We just googled “wedding photographers Utah” and got 1.89 million results. The population of Utah is 3.1 million. That means three out of every five Utahns has a DSLR and a website and would “looooove to capture your special day for you.” (And 35% of Utahns are under 20 — ergo, only one in twenty Utahns of drinking age isn’t a wedding photographer.)
Okay, so a statistician might take issue with a couple of those numbers, but the fact remains: Utah got more photogs than a forest got logs. How to choose?
First, you’re gonna wanna choose someone with a name as awesome as Carly Farley’s (she’s the local pro from Pearls & Lace Photography who contributed her expertise to this article). Next, think long and hard about each of the following:
Can’t I Just Have My Cousin Shoot My Wedding?
Short answer: No.
Just like everyone thinks acting looks easy, everyone with a fancy camera in their hand thinks they’re a professional photographer. Problem is, a person realizes they’re no actor once they step on stage
So as tempting as it is to call in a favor with your cousin who has 412(!) Instagram followers, hire a professional. “As a professional,” Farley says, “my clients expect more of me than they would of a family member or friend. My clients trust me to be on time to their events, to come prepared with backup equipment, and to keep their images safe until they receive them after their wedding day.”
So hiring a pro is the baseline. Now, to narrow it down a little
There are a lot more 26-year-old photographers than 46-year-old photographers, and that’s not because it’s a particularly life-threatening occupation. The amateurs tend to weed themselves out. This isn’t to say you should avoid young folks, but the more weddings a photographer has shot, the more mistakes he or she has made — and hopefully learned from — at someone else’s expense. (But, of course, the fewer mistakes a photographer makes, the more they tend to charge )
Just ask Kara Lott (another great name). The photographer she hired to capture her Layton wedding 20 years ago didn’t realize until after the fact, when he started processing the negatives, that a seal was broken inside his camera, creating a lovely orange stripe across the middle of almost all the photos. Sure, problems like these can happen to anyone, but they happen to beginners more often.
There’s No Accounting for Taste
Style matters, and while the camera may just be capturing real life, a hundred different photographers will capture your wedding in a hundred different ways. As you do your homework reviewing potential photographers’ work, you’ll get a sense for what each one is good at and, more importantly, it may even help you crystalize your own aesthetic.
Think about whether you’re drawn to photos that are timeless, traditional and posed or hipsterish, candid and unconventional. How does each photog handle light and color? Are their photos dark and moody or light and airy? Richly saturated or muted and subtle? Pay attention to details and see who has the best eye for you.
Posed group shot. Courtesy of Pearls & Lace Photography
Photojournalistic shot. Courtesy of Pearls & Lace Photography
What’s the Wedding-Photographer Equivalent of Bedside Manner?
For the few weeks before and after the wedding, your photographer becomes like a family member. (But a hired family member you get to boss around.) They’re invited into the inner circle for the biggest day of your life, so their personality is more important than, say, your auto mechanic’s. Make sure you all mesh well. Also, communication is vital (just like in your upcoming marriage!). All the logistical details should be clear to both parties and you should be able to talk through concerns and priorities regarding your photos.
If you haven’t ever priced out a professional photographer, brace yourself, because it’s more than you’d expect when the ubiquity of phone cameras has driven the value of photos to near-zero. A 2014 survey from The Knot put the average bill at $2,556, but like with mountain bikes and ballet tickets, wedding photos have a wide price range depending on your priorities.
If you want Richard Avedon to shoot your Antarctica wedding, hopefully there’s an East Coast college named after your great-grandfather. If your reception is in the church cultural hall and the rest of your wedding details are budgeted accordingly, it’s still possible to get quality photos — just know that you might have to make some tradeoffs in terms of your photographer’s experience and the amount of time they spend shooting and editing.
But if you’re only going to splurge on one aspect of your wedding, make it the photography. Your wedding day only happens once or twice in your life, and your photos are going to be the basis of your memories.
“I told myself that photography matters, and not to skimp,” says Angie Lucas of Bluffdale. “But then I skimped.” A friend recommended a photographer much cheaper than the others Lucas was considering when she got married in 2004. She looked at his portfolio and his work seemed fine.
On the big day, though, she started to wonder if his portfolio contained the only good photo he’d taken at each of the weddings he’d worked. “He didn’t direct us. It’s almost like he was waiting for us to tell him what photos to take. There were more photos of the cake than of us.”
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In the end, the best thing you can do — especially if you’re on a budget — is to vet your candidates thoroughly. Talk to past clients, read online reviews, look at as much of the photographers’ work as you can and ask some specific questions about their process. It’s the most important place to do your research: You’ll eventually forget what your wedding cake tasted like, but you’ll remember if all your pictures cut you off at the forehead.