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How to pick the best photographer for your wedding venue

The Vashon Room in West Seattle Wedding Venue The Hall at Fauntleroy. Cream floor-length linens with a champagne tower in the center of the room. Large mirror on the back wall. Photo by Steven Zhang.

According to Zola's 2023 wedding report, couples were more likely to splurge on their wedding venue, an open bar, and catering over other elements related to décor, attire, and music. But the #1 splurge of them all?
53% of couples were most willing to splurge on their photographer. 📸💸

When choosing a wedding photographer, you probably scroll deep into their Instagram and website, and maybe search for their other social media profiles or their published work.

This will give you a great idea of their style and the weddings they are most proud of. What this might *not* give you is the full picture of their work. 

You might have suspected this, but most photographers don't share all the weddings they capture. They share the ones that fit best with their style and the kind of work they would like to do more of in the future. They might prefer to showcase their destination weddings on mountain tops, but still quietly photograph backyard weddings. 

As the Marketing Communication Specialist at DSquared Hospitality, I've seen photos from many different photographers in various Seattle wedding venues, especially in the venues where we work exclusively. 

Here's the bitter truth - it's way easier to get beautiful, clear and crisp photos during the day outside or in a well-lit space. But when the sun falls, a venue that is gorgeously moody and candlelit can be stunning in person, but almost non-visible or grainy in the photographs. I've seen first hand the importance of hiring a photographer who can work well in a variety of lighting conditions. 

How do you know if your favorite photographer's golden-hour masterpieces will translate to your indoor ceremony or reception? 

1. Scan their portfolios for examples of their work during each stage of a wedding.

This includes indoor shots like getting ready, dinner, speeches, and dancing, as well as outdoor shots, including ceremonies and portraits. Do all the photos look great or only the daylight images?

Note: If you scan back far enough, you might not get an accurate idea of their current style. Photographers, like all artists, evolve their style as they hone their craft, upgrade their equipment, and change their stylistic choices to match current trends. Don't put too much emphasis on work from a few years ago if it looks different from their current work.

2. Ask them to send examples of their past work at your wedding venue - or the wedding venues that you're considering.

If they haven't worked there before, ask for some examples of wedding photos they took in scenarios that you will be in - indoors at night in December, for example.

Note: Your wedding venue in July is a very different place from your wedding venue in January - well, at least for us Pacific Northwesterners. Make sure you get a look at their work in your wedding season.

3. Scroll through your venue's social media.

We have hundreds of photos on our Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest from various photographers.

Which images do you like best? Is it the location, décor, or the style of photography? Does the post say if the wedding is from the summer, fall, or winter? Conversely, are there images you definitely don't like? What is it that you don't like about them? Is it the décor, or would the same items look great with better lighting? Save all the images you love - even from multiple venues, other local wedding profiles like Seattle Bride Magazine, or the wedding photos of your friends - and see if there are any photographers whose names keep showing up. 

Now that you've found images you do and don't like...

4. Communicate your preferences to your photographer.

Of course, you can't change their overall style, but you can ensure that you are getting the shots you care about the most. I've learned from experience as a vendor working with the same photographers on multiple occasions, that just because you trust someone's style and they've produced great work for you in the past, doesn't mean they will replicate it in the exact same way the next time. Always communicate your goals and expectations.

Note: Share what you do want, but also share what you don't want. See a particular room in your venue that often looks too dark or is captured from one angle better than another? Let your photographer know what you think and they can help find a solution. Maybe they need to bring a different camera lens or portable light, or would advise you to consider hiring a lighting designer to enhance the overall light in the room. 

Another tip: If you use the same photographer for your engagement and wedding photos, make sure to tell them which images you loved the best after the first photoshoot. Was it the candids, the close ups of your hands, or maybe the details in the background? Your wedding day will be busy and you might not get the chance for as many of the details that you were expecting - unless you make sure to communicate their importance!

If you've made it to the end of this article, I hope you found some inspiration and tips to aid in your wedding photographer search! 

And if any photographers are reading this, consider sharing your wedding albums with the full vendor teams (if you have the permission to do so, of course). I know that at least one of our weddings booked their photographer because they saw her work on our profile. A win-win-win for all involved!

Wait, final tip - always use uplights!

Photo credits:

Photos of our wedding & event venue, The Hall at Fauntleroy.

  1. Cover image: The Vashon Room in January 2023 by Steven Zhang Photography. (Lighting by Crimson Haze Event Lighting).
  2. The Emerald Room in January 2023 by Stormy Peterson Photography (Lighting by Bellevue Lighting).
  3. The Emerald Room in November 2022 by Jenn Tai. & Co.
  4. The Vashon Room in July 2022 by Jay Eads Photography (Lighting by Crimson Haze Event Lighting).
  5. The Emerald Room in April 2022 by Jennifer Debarros Photography.
  6. The Vashon Room in March 2022 by Alante Photography.
  7. The Emerald Room in March 2022 by Steven Zhang Photography.
  8. The Emerald Room in July 2021 by Leda Costa.
  9. The Emerald Room in January 2018 by Diwas Photography.

For a guide to your wedding planning timeline, check out this "Ultimate Wedding Planning Checklist".

Written February 2023

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Desiree Jones
Desiree Jones
Marketing Communications Specialist
DSquared Hospitality Company
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