Wedding Photography 101

Thanks for being here! If you’re like most of our couples, you may not have a clear idea of what lies ahead as you set out on the journey to select your wedding photographer. We’re not just Maine wedding photographers, we also photograph weddings throughout New England, from Boston to Bar Harbor, and world-wide in places like Italy, Belize, and the Caribbean Islands. What we offer here, however, is universal in the world of wedding photography, but we’ll keep referring to our niche as Maine wedding photographers, since that’s what we know best.

We appreciate that you’ve found our page and will walk you through the key steps, and provide answers to the questions you have as well as to those questions you haven’t thought about. We’ll endeavor to make this an easy read, so grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let’s talk about some of things you really want to know about hiring your wedding photographer.

Maine wedding photographers

When To Book Your Wedding Photographer

In our market, Maine wedding photographers book early. But this is true most everywhere. So, once you have your date and venue, it is time to start selecting your wedding photographer, especially if you want to minimize the chances of your top choices already being booked. We’re talking as many as 18 months ahead of your wedding, with an average being around 14 months. What if it is much closer to your wedding day than that? It will never hurt to check with your top choices; they could in fact have your date open, or at a minimum, they can help refer you to one of their trusted peers.

How to Begin the Process of Hiring a Wedding Photographer

There are several ways to get started. The idea is to be looking in the right places. We’re going to assume, by the simple fact you are reading this, that your wedding photographs are very important to you, as they should be. Did you know that the #1 regret of brides after their wedding is not having spent the right amount on their wedding photography? Let’s look at some of the typical options and get a list started.


  • Is there a friend of yours that was recently married, loves their wedding images, and had a great time working with their photographer? Start your list with those names. If you’re on social media, Facebook and Instagram are good avenues to check out what your friends are doing. You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram to find out what we are doing!
  • Get recommendations from your venue. Something to watch for: A simple printed list or a listing on the venue’s web site are best. Or even better yet obtain a verbal recommendation from the venue’s wedding coordinator. Be warned, if you’re given a fancy venue-specific “magazine”: the vendors inside subsidized the printing of this catalog and all it took to get into the magazine was money. A real preferred vendor list means those listed within have earned the right to be in that list. Knowing this subtle, but profound, difference can certainly help steer you away from trouble.
    Maine wedding magazine
  • Get a copy of good quality wedding magazines – the kind you buy at newsstands vs. free ones from the state, region, or city where you’ll be married. When looking through these magazines, whose names do you see most often contributing to the photography and real weddings throughout the magazine? Do these photos resonate with you? Add the names of those photographers or studios whose work touches your senses and makes you envision yourself in their photographs. As Maine wedding photographers, we’re frequently featured in Real Maine Weddings Magazine, which is a wonderful resource for all things regarding Maine weddings!
  • Search online using google…but keep in mind the rank order of your search is not necessarily the same order as the quality of the photographer. There could be a really mediocre wedding photographer who’s really good at web sites and SEO ranking and similarly an awesome wedding photographer may not be so awesome with how to rank their web site on the front pages of google. Having said that, we are on the first page when you search for Maine wedding photographers. We blog most of our weddings and engagement sessions, and include resources for brides, which is also an important factor.
  • Look at wedding web sites that feature reviews written by real clients. We suggest you check out Maine wedding photographers on We suggest using the sort criteria to sort by the number of reviews or sort by the rating of the vendor. Again, vendor listing that show up on the top of every page may be because the vendor paid the web site to do so. The best criteria is to read the words of the client reviews.
  • You could check out bridal shows in your region, if the timing works out right, but much of the time, at least with photographers, the best are in demand enough and thus don’t exhibit at bridal shows. While this isn’t a rule without exception, in general it is the case. As Maine wedding photographers, we choose smaller more intimate bridal shows in our immediate area, such as the Nonantum Resort’s annual bridal show in Kennebunkport, Maine.
  • At this point, you should start noticing those photographers that have appeared on many or all of the sources you’ve checked. These are ones to watch and add to your list.
  • Now peruse each photographer’s web site and try to narrow down to your top 3 picks. Go back to and read the reviews in-depth to see if this helps you rank-order the three. It’s likely that these top 3 will be all worthy choices and that there won’t be much difference among them. If there is one that really stands out, all the better, contact them first.
  • If one of your final choices meets any one of these criteria, consider it a red flag:
    • They cost much less than the rest
    • They are including an amazing list of items with their contract, such as prints, a big album, parent albums, slideshows, canvas wraps, etc. (See the PRINTS AND ALBUMS CAN WAIT section further below.)
    • It is simply not possible for a viable and legitimate photography business to maintain themselves and still be there, if you’re lucky, on wedding day or certainly not a year afterward. Are your proposed photographers full-time? Your best choices will be.
  • Are your proposed photographers full-time weddings-only photographers? They may or may not do a variety of other genres, but it’s pretty safe to say that the more specialized they are in weddings, the likelihood of their being really awesome at what they do is far greater.
  • You may feel that you must eliminate one or more of your choices because you’ve at this point learned that they cost more than you have budgeted. See the HOW MUCH SHOULD PHOTOGRAPHY COST section below. We’d recommend not dismissing them yet unless the disparity is far, far above what you can handle. There are many cases where spending a bit more for your photography than what you expected is not just a good idea, it may be a critically-important thing to do. There’s more on that later, in the section titled ‘STRETCHING THE BUDGET TO MAKE IT WORK’.


Using your top 3 list, we suggest contacting each photographer. Your wedding date and venue are essential information here. Let’s make this easy, if you would like to contact Maine wedding photographers, Russell Caron Wedding Photography, you’ll find a contact form below!


Now comes the point where you will really start identifying your top choice. You already know you like their work, now how well are you going to like working with them? Test #1 is how responsive was each photographer with your request? It goes without saying how this responsiveness now, will equate to your satisfaction with the overall process, and the speed in which you will see your wedding images once your wedding is over! This initial contact is going to affirm the photographer’s availability for your date, give you their full catalog of offerings with pricing, along with other useful information such as an introductory video clip and other resources.


So, let’s say that you have now narrowed your choices down to your two top choices because of their responsiveness, availability, and overall love of their image-making and story-telling ability. If logistics allow, arrange to meet with your top wedding photography meetingphotographer choice before signing. We realize that for many who choose a Maine wedding, it can be a destination wedding, so sometimes meeting with your Maine wedding photographer can be difficult. Choose to Skype or FaceTime to “meet”. Meet with your #1 pick first! And, be ready to leave money to secure the retainer to lock down everything.

The meeting is more to affirm that all the things you love about the photographer continue to resonate with you, and most of all, that you enjoy their demeanor, that they are professional, courteous, friendly, and will be a perfect fit with you on wedding day. This is “Test #2”: if, at this first meeting, everything falls into place – the photographer is everything and more that you hoped for, they remain available, their fee is worth every penny, and you ‘”just know” that this is going to be a perfect fit – then book them on the spot!

If logistics prevent an in-person meeting, don’t worry. When you’re dealing with a top pro, this is rarely, if ever, a problem when you’ve filtered through to this point using the general guidelines outlined here so far. You’ll rest assured based on phone or video interviews and the testimonies you’ve read on line. (Most of our clients book us as their Maine wedding photographers, without ever meeting, Skyping, or speaking to us on the phone).Your photographer will be able to send your contract by .pdf or by a studio management software application, and you’ll be able to pay the retainer by phone using a credit or debit card.

How much should wedding photography cost?How Much Should Wedding Photography Cost?

A good rule of thumb is that 13% of the overall wedding budget be allocated for photography, not including videography. For smaller weddings or weddings with a large DIY component, that percentage can be much higher. Why so much? The photography is essentially the only part of you spend on your wedding day that lasts forever. The time spent by your professional wedding photography on wedding day is but a small fraction of the overall time invested in the process. Perhaps as much as another 40 hours may be spent editing and processing the large number of images taken.

We have never once heard of a bride regretting having purchased top-notch professional wedding photography; but all too often, brides have deep, unrecoverable regrets of not having spent the appropriate amount to secure a top professional to photograph their wedding. In fact, as mentioned earlier, this is the #1 regret brides have post-wedding. A low price is a sure red-flag, a real signal of disappointment looming.  If it seems too good to be true, it very, very likely is. Like we said at the outset, assuming your wedding photography is important to you, investing all you can with your professional wedding photographer is of paramount importance. Read our other article on this topic, On Budgets and Regrets.

Stretching the Wedding Photography Budget to Make it Work

Excellent quality professional wedding photography may cost more than you thought. You understand that. Yet all the understanding in the world doesn’t suddenly make the cost differential just appear. There may be many ways to readily recoup the difference. For example, if you were to close the open bar mid-way through the night and convert it to a cash bar. Or an open bar limited to beer and wine? How about those amazing centerpieces at every other table instead of every table? Or some amazing DIY table centerpieces that costs a tenth the amount? And something nice but far more modest at the other tables? Can you scale back the appetizers during cocktail hour? What about cupcakes, with far less waste, than a huge cake that will go uneaten? How about a DIY photobooth instead of one hired in? See our PHOTOBOOTH section further down. A little creativity can go a long way to helping you find funds to put toward the part of this day that will last forever!

The Difference Between Mediocre Wedding Photography and Awesome Wedding Photography

There isn’t anything you’re going to buy for your wedding where the adage “you get what you pay for” is any more true than with your wedding photography. Sometimes that relatively modest difference between what you thought wedding photography should cost and what you’re finding out it will cost buys you so, so much more. Sometimes it’s as little as $1,000 – or even less – that can move you from the ranks of ‘medicore’ to truly astounding, amazing, creative, artistic wedding photography. If there is any one thing worth the upgrade, it’s this. As we said back in the beginning, our assumption is that your images are very, very important to you, and are worth splurging if you need to. Because, while “good enough” will buy you ‘pictures’, going beyond that into the realm of “awesome” is going to buy you photographs. Photographs that are hand-crafted by a very trained eye, by someone whose sole passion in life is wedding photography. Photographs that constitute a lifetime of memories. Photographs you will turn to on a daily basis for a really long time. And have at hand forever. Isn’t it worth the difference to move beyond “good enough” into awesome?

So let’s get back to the basic process:

Understand What is Included in the Proposed Wedding Photography Contract

Before signing a contract, fully understand what will be included. While packaging and content can vary widely, the essential points to understand are as follows:

  • Coverage: This refers to the number of hours your photographer will be on duty.
  • Digital files. Sometimes called ‘digital negatives’, digital files should be included in what you purchase. You are going to want them. Many wedding photographers include them in their packages, some charge extra. Be sure to understand what Maine wedding photography contract ready for signatureapplies in your case. Ensure that the files you receive will be:
    • High resolution
    • Non-watermaked
    • Copyright-released to you via written license for unlimited personal use including printing
    • Also provided in a smaller, watermarked version so you can post them on-line
    • See the section  ABOUT YOUR DIGITAL FILES a little further below
  • Other coverage: If an engagement session, rehearsal dinner coverage, post-wedding session, or anything else is expected to be included, ensure it is clearly explained in the contract. Ask before signing if there are any questions!
  • Expect to pay a fair amount for a real, heirloom-quality album. Don’t expect to have one that is of any real worth for a low price.
  • Don’t expect prints to be included. Prints are rarely a feature that is of true interest to you; rather, having your own printing rights from the digital files is paramount
  • Know how your files will be delivered. Digital, web-based downloads are often a source of problem and confusion for the client. Far better is to receive some sort of physical drive such as a USB drive that contains all your files.
  • Find out what your photographer’s options are for maintaining a permanent set of files from your wedding in case the set you are provided ever become lost, stolen, or destroyed by peril.
  • Ensure that there are no other hidden fees that will come about later.
  • Ensure that travel is either listed with an amount or included.
  • Ensure you understand any conditions listed such as if you are going to provide meals, a hotel room, or other items for the photographer and what expectations are attached to that.
  • Does the contract speak to how the photographer is going to safeguard your images with backup files? Some photographers use extreme care with file backups, as they should.  Others, well, are somewhat more lax.  Does your photographer use fireproof and waterproof drives as archives?  Do they have another copy stored in a different, off-site location? Ask!
  • Fully understand the financial terms.
  • Check the math presented to you. Know that wedding photography is subject to state sales tax in most regions, but can vary when you live in a state that is different than the state in which the services will occur.
  • Read and understand every section in the contract, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The easier the contract reads, the more likely the photographer is being very forthright with you and not trying to hide anything in confusing language.

Locking Down the Contract and Date With Your Wedding Photographer

If you want to book your photographer, they will present you with a contract as described above. That contract also will contain the important financial terms. Photographers will require a RETAINER to secure your date in their calendars. The retainer fee is part of the overall agreed-upon price and in fact retains their services for your date, and prevents the photographer from taking on other work on your day. Retainers are generally non-refundable, by their nature, but be sure the contract explains all this as you review it. The retainer is often about 25% of the total contract amount, and the balance is generally paid in installments that vary among photographers. Some photographers, however, require as much as 50% (or more) as the retainer amount. What doesn’t vary much is that most, if not all, professional photographers will require full payment at some point before the wedding. So don’t be surprised when you see that. Working with a top professional there is nothing to worry about. In fact, you want your pro photographer to know there are no outstanding financial obligations relative to your wedding as they focus intently on the image-taking that day! If you are doing this part of the process by mail or email, be sure to understand how the photographer is going to handle things if someone else asks for your date. See the next section.

About Your Digital Files

The digital files are like the film negatives of old. They are the heart and soul of what your photographer did for you. Don’t just “assume” that your photographer is going to keep your files forever, as some don’t. Some may offer you an optional archiving plan. It’s probably a good idea to consider this, as their backup plans are probably more rock-solid than what you would do on your own. Find out what the procedure and cost would be if you ever lost the set that was sent to you.  Professional wedding photographers will have a policy and procedure in place that spells out the process. Most of all, be comfortable with what your photographer explains to you relative to this very important topic.

Why Can’t The Wedding Photographer Hold My Date?

A date can only be “locked down” to you by most photographers when you sign a contract and pay the retainer as explained above. There can often be more than one party with their eye on the same date at the same time. Most generally, the Calendarphotographer is going to have to honor that date to the first party who offers to sign the contract and pay the retainer.

That said, as Maine wedding photographers, and how we work at Russell Caron Wedding Photography, when a couple has asked for a contract for serious review, during the time it takes to return the contract signed and with the retainer payment, a “soft-hold” can be placed on the date so as to keep the sequence of inquiries fair. In this scenario the date is first-priority to you. It is important to execute the paperwork and retainer payment in a prompt manner and to keep communicating with the photographer. You don’t want to “go missing” at this point as, after just a few days of not hearing from a client, photographers are going to move your date back onto the open market.

This process can vary from case to case so be sure to understand the process with your photographer and ensure the provisions are written and explained in the contract.

Don’t drag your feet unless you’re willing to be disappointed! The best advice is to sign and execute the retainer payment as rapidly as you can. Most photographers will accept credit card payments for at least the retainer. There is nothing more disappointing to both the client and to the photographer than to have to explain that while the client was deciding on the contract, the date was sold to another party. This happens to us, as Maine wedding photographers, and it’s heartbreaking!

So, that’s pretty much how the process works. But before you get this far and sign a contract, it will be worth your time to read through all these other thoughts first.

This image was taken by our second photographer while the bride was posing for the lead. The lead images were great, but this one was even better yet.

This image was taken by our second photographer while the bride was posing for the lead. The lead images were great, but this one was even better yet.

One or Two Wedding Photographers?

We haven’t discussed this topic at all so far, but it’s an important one, so let’s take a look at the pro’s and con’s of having two photographers (from the same studio) at your wedding.

The con’s: There really aren’t any. The possible exception may be at a very, very small wedding having two photographers could seem excessive. There is essentially never a time when a second photographer can’t be an asset, regardless of how small a wedding may be.

The pro’s: The benefits of having two photographers are too numerous to mention here. We have an excellent blog post with example photographs that clearly answers the question about needing two wedding photographers.

We’re of course talking here about two photographers, a team per se, that work together from the same studio. Most top professional wedding photographers have a “second shooter”. Look for ones who have an “all-the-time”, “always-the-same-person” second shooter. They’ll work the most seamless, they’ll know how to anticipate each other’s moves, they’ll know what’s expected of them, and they’ll communicate intrinsically, silently, and without a flaw. There isn’t a pro photographer we know of that would allow another pro photographer to be working the same job. It just doesn’t work that way, nor would you ever want it to.


Using Friends to be Your Wedding Photographer

This is a very interesting topic. With all the folks today that right, wrong, or otherwise call themselves ‘photographers’, we often hear about couples that have a ‘friend’ or a cousin that’s a ‘photographer’ and is offering his or her services to the couple to photograph the wedding as their gift or for a low price that is seemingly too good to ignore. If any of this rings close with you, please, please do yourself a favor and read this blog post on this topic. It could save the day.

And then, there are these considerations:

wedding album

Wedding Albums Are An Important Part of Your Memories

An album is a fantastic idea for a host of reasons. First, there isn’t anything quite like the tactile feel of a heavy, thick-paged, lay flat album with gorgeous matte finish pages that you can keep prominently close by on a coffee table or shelf, open on a whim, put down, and come back to. As well as share with friends and family. Your photographer’s professional album designer will have taken key images and stitched them all together to form the story of the day so compelling that someone who wasn’t there could get the feel of the day. And, let’s not forget what we talk about a bit more below; that a hard-copy album is 100% technology-proof. You don’t have to worry about software being able to “read it” in 20 years.

Some couples feel like they will want a close hand at designing their wedding album. Unless you are given a different set of choices, we recommend that you let your photographer and their album specialist design the album first. They are expert at story-telling and really know what works and what doesn’t relative to sequence and emotion.  Oh, we have heard dozens of times from brides before the wedding saying that they are going to design their own albums with their digital files.  Trust us when we say that we honestly don’t know of a single one to actually do this. From not knowing which images best tell a story, to not knowing which images should and shouldn’t be included in an heirloom album, to being totally overwhelmed and not knowing where to start, to plain and simply not having the time, to realizing that the companies pros use are far superior in quality to the consumer companies, there are more roadblocks to success in this area than in any other.  If you want a real storybook of your day in a professional grade, leather-wrapped album designed by professionals, talk to your photographer about album options. You won’t regret it.  Some photographers will allow you to split the cost of a album or set of albums, without any finance charges, over the course of many affordable monthly payments. Even if you don’t see this offered, ask. Most will be happy to collect a few payments, get the album made and sent to you, and let you pay the rest off over a year or so. Lastly, adding the album at the initial contract time generally guarantees the rate in effect at the time of booking instead of possibly higher rates later, and many photographers offer a notably discounted rate to bundle the album with contract versus an a la carte price later on.  Don’t let your images die a digital death….Have you seen a wedding album, or prints, from the wedding of your parents or grandparents? Would you have seen the images from these weddings if they were buried on 5 1/4″ floppy disks (realizing that most readers don’t know what a floppy disk is…suffice it to say it was the predecessor to “hard drives” in the early days of the personal computer) or just remain as negatives.  Similarly, you will want to strongly consider an obsolescence-proof printed photo album.

Wedding Day Photo Booths

Photo booths are a popular and fun option. Options can range from simple to sophisticated; some are just a fun place to pose in front of a backdrop with props while others are self-operated, have an actual sit-down mall-style booth, and give both you and the bride and groom a strip of photos on the spot. Often the attendant staffing the booth will assemble an scrapbook type album then and there for the bride and groom. There are many independent photo-booth-only vendors from which to choose.  Russell Caron Wedding Photography suggests doing a google search, or checking with your venue’s recommended vendors list to find one. While there are some viable DIY options, having the the photo booth duties assigned to a professional makes the most amount of sense to us; to run one well requires attention and someone dedicated to that job. Some photographers may offer a photo booth as an option. Just be sure that a dedicated person is going to attend to the booth duties and that person isn’t being pulled away from their regular photographer duties. It’s important that the staff running the booth are fun and friendly people! Ultimately the best thing to do when considering a photo booth is to chat with your photographer about their thoughts. Looking up reviews of specific photo booth vendors on a site like weddingwire can be a big help, too.


There is somewhat of a resurgence, recently, in the popularity of having video coverage of your wedding. It’s our observation that this resurgence is due, in no small part, to the concept and popularity of relatively short-duration “wedding films”, or “trailers” that, in anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes, sometimes longer, provide a very artistic, gorgeous, and moving walk-through of the day, including audio, music, and very special choreography. This is a far more popular option than the notion of having “hours-long” coverage that few people ever actually watch. The shorter movie-trailers, however, are watched,cjdh214944 and watched often, by those who have them.

A high-end movie film of your wedding isn’t just a drastically edited series of clips taken from the full reel. It is highly edited, fully scripted, and equivalent to what may be expected with a “Hollywood production”.  It may start in the end and end in the start, and though that doesn’t sound intuitive, those who are the best at this know just what they are doing. The best people that do these films are honestly amazing at what they do, and if this is in your budget, then it bears investigating. Done right, you’ll use up a box of tissues on the first watch.

Some conventional “videographers” will offer a secondary mix of the day, but this isn’t necessarily anything close to the cinematic production that a producer makes when their only product is the short film. Study examples from various providers closely, and, again, ask your still photographer for ideas. Some still photographers offer an option for “hybrid” or “fusion” video that is similar in nature to the wedding films described here. It’s all about the editing and production, so be sure examples fit what you are envisioning.

Any downsides are going to pretty much be limited to cost, but again, like still photography, there is but one chance to get this done and done right. You’ll also want to chat with both your videographer, when you have one, and your still photographer about how things are handled so each respects each others’ need to be in a certain place at a certain time. This is a very important topic and we have written a separate page here, please read this carefully if you are considering a videographer.

This is an important topic, and accordingly we have published a separate page with example photos, links, and much more detailed information.  If you are considering video, please be sure to read this!

Wedding Day First Look

When timing is important to your day, which it often is, you will want to closely consider a wedding day first look. A first look is when the fully-dressed and ready bride and groom see each other before the actual ceremony in a controlled circumstance and place, orchestrated by your wedding photographer. This generally allows for a majority of the photo-taking to occur beforehand, thus freeing you, the couple, to spend time visiting and enjoying your cocktail hour, which in turn frees more time for enjoying your reception.

unplugged wedding icon

Unplugged Weddings

You will very much want to read this blog post about unplugged weddings. An unplugged wedding is where guests are asked to not use cameras, smartphones, iPads, or any technology devices during the ceremony so that several things can happen:

  • They will be more present with you, which is presumably why they were invited
  • They will remain seated which is of favor to other guests and to the professional photographers trying to work from a distance remaining discreet
  • Faces of moms, dads, relatives and friends will be captured with genuine emotion and not be blocked by phones
  • The officiant will not be distracted, especially vital for religious-based ceremonies


Family Formals

For family formal photos, often taken right after the ceremony, we suggest that lists are created but not given to the photographer; rather given to a family representative on each side who’s assigned as the “photo coordinator”. Someone who knows everyone by name and has communicated with them to be at the designated place right after the ceremony, for example, so that family formals can be done with everyone desired but not take an excess of time. Keeping family formals limited to immediate family (parents, grandparents, and siblings) is a really good idea. No one wants this segment of the day to take any longer than it needs.


These are our opinions and are not meant to be issues and ideas that are cast in stone in the industry. As we’ve said, we’re Maine wedding photographers, and this information is slanted in that direction. However, we do feel very confident that what we have said here is based on countless weddings and many, many years of experience. We’ve covered a large range of topics in a relatively brief amount of time and space. Any one of the topics here could fill pages, so this is designed not to be the definitive resource on a subject, but rather to give some guidance on topics you may not have yet considered and thus want to research further.

This will be an on-going and constantly improved resource for folks needing advice and a strong starting point for hiring their wedding photographer, be they Maine wedding photographers, Boston wedding photographers, international wedding photographers, or hometown USA wedding photographers!

Thanks for reading!!


Maine wedding photographers, Russell and Liz Caron of Russell Caron Wedding Photography, are Maine wedding photographers, specializing in Maine weddings. But did you know that they are also destination wedding photographers?  We are happy to travel to whatever location you require, whether that’s a Caribbean Island, an Italian Villa, or a seaside estate on the east or west coast. For more information, please contact us right away!