How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

Best tips on choosing your Costa Rica wedding photographer.

There’s much more to being a wedding photographer than just having a camera and taking lots of photos.  Wedding photography is a very demanding profession that requires creativity and the acquisition of specialized knowledge of a wide variety of photography genres, of camera bodies and lenses and how they work to achieve a certain effect, of lighting and flash techniques, being able to think on your feet to overcome unexpected obstacles that are absent in a controlled studio environment, as well as photo editing and printing processes.  Then there’s the customer service component.  Wedding photography clients have many more needs and wants than does a client wanting family photos. 

This article will focus on topics that do not require you to interact with a photographer.  It’s a way to determine if a photographer possess the skills and reputation your wedding photographer needs to have.  You can investigate all of the following points on your own online.  These are areas that you should focus on before contacting any photographers to create the short list of photographers you want to contact.  This of these topics as filters.  The photographers that pass through will end up on your short list.  Then, it’s time to contact them directly and ask specific questions to narrow down your options, using our 20 Questions for Your Wedding Photographer page as a guide.

“Hang-It-On-Your-Wall” Test

When you get your wedding photos, you should like – love – how they look, so much so that you would not hesitate to print them in a large format, frame them, and put them on your wall. 

The photos on a photographer’s website should represent their best work. Go to the home of each photographer on your long list.  Choose a photo.  Forget it’s not you in the photo.  Ask yourself, Would I print this photo, frame it, and hang it on my wall?  If the answer is a resounding “no”, then scratch that photographer from your long list.  With the photographers that remain, consider the following points.

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews!

Experienced wedding photography studios should have dozens of reviews on various sites.  The majority of these reviews should be excellent.  This indicates the studio is established and that it delivers high quality products and provides exceptional customer service consistently.  Reference the number of reviews, how long they have been receiving reviews, and pay attention to the content of the reviews.  It’s a good way to get an idea of what to expect and to look for red flags. Google Places is a great place to start. To have a business listed on Google Maps, you have to go through Google’s verification process.  Some other reputable sources are Wedding Wire, The Knot, and Yelp among others. * The Knot and Yelp do not serve Costa Rica.

One thing to be wary of are review photographers post on their website.  If you can’t find that same review online, question its authenticity.  Usually, these reviews will have a hyperlink that will take you to the original review.

Website, Portfolio & Relevant & Ample Resources

An established, reputable wedding photography studio will have a website, especially if they are a destination wedding photographer.  On the website, there should be an ample portfolio with photos from weddings and engagement session.  Wedding photos should be of the different moment of a wedding day – the preparation, the bride’s details, ceremony decoration details and the entire site, guests, family photos, bridal party photos, of just the bride and groom, and of the different moments in wedding reception.  If there are primarily photos of just the bride and groom, this may indicate the photographer has little experience photographing complete wedding and has little understanding of what constitutes capturing a wedding-day story. 

The website should also have ample resources for couples, detailing the services and products they offer, about them, their wedding photography style and philosophy, how they work, and more.  In the case of wedding photographers in Costa Rica, there should also be resources specific to getting married in Costa Rica.  The articles should be well-written and comprehensive, not just and attempt to stuff keywords on a page to get a higher page ranking. This is part of the customer service experience.

Who Will Be Your Photographer?

When reviewing a photography studio’s website, you’ll see many photos.  The question is, who took them and who’ll take your wedding photos? 

The owner of a studio and the photographer might be the same person.  A studio might have an owner who has photographers on staff who’ve been vetted as veritable photographers and trained in accordance with the owner’s artistic vision ensuring stylistic continuity.  A studio might also be a middleman, meaning they subcontract photographers who may not be vetted to ensure they are professional photographers and who take photos in their own style without any regards to an overarching style or customer experience. 

Knowing the structure of a studio and being able to view the portfolio of the photographer who will photograph your wedding will give you an accurate idea of what your wedding photos will look like and what sort of experience you will have. 

Are They a Wedding Photographer?

Are they a couple’s or studio photographer trapped in the body of a wedding photographer who shines only during couples’ sessions?  Weddings consist of many more moments that are just as, if not more important, than the bride and groom’s couple’s session.  When reviewing a photographer’s website and social media, make sure they have ample and, more importantly, creative photos of all the moments, people, and details of a wedding day, not just nice bride and groom pictures. This indicates what’s important to them, what their strength is, and what sort of photos you will receive.  A good wedding photographer can do both and understands the importance of making sure you have gorgeous and creative photographs of all the moments, people, and things of your wedding day.    

Consistency in Photography

Photos taken of the same scene in the same wedding should be consistent with regards to skin tones, colors, exposure, and how warm or cold the photo is.  If the photographer has a unique style and does not deviate from that style, then look for consistency from wedding to wedding.  In our case, photos from one wedding may be noticeably different from photos from a different wedding as our clients choose the post-processing style of their photos.  The photos from the same scene from the one wedding will be consistent, however.

This level of consistency can be achieved only in post processing.  If you notice a lack of consistency, it may be due to the photographer not fully editing the photos or applying a preset and not reviewing the photos afterwards for consistency.  In either case, we recommend not choosing that photographer as your photos will be inconsistent, making them poor candidates for images for your photo book.

Technical & Creative Expertise

Having great equipment is great.  Knowing how to use it is another.  I would love to be to be able to draw.  I can imagine things that my hand refuses to bring to life.  I simply don’t have the technical knowhow needed to do it to draw.  It doesn’t mean I’m not creative.  The same goes for photography.  Not being steeped in the technical aspects of photography and lighting limits creativity.  Knowing the technical aspects allows one’s creativity to flow. 

When looking at photos from a photographer you are considering, examine the photos for creativity, and if they are exposed correctly and well-it.  To be able to produce creative and technically-well-taken wedding photos is no small task.  Weddings do not take place in a vacuum, in a studio.  Wedding photographers have to work with all sorts of lighting conditions, weather, personalities, environments, and deal with unforeseen issues at a moment’s notice and still deliver a great experience while smiling. 

Wedding Photography Style

How often does one get married?  How tuned int to wedding photography styles are you?  It might be a safe bet that it’s not your forte.  If it is, great!  You can skip this section.  If not, then read on.  You’ll notice many of the styles of wedding photography while reviewing wedding photographers’ portfolios on their website.  Going over their Instagram feed is not the best way to get a feel for a photographer’s style as the photos are one photo from an event, mixed in with other photos.  Doing this will give you a better idea of the wedding photography style you like, which will help narrow down your choices for further vetting.

Assistant Photographer

Check their resources to see if they have an assistant photographer.  The best photographer cannot be in two, three, four places at once.  We highly recommend choosing a wedding photography studio that provides a master and assistant photographer, regardless of the size of your wedding.  The main photographer will focus on the bride and groom, whereas the second photographer will focus on guests and other moments happening at the same time.  This gives you a wider variety of photos, reduces repetitive photos, and tells both the main story and secondary stories at the same time.  This is essential for photo books that tell the complete story of your wedding day.

For Indian weddings and South Asian weddings, two photographers are the minimum.  On certain days, there are two events happening at the same time in different locations, one for the bride and one for the groom.  It’s simply not doable with one photographer.  Actually, two photographers and two assistants to help with the equipment and lighting is ideal so the photographers can focus on the bride and groom and creativity.

Quantity or Quality

This is a question you should ask yourself first.  What’s more important to you, quantity for quality?  You can’t have both.  If having a large number of photos is more important to you, pick the first photographer who fits your fancy.   If, however, you want quality wedding photography, you will need to do your homework.

Anyone can press the shutter button and take 300 photos per hour.  That’s easy.  Seeing a scene, creating it, setting up the lighting and camera, and then pressing the shutter button is something else entirely.  Quality photography takes creativity and time. 

When researching potential photographers, they might indicate somewhere on their website how many photos they deliver per hour.  If they’re promising more than 80 per hour, it’s highly improbable they are producing quality wedding photography. 

Aside from the time it takes to create a scene and setup the equipment, consider the amount of time it takes to edit photos.  If a photographer is promising 150 photos per hours, that’s 1,200 photos!  If they spend 2 minutes on each photo – this does not take into account the time it takes to upload photos, export them, and then upload them to an online photo gallery – that’s, 2,400 minutes, or 40 hours!!  They are not editing your photos.  This studio is based on quantity, not quality. 

If this information is not readily available on the website, it’s fairly easy to determine if a photographer focuses on quantity or quality.  A dead giveaway is a lack of creativity and repetition.  Are they cookie-cutter photos?  Also, see if the photographer takes photos from the same angle consistently.  This means they just point and shoot and don’t try to create a more creative perspective. 

Cultural Wedding Experience

You’re planning a cultural wedding in Costa Rica.  You have some great photographers on your list.  Do they have experience photographing weddings in your culture?  This can make or break your wedding photos.  Photographing an Indian wedding or a Jewish wedding, for example, is quite different than photographing Western weddings.  Western weddings lack the numerous cultural and religious traditions, rites, and rituals common to many non-Western weddings.  If having an non-Western wedding in Costa Rica, research the photographer’s website for photos of and resources for couples in a non-Western wedding. 


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