pictures of our parents enjoying the day. This came down to my budget restrictions and having to hire someone with minimal experience who also didn't make a plan to capture those moments. However, some of my regrets could have been prevented if I had known ahead of time what I wanted and planned accordingly. Additionally, I overlooked the value in a wedding album and other quality products that would tell the story of our day.

Today? I do not have a single wedding picture hanging in my home. I do not have an album. I am also missing a significant number of group portraits that I thought the photographer would just know to take, but obviously didn't. Of course as a wedding photographer myself, this bothers me often. But I know I'm not the only bride who is bothered by the pictures I do or don't have from my wedding day.

So how can you find out what you want to ensure you will avoid any regrets?

1. Sit down with a pen and paper and brainstorm. 

What comes to mind when you imagine your wedding photography experience?

Do you want your photographer to be a friend? Or do you want him or her to sign and show up?Do you want to hang out with your photographer all day long? Do you want pictures to be quick and over with as soon as possible? Does your fiance enjoy pictures or will he or she be uncomfortable being in front of a camera all day?

2. Make a list of the pictures and products you hope to have when all is said and done.

Do you dream of a large picture of you and your spouse at sunset, printed on canvas, hanging in your living room? Do you want to remember the look on your groom’s face as he catches his first glimpse of you coming down the aisle? Do you want a wedding album to tell your story in an artistic manner? Do you want it to be preserved in a box or sitting out on a coffee table?

3. Ask your married friends about their photography experiences.

Would they change anything? What was their favorite part of the whole experience? What products did they invest in and do they love them? Write it all down. (Or pin it to Pinterest. :))

After you have made your list of what is important to you, keep it with you as you start your research of possible wedding photographers. While browsing through photographers' online portfolios, look simultaneously for the products the photographer offers as well as quality imagery from which to create those products.

Knowing what you want to hold in your hands or hang on your walls when all is said and done is key to beginning your photography research. 

The pictures will be one of the only things left when your wedding day is behind you. In addition, wedding photography is a huge investment. I hope this helps encourage you to take your time and feel good about your final decision. 

Liz Cook

Liz Cook is a wedding, birth, and motherhood photographer based in Central Virginia. Her intuition and creative perspective allow her to connect both professionally and personally with her subjects, and thus, her portfolio is saturated with authentic emotion. Whether she's sharing her story with fellow entrepreneurs or enjoying quality time with her husband and two daughters, Liz is both present and passionate about capturing and celebrating life. Her work has been featured by O "Oprah" Magazine, The Huffington Post, The Glitter Guide, Essence Magazine, domino, Rue Magazine, among others.