How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer

How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer


When you’re planning your wedding, choosing a photographer can be one of the most daunting tasks on your to do list. For many people, it’s one of the big decisions you make really early on, around the same time you choose your venue. That means your photographer can be your wedding planning sidekick, a referral source for other vendors, and someone you meet up with multiple times prior to the wedding! In short, getting an awesome photographer matters, and hiring a photographer who fits what you need on your planning journey is even more important! As a busy wedding photographer who’s been doing this for almost a decade, I’ve got some tips for you on how to hire the perfect photographer for you. 

Step One: Figure Out What You Like

This is absolutely the hardest part of the process, but it’s so important. Start tuning in to what wedding photos you stumble across look like. Which ones do you like or not like? It can be super helpful to sit down with your partner(s) and scroll through Instagram, Pinterest, or wedding blogs and see what stands out to each of you. You may not love the exact same type of photos, so you might need to find a middle ground or compromise in your photographer. Here are some things to pay attention to while you are overwhelming yourself with photos…

Posed vs. Photojournalistic

Are your favorite photos the ones where people are posed to absolute perfection with a magical backdrop? Or, do you love the candid photos of guests laughing or crying more?  Photographers generally fall somewhere between the two, and it’s definitely a spectrum, not a hard and fast rule. 

A photographer who prioritizes posing is going to make sure they adjust every bit of your pose so that you look absolutely perfect. They’ll lay your dress just so, make sure the creases on your jacket are laying properly, and keep an eye out for flyaways. It can takes time to arrange a photo just so, and you can expect a lot of interaction from your photographer. From getting ready photos in front of the mirror, to posed family formals after the ceremony, they will be guiding you through each step for the most perfect album of photos at the end of the day. 

The opposite is a photographer who is a fly on the wall. They’re there capturing everything as it happens, and while they’ll be by your side all day, they won’t be posing you or guiding you to do things a certain way. While the portrait of you just after you finished getting ready might not be as perfect, you’ll be trading that for candid photos of the shenanigans your wedding party is getting up to, or an emotional moment with your parents caught on camera. Since a photojournalistic wedding photographer isn’t taking the time to perfect a posed portrait, they have the freedom to be watching what’s happening around them, resulting in more photos that tell the story of how your day happened. 

Those examples are the extremes. Most photographers incorporate different elements of each in their working style, but understanding the difference means you can ask your photographer better questions about how they work on the wedding day, and see if that fits with what you want. 


As you’re scrolling, pay attention to what colors you like! Do you want your photos to look exactly like real life? Do you like more saturated, vibrant colors, or colors that are stylistically washed out to mimic a vintage film look? 

There’s no right answer here, just what you prefer. But, photographers tend to edit consistently in a certain way. If you want vibrant colors, but fell love with the posing of a photographer who has a muted filmy style, it’s not as simple as asking them to edit like someone else. Each photographer sees color differently, and is practiced at consistently delivering their unique style. It is harder than it might seem to change the style, and your delivered result will not be as good. So, hold out for someone who checks the boxes for color AND posing style. 


In the industry we refer to a few types of photographer when it comes to lighting: Light & Airy, Dark & Moody, or True to Life. These editing and lighting styles tend to go closely hand in hand with the color styles as well, so you will see some overlap. 

Light and airy photos will be bright, washed out, and often overlap with a washed out filmy color palette. You’ll notice a pastel color palette, and you won’t see true black in the photos very often. These photos tend to emphasize the fairytale magic of a wedding day, and make everything feel light and joyous! 

True to life photos are just what they sound like: the light looks like what it was like in real life, or if you took a photo with your phone camera. It doesn’t necessarily convey a mood in the same way as lighter and darker lighting does, which can be a plus depending on what you are looking for! Editing light to be darker or lighter can add an emotion that wasn’t necessarily a part of your day, and a more authentic edit won’t change the narrative as much. 

Dark and moody photos tend to be a little desaturated in color, and darker than real life, or emphasizing dramatic lighting during different times of the day. A lot of photographers who focus on capturing a really emotional style of photo gravitate towards dark and moody as their lighting style as it can emphasize the look they are going for. 

Just as with the other categories, these aren’t hard and fast rules and there is a ton of deviation within each one! The point of laying all this out for you is to turn you into a photography expert so you have all the decision making information you need.


Step Two: Find Photographers in your Area

Okay, take a deep breath. I might have totally overwhelmed you with that step one, but I promise it’s the hardest part of the process! Now you know what you are looking for from your photographer, it will be MUCH easier to cull down lists of photographers on Google or wedding directory sites. You’ll be able to spot the editing and posing styles you love that much faster. 

Now, typing in something like “Denver Wedding Photographer” in Google can yield literally thousands of results! It can be super overwhelming. If you want to skip opening 50 tabs in your browser, there are some alternatives. 

First, you could narrow down your search pool! By finding someone super local to your venue, you are avoiding having to pay a travel fee and getting someone who is less likely to hit traffic on your wedding day, so you know they won’t be late! 

Better yet, narrow it down even more and search for “your venue + wedding photos.” You might find blog posts from photographers who have been to your venue a few times. The posts will have a greater diversity of photos than their portfolio, and show you how they work at your venue. The photographer may also have a working relationship with the venue coordinator or staff, and that will just make your day run even more smoothly. 

You can also dive into the directory scene. They usually also give you an overwhelming number of photographers, but unlike Google you do get to see a profile photo from each photographer on the list, so you can more quickly click on the ones that catch your eye! 

It’s always a great idea to ask around for referrals as well. Do you remember an awesome photographer at a friend’s wedding? Are you working with a planner? Does your venue have a preferred vendor list? All of them might give you names to start you off, and knowing someone who has worked with your photographer before is even better than reading reviews on the internet. 

Step Three: What’s your Budget & Contact your Favorites

Once you have some local favorites that seem like a good fit, it’s time to start sending emails! But, it’s a good idea to know your budget before heading into meetings and calls with your chosen photographers.

Photography prices range pretty widely, but keep in mind that experience and a consistent product often coincides with higher prices. If you’re limited on budget, you may need to go with a photographer who is less experienced, but that absolutely doesn’t mean you can’t get stunning photos that you can afford as well! In bustling metro areas, mid-range photographers tend to be priced between $3,000-$5,000 for a full day of coverage, and your up and comings might start in the $1,500 range. Your budget for your wedding is an incredibly personal decision, and you shouldn’t let anyone push you around, or spend more money than you are willing to. There is a photographer out there for everyone, and you’ll definitely be able to find someone who can work within your budget range. 

Some photographers have pricing on their sites, or at least starting prices, which can be super helpful.  If you know that going into your first emails, you can really focus on getting to know the person behind the camera instead of just seeing if you can afford them. 

Your first question when you email your photographer is whether or not they’re available on your date. If you are emailing, you can keep that first message short and sweet. Or, if the photographer has a contact form on their site, use that so that you are sending them all the information they need to get you a quote and their availability. 

Step Four: Meet your Photographers

I always recommend hopping on a quick phone call, doing a video chat, or getting coffee with the photographers you have on your list. They’re going to be by your side throughout your whole wedding day, so knowing if you vibe as people is super important. There are tons of question lists on Pinterest if you want some guidelines for things to ask, but ultimately I think most of them are just a jumping off point to get to know your photographer. It’s good to ask if your photographer is prepared for unexpected situations at your wedding. What happens if one of their cameras or lenses stops working? Do they have backups? What systems are in place to make sure they get to your venue on time the day of your wedding? 

As long as the photographer checks your other boxes, go with your gut, and hire the person you felt the most comfortable with when you talked to them.

Step Five: Book Them!

Ask during your call what the booking process looks like. Most photographers require some kind of down payment to secure the date, with the rest of the payment due closer to the wedding date itself. 

If they don’t mention signing a contract, that’s a big red flag! Not only do contracts lay out what happens in different “if this goes wrong” scenarios, they also protect YOU. If your photographer writes a hard due date for your photos in their contract, you can make sure you get the delivered products, which is SUPER important for wedding photos. If they don’t have a contract, suggest they either find one, or get one written yourself if this is really the photographer for you. 

Once you’ve made your first payment and signed your contract, that’s usually “book a photographer” checked off your list!! 

Making sure your Photographer is LGBTQIA+ Friendly!

It’s horribly anxiety inducing to have to email vendors blind, not knowing beforehand if they are going to accept who you are. We all know things should be different, but there are still some bigoted people out there. So, let’s talk about the ways you can vet your photographer before sending that email, because you deserve to be super excited to be reaching out to your favorite photographers!


Best case scenario, you visit their site and they have some non-straight people on their site in the first few photos. WIN!! Many photographers who might not have queer weddings in their portfolio will have a statement at the bottom of their site or on their contact page saying something like “we accept all people and all love” etc. 

Social Media

Photographer’s aren’t web designers, so sometimes their Instagram feed is a better representation of their recent work than their website portfolio. If you don’t see same-sex or diverse couples on their site, scroll through their feed and see if they have some more representation there as well. 

Directory Information

There are a ton of local directories for queer weddings and ones that highlight LGBTQ+ vendors. You can usually find them by using a generic search term in google for your area like “LGBT wedding vendors in Denver.” That can be a good start! Larger directories often have filtering options for Queer Owned and LGBTQ Friendly vendors, so that is a great way to check as well.

Wedding Showcases

Look for same-sex friendly wedding shows! There are quite a few that run each year locally to me, and I always make sure I go. It’s a great way to meet a huge diversity of vendors, and even plan your wedding in one spot if you feel like it. 

Wedding Planners

If you’re working with a planner, ask them to vet the photographer for you! If I am referring vendors to any of my LGBTQIA+ clients, I make sure to confirm that they are accepting before sending their name. Planners and other vendors can be a great resource for you, and are normally happy to act as a buffer to make sure you have a safe and loving wedding planning experience. 

I hope all this information helps you find your dream photographer in every way!! Get out there, get planning, and get the best wedding photos of your big day. 


Kate Merrill - Queer Denver Photographer






I’m Kate {she/her}; a dog obsessed, coffee shop lurking, total weirdo of a Denver wedding photographer. I’m blessed with a very dry sense of humor {I’m British, I can’t help it} and love using it to diffuse awkwardness in front of the camera. As one of my couples wonderfully phrased it, I’m “artsy without being inaccessible.” You know when things look good, and I do too. I’m here for the weirdos, wanderers, and folx who make the world a more interesting place.

Kate Merrill Photography

Instagram Link for Kate Merrill




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