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How to find the perfect wedding photographer: Meetings and prices 

click to enlarge Ashley and Chris wait out the rain on their wedding day. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ashley and Chris wait out the rain on their wedding day.
After investigating photographers online and receiving referrals from friends or planners, the next step in finding the perfect wedding photographer is to contact those on your short-list and schedule an appointment with each.

Before you meet with a photographer, however, make sure you have set a date and reserved a location. Without both, photographers often can’t guarantee their availability or estimate travel costs.

Here are five tips when meeting with photographers:
click to enlarge The flower girl plays with rose petals inside the Pauline Memorial Chapel. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • The flower girl plays with rose petals inside the Pauline Memorial Chapel.
1. Interview at least three, and save your top pick for last. By meeting with at least three photographers you have a better basis for making a final decision. Besides seeing images online, you get to hear from each photographer, touch and feel the final product (usually a wedding album) and compare pricing in person. And meeting with your top pick last with a basis of comparison is important. It may be the first two photographers you meet with pale in comparison to your top pick — or you could learn that your top pick isn’t really that much different.

2. Focus on the relationship first, not the money. Having a good feeling about the photographer is more important than his or her price. I can guarantee you that a photographer you genuinely like will make better photographs of you than one you don’t. The reason for this is simple: You have to be able to trust them on your wedding day and share your emotions freely with them. Personally, I’m more excited about photographing weddings when I have a good relationship with the couple, know they’re excited about me and my work, and know that they trust me on their wedding day.
click to enlarge Louisa and Brendan see each other before their wedding ceremony. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Louisa and Brendan see each other before their wedding ceremony.
3. Know your budget to avoid sticker shock. You may have seen a photographer’s prices listed on their web site. Whatever those prices may be, by looking at your established budget for your entire wedding, you can determine what you’re willing to spend for photography and go from there. Every couple’s priorities are different. It may be that food or the band or the dress is more important than the photography. Or it may be that photography is the most important priority on your wedding day. If the latter is the case, be prepared to spend a little more on your photography. By knowing what you plan to spend in advance, you’re less likely to get sticker shock when considering a photographer fees.
click to enlarge Mamie and Nick at the Garden of the Gods Park on their wedding day. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Mamie and Nick at the Garden of the Gods Park on their wedding day.
4. All-inclusive packages save you money. Most established wedding photographers offer one or more all-inclusive packages. Packages are usually less expensive than if you were to pay for each component individually. The reason for this is that by purchasing a package, you’re meeting the photographer’s minimum price point. In my own business, my starting package includes photography for a set number of hours, a collection of digital images and online proofing. This is what I believe to be the necessities for any wedding couple. If you don’t see a package the works for you, don’t be afraid to request a custom quote. Many photographers are happy to provide you with exactly what you want — all you have to do is ask.
click to enlarge Wedding rings and legos. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Wedding rings and legos.
5. Be honest if you can’t afford the price. If the photographer’s price is still too high, share your budget with them and ask how they can help. Most photographers are flexible, especially if they click with you or are inspired by your wedding ideas. If you can’t afford the photographer and there isn’t any chance to make it work, ask for a referral. Odds are good they know a photographer with a similar approach that you can afford. It may be the other photographer is not as established, but if you have good rapport and their pictures are good, this may be the right choice for you.

Next: The importance of an engagement sitting and how to plan your wedding day photography.

Sean Cayton is a wedding photojournalist of 19 years and operates a successful, award-winning wedding photography studio in Colorado Springs. He's also an award-winning photojournalist. Sean is happily married to the love of his life (also his business partner) and is father to three beautiful children. When he’s not working, Sean can be found outside flying kites with his kids, hitting golf balls or casting a fly rod to hungry trout

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