Wedding Photography — What Every DIY Bride Should Know

Wedding Photography Should You Hire a Pro or go DIY?

Hiring a wedding photographer and videographer is one of the top ten wedding expenses. For this reason, it is easy to see why so many couples are tempted to go the DIY route. Before choosing to go the DIY route, make sure you are making an informed decision. This way you won’t be penny wise and pound foolish.

Wedding Photography — Hiring a Pro vs. Friend or Family Member

If you are thinking of having a friend or family member shoot your special day, then I suggest you think twice about this. A professional wedding photographer is there to capture the once in a lifetime moments.  It is their job to know what to capture and how to do it well. In other words they have wedding photography experience plus expertise with the right equipment.

A friend or family member is there to participate. This means that even the best meaning person could get sidetracked by visiting with other guests and miss a lot of great shots. Plus, they don’t have the experience to know what to capture or how to capture it. Unlike a professional, they most likely won’t have all the right equipment.

Advice from a Wedding Photographer

Getting advice from an expert is key to making an informed decision. That is why I reached out Jeff Kolodny, a professional in Photography & Video. (He is the husband of my good friend Robin.)  Jeff is an award winning photographer, whose work has been featured in well-known magazine and has over 20 of year of experience.  He won several awards from Wedding Portrait Photographers International, followed by the International Photography Award and the Sibern, Best of Photography Award. His published work includes high-profile magazines (Vogue, Elle, and Cosmopolitan) plus several professional photography book such as The Best of Professional Digital Photography (by Amherst Media) as well as the Wedding Photographers Handbook. That is why I am sharing with my readers what I learned from a photography expert about hiring a professional wedding photographer.

How do I evaluate a wedding photographer’s portfolio?

Make sure you are paying attention to the right details.  It is very easy to get distracted by the wrong details while planning your own wedding. You might not like the bride’s dress or choice flowers.  This might cause you evaluate the photographs negatively. The right details to evaluate a portfolio are related to the quality of images created by the photographer. Evaluation should be based on criteria such as the use of light, color, and composition. Keep in mind the photographer isn’t showing you exactly what your wedding is going to look like. The photographer is showing the types of images you can expect.

How do I evaluate the cost of wedding photography package?

Wedding photographer prices can vary depending upon many factors, such as,

  • Location (photographers in big cities tend to cost more than in other areas)
  • Types of Services
  • Experience
  • Level of Expertise

What’s covered in a wedding photographer’s prices?

Be sure to read information regarding their prices and packages carefully when researching wedding photographers. These tend to differ widely from photographer to photographer. And can greatly affect the wedding photography pricing.

Here are some examples:


Six hours and unlimited coverage tends to be the norm. Longer coverage will cost you more. If your party goes beyond the agreed upon coverage, then there will be an additional cost.


What you will be expected to pay will depend upon how much traveling the photographer will have to do.

  • Will the photographer have to drive a long distance? If yes, then you might have to pay a per mile fee.
  • Are you having a destination wedding? If yes, then you might have to pay for airfare and accommodations.

Second Shooters/Staffing

Will your photographer have a second shooter or assistants on site? If yes, then expect to pay more.


A large part of your photographer’s time will be spent editing and retouching your wedding photos to make sure they look absolutely amazing.


The cost should include the actual images. Digital files can be provided to you in a variety of ways including in an online gallery and/or via a USB drive.

Print release

Print release means you can use the photos for your own personal use. Many photographers include this. However, you probably won’t have full “copyright release.”  This means you don’t own the photos and can’t sell them, and that your photographer can use your photos for marketing purposes.


Photo prints or a print credit (money you put towards purchasing prints are included by some photographers. You don’t have to purchase your prints through your photographer. However, they’ll likely come out better if you do.


A wedding album may be part of your package. There are two options. You can choose whether you’d like to design and purchase your album through your photographer or do it through another service.

Additional shoots

An engagement shoot is offered by some photographers. Other shoots will likely cost extra. Two example are a bridal portrait and the rehearsal dinner. I often offer an engagement shoot in my packages. However, some photographers list these shoots separately, and engagement shoot prices can range from $150 to over $600 for a session. The engagement shoot is extremely popular with my clients. It helps the couple get comfortable in front of the camera before the big day. Plus when they see how great they look in their beautiful engagement photos, it reconfirms that they made .the right choice

Wedding Photography--What Every DIY Bride Should Know--Engagement Photo
Vizcaya Engagement Photo by Jeff Kolodny

I recently shot engagement photos for a Couple that hired a photographer and didn’t like their engagement photos.  They hired me to do a beach engagement shoot here in Florida.  After seeing the difference between my photos and the previous photographer’s photos they decided to fire their old photographer and hire me.

Wedding Photography — What Every DIY Bride Should Know.
Is a DIY approach to wedding photos right for you? Read this post and find out.
Vizcaya Engagement Photo by Jeff Kolodny

It’s not just about the outcome of the photos, it’s also about the difference between a photographer who knows how to take charge and pose vs a photographer that shoots random photos with no direction given to the bride and groom.

Additional expenses

A pricing package could include items that are less obvious parts of wedding photographer’s business. Equipment, employees, business expenses, marketing, and liability insurance are some examples.

Do you have any suggestions for couples on a tight budget?

Securing Access to Printing Rights

Not being contractually obligated to purchase prints and enlargements from the photographer could save you money. This is done by securing access to printing rights. It is important to always be sure that you understand your image rights. Will you have the full rights to download and print pictures from any site you choose? This will help you understand the real final cost of your wedding photos.

Bundling Shoots

Bundling shoots can save you money. Instead of purchasing engagement photos and wedding photos separately, you could get a discounted packed by bundling them together.

Start with Your Budget

The wedding budget is where I would start. How much can you afford to spend on a wedding photographer? If you are on a tight budget, then look for a newer professional photographer. It is unrealistic to think that you could talk an amazing professional who normally charges $5,000 for a wedding down to your budget of $1,000.

Pick an Off Season Date

In South Florida, our busy season is November to April.  This is because it’s nice, sunny and warm here while the rest of the country is freezing cold. With that being said the summer is hot, humid. (Personally I love the summer heat and the warm summer ocean water)  It’s during this time that South Florida hotels are offering huge summer discounts.  A bride could have a beautiful wedding at a luxury 5 star resort for much less than during the busy season.

Book Early

There are a couple of budgetary reasons to book early. One reason is that some photographers offer a discount for booking early. The second reason is to lock-in a rate before an increase. The rate of an up-and-coming photographers is likely to go up significantly as they build a reputation year by year. The rate of established photographers will increase to keep up with inflation. By booking right after your engagement, or many months prior to your date you could skip your photographer’s price hike.

Book for Less Time

How long you hire a photographer for can greatly impact the cost of the contract. You can dramatically reduce the cost by booking the photographer for less time. This is because the photographer will have fewer photos to process and will charge you for fewer overall hours. One example is the pre-wedding activities. You could have the bridesmaids and groomsmen take these photos, instead of the professional photographer. Another example is you could have your photographer stay only until you cut the cake.

What are some red flags when interviewing a wedding photographer?

My top 5 red flags are:

  1. It isn’t their full-time job. You want your photographer to be dedicated to wedding photography and not trying to fit it around their 9-5 job.
  2. No customer reviews online. Customer reviews can be a critical part of your decision making process. A testimonial gives you a first-hand account of what you can expect. It could mean that the photographers has only received bad reviews or doesn’t have any reviews at all.  No reviews can also mean no experience or very little experience.
  3. An established photographer should have at least 10 albums for you to review. If they don’t, then they probably haven’t been in the business very long.
  4. Avoid companies with a 1-800 number. An 800# tends to signal that they are regional or national photography company that hire local inexperienced photographers for about $50 per hour and they keep the rest. You would be better off hiring them directly and save the money. It will take you longer to get your photos because you are working with a middle man.
  5. The ability to offer a backup staff and equipment are indications of a first-class photographer. If you candidate can’t offer you these things, book with someone who can.

You can see more of Jeff Kolodny’s photography by clicking here.

Hiring a Professional Wedding Photographer

Here are some starting points to consider, at a high level:

Philosophy—read their about page. This will give you insight to their approach.

Personality—is this a person you are comfortable with and you can trust for your important day? Ask for their strengths and weakness.

References—will give you clue to what you can expect.

Portfolio—See a few full wedding albums. This will give you a better rounded review of their work.

Pricing and Package—pay attention to what included, such as— second shooters, additional hours, hi-res JPGs, albums, and engagement sessions may be included in the price quote, or might be extra money. Otherwise you might be signing up to pay more for things you definitely want like getting the files.

For more in depth information on hiring a wedding photographer click on a title below.

The Knot— 10 Steps to Finding a Great Wedding Photographer

A Practical Wedding— Here Is Your Guide for How to Hire a Wedding Photographer

Martha Stewart Weddings—Vendor Smarts: How to Hire a Wedding Photographer

Can You Afford a Pro?

You might have determined that you cannot afford an established pros because they have big overhead costs built into their fee structure. But before you decide to call that friend or family member, you should investigate other options. The DIY Network has a post on this subject. Click here to learn more.

Wedding Photography — What Every DIY Bride Should Know
Is a DIY approach to wedding photos right for you? Read this post and find out.

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