There is more to photography than just price. Once you have settled on what your budget can handle (and please do your research on what a professional photographer will cost…it will benefit you in the end to have a reasonable budget chosen), start with recommendations from family and friends. Use websites like Wedding Wire to see highly reviewed photographers or browse local photography blogs and see who catches your eye.
Educate yourself on what style of photography you like. Don’t get caught up looking at images and gawking over a gorgeous dress or thinking about the cool details, look at the lighting, how the image makes you feel, the composition of the image, what is in focus.
Educate yourself on wedding marketing strategies. A vendor could be voted best photographer in Minnesota by their rotary club and write a huge banner across their website saying “best wedding photographer in Minnesota!” Sometimes, the awards and titles should be admired, especially if it is by a reputable company and won year after year, but an award shouldn’t be the reason why you hire a photographer. Wedding photographers sell on emotion. We want you to connect with our images and you also have to connect with our personalities. So just keep that in mind as you’re shopping.
Educate yourself on what bells and whistles you really need. Many photography packages have a laundry list of things they offer, some are very simple and straighforward. Some are a la carte, some are strict packages, some allow for bargaining. Understand what you really want before you hear the sales pitch, and though I’m not a fan of lowballing vendors AT ALL, you can always ask in a straighforward manner if there is room to negotiate. Maybe a package you want includes and engagement session but you don’t need one…it doesn’t hurt to ask, politely and without expectation, if you can exchange it for something else.
Don’t hire a photographer because your friend hired them, or your mom is friends with them, or they’ll give you a killer deal, or you get a discount on other services, or they won the most awards, or they are a perferred vendor of your venue, or they have the highest reviews. Hire a photographer because they are easy to work with, take good quality images, fit your personality and shoot in a style you love. Connecting with your photographer is extremely important and having a base knowledge of what you can afford and what style of photography you like will help you narrow the field down to the photographers you are most likely to enjoy working with.
Don’t know where to start? You know what you want but don’t know how to look for it? Find a friend that loves photography or that has a visual style you admire and inlist them to help. Sometimes it helps to have an objective set of eyes looking as well as your own.