Finding Your Photographer

"I was so honored when Casey from The Southeastern Bride asked me to write an article about the importance of finding the right photographer. I'm kind of biased towards this industry, but I truly believe that finding the right photographer is one of the most important aspects of wedding planning.

Your photographer is a very personal part of your day, and it's so important to make sure you feel comfortable with who you're hiring. We are literally with you more than anyone else on your wedding day, including your groom! We are there in the bridal suite calming your nerves and getting you into your dress on time. We are sometimes the only witnesses to that moment when you see your groom for the first time! We send you off in the most glorious of exits and are often the last person to hug you when you're hopping into the send off car. We get to know your friends and feel like part of your family on the most important day in your life thus far. Needless to say, choosing photographer is a BIG DEAL.

So how do you find that person? How do you know?

My first recommendation is to use a personal reference. You are not copying a friend's wedding by hiring their same photographer, you're using a trusted vendor that's giving you your first family photos! If you have a friend or family member whose photos you love, ask them about their experience. If it was good, hire their photographer! This is one part of the wedding experience that's worth "copying".

If you don't have anyone to ask, ask your venue or your planner. If there's one thing I can promise, it's this: the wedding industry can be brutal. We can and will mark people off our list if we don't like working with them. I've seen it happen plenty of times. If one of your vendors is recommending a photographer to you, listen! They aren't recommending them because their pockets are getting lined, because that only happens in the movies. It means they liked working with them, past couples have liked working with them, and they do a good job. Trust their judgement. Also on this note, if you're hiring a videographer ask your photographer which one they like to work with...and vice versa if you hire the videographer first. Trust me, that'll make a world of difference! 

And if you don't like any of their suggestions, search local hashtags on instagram! I'm serious! You can see a lot from someone's insta portfolio. Almost every city has #citywedding tag. Find someone you like, and check to see if they're being tagged in posts from other vendors. That's a huge tell tale on if people like working with them! 

After you find a potential photographer, set up a time to talk with them on the phone or video chat. Save your time; this is one area where you don't need an in person meeting. Our entire portfolio's are online. There is nothing we can show you in person that you can't see from the comfort of your own home while in your pj's. Plenty of wedding choices need to be made in person (rentals, flowers, cake, dress, etc). You have enough people pulling you around town, this is one area that you can knock out on the phone! Plan to take engagement photos to get to know your photographer that way. That's a much better use of your time!

Do a few of those phone meetings and you'll know who's the right photographer for you! Ignore all those lists about "what to ask your photographer" and trust your gut. Make sure they're experienced, but don't worry if they've shot at your venue before. We're often our most creative in new spaces anyways. Keep your budget in mind, but don't be afraid to cut something out to make the right photographer work. For instance, consider having them there for less time instead of all day. After a while, dancing photos just look like dancing photos, so do you really need them there all night anyways? 6 or 7 hours with an amazing photographer is way better than all day with a so-so one.

After venue, photographers are usually the second vendor to be booked, so don't wait on this one. If you already know which photographer you want, don't be afraid to choose a date based on their availability either! That's like the biggest compliment you could give us!! 

Whatever you do, don't stress. We're here for you. We want to help and we want to take pressure off your day, not add to it. If you have questions or just need someone to listen to you, feel free to hop over to my insta @ajdunlap and say hello! I love being a resource to my brides and would love to help you too! Congrats on your engagement and best wishes for the most perfect of wedding days (and photos)!"

You can also find A.J. Dunlap Photography via her website and Vendor Directory page here on The Southeastern Bride.