6 Must-Have Wedding Photography Coverage Needs – And How To Get Them For Less Than $3,000

When looking for a wedding photographer the first thing you should be looking for is quality. You get one day. That’s it. When you’re working out your budget you have to decide where your priorities are. And your photographer and videographer should be at the top of that list. This is because your memories are shaped by your photos and wedding video. You won’t remember what the food tasted like or what songs your dj played. You will remember your day through your pictures.

The quality of your wedding pictures – whether they are excellent or not – will influence how you feel about your wedding forever. A fabulous wedding photographer can turn a mediocre venue into a palace in your photos. But a poor photographer can absolutely fail to capture even the most splendid of venues.

So what to look for in an incredible wedding photographer? Look at their photos and imagine yourself in them. How do they make you feel? Do the bride and groom look genuinely happy or do they feel stiff and dramatic? Which do you prefer? Personally, I go for emotion. I love that first look when the groom sees his bride for the first time. I love the dad’s face as he’s dancing with his daughter, the bride, during the daddy-daughter dance. I love the excitement of the faces of the bride and groom as they run to their getaway car. These are the moments you don’t want your photographer to miss.

When you think about what aspects of your wedding you want to be captured what things should you be thinking about? There are six parts I will discuss here.

1. Engagement Session. You just got engaged – congratulations! You want to tell the world. You want to put it on Facebook. You want to show off your engagement ring. But everything you have of the two of you was shot with your phone. Not that I’m knocking phone photos – I’m an Instagram nut myself. But these are not the photos I’m going to include with my custom, handmade invitations. You need an engagement session to capture you as you’re preparing your nuptials. You want it to be a memory you have forever – of you in your normal clothes, laughing and playing together. You know, how carefree and in love you were – before you had kids. You need a Fabulous Engagement Session!

2. Getting ready. Your mom lacing up the back of your dress. Your groom opening up the inscribed watch you left for him with a love note in his hotel room. You and your bridesmaids getting your makeup done. The groom and his groomsmen toasting the day. Those last few moments before you become Mr. and Mrs. – these are precious memories that you will want to remember and are not to be missed. And you need two photographers – one for the ladies and one for the gents. You’ll want to remember how nervous you felt and how your mom looked as she saw you transform into a bride. Okay, I’m tearing up writing this but you get the idea. You’ll want to have your photographer and videographer there to capture you getting ready.

3. Ceremony Coverage. This is the moment. This is the teary moms and the sweet I do’s. You need two photographers here. Don’t scrimp on that. A photographer can only be in one place at one time. And if he’s shooting the bride’s face facing the groom at the alter, he can’t also be capturing the groom’s. You need someone on each side. You need someone shooting the up-close expressions while someone runs to the back and snaps some wide angles of the entire ceremony. After the ceremony is usually when you have the formal portraits of the bride and groom with their friends and family. You’ll want to designate someone (perhaps the maid of honor?) as the go-to person to organize the guests in the right order to have their formal photos taken. Get the entire group shot first while everyone is still hanging around. Then have the go-to person read off the list of who needs to be in each shot (groom’s whole family, groom’s parents with couple, just the groomsmen, etc.) Make sure on the list that you have all the combinations of people that you want photos of. Don’t leave this to your photographer to figure out. Be proactive and assign a go-to person (that should not be you!).

4. Reception Coverage. This is another aspect of your wedding photography coverage where it is very important to have two photographers. One of the photographers will be covering the bride and groom – either doing portraits of the two of them or following them around as they greet their guests. The other photographer is getting detail shots of all those little things you took so much time preparing (flowers, table settings, guestbook, etc.) and shooting the guests as they mingle. Again, a photographer cannot be in two places at once and you don’t want to miss out on either of these parts of your wedding reception. You’re spending so much time and money preparing these things – you don’t want to forget them because there’s no pictures of them. You need adequate Reception Coverage.

5. A Photo Booth. Now this is not a necessity, but it should be. What better way to keep your guests entertained (after eating and dancing, of course) then to be snapping off fun photos of them? Especially with props! You need a photographer that can energize guests, pull them in and fire off fun photos of them being their hilarious selves. Everyone’s having a good time, feeling good and you want to capture those moments. Snapping photos of them on the dance floor is fun, but you lose the expressions as they’re moving. You want to have their silliness captured as they play to the camera – not to mention getting some fun photos of you and your groom having a great time at your awesome party! But you’re thinking “How much is this going to cost?” I’ve sold you on the benefits of hiring a qualified photographer and the importance of having two photographers, but your guests are going to want to eat. You can’t allocate all of your money to photography. But what if a photo booth-like service came with your photography package? Wedsnaps! by Nathan Petty is a great way to achieve this! It’s a one or two light set-up against a background. Your guests jump in front of the light and SNAP! Your happy moments are captured forever. He does this service standard with every wedding booked at five or more hours.

6. Bridal Session or Trash the Dress. A bridal session is popular in some parts of the country and not so popular in other parts. This is your moment to be a princess. You’ve dreamed of being a bride your whole life – what your dress will look like and how your hair will fall beneath your veil. You want to capture yourself looking the most beautiful and radiant that you may ever be. The pictures that you get on your wedding day will be wonderful – and you will look stunning, but they may also be rushed. You have to get ready. Then you have to get to the ceremony. Then there’s the family photos and photos with you and your groom. Then there’s the party and a hundred people waiting for you to show up. Where’s the time for you? When are you going to get those fabulous photos of you in your gown looking amazing against an incredible setting? You need a photography session just for that. The question is whether to have it before or after the big day. There are benefits to each. If you have it before the big day, you can use it as a chance to “test drive” your hair and make-up. Get everything professionally done just as you would on your wedding day to make sure you like it. Hair up or hair down? This is your chance to experiment. Another benefit to having your bridal session before your wedding day is your dress will be perfect – no champagne stains or dirt on the bottom of your gown. If you have it after the big day you won’t care if there’s dirt on the bottom of your gown. This can be a “trash the dress” session where you don’t care what happens to your wedding dress. You’ve had your ceremony and your precious moments. You’re back from your honeymoon and you want some pictures of you in your dress jumping into the ocean. You might be shocked at this idea or you might be thinking, “I have to have that!” Either way, you need a Bridal Princess Day just for you.

So how do you get all this for less than $3000? Especially in parts of the country like California where quality photographers are in such high demand? Honestly, you have to shop around. Most photographers have packages based on how many photographers you want and how long you need them for (including travel time between venues). Most photographers charge extra for an engagement shoot – usually in the $400-$700 range. And most photographers don’t also do a photo booth. You usually will have to hire a photo booth company in addition to your photographer who will charge a set fee (often in the $1000+ range). An additional bridal session can run another $400-$700.