Hendersons Wharf Inn wedding photo bridal party bouquetsHaving just been through the wedding planning process, I have learned a lot. Even with years of experience in the industry, planning our wedding was difficult and stressful at times. I am grateful for my resources and we definitely had a dream team. Getting there wasn’t easy! It took time and care to pick our vendors and was much harder than I thought it would be. I have so many talented friends that I wanted to hire. I leaned heavily into my (now) husband to make final decisions.

One of the top questions I got during my wedding planning (and even now!) was, “who are YOU going to hire as your wedding photographer?” I typically laugh because I get it often. It wasn’t an easy decision to come to. I had somewhat of a short list before Dave and I were engaged, so I handed it off to him and asked him to choose. It was a failsafe list, but we settled on the talented Lauren Fair Photography. This was a decision I am proud to brag on my husband for making.

BUT… it’s not always that easy! Perhaps you’re a teacher or a nurse, like nearly half of my previous brides. You may not know where to start, and you could get sidetracked from making a decision by getting overwhelmed. Don’t worry, y’all. I have you covered! Today I’m giving my “10 steps to hiring the best.”

Let’s get started!

Liriodendron Mansion wedding by Baltimore photographer

  1. Venue & Date

You’re engaged! It’s so exciting. Photographers are equally as excited about your proposal, and they are eagerly awaiting to hear from you. First things first, you’re going to need a date and then a venue. These are the two things I recommend having decided before booking a photographer. Photographers are third on the list to when and where so that you can be sure there are no conflicts with availability.

engagement session at canton waterfront park in baltimore, maryland

2. Budget

Everyone is going to have a different amount to spend toward their day. There are artists in all price points, so determining what you are going to spend on a photographer before you inquire with them will help you narrow your search.

Things to consider:

a | How much hourly coverage will you need?

b | Will you require a second shooter for more detail?

c | Will you want an engagement session included?

d | Are you hoping to have digital files and/or products as well?

e | What is the average couple in your area spending on wedding photography?*

*According to The Knot, Maryland couples spend about $3,000 on the average wedding photographer experience

3. Friends & Family

Getting referrals from people you know can be a great place to start! Many people who are getting married have friends, co-workers, and family members who have also recently been married. Given their experience, it’s nice to ask around to see who has worked with someone great! Be sure to tell them the budget you’re working with so it doesn’t end up being a situation where you’ve tried on a dress that’s WAYYYY too expensive, and you can never un-see it.

4. Shop Around

Make a date night of it! Grab a bottle of wine, order take out, and curl up on the couch with your laptop. Pop “your-city your-state wedding photographer” into your browser and see where it leads you! Most photographers will offer a ton of work to comb through, blogs to check out, bios to learn about their personalities, and starting price points.

This is also a great opportunity to look into reviews from previous couples! Getting visuals of an artist’s work can also let you gravitate toward a particular style. Each photographer captures an image and edits that image differently. Finding out what look you like will be another way to slim down the options.

Liriodendron Mansion wedding by Baltimore photographer

5. Make Contact

Find work that you love? Photographer’s bio seems great? Price point is just right? REACH OUT! Many photographers take a maximum of weddings per year. The earlier you book with a photographer, the better. You know that saying, “the early bird gets the worm?” It’s true! Booking your photographer earlier can lock in lesser rates in advance, can ensure you get your ideal pick of the bunch, and gives you more time to chip away at such an investment.

6. Face Off.

One thing I love to do after I’ve received an inquiry is to set up an optional meet and greet. A small consult over coffee, a Skype date, or at minimal-a phone call. Being able to communicate with someone by even the sound of my real voice can be humanizing. A bride should have the chance to connect with the person she’ll spend the whole day being followed around by. That relationship should flow easily, like a friendship. Don’t let technology stand in the way of getting to know your photographer! Set up a consult!

Hendersons Wharf Inn wedding photo bride's shoes perfume

7. Pro’s, Con’s, & RE-Evaluation

Struggling between your top few? I know that’s right! It can be tough as you make that FINAL commitment. It comes with a contract, so obviously you want to make the “right choice.” This is where a good ole fashion pro/con list comes in handy. Write it out. Who most fits your budget? Who did you get along with best? Who’s work did you most swoon over? Sometimes the answer CAN be figured out just like that.

What if it’s not that easy?

WHAT IF you find someone who’s style is amazing, who’s personality is perfect, who’s available and excited about working with you.. but just out of your budget? This happens. This is where you may have to re-evaluate a bit. THIS is where the hard choices can come into play, but you have followed the steps and thus, it’s early. You have time.

a | Cut the guest list. Focus on people you would most like to see in photos on your mantle in 10, 20, and 30 years. Costs per head can add up!

b | Choose flowers that are in bloom and thus, less expensive. Most florists can find alternatives to your floral preference that will still flatter your budget. Trust them!

c | Alternate centerpieces between florals and something DIY to cut your rentals in half! You can have the best of both worlds and still slay your costs!

couple's silhouette in a baltimore sunset

8. Say “YES” to the best.

You’ve made your list, you’ve interviewed your prospects, and you have looked at all the information.. probably multiple times! Now it’s time to commit. Saying yes to YOUR new photographer will not only make your day, but it is sure to make theirs too. Get excited. This decision made will be a weight off of your shoulders.

9. Other leads.

Now that you’ve proposed to your photographer, it’s time to follow up with everyone else. Although it may take a little time away from the fun planning, I suggest letting the other photographers know you have went with someone else. This will help them as they refresh their email waiting for a response, and free them up to move on to other prospects. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news, or to pass out rejections, but as a photographer… I can assure you it is nice to know where we stand.. no matter what the answer is!

10. ENJOY!

Now to move on to other plans! Even better, it’s time to schedule your engagement session and start your photography experience. Have a great time! Ask your tog questions, lean into their advice, and embrace your confident beauty. Treat each time in front of the camera like it’s a chance to strut yourself on Vogue and have the best time, ever!

Liriodendron Mansion wedding by Baltimore photographer

Here’s to finding the perfect photographer, and to all the AKP couples I get to serve in 2017 and 2018. If you’re on the hunt and have found yourself here.. let’s chat! I would love to hear about your wedding vision and to see if we are a perfect match!


Photography | Ashton Kelley Photography


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  1. Dr. Ronald G. Shapiro

    January 23rd, 2017 at 1:18 am

    Helpful!!! Thank you for sharing!!!

  2. ash10k

    January 23rd, 2017 at 1:19 am

    Always trying to be as helpful for AKP couples as possible. Thanks, Ron!

  3. Tara

    January 23rd, 2017 at 8:32 am

    This is a great list of things to look for and how to choose a photographer! Referrals from friends and family are the best place to start!

  4. ash10k

    January 23rd, 2017 at 9:19 am

    I love my referral brides, so much!

  5. Anne Casey

    January 23rd, 2017 at 8:51 am

    So much yes! You covered everything!

  6. ash10k

    January 23rd, 2017 at 9:19 am

    Thanks, Anne!

  7. Amanda

    January 23rd, 2017 at 8:57 am

    These are wonderful tips!!!

  8. Lindsay

    January 23rd, 2017 at 9:19 am

    This is such amazing advise!! I hope all brides follow this, I remember how stressful it was when planning my own wedding. So many decisions to be made! Your photographer should be one of the most important decisions!

  9. Brea

    January 23rd, 2017 at 9:33 am

    Great advice! Especially with following up with everyone after. It’s such a personal thing.

  10. ash10k

    January 23rd, 2017 at 10:07 am

    Agreed! I hate it when I’m left hanging after getting attached to the idea of working with someone! Hopefully it helps our planning couples in the future. :)

  11. Jennifer Georgette

    January 23rd, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Love these 10 steps! As well, you have such beautiful style.

  12. ash10k

    January 23rd, 2017 at 10:06 am

    Thank you Jennifer. You are so kind!

  13. Sarah Wockenfuss

    January 23rd, 2017 at 10:39 am

    These are great tips Ashton! Hopefully one day soon I’ll be in the market for a photographer! ;)

  14. ash10k

    January 23rd, 2017 at 11:28 am

    ohhhh I hope so too! you will make such a beautiful bride!!

  15. Carlin Anquist

    January 23rd, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Great post and helpful information!

  16. ash10k

    January 23rd, 2017 at 11:28 am

    Thanks, girl!

  17. Kelli

    January 23rd, 2017 at 12:49 pm

    All of these tips are great!! And the images that company them are fabulous :)

  18. ash10k

    January 23rd, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Kelli, you’re the best! Thank you for always saying the sweetest thing. :)

  19. Michele

    January 23rd, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Ashton, these are such great tips. As a bride, you really have so many things to consider, especially when choosing a photographer, and these were spot on. Great tips on how to flex or get the most from your budget as well!

  20. ash10k

    January 23rd, 2017 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks, girl! Gotta look out for those brides, especially just having been through it! It’s so overwhelming, and I hope this helps some couples with their decision! :)

  21. Sarah

    January 23rd, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    These are such great tips Ashton!!

  22. ash10k

    January 23rd, 2017 at 1:17 pm

    Thanks, babe!

  23. Rachel

    January 23rd, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    All the pretty photos make it all the more enjoyable to read these great tips! Thanks for sharing!

  24. Summer

    January 23rd, 2017 at 3:43 pm

    Great content ash! I think you nailed it completely!

  25. Emily

    January 23rd, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    So many great tips!! I am struggling to decide on vendors too, because I know so many wonderful ones! I like your idea of having Dave help you decide!

  26. Michelle Vazul

    January 23rd, 2017 at 9:45 pm

    Ashton – This is the perfect advice for newly engaged couples. I truly wish I would have had this 17 years ago.

  27. Vanessa Hicks

    January 24th, 2017 at 12:39 pm

    You truly are one of the best!!!! Loved everything about this blog!!