The 3 dilemmas of picking your wedding photographer

Happy Monday, friends! I want to talk about 3 dilemmas that brides might face when picking a wedding photographer and my take on each one! This is a topic that is rarely discussed outside wedding industry circles. I want to start by saying that there are far more important things on a wedding day than photos. If all you have at the end of the wedding day are gorgeous photos, what will sustain your marriage? But what if, just what if, you have a beautiful marriage and the most lovely images?! Not everyone values photography! I get that! I used to be so heartbroken that not everyone saw the value in what I was doing behind the lens. But now I think that that adds more value to what I do! If you believe that photos don't matter and that they can't change the way you see yourself or your marriage, I respect that. I also I dare you to hire me and give me the honor of proving you wrong.

St Louis MO Wedding by Jordan Brittley
St Louis MO Wedding by Jordan Brittley

The family friend dilemma

I want to preface this section by saying that I am in no way condemning the use of a family friend as your wedding photographer! I understand tight budgets and I understand that it's nice to find an immediate solution when you're planning a wedding. Every choice has tradeoffs and I just want to share some insights about the tradeoffs for that choice.

I would open my email inbox and see the first sentence: "Jordan, we love your work but have decided to go with a family friend who will shoot for [free/cheap]..." It still makes me cringe a little! I once had a bride ask me what gear I used so that their friend could purchase it. I happily sent her a link to one of my blog posts and explained that the same gear will produce different results for different people.

I'm not saying that you will have a bad experience with your family friend and I'm not saying you will have a good experience with a professional photographer! It can go both ways! But if photos are important to you, then it's worth it to try to find a way to have that photographer that you love!

Every good photographer has heard it before: "Wow! Your camera takes nice pictures!" And the truth is that my camera is great - but only because I am telling it how to take those photographs. I don't mean that in a boastful way at all. Professional photographers have worked hard to refine their client experience, discover their artistic voice, and build a business that can live (and hopefully, thrive)!

St Louis MO Wedding by Jordan Brittley
St Louis MO Wedding by Jordan Brittley

I have so badly wanted to hug these brides through the computer and tell them "don't think this will be the same!" I have wanted to explain that the camera does not make the artist! The camera is simply a tool that the artist uses to create. I have wanted to warn them and make sure that they are taken care of. But instead I just encourage them in their marriage and I remember that the marriage is the most important thing and that they will be just fine.

And then I get emails like this one...

"I wish that I had saved, asked questions, or done something! Anything! Because now all I have are dimly lit photos of a marriage that needs encouragement. Jordan, we are falling apart. My friend used you and they go back through their photos when they are having hard times. I used to have fond memories of our wedding day but now they all look like snapshots from someone who cared more about the cake than us. But the photos make me cry and I won't hang them in our apartment. My mom wants to hang them up and it makes me sick. Why would I want to look at something that makes me sob? But I can't even tell anyone that I hate them! If I could go back in time and book you, I would pay 10x your rate to have images like that on my wall instead of images that make me cry and are hidden away on DVDs that I won't even try to find."

It broke my heart when I read this email. Rest assured that this bride is being taken care of and that I had her permission to share this part of the email. I have had many couples tell me that working with me was the best thing they could have done for their marriage. Those are hard words for me to write because I don't want to make this about me. But it's important that I write them because photos do matter. Who you choose to photograph your wedding day? That decision matters! I think you miss out when you settle for less.

But still, there are more important things than wedding photos.

St Louis MO Wedding by Jordan Brittley
St Louis MO Wedding by Jordan Brittley

The discount dilemma

Discounts. Oh, dear. Do I offer discounts to brides? I do not. Do I still have brides who ask if they can have a discount? I most certainly do.

I actually understand why they are asking! If you're asked for a discount, I would suggest viewing it as an honor instead of as a nuisance. Someone wants to work with you enough to put themselves out there and possibly be turned down. Wedding Photography is a luxury. It's not something that's needed. Because it's a luxury and not something that's needed, it's valuable! 

St Louis MO Wedding by Jordan Brittley
St Louis MO Wedding by Jordan Brittley

To any photographers reading this, I want to encourage you! A worker is worth his wages! This doesn't mean that we need to scream this from the rooftops and be arrogant to those who ask for discounts. Sometimes brides are just asking a question and don't mean to be offensive at all! But just in case they - or their moms - aren't just asking, don't let others put pressure on you or guilt you into a decision. A worker is worth his wages, friends. Even a photographer. 

Brides, if there is a photographer who values their work enough to invest in it over and over again - education, equipment, branding, marketing, insurance (something you want them to have) - then they most likely will invest in you. I can't speak for every photographer, but I want to take great care of my brides!

St Louis MO Wedding by Jordan Brittley
St Louis MO Wedding by Jordan Brittley

The stress dilemma

Brides, watch out for people who will make your wedding day about them. Run away from pushy photographers who scold the flower girl and ignore your mom. If they can't respect these people, it's going to be hard for them to truly serve you! Pick someone who can handle pressure and stressful situations with grace.

I understand feeling stressed when you first see the packages and sticker shock is an understatement! The last thing that I want for you is to make a bad decision in order to hire your dream photographer. If the package is more expensive than your entire budget, then you might have to settle for a different photographer. But if you love their work and have fallen in love with them as a person, then I think it's worth it to cut back in another area. And if your family can reevaluate the budget after realizing that great wedding photographs are an investment, go for it!

St Louis MO Wedding by Jordan Brittley
St Louis MO Wedding by Jordan Brittley

I once brought my sister along to help carry bags at a wedding. It was at the beginning of my career and we were 3 hours in on a 10 hour day. I sat down to load new memory cards and batteries. She slumped into the chair and she said, "How do you do this?! You must love your job!" She was right - I do love my job! Don't think that it isn't very hard work though! If you have ever seen a photographer after their first wedding of the season, they probably look like they have the flu!

Being a wedding photographer is stressful. The cake isn't set up when it's time to photograph the reception. Grandparents leave before family photos and we have to take those photos at the reception. The reception is already packed full with events. Hair and makeup runs late and everything is 2 hours behind. Good photographers can make it happen. Great photographers will make you feel like that's how the day was designed to go.

Side note: wedding planners are problem solvers and ensure your day doesn't run behind to begin with. I love them.

Choose someone that you love. Who would you pick if money wasn't an issue? Is there a way to make it happen? I think it's worth it to invest in the things that will linger even after the moment is gone or the day is over. A good photographer will take pictures of your wedding day. A great photographer will understand your vision for the day, photograph all the things that you never knew would matter, and love you and your guests well.

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