Expert Advice: A Guide to Hiring a Tampa Bay Wedding Photographer

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Expert Advice: A Guide to Hiring a Tampa Bay Wedding Photographer | Lifelong Photography Studio

What factors go into the cost of professional wedding photography?

“Photographers are business owners; we don’t just run around taking pretty photos and then throw up our feet on the couch all week. We have all the same costs as any other business, (marketing, equipment, insurance, second shooters, product cost, etc.), so there is a huge difference in the price the photographer is charging versus how much the photographer is actually making. In order to pay the bills and stay in business just like anyone else, photographers have to charge based on these costs. Much of the cost of what we do actually happens after we shoot the wedding. There’s downloading, editing, proofing and album design, and all of these things are part of the hourly rate the photographer is charging otherwise they will not be in business for long! We are there to guide the flow of the day, keep it on track or get it back on track, and capture your most treasured moments from your wedding day.  We call what you pay for with us an “investment” because the photos (and video) are the only things you will spend money on from your wedding that actually will increase in value throughout the years.”  -Carrie Wildes, owner of Carrie Wildes Photography

“While couples know that they are paying a photographer for coverage of their wedding day, there is so much more that goes into this cost that might not be as obvious. For photographers, time is potentially money. We spend our time meeting with our couples, emailing them, speaking with wedding planners, reviewing timelines to make sure they fit the photography needs correctly, etc. Post-wedding we are doing our best to get sneak peeks out as soon as possible, and we are hand-selecting the best photos and then editing them. This can take many, many hours for an average-sized wedding which is all factored into the cost of your wedding photographer. We also have to upkeep our gear and make sure we have the best equipment.” -Amber McWhorter, owner Amber McWhorter Photography

Outdoor Downtown Tampa Bride and Groom Portrait at Traditional Catholic Ceremony Cathedral Church Staircase | V Neck Illusion Lace A Line Ballgown Wedding Dress with Rhinestone Waist Band and Cathedral Veil | Groom in Classic Navy Blue Suit with Bow Tie | Blush Pink and Ivory Roses and Peonies Bridal Bouquet with Eucalyptus Greenery | Carrie Wildes Photography

Carrie Wildes Photography

What is the average cost of hiring a professional wedding photographer in Tampa Bay?

Couples getting married in Tampa Bay should budget $3,000-$4,000 to hire a seasoned, professional wedding photographer for an 8-hour wedding with a second shooter. A seasoned, professional photographer is one who has been in business for 5+ years and has photographed at least 100 weddings. Packages within this price range generally include an online gallery, high-resolution digital files that can be downloaded and printed, and an engagement session. 

Bride and Groom Outdoor Portrait along Marina Dock at Tampa wedding venue Westshore Yacht Club | Lace Strapless Sweetheart Scalloped Edge Train Wedding Dress Bridal Gown with Elbow Length Lace Edge Veil | Groom Wearing Classic Navy Suit | Dewitt for Love Photography

Dewitt for Love Photography

What qualities I should look for in a wedding photographer?

“A good photographer takes gorgeous images. A great photographer captures true emotion and goes a step farther to understand their couples and how to make them feel comfortable enough to be themselves. A wedding photographer should be caring, compassionate, decisive, and detailed. They need to blend in enough to make everyone feel comfortable, but also take charge when the time is right.” -Buffy Feldman, owner of Lifelong Photography Studio

“You have to enjoy your photographer’s personality. You’re going to want this person to make you feel comfortable while taking your couple’s photos, make you laugh during your candids, as well as not annoy you throughout one of your most important days. If you are genuinely jiving with your photographer it’s likely your photos will show that!” -Christina Barrett, owner of Luxe Light Images

“Trust, personality, and love of their work are the most important factors. In order for us as photographers to be most creative, I need to know that you fully trust that we know exactly what to anticipate in capturing your story.” -Carrie Wildes, owner of Carrie Wildes Photography

“When looking for a wedding photographer, I think it is important to choose someone who is a professional and knows what they are doing. Technically, anyone can pick up a camera and say they are a “photographer” but you want to make sure that you are hiring someone who knows what they are doing, where they need to be and when, how to properly use their camera and shoot in RAW formatting. You want to hire someone who has a personality that is going to fit the vibe of your wedding day and knows that they will get done exactly what they need to. For example, if you have a loud family or a large bridal party that is all over the place, you want to make sure you are hiring a professional wedding photographer who does not have a problem speaking up and getting them together when you need portraits done as quickly and efficiently as possible.” -Amber McWhorter, owner of Amber McWhorter Photography

“Finding a photographer you click with is crucial! When you go back and look at your wedding photos, you won’t just remember your wedding day, you’ll also remember how you felt in that moment when the photo was taken. If your photographer was annoying you, frustrating you, and not listening to you, you’re going to relive that part of your day as well. This is why, at the very least, you want to hop on a phone call or a Facetime chat before booking, so you know whether you vibe or not with them.” -Bonnie Newman, Bonnie Newman Creative

“The top three qualities you should look for in your wedding photographer are editing/shooting style, personality, and experience.

For editing/shooting style the visuals of a photographer will be the first thing that grabs you! An important choice to make early on is…what do you like? What colors are you drawn to? Do you like a moody vibe, true to life, bright and airy, or orangey-brown tones? The answer to those will dictate what type of editing you’re drawn to! Once you have that narrowed down, focus on that photographer’s shooting style! Do you like the way they photograph the couple? Candid moments? What does their reception lighting look like? What about how they style and shoot all the details? For example, if you’re a super spunky couple who loves to run around, don’t book the photographer who photographs everything in a more posed and still way. And if you’re a couple who loves the details and have invested lots into the look of your day, don’t book a photographer who isn’t strong at shooting your invitations, rings, and reception décor!

For personality, look at their social media and website. Do you like how they speak? Do you feel you have similar communication styles? If so, it might be a great match! Your photographers are the vendor with you the most on a wedding day, so it’s super important that you feel the right energy from them, and vice versa! 

Experience is a must for capturing such important moments! But by experience, we don’t mean how many times they’ve shot at your venue. To photographers that doesn’t really matter as much! We’re always looking to put you in good light, utilize strong composition, and find beautiful spaces for a backdrop, and we know how to spot those no matter the venue! By experience, we mean photographers who have been in the industry for at least a few years, have a good reputation locally, great reviews, and have shot enough weddings to know how to solve any photo-related or lighting/weather problem that pops up on the big day!

If you go into your search for a wedding photographer keeping editing/shooting style, personality, and experience in mind, you’ll both save time and narrow in on a company that is going to be a perfect fit for you and your wedding day! And once you find that perfect match, don’t wait! We sometimes have as many as four couples all reaching out at the same time for the same date. So if you’ve done your research and know they’re “the one,” let them know and lock it in!” – Shannon Dewitt, owner of Dewitt for Love Photography

Outdoor Architectural Tampa Bride and Groom Wedding Portrait, Bride in Layered Blush Wedding Dress with Magenta Bridal Bouquet | Tampa Bay Wedding Photography Lifelong Studios

Lifelong Photography Studio

How do I know if I’m hiring the right photographer?

“You should know if you’re hiring the right photographer after you’ve communicated a bit, perhaps jumped on a call, and have looked into their reviews. If you were referred to them by another couple or vendor they’ve worked with, odds are you’re already off to a great start! Ask as many questions as it will take to make you feel comfortable, and share important details of your day and your personality and vibe as a couple! Typically couples know they’ve found the right photographer after a “discovery call.” Before we book any dates, we always hop on a discovery call with our couples to make sure we’re a great fit. Remember, it’s so important to make sure that a photographer is a great match for you, just like it’s so important to make sure a couple is a great match for us too! When those two things match up, that’s when you have a truly magical photographer-couple pairing that will yield the most incredible images!” – Shannon Dewitt, owner of Dewitt for Love Photography

“A good way to see if your photographer is right for you is by doing an engagement session before committing to the larger investment of hiring them for your wedding day. That way, you get to see how that photographer works, poses and interacts with you, and how comfortable (or uncomfortable) they make you feel. We understand it’s a big investment, and we’re a big part of your day, so if a couple wants to try us out before booking their wedding, we always offer to deduct the cost of the engagement session from any of our wedding packages that include an engagement session, that way you aren’t paying for the same thing twice.” -Bonnie Newman, owner of Bonnie Newman Creative  

“Every couple needs to connect with their photographer even more than with the photos taken. For that reason, the experience your photographer gives you on your wedding day should be as flawless as the images they capture. You can look at previous client experiences by glancing through reviews left by previous couples. However, it is essential to have a consultation and an engagement session to know your photographer and for them to get familiar with you. The key to making sure you are a great match is all in the communication. Seasoned photographers should encourage open communication. But in the end, how do you know they’re the ‘one?’ If you get warm and fuzzy feelings after talking to them, then you have found the photographer to say ‘Yes’ to!” -Buffy Feldman, owner of Lifelong Photography Studio

Boho Neutral Styled Shoot | Bride in Vintage Lace Fringe Short Sleeve V Neckline Wedding Dress Groom in Blue Plaid Suit with Greenery Plants | Unique St. Pete Wedding Venue Wild Roots Nursery | Amber McWhorter Photography | Wedding Planner Elope Tampa Bay

Amber McWhorter Photography

How many hours of wedding day coverage do I need?

“This is specific to each couple’s wedding and how much time the photographer needs to capture the key parts of the day. A photography timeline is one of the first things I do with couples before they even book. The factors that go into it are the number of people in the bridal party for getting ready photos before, if there is a first look or not, sunset time, and if there is an exit or not. Generally, our couples need 6-8 hours of time, but sometimes it is much longer if there is a long gap between the ceremony end and cocktail hour start time.” -Carrie Wildes, owner of Carrie Wildes Photography

“Every couple’s wedding day is unique and that uniqueness is a direct result of how many hours you need. One of the easiest ways to determine how many hours you need is to figure out what parts of the day are most important to you. Some couples only want coverage from getting ready to cake cutting (6 hours). However, if you’re a couple who really enjoys the party and/or you are having a special exit, this is when I would recommend an 8 to 10-hour package. Work with your photographer to determine the best plan of action. As a professional, they will be able to guide you in the right direction.” Kéra Holzinger, owner of Kéra Photography

Sarasota Bride and Groom Intimate Embrace on Shores of Gulf Coast | Florida Wedding Photographer Kera Photography

Kéra Photography

Do I need a second photographer?

“Depending on the photographer, you may or you may not. Each photographer and wedding day is unique! It’s best to leave those decisions to your photographer after you touch base on the needs of your day and how that particular photographer works. For us at Dewitt for Love, we’re a husband and wife team who have our wedding days to an efficient workflow that includes both of us shooting all day! However, if another photographer does something differently, that doesn’t mean they’re wrong, it just means that they have their own methods of capturing the day shaped by their experiences and what works well! It’s always best to consult the photographer on what they feel is going to give them and you the best chance at the most amazing photos ever. That’s why we’re here to guide you!” -Shannon Dewitt, owner of Dewitt for Love Photography

“A second photographer is definitely a benefit for couples with a reception of over 75 people. When your wedding is larger you need that extra photographer there to catch the moments you might never even know about. When you see a gallery of images with people’s expressions and fun angles it’s usually because two photographers were there documenting all the moments separately. If you’re having a more intimate ceremony one photographer is usually the better choice to keep with that vibe. A second photographer is likely going to increase your photo gallery by at least 25%. If you can afford to include it in your budget it’s money well spent.” -Christina Barrett, owner of Luxe Light Images

“Hiring a second photographer has its benefits but not every wedding needs a second photographer. When I talk to couples about their wedding day and they are unsure if they need or want a second photographer, there are certain things I like to chat about to help them decide. If the couple is getting ready at different locations and all of those photos are important, that would be one reason to hire a second photographer. Another reason would be if it were a large wedding, with two people you have more areas being covered at the same time. If the wedding is at a location that is tricky to maneuver around such as a large church with a lot of pews, a second shooter would be beneficial as well. Some couples are on a stricter budget and have a smaller wedding, maybe even no bridal party, therefore, a wedding like that wouldn’t necessarily need a second shooter. Think about your wedding day and talk to a photographer to help you decide if you need a second shooter.” -Amber McWhorter, Amber McWhorter Photography

“A second photographer not only provides a second set of creative eyes on your wedding day, but they also allow us to be more efficient with our timelines. More often than not, my second photographer is photographing the groom and the groomsmen getting ready, while I am with the bride and the bridesmaids. The second photographer is also an assistant to shots that I couldn’t otherwise get without them. For example: picking up your dress to blow in the wind or holding my flash for an amazing sunset shot. A second photographer is versatile in their work and only adds to the experience, making for a very smooth day.” -Kéra Holzinger, owner of Kéra Photography

MEET THE EDITOR

Marry Me Tampa Bay editor, Anna Coats, created Marry Me Tampa Bay in 2012 to showcase the area's best local weddings and vendors. She has been featured as a wedding expert on the national talkshow Daytime, Fox13, ABC Action News, Great Day Tampa Bay, and Bay News 9 (now Spectrum).

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