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How to find the perfect wedding photographer

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Katrina and John on their wedding day at the Craftwood Inn in Manitou Springs, Colorado. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Katrina and John on their wedding day at the Craftwood Inn in Manitou Springs, Colorado.
‘Tis the season for couples to begin their search for the perfect wedding location, dress, florist and, of course, photographer. I’ve read a lot of the advice offered in wedding magazines over the years, but this year I thought I'd provide my own set of tips.

I can’t speak to picking a wedding gown, but I can tell you a little bit about finding the perfect wedding photographer. Identifying your photographic preferences is an important first step, and where I'll begin this series of posts.

Madison's bridal portrait at the Air Force Academy Chapel. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Madison's bridal portrait at the Air Force Academy Chapel.
Pick a Style

A web search can help identify your wedding photo likes and dislikes. Take a look at different photographers’ work online to get up to speed on the latest trends, and find styles that you prefer.

A photographer’s website can tell you a lot about his or her approach: Is there a broad selection of single images from different weddings, or does the photographer display portfolios from one wedding? Are the images candid (in the moment) or is the work more formal and directed? What compositions are typical for the photographer, and what lens choices (wide versus telephoto) do they employ? Is there a lot of work that is enhanced (soft edges, heavy vignetting, selective color), or does the photographer deliver the images without much enhancement?

Regardless of the style you choose in the end, researching many different photography websites can teach you a lot about the trade as you learn about your own preferences.

Ask Around
Christina and Justin's first dance at the Cheyenne Mountain Country Club. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Christina and Justin's first dance at the Cheyenne Mountain Country Club.
Once you’ve settled on a wedding date and have a location in mind, and know what kind of style you want, start your search for a photographer by asking around.

Wedding coordinators will often be able to recommend photographers, and so will your friends — especially those who have recently married. (If you're impressed by their pictures, this makes your search much easier!) In the case that you recently attended a wedding and saw the photographer at work then all the better.

Referrals, especially from friends, make for a more comfortable starting point to make your decision. Buyer’s remorse is just as common with weddings as with any large investment, and a referral reduces this risk.

After you identify the style you prefer and have asked around for referrals, you're well on your way to finding your perfect wedding photographer. The next step is making first contact and knowing how to negotiate. I'll discuss that in the next part of this series.

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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