Advice from a professional photographer on planning your wedding

People all over the country took full advantage of the magic of Christmas and got engaged this holiday season. Maybe you’re one of them, and are now facing the enormous task of planning your own wedding. Since this process can often be a painstaking one, consuming nearly every conversation you and your spouse-to-be will have over the next several months and potentially adding stress to your already busy lives, you’ll likely be looking for ways to ease some of those strains. So, I figured I’d offer some professional advice from the perspective of an established wedding photographer with close to 20 years experience in the industry.

Brandon & Vita, 2015

For those of you whose lives are drastically changing in 2018 as you enter into one of the most exciting life adventures ever, I hope to provide some valuable insight that will clear the muddy waters of planning your wedding, at least as far as your photography is concerned!

A lot of us have friends or family members who own nice cameras. Many of them have decided to venture into the world of “professional photography”, and some of those photographers are even trying their hands at weddings.

Now that you’re engaged and have announced it to social media, some of your friends with budding photographic careers may have reached out to you, offering to photograph your wedding for free, either as a wedding gift, or just so that they can gain experience. It sounds like a pretty amazing deal, right? You get to cross off an expensive component of your wedding budget and they can build up their portfolios! Everyone wins.

Kyle & Yesenia, 2016

Andrew & Sara, 2016

Or, maybe you’ve found someone that’s offered to photograph your entire day with the promise to deliver 2,000 edited photos for you to do with as you please for the low price of $1,000. That seems like a pretty good deal until you get your photos back and find out that literally anyone you know could’ve taken them for a $50 gift card to Applebee’s, and now you’ve realized too late just how much $1,000 really is when you’re flushing it down the toilet.

Alex & Brittney, 2016

Yes, there’s a major disease that’s plaguing the world of professional photography, and you may very well be at risk of becoming infected. Unfortunately, it’s a disease for which there’s no cure, because your wedding is a once in a lifetime event… or at least that’s the hope, right?

Tim & Courtney, 35mm film, 2017

Alex & Brittney, 2016

Owning a halfway decent camera and photo editing software does not define a professional photographer. Furthermore, Pinterest is great for many things, but it’ll only provide tracing paper for a photographer to copy someone else’s photos and pass them off as their own.

Andy & Lindsey, 2014

Ryan & Jessi, 2015

Brad & Breana, 2016

Thousands of amateur photographers are calling themselves professionals and jumping head-in to the world of wedding photography without the basic understanding of what it takes to be a decent wedding photographer, much less a good one. While their intentions may be great, by hiring an amateur, you‘ll be the one to pay for their mistake.

Brandon & Amy, 2013

As an inexperienced photographer, I focused on gaining the actual knowledge of how to operate my camera by taking photography courses. I should’ve further built up my craft with mentorships under established professionals before offering to photograph such intimate and precious moments in the lives of my clients, but I didn’t. As a result, the first few years of Dave Ainley Photography were incredibly stressful, made for more than a few upset clients, and almost caused me to give up on wedding photography altogether.

Nate & Lindsay, 2006

Jeremy & Priscilla, 35mm film, 2006

Stacy & her grandma, 2005

Being a good wedding photographer takes a lot more than knowing how to properly expose a photograph. Having the personality to nurture a fun and lighthearted atmosphere, the skills to manipulate and capture light, the creativity to compose a photo that breathes life, and understanding how to cater to clients by seeing a project through to completion are concepts that are vitally important when choosing a photographer to capture your life moments. Sadly, it’s nearly impossible to find a well rounded photographer actually worth entrusting with your memories.

Scott & Melissa, 35mm b/w film, 2015

So, how do you avoid making the mistake of hiring the wrong person and walking away with bad wedding photos? Do your homework. Be thorough and exhaustive when interviewing potential photographers, and never settle on one based on a price tag. You’ll almost always be disappointed in the end.

Chris & Becky, 35mm slide film (cross processed), 2014

Luke & Michelle, 2015

Brandon & Amy, 35mm film, 2013

Here are 10 things to look out for in your hunt for the perfect wedding photographer.

In addition to knowing how to operate a camera, a good wedding photographer will be…

  • Excellent at giving direction
  • Comfortable working well under pressure
  • Unphased by large groups
  • Punctual
  • Always mindful of your timeline
  • Cool and collected throughout the day
  • Great at improvising in the face of unforeseen changes to the schedule
  • Prepared to address questions or diffuse concerns by the bride and groom (and those of family members and guests)
  • Able to catch verbal clues given by the officiant & deejay to indicate where to be at any point throughout the ceremony and reception
  • Creatively capturing photographs that will ensure your memories are cherished for generations

Alex & Brittney, 2016

James & Tanya, 2014

Andrew & Sara, 2016

Remember-you’re about to entrust this person with some of the most intimate moments of your life. Beyond the skills you should be looking for in someone you’re considering hiring to photograph your wedding, ask yourself if your potential photographer is someone you enjoy being around. A truly great wedding photographer will make it easy for you to open up in front of them, giving even the most camera-shy people a completely comfortable experience in front of their lens.

Chris & Becky, 35mm film, 2014

Nick & Alicia, 2016

Kody & Sanae, 35mm film, 2017

There’s a saying in the tattoo world that I’ll adapt for the sake of this letter, as it absolutely stands true.

“Good [photography] isn’t cheap, and cheap [photography] isn’t good.”

Brad & Breana, 2016

Joel & Andrea, 2017

Nick & Alicia, 35mm film, 2016

When all is said and done, the only thing left to show for your wedding day will be the memories captured in your photographs, so make sure the photographer you hire doesn’t leave you wondering if you made the right choice.

At Dave Ainley Photography, we work hard to be the absolute best investment of every wedding. We help to build each client an easy, stress free timeline that allows them to enjoy their day. We strive to get to know every couple on a personal level so that the photos we capture show the true essence of who they are and not who we think they should be. We live by the motto that there’s nothing better than a genuine smile, but there’s nothing worse than a fake one.

We want to tell your story. Call us today to set up a time to grab coffee and get to know each other. We can’t wait to meet you!


Zach & Markie, 2016

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