Ultimate Wedding Photography Guide

Choosing the Best NC Wedding Photographer for You!

What to Expect Working With a Professional Wedding Photographer

A talented wedding photographer has the ability to tell your love story over and over. That’s just one of the reasons why you’ll never regret hiring a professional. Finding the person who’s going to be responsible for capturing all of the memories on your special day can be stressful. Consider this your ultimate guide for what to expect! We’ll also share how to prepare to work with your photographer. Keep reading for our top tips on choosing your NC wedding photographer!

Tips for Choosing A Wedding Photographer in NC

With so many talented photographers out there, how do you pick the right one for you? The first questions you’ll want to knock out are ones concerning availability and pricing. Is your wedding date available for the photographer of your choice? Does your wedding budget match their prices?

Visit our photography guide for detailed information on photographer prices and the average cost for full-day photography coverage in NC!

Many professional photographers offer packages that include engagement sessions, photo albums, bridal portraits, trailers and more. Don’t forget to budget for these add-ons. Ask about contract policies, second-shooter packages and how quickly images or film will be turned around after the wedding.

Once you’ve answered these essential questions, you can start to get a feel for the photographer’s style and personality and if they will be a good fit for you. Take a look at their portfolio and chat with them about their style so that you know what to expect from the end result. Beautiful images don’t just happen – all of our featured photographers, including Samantha Holloway of Samantha Holloway Photography and Colleen Lorig of Left Shot Photography – have spent years honing their craft and developing a unique style.

Danielle Flake, a North Carolina wedding photographer and founder of Danielle Flake Photography, will tell you that she uses an authentic approach and captures images as naturally as possible so your photos remain classically beautiful even years down the road.

Tips on Choosing the Perfect NC Wedding Photographer

It’s crucial to choose a professional who fits your needs and whose style matches your vision. Your wedding photographer will spend a considerable amount of time together. They might even be one of the people you spend the most time with on your actual wedding day! Therefore, compatability is an important factor.

Getting to know your wedding photographer can also help you feel comfortable and confident in front of the lens. An initial consultation is a wonderful way to do this and get a feel for their personality.

Samantha Everette of Samantha Everette Photography is a lifelong artist who draws on her past experience as a shoe designer to inform her editorial-style photos. Samantha uses her own natural light studio in Durham for bridal portrait sessions and single or couples boudoir photography. Sessions like this are a perfect add-on to your wedding photography package that provides a practice session of sorts to get comfortable in front of the lens and with your photographer.

North Carolina photographers Elyssa Kivus, who started Kivus & Camera with her husband, John Kivus, as well as Ariel Mason, founder of Ariel Kaitlin Photography, and Aline Botti of Aline Botti Photography share their insights on how to find the right photographer match, plus answer a few FAQs.

Get Comfortable with Your NC Wedding Photographer

First, it’s essential to find a vendor who meets your needs on paper. In other words, it’s essential your photographer has availability for your date and location, and fits your budget. Still, it’s equally important that you, your partner and the photographer work well together on a personal level. “Photographers really shine, as do couples, when they have a genuine connection and everyone is comfortable working together,” Ariel says. “We connect with our couples based on shared values.”

Richard Barlow of Richard Barlow Photography and Barlow Boudoir focuses on forming strong relationships with his clients. “My approach and how I work during shoots [helps to create a positive atmosphere] … My job is to make the client feel 10 feet tall,” Richard says.

Feeling comfortable in front of the camera will allow your most authentic selves to shine through in your wedding photos, but it’s only one factor to consider when determining the right match.

Ariel also emphasizes paying attention to the portfolios of potential candidates, especially their recent work. Spend some time considering the aesthetic you’re looking for. “Make sure you love the editing of the photos, and be sure their work has been consistent over the past few years,” Ariel says. “If you love edits from three years ago, but their style has changed more recently, then you may not like the new look. Spend a lot of time researching what images really speak to you – light and bright, dark and moody, true to color, film emulation. … [Ariel Kaitlin Photography] specializes in joy, laughter and smiles.” Consider if you’re drawn to posed, editorial-inspired images, or those with candid movement.

Plan for Success with Your Wedding Photographer

We recommend taking a look through social media feeds, but remember that Instagram is a highlight reel. Request to view full galleries and pay attention to how the photographer covers the entire day to make sure their coverage aligns with what you want.

Aline, Elyssa and Ariel agree that the most common questions they get surround the schedule, both for the day-of and the editing process following. You’ll confer with your photographer to plan a timeline in advance to be sure they understand what your priorities are. The best way to set your photographer up for success is to devote some time to thinking about you want out of your wedding photos – curate examples to help determine the style and timeline of your day-of shots and make a list of your must-have images – so that when the big day comes, you can be fully present in those fleeting moments, knowing you’ll be able to look back on them through the incredible work of your photographer.

“It really helps to include your photographer in timeline conversations from the beginning,” Elyssa says. “Planners are incredible at this, of course, but your photographer will also have crucial insight about the best timing for things like family photos and couple’s portraits, and not every photographer has the same
philosophy about those things.”

Stephanie Axtell and Charles Axtell are the husband-and-wife team behind The Axtells: Wedding Photography + Films and they know first-hand how essential it is to discuss a timeline with their clients in advance of the wedding. Stephanie and Charles were at a loss when their own wedding photographer missed crucial moments and delivered a gallery of less than 200 photos from their wedding day. Now, the pair meticulously document every moment of the wedding day for their couples, taking extra care to make sure that each element is covered.

Aline notes that for couples who have many desired shots, planning a first look with your soon-to-be-spouse will create time to get formal pictures before the ceremony and allow more time for fun photo-ops afterward.

Wedding Photography FAQs

How long do family photos take? It depends on the number of family members. Elyssa’s rule of thumb is to allocate two minutes per grouping.

Should the photographer be present for the entire getting-ready process? Maybe not, depending on your priorities. If you want to capture your ‘I do’ crew in matching pajamas, popping a bottle of Champagne, by all means turn your primping process into a mini-shoot with your besties. If you’ve been planning a glamorous send-off in a getaway car, you may want to ensure your photographer is present later in the evening.

How soon will you get the photos back? It can take anywhere from 4-10 weeks to receive your final wedding gallery. Discuss this with your photographer in advance if it’s important to you.

Do you offer sneak peeks/previews from the wedding? Most photographers will offer this but some prefer to present the final gallery in full. Again, be sure to ask your photographer in advance!

Do you offer albums and prints? Many photographers offer these add-on items. Aline’s advice is to order prints through your photographer to preserve photo quality.

How many hours should the photographer be present for? Ariel suggests booking your photographer for a minimum of nine hours on the big day. “Most couples believe eight hours should be enough for photography, but so many things can unexpectedly impact your wedding day timeline, causing moments to be rushed,” she says. “If you want to make sure you can relax and have enough attention devoted to every aspect of your wedding day, then consider hiring your photographer for longer.”

Our recommended photographers are experienced pros who have several tips and tricks up their sleeves to assist couples when it comes to getting the best possible photos.

Go unplugged! Ask guests not to have phones on during the ceremony. It can be tempting for guests to snap their own photos, but asking them to turn
phones off allows everyone to be fully present.

• Make sure the wedding party removes bulky items from their pockets.

• “The number one tip for getting the best photos is to have fun on your wedding day,” Elyssa says. “If you are having fun, the amazing photos come naturally.”

A Detailed Planning Process

Durham-based wedding photographer Nikki Whitt Belch of Fancy This Photography gives a lot of thought to timing when planning a shoot. If you’re getting married outside, Nikki recommends that your ceremony starts right before the golden hour – the last hour and a half before sunset.

For example, the sun sets at about 7 p.m. in September, and so she suggests a 5 p.m. ceremony start time so that she and her team can photograph everyone during these pivotal moments when the sun casts a beautiful glow across every scene. But it is still perfectly okay if your ceremony is not in the evening. When you’re working with a great photographer, they can make any lighting conditions work.

Nikki also schedules a phone call with the couples she works with to go over the list of family formal photos so that she can plan out all of the necessary shots, including the large group photographs as well as smaller groupings with parents, siblings, grandparents and more. She says that unless you have a rather large family, family formals typically take around 20 to 30 minutes.

The Power of Precious and Subtle Moments

On the wedding day, a professional photographer will capture all of the shots that you communicate are important to you, and use their creative eye to capture unique moments. Danielle Flake likes to start the day with the celebrant and the people who mean the most to them while they get ready. She also spends time with the welcome party, photographing the couple mingling with their guests. She feels honored to hear kind words and stories that guests tell about the couple’s accomplishments during this time. Danielle and Morgan also share a love for the sweet looks on the faces of parents as they watch their child get married.

Hit Me With Your Best Shot
Your photographer will keep an eye out for subtle instances throughout the day that will make for frame-worthy gems.

Q: What are your favorite atypical or subtle wedding moments to capture?

Elyssa My favorite photos are always genuine moments like cute looks between the couple, tears rolling down cheeks, enthusiastic hugs, etc. Those genuine moments can’t be planned. As the photographer, I have to be fully present so I can anticipate those moments and be skilled enough to photograph in any room, any light, any weather – any situation that could crop up on the wedding day.

Aline I love to photograph candid moments of family and friends congratulating the newlywed couple right after the ceremony. There is so much joy, and it usually happens so quickly.

Ariel Everyone has heard of the [parent-child] first look, but I love when the other parent is watching this moment unfold as well … Usually the other spouse gets incredibly emotional [while watching]. It’s a beautiful moment capturing all the smiles and tears of joy. Another favorite moment is capturing the hand holds and smiling faces of grandparents during the family formals. We all know that time with our older folks is precious, so capturing those hugs, kisses on cheeks and happy tears seems subtle, but is incredibly meaningful. Those moments remind us to slow down and remember that wedding photos are more
than just a checklist, and there is more worth capturing than just faces smiling at the camera.

Creative Chapel Hill Wedding Photography

Heba Salama, an experienced wedding photographer based her business, Heba Salama Photography, in the heart of North Carolina. Heba photographs Chapel Hill weddings (and events across the state) with a focus on unique portraits. Her creative wedding portraits are the perfect way to capture the special moments between loved ones on a wedding day.

Peruse real wedding galleries or films (the more, the better!) on the vendor’s website or via gallery links so that you can see how they capture the day from start to finish. It can also be helpful to see how they’ve shot your venue or weddings in the season when you’re getting married. Heba makes a point to get to know clients well so that she can ensure the final gallery covers the moments of the day that are most meaningful to them.

One-of-a-Kind Durham NC Wedding Photographer

Durham-based wedding photographer and videographer Mark Maya’s can’t-miss photos are centered on the emotional reactions of the couple during the first look, ceremony, toasts and dances.

“I am obsessed with capturing the climax of those moments in the most beautiful way for the couple so they can go back in time and re-experience their day through photos and video,” says Mark, the founder of Mark Maya Photography. He also takes pride in capturing the little moments that happen right after the big ones, like at the conclusion of the ceremony or after a dance ends.

Nikki’s favorite moments are the interactions among guests and family members during toasts. “The subtle and boastful laughs from the couple are some of our dearest moments,” she adds. “Having the couple look at each other in awe as they hear from their closest friends of memories made together [is] definitely a fan favorite of ours to photograph.”

Find our full guide of NC wedding photographers here! Browse through these trusted professionals to choose the NC wedding photographer that fits your style and budget.

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