Not to ruffle any feathers, but there’s no such thing as “THE best St. Louis wedding photographer,” even though we have quite a few very talented photographers in the area. This is because the best St. Louis wedding photographer may not be the best option for you. And you don’t need the best wedding photographer in the whole world: you just need the right one for you, someone who aligns with your style, personality, and, of course, budget.
This, however, doesn’t make the hunt any easier. If you’re looking for a wedding photographer in St. Louis, chances are, you’re overwhelmed with all the different options.
Not sure about you, but I get decision fatigue very easily if I have to choose from three options or more. (Which is probably why I sucked at multiple choice questions in school.) It happened when I was applying for grad schools. And it happens every time I walk into a grocery store. To save my mental energy for better purposes, I simply stick to one or two brands that I like better than the few other ones I’ve tried. So if I need more cereal for breakfast, I’ll only have to decide between Blueberry Morning and Special K Fruit & Yogurt, or simply get both of them if I’m feeling lazy, and I know exactly where to find it.
But choosing the best St. Louis wedding photographer for your big day is not something you can take as lightly. It’s a big investment. And it’s obviously not as simple as choosing your favorite cereal. Moreover, you only get married every once in a lifetime, so you can’t afford to mess it up!
To make it easier for you, I’ve broken the process down to three main steps. Let’s walk you through it and get you matched with the perfect wedding photographer for YOU.
- Step 1: Identify Your Style
- Step 2: Research Wedding Photographers in St. Louis
- Step 3: Meet with Your Top Candidates
Step 1: Identify Your Style
The first step in this “wedding photography match-making” game is identifying your style. This might sound tricky at first, but here’s an easy way to do it: create a mood board on Pinterest.
1 .Create a Pinterest board.
And name it “My Dream Wedding Photographer” or whatever you want.
(I assume, at this point, you already have a Pinterest account. If not, you can easily create one here.)
2. Search on Google or Pinterest using long tail keywords.
Use keywords that contain the style of your wedding, the names of your venues, or parts of the wedding day. For instance, do a quick search for “outdoor wedding,” “church wedding,” “rustic wedding,” “Indian wedding,” “Patty Long Catering’s 9th Street Abbey wedding,” “Silver Oaks Chateau wedding,” or “Haue Valley wedding,” “bridal portraits,” or “wedding party pictures.”
3. Pin anywhere from 30 to 50 images to your Pinterest board.
Variety is more important than the number of images you pin. Try to find 2 or 3 images from each part of the wedding day, such as: getting ready, first look, wedding ceremony, portraits of the newly wed, wedding party, and wedding reception. And focus on parts of the day that matter the most to you. Don’t overanalyze. Just quickly pin the images that stand out to you, the ones that speak to you.
4. Assess your aesthetic:
When you’re done pinning images, sit back and get an overall feel of the images on your board: Do they have a cohesive look? If not, you might need to pin some more images or get rid of ones that seem obviously out of place.
Now, if the images look cohesive, ask yourself what you like about them. It could be a number of different factors: poses (traditional vs. modern), composition (classic vs. bold), lighting (natural light vs. flash, soft/even vs. hard/edgy), editing (light and airy vs. moody and contrasty, natural/clean vs. artistic/over-the-top), approach (photojournalistic vs. editorial), and so forth. Keep in mind that your style might not be 100% one or the other; the important part is figuring out which side of the spectrum you fall.
If you need inspirations, check out this sample mood board that I’ve created.
*Side Note: The mood board is for style reference only. It’s not meant to be a shot list, your list of “50 must-have images from your wedding.” Your wedding photographer probably won’t mind you sending it to them, but please don’t expect them to replicate your entire mood board.
You don’t go to a restaurant, hand the chef your favorite recipe and ask them to cook it for you, do you? No, you go to a different restaurant.
Likewise for your wedding photographer: after all, you hired them not because they happen to have a fancy camera (usually more than one) and know how to work it, but because you appreciate their talent and trust their artistic vision. Treat them as an artist, not as a machine.
Step 2: Research Wedding Photographers in St. Louis
Now that you have your photography style pinned down (pun intended), it’s time to research wedding photographers in the St. Louis area. The Knot or or WeddingWire is a good place to start. And you can use the filters they’ve provided to narrow down the search results.
Or you can simply open a web browser and Google “St. Louis wedding photographers” or “wedding photographers in St. Louis.”
1 .Take a good look at their wedding and engagement portfolio.
If it meshes well with your style, then, great, move on to the next step. If not, move on to a different photographer.
Check out our portfolio here.
2. Read reviews from their past clients.
If you can’t find them on their website, try The Knot, WeddingWire, Facebook, or Google Maps. If a family member or friend of yours hired them before and had a good experience, then that’s a good sign. If other vendors you have booked and trust also recommend them to you, even better. If most of their past clients only have positive things to say about them, then you should be confident that you will be guaranteed a similar experience as well. If you spot any potential red flags, try to get a second opinion first and see whether it’s something you should be really concerned about. If the answer is yes, move on and repeat 1-2.
3. Check out their “About” page and get to know them a little bit.
Find out how they define their own approach or style and whether you can connect with them on a personal level. Your wedding photographer is the only vendor, maybe besides your wedding coordinator if you have one, who will be with you every step of the way on the wedding day. So you may want to make sure he or she is at least someone you can tolerate for eight or ten hours. If your wedding photographer has the potential of becoming your new bestie, then good for you. (My goal!!!) But they don’t have to be. They don’t need to like all the things that you do: they just need to be personable (and ready to step in when you need help). If they seem not, move on and repeat 1-3.
4. Browse their blog.
As you may know, photographers usually put their best images in their portfolio. Looking at their portfolio is a quick way to gauge their style, but it’s important to also see how they approach a wedding day from start to finish. Check out the weddings they’ve blogged and get a sense of how they photograph each part of the wedding day. If they have links to online galleries for past weddings, definitely take a look at them. If not, ask to see one at the in-person meeting (see below).
Check out our recent works on our blog HERE.
5. Find out how much they cost.
You’re not looking for the best wedding photographer (if there’s one): you’re looking for the best wedding photographer that fits your style, personality, and, last but not least, budget. They have to be someone you can afford. It’s totally okay to have a budget, but try to keep an open mind. After all, wedding photography is not just another expense that you have to bear: it’s an investment of a lifetime. When the party is over, all that you will have left from the wedding is the photos and each other.
How much would you be willing to spend on something so invaluable, especially when the photographer can create beautiful works of art that nobody else can duplicate? If your pockets are tight, try and see if you can cut costs elsewhere. For instance, maybe invite fewer guests, or have the wedding on a Sunday or an off-season date (most venues offer substantial discounts for the not-as-popular dates and you can potentially save thousands of dollars)?
Typically, wedding photographers list at least a starting price on their website. Keep an eye out for tabs like “Info,” “Pricing,” “Investment,” “Packages,” or “Collections.” If their starting price is within your budget, then move on to the next step. If you really like their work and they don’t have a starting price listed on their website, also move on to the next step.
Our stress-free wedding collections start at $3000. Here’s a quick overview.
6. Create a spreadsheet and rank all the candidates.
At this point, you probably have 5 to 10 photographers you’d like to hear more from. Here’s the system that has worked well for me and will help you decide who’s on the top of your list: firstly, rank how important, overall, the style, personality, or cost of a photographer is to you on a scale of 1 (least important) to 3 (most important).
Secondly, rank how well a particular candidate aligns with your style, personality, and pocket size, respectively, on a scale of 1 (not so much) to 5 (very much so).
And, thirdly, multiply each candidate’s alignment scores by the respective importance scores, add them all up for each candidate, and rank all candidates in descending order.
You can download the Wedding Photographer Short List Workbook for free below and customize it to your own liking. Below is what the end result will look like.
Step 3: Meet with Your Top Candidates
Emails can only tell you that much about someone. Nothing beats face-to-face interaction. Which is why I always try to meet with couples who’re interested in hiring me as their wedding photographer. It’s a much better way to see if we can connect, both on a professional and personal level. They are interviewing me and I’m interviewing them as well. The goal is to figure out whether we’re a good fit for each other.
Sometimes my couples are from out of state and meeting up in person just isn’t feasible. In that case, I will talk to them through Google Hangouts or Skype, or at least try to get them on the phone. (Click here to schedule your FREE timeline consultation.)
When you meet with the wedding photographers on your short list, here are a few things you can ask them about besides their wedding packages:
1 .Can I see some album samples?
Many wedding photographers in St. Louis include photo albums in their packages. But not all albums are create equal. Inspect the cover, binding, page thickness, and print quality.
2. What’s your typical turnaround?
Wedding photographers typically shoot over a thousand images for an eight-hour wedding. And it takes time to go through all of them, pick the best ones, and edit them before the polished images get delivered to you. Here at Choice Jade Photography, crazy as things might get during busy wedding seasons, we always make sure that you see the final images within 4 weeks. Other photographers may vary.
3. What if something happens and you can’t make it to our wedding?
If your wedding photographer has a contract for you to sign (and they should!), there’s usually a “limit of liability” clause that states the terms and conditions for unlikely circumstances where, for instance, the photographer can’t perform the services as contracted, or they’ve lost/damaged some or all of the photos from the day.
Read the clause carefully. Make sure you understand it and agree to it.
4. Are you insured?
It goes without saying that every legit business should carry liability insurance. And some wedding venues require that all your vendors present evidence for such insurance. So make sure you’re covered.
5. How do I book you?
The booking process may vary from one photographer to another, but it typically involves signing a contract and paying a deposit upfront. Here at Choice Jade Photography, a signed contract and a paid deposit of $750 are required to secure the date.
Remember, popular dates book fast. So, if you don’t act as soon as you can, they might not be available any more a week from now. If you’re interested in booking a particular photographer, be sure to ask them what your next steps are, and whether and how long they will hold the date for you.
If you have any questions about our wedding photography service, check out our FAQ page here.
DOWNLOAD THE WORKBOOK FOR FREE
The “Wedding Photographer Short List Workbook” makes it easy for you to narrow down your top candidates and make an informed decision. You can download it for free below: