How to Find Your Dream Wedding Photographer

Tips for finding the right wedding photographer for you


You’re engaged! Congratulations!

…Now what?

As a new bride-to-be, you’re in store for many months of decision-making, number-crunching, and Pinterest-surfing. While certainly exciting, it can also all get a bit overwhelming. Let’s at least take some of the guesswork out of your big day: the wedding photography.

When it’s all said and done, finding a wedding photographer is (generally) not hard. Notice I said a wedding photographer. With the handy innovation of the digital SLR, it seems like everyone and their brother has shot at least one wedding or would at the very least be willing to shoot yours for a steal. But that’s just it- you don’t want just any wedding photographer, you want your dream wedding photographer. You want somebody who can not only get the perfect exposure, but is also professional, trustworthy, and is a pleasure to be around for the duration of your day. (And yes, you read that right. Whether or not you realized it, your wedding photographer will be alongside you for most of your wedding day.)

Now I recognize that I have a unique advantage in this arena: I am not only a wedding photographer, but I’ve even had the pleasure of playing the role of the bride recently! So needless to say, I’ve seen and experienced an array of photographers and styles, and I’m happy to impart some of my knowledge!

Know Your Budget

Premium services are priced at a premium. Where I live, the cost of living is rather low, so photographers in my market don’t charge what wedding photographers in other areas of the country charge (for example). So be aware that when you go onto national wedding forums to compare what users say they’ve paid for their wedding photography, take it with a grain of salt. Every market is different and is dependent upon your location. A wedding photographer (could) cost anywhere from $2,000 to $20,000+. Just because some girl on some forum says she paid her photographer $X00 doesn’t mean you need to. I do want to make it clear that you will get what you pay for.

Research With Your Eyes

Much like a clothing designer or chef, a photographer will also have a certain style. When you Google photographers and start pulling up websites, pay close attention to the pictures the business showcases. Keep in mind that not every wedding photographer is suited for every bride. Period. You don’t necessarily need to know the technical words to describe what you like about a style, but you ought to at least be aware that there are differing styles.

What it all boils down to is this: don’t sign on the dotted line unless you like what you see. Ignore the dress, ignore the groom. If you planted your faces on that couple, would you like that picture of you?

Know Your Must-Haves/Have-Nots

I was a DIY bride. Practically everything about my wedding except my dress and flowers were made and/or designed by yours truly. I like weddings that much. But when it came to the photography for my wedding, I absolutely wanted to be hands-off. So for me, a must-have was hiring somebody I trusted and had the style I was looking for.

Here’s a list of considerations I came up with that might resonate with you:

-Engagement session included
-Reasonable turnaround time (whatever that means to you)
-Willing to travel
-Open-minded (if your dream wedding or engagement session is not somewhere they’ve shot before, will your photographer go along for the ride?)
-Able to tastefully pose subjects
-Professional vs casual attire (some photographers wear black, some wear jeans)
-Communicable (responds to emails timely)
-Retouching services
-GLBT friendly
-Flexible (can you add services not already offered?)

Meet in Person

I can’t stress enough how important this is. You will literally be hanging out with your wedding photographer more on your wedding day than you will be your fiancé/e. No joke. If you find their personality off-putting and can’t imagine being forced to smile at them all day, then you’ll know after meeting face-to-face. Easy!

I want to point out that what makes a stunning portrait is when the subject is relaxed and is able to connect to the camera. The only way for this to be achieved is if you, the subject, are comfortable with your photographer as a person and are able to express your raw emotions in your eyes and body language. It takes trust and cooperation on both ends of the camera, so don’t take for granted your first impression of your potential photographer when you meet him or her.

And just because you’ve met in person doesn’t mean you’re committing to hire them. Also, when meeting with photographers, bring up your must-haves in conversation to see whether any answers are deal breakers or discuss ways to compromise (if able).


And as a loving reminder from every wedding photographer everywhere, despite what wedding magazines tell you, you don’t need to give your photographer a shot list or print-offs from Pinterest. Your job is to find a professional dedicated to embodying what makes you and your fiancé special, will know how to flatter your body types when posed together, and will capture the raw love between the two of you on your day. Most photographers are happy to try to recreate a shot, but be aware that we’re there to be in the moment with you. We’ll find ways to uniquely photograph you so that you become the next Pinterest sensation, not a copycat!

Shameless Plug

With all that being said, if you have any questions, I’m very happy to answer any questions you may have. There are so many options out there, but I hope that your dream wedding photographer was the one who wrote this blog post! I love working with couples in love, I love making women feel beautiful when they’re in front of my camera, and I am dedicated to giving you and your fiancé/e a quality experience and product before, during, and after your wedding day. Say hi and let’s see if we’re a good fit. :)

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emily@emilyswanphotography.comSioux Falls, South Dakota