by: Janna Morishima

Of all the wedding vendor categories, photography might be one of the most crowded – there are hundreds of wedding photographers in New Jersey alone. So how do you separate the wheat from the chaff and find the best photographer for you?

1. Decide on how important photography is to you.

If you care strongly about the photography, allocate your budget accordingly. Expect to pay more than $6000 for a high-end photographer; between $2000 and $6000 for most professionals; and less than $2000 for a hobbyist or someone just starting out. You can find amazing photographers in each of these categories – and you can find mediocre work in each of them, too! So it pays to do your homework.

2. Educate your eyes.

Visit visually-oriented wedding blogs like and to determine what style of photography really speaks to you. Pay attention to composition, lighting, posing, color palette, and mood – do you like edgy, color-saturated shots? Romantic, washed-out images (known in photography parlance as “over-exposed”)? Intimate, documentary-style photographs?

3. Talk to people you know.

Next, compile your short list of potential candidates. Ask your friends and family if any of them have used a photographer they loved. Get a list of photographers from the venue where you are getting married. Ask any other vendors you’ve already hired, from the caterer to the dj to the makeup artist, if they work with any photographers they recommend.

4. Use online resources effectively

Going online to find a photographer can be daunting but there are good ways to narrow down your choices. If you like the photojournalistic style,, the Wedding Photojournalist Association, is a great place to start. Another tip is to google your wedding venue and then click on the “Images” rather than the text results. Click on your favorite ones to find the source.

5. Vet your candidates online first

Most photographers have an online portfolio (i.e., website). Once you’ve checked their portfolio, take a stroll through their blog and Facebook page. Are they posting recent work? Do you like it as much as their portfolio? Are they actively engaged with their clients? And of course, you’ll want to check their reviews on a website like Are their customers enthusiastic? Are there any complaints?

6. Set up meetings with your favorites.

Now you’re ready to meet in person. Since your photographer is going to be shadowing you for hours on your wedding day, it’s very important that you feel comfortable with him or her, and that you get the feeling he or she will put your guests at ease. Your photographer’s personality could have a big impact on your experience, positively or negatively.

7. Look at the photographer’s sample albums and other products.

Albums come in all different shapes, sizes, bindings, designs, and materials. The albums your photographer offers are a reflection of his or her taste. Do they mesh with yours?

8. Do you get the “digital negatives”?

Nowadays, many photographers will give you the “digital negatives,” meaning the image files, but some won’t. When you have the files, you can make your own prints, saving considerably on reprint costs. (The reason some photographers won’t hand over the files, though, is so you won’t take your files to Walmart and get mediocre prints. While we do give our wedding clients the files, we recommend that they work with us for any wall-size – i.e., 16×20 or larger – enlargements.) Decide whether or not having the files is important to you, and confirm whether or not you’ll get them from the photographer.

9. Consider the value of what the photographer is giving you.

High-quality work might cost a little more, but you may be looking at these photographs for 30, 40, or 50 years. A well-framed, beautiful photograph can be a deeply personal piece of art for your home. The wisest choice may not be the one who offers you the biggest package for the cheapest price, but the one who’ll deliver real emotion and artistry in their work.

by Janna Morishima

Janna is a partner with her husband Kyo at Kyo Morishima Photography, a photo-journalistic wedding and event photography business based in Metuchen, NJ. Kyo is a photographer who combines a fine art training with a taste for the unpredictable, while Janna, who has a background in publishing, designs predictably elegant albums and custom books.

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