You’re here because you’ve started your wedding planning journey. You’ve booked your wedding venue and are on to the next item on your list: your photography team. Apart from choosing your partner 😉, choosing a wedding photographer will be one of the most important decisions you make for your wedding day. Your wedding photographer is literally one of the only vendors you’ll work with before, during and after your wedding. FIT IS KEY. This Guide will offer you 10 top steps on how to choose a wedding photographer who is right for you.
ABOUT HOW TO CHOOSE A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
First off, how to choose a wedding photographer can be like shopping for a bed mattress: you open the door of the showroom and are confronted with a sea of endless options that, on the surface, appear to be the same and do the same thing, but once you start sitting and lying down on them, the differences quickly become apparent – and you actually have to take the time to go around one by one and to check them out for personal fit and comfort.
So, if you can, give yourself enough time and start the process of choosing a wedding photographer at least 15 months out from your wedding day and follow these steps:
STEP 1: WHAT PHOTOGRAPHY STYLE DO YOU LIKE?
Do you prefer
- Candids (spontaneous, not posed)?
- Classic / traditional (staged, directed)?
- Fine Art (magazine-like and highly stylized)?
- Documentary (photojournalistic with zero intervention)?
Ottawa has a full roster of photographers with varying styles. Photographers may shoot exclusively one style or a mix of styles. It’s key to determine the style of photography you like so that you can choose a photographer who is in alignment with your preferences so that you’re not surprised by their approach on wedding day or your end photos.
I personally shoot a hybrid of styles on wedding day: sometimes I’m in the background capturing moments unobtrusively; sometimes I’m in the foreground directing for best angles and composition. In the end, my couples receive a mix of candids, classics, fine art and documentary photos that tell the entire story of their day – photographed in the style that is appropriate for each stage of the day.
STEP 2: WHAT EDITING STYLE DO YOU LIKE?
Do you like “light and airy”? Dark and moody? Classic, timeless, true-to-life editing?? If there’s an editing style you love, then look for an Ottawa photographer who specializes in that so that you know what you will be getting in your own wedding gallery.
I’d caution you here in selecting a photographer with a trendy editing style: the only thing that should date your photos is the clothes you’re wearing – not a trendy filter or preset. Your photos should look great now – AND sixty years from now.
STEP 3: HOW IMPORTANT IS PHOTOGRAPHY TO YOU & WHAT ARE YOUR “MUST-HAVES”?
Does photography excite you or are you like “meh, I can take it or leave it”? What parts of your Ottawa wedding day do you absolutely want photographed? What is non-negotiable? Who are the people who must absolutely be photographed? Do you want digitals, prints, wall art, albums? Figure that out in advance as all those factors will affect coverage, pricing and who you ultimately choose as your Ottawa wedding photographer.
STEP 4: WHAT BUDGET CAN YOU DEVOTE TO WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY?
And how much wiggle room is there? Once you start searching for an Ottawa wedding photographer, you may need to adjust your priorities or your budget to bring these two variables in line based on the going rate for wedding photography in Ottawa.
Rates in Ottawa vary greatly, but you can expect to invest at least $4000 (and beyond) for a seasoned, professional wedding photographer / team in Ottawa depending on coverage and products. Less experienced photographers or hobbyists tend to be in the $2000 – $2900 range; photographers just starting out tend to fall in the $1500 range.
I urge you to find the best photographer you can that is within the scope of your priorities and budget. DO NOT, and I repeat, DO NOT choose a wedding photographer based on price alone – or go with the cheapest overall. It won’t end well.
Experience impacts prices when it comes to wedding photography. In most cases, you will get exactly what you paid for.
STEP 5: DO YOUR RESEARCH
- google top wedding photographers in Ottawa
- search Instagram hashtags for best photographers in Ottawa
- check preferred vendor lists at Ottawa wedding venues
- ask Ottawa vendors for referrals
- ask family and friends
- listen closely to word of mouth
STEP 6: DIG INTO PORTFOLIOS
Look for your preferred shooting and editing style. Check for consistency in the quality of work and editing. Get a sense of their years of experience and skill in shooting different types of weddings, different lighting conditions / weather. Look beyond highlight portfolios (which may only show happy accidents) and view full wedding galleries so you can evaluate if there’s consistency in the work start to finish on a wedding day.
STEP 7: CHECK REVIEWS
What’s their reputation on Google, Facebook and wherever you can find people talking about them? Have they won local Ottawa awards? International awards? Been featured? Published locally and abroad? Do other Ottawa vendors refer them? 5-Star reviews are great, but pay close attention to their public responses to lower ratings as that will give you a sense of how they may resolve potential issues and their overall level of professionalism.
STEP 8: ARRANGE A MEETING & ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS
Create a short-list of 4-5 top possible Ottawa wedding photographers and arrange a meetup. In this post-Covid world of Zoom and virtual meetings, in person is ideal to get the best sense of personality, energy and vibe. (Remember: you’ll work with this person before, during and after your wedding day.) An in-person meetup will also give you an opportunity to touch, feel and turn the pages of any albums and print products they may offer.
Ask the following questions:
- Is this your full-time job or a hobby? How many weddings have you shot, and how many weddings do you take on in a year?
- What exactly is included in your package? Does it include an engagement session? Does it include products, like an album or prints – and what size? What level of retouching is included? How do I receive digitals – and is a print release included? How many total hours are included? Can I add on items?
- Where can we see full galleries of weddings, start to finish?
- Are you comfortable shooting in low light or indoors without natural lighting?
- How do you juggle shooting alongside a videographer?
- Will you be my actual photographer on the day of? Do you use an associate, or a second shooter? If you’re the solo photographer, how do you manage the different locations and timeline and what’s the backup plan if you become sick or injured?
- Are you insured? Do you have backup gear in case something fails, is lost or stolen?
- How do you ensure my images won’t be lost? How are you backed up? What happens if there is a loss before you deliver my images / products?
- What happens post-wedding? What is your turnaround time for digitals and print products?
- What is required for a retainer / deposit / first payment to book you? When is payment in full due?
- Do you offer payment plans? Are payments non-refundable?
- What happens if I need to reschedule or cancel?
STEP 9: GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING & SIGN A CONTRACT
Once you’ve found “the one” via these steps on how to choose a wedding photographer in Ottawa and you have all the requisite answers, make sure all expectations and agreements are clearly spelled out in a contract signed by all parties.
STEP 10: EXPERIENCE RELIEF WITH WHO YOU’VE CHOSEN
If you’ve chosen the right Ottawa wedding photographer, you will feel a sense of relief – and excitement – once you’ve signed on the dotted line and have secured the person you know you can trust to serve you before, during and after your wedding day. Don’t be surprised if you develop a strong bond with this person as you work through the planning stages together and they capture one of the most important days of your life for you. (Your family and friends may also develop a strong appreciation for this person as well).
The connection and relationship I have with my clients often extends well past wedding day.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON HOW TO CHOOSE A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER IN OTTAWA
Although this Guide on How to Choose a Wedding Photographer in Ottawa can’t guarantee you will find the perfect wedding photographer, it does give you the key steps to follow so that you can do your due diligence and make the best, informed decision possible. When the guests are gone, the cake has been eaten and the dress is stored away, your photos will be what remain of your day. My goal here is to make sure your tears are happy tears as you and your partner sit down to flip through your album and images.
While you’re here, I invite you to check out my own Ottawa wedding portfolio. Follow the steps above ^^ and reach out if we’re a fit!
AND be sure to check out the links below if you’re looking for more helpful Ottawa wedding content and tips!