How to Find an Engagement Photographer in Austin
Sit down and eat some popcorn because we have some brainstorming to do!
You just got engaged and on the hunt for your engagement photographer in Austin—where to start, though?? Google is full of link after link after link. Your friends have an overwhelming amount of opinions. Do you even know what style you want?!? What’s your budget?!? HOW DO YOU PICK! *rips out hair*
Alright, friendo, take a deep breath. In for six, hold for four, out for six. WOOSAAAAAA. Let’s get started with some basic questions you need to ask yourself that will help guide you to the right answer. Hopefully, by the end of this long-winded (but informative!) article, you’ll have some tools under your belt to make a more decisive decision!
Side note: these questions will also help you explore what you’re looking for in a lot of vendors, so don’t feel like all of these questions are limited to just photo vendors!
Do you want your engagement photographer to also be your wedding photographer?
Sometimes people aren’t ready to commit to a wedding date quite yet and simply want to get the engagement photos to announce the good news as soon as possible. This is valid and totally cool, but you need to consider whether or not you want to use the same photographer for your big day. Otherwise, it can be a costly test if you don’t like their work…or saves money in the long run, I suppose. It depends entirely on how you look at it. Of course, you probably don’t want to do multiple sessions at $400 a pop to find your Goldilocks fit hence why it’s vital to explore this question first.
A lot of photographers include engagement sessions in their collections, and there is a reason for that—it’s so important for you to spend time with the one vendor that will be around you the entire wedding day. Wedding planners don’t even do that. No need for some stranger to just show up and say, “Hey, I’m Karen and I know we’ve never met but I need you to relax right now and smile like we’re friends and don’t worry, I’m just going to follow you around for eight hours. Why are you nervous???”
I’ve had so many potential clients come to me insisting they don’t need an engagement session because their friend already took some photos. Well. Clearly, you didn’t like your friend’s images or else you would’ve hired them, right? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to spend time with the photographer you’re paying thousands to capture your relationship/biggest life moments, prior to the big day? Would you want to be on a date with your loved one and suddenly someone shows up with a camera, sits across the table, and begins to take photos? No? Then why pay someone an entire month’s paycheck to do this?
Look, it’s absolutely okay and totally valid to use one photographer for engagements and another for the wedding…but if you can avoid this, I recommend you do so. Even if it means more than one session—who has ever said, “there are too many photos of me”? It’s 2021; there are never too many photos.
What is your priority?
Whether we like to admit it, discuss it, or consider it, your budget matters. A lot of people see beautiful weddings on Pinterest and think, “gee, I’d love a champagne wall too!” That champagne wall costs over $1k. Those beautiful tiered florals on the tables? Yeah, $500-$1k. Each. Delicious food that your friends and family will rave over? Plan on at least $75 per head. Photography is the same. Looking for a photographer is akin to deciding how important photography is to you. As much as I would love everyone to value this craft, it just isn’t a priority for so many. Of course, the regrets are usually aplenty for those people. Regardless, the recommendation is to always pick your top three things that are most important to you. Sometimes even the wedding venue isn’t a priority. It could look like:
It could also look like:
- Wedding Outfit
- Live Band
There’s no right way to prioritize things, as much as I’d like to insist that you should prioritize photography. After all, the cake gets eaten, the flowers die…what’s left when it’s all done? The photography. But you do you, boo. When you discover your top three things, look into what you want the most i.e. a famous DJ, a plated dinner with three types of meat, or a designer wedding outfit. That shit ain’t cheap to start that research first. If you value photography in those top three (or as the #1), then you need to dive into a couple of the following questions, because it will help you narrow down how to pick an engagement photographer in Austin (or really, anywhere).
Would you want to be on a date with your loved one and suddenly someone shows up with a camera, sits across the table, and begins to take photos? No? Then why pay someone an entire month’s paycheck to do this?
What is your budget?
Wedding photography pricing is a very long and wide spectrum. It isn’t like being a caterer, where there is a lot of equipment and skill required just to be hired. As I like to say, good photography is a dime a dozen—it’s about finding your Goldilocks. If photography is your top priority, expect your budget to settle between $2800-$4000, at minimum. I know photographers that begin at $20k (yes, you read that right). I could never ever fathom charging that much but that’s probably why those people own homes and I don’t…but I digress. If photography isn’t a priority, then you’ll probably be looking at services less than $2k. What does this mean though? How do people come to this pricing?
So many people become wedding photographers because they’re convinced “that’s where the real money is.” Yeah, okay buddy. Whatever you say. There is a reason why most “professional” photographers quit after the first three years—weddings will tear you to shreds if you don’t have a passion for it. That “real money” comes with running an actual business with actual art. However, some people can get away with what I call Cookie-Cutter Care. You’re a name on the calendar. Just drag and drop your faces onto the images because the poses will be the exact same. Naturally, my own clients are not looking for this but if you want this, that’s perfectly fine. My disdain only focuses on people who use this method to squeeze out every penny and save every inch of energy for other things. You have to be VERY careful when you hire someone who shoots like this. They aren’t capable of individuality in delivery, so you have to make sure you’re okay with being treated like a dollar sign.
Do you want your photographer to just show up on the wedding day and cast a confused glance around the room in an attempt to find you? Maybe. Again, this entirely depends on the service you’re looking to receive. At Creatrix, I’m all about meeting my clients, at minimum, twice before their big day. We do something together, like dinner (pre/post pandemic), and then the engagement session. Of course, this isn’t something always possible due to distance or calendar constraints. But I’ve even had a movie watch party over Zoom with clients because this aspect is so important to me. It isn’t important to everyone, including vendors. So you have to ask yourself one simple question: how invested do I want my vendors to be?
This is massive and really, it should be at the top. So many people are not actual professionals. Just because people accept money to do a task does not make them a professional. Say you get paid to walk your friend’s dog; does this make you a professional? Of course not. Running a business is expensive. First, the Tax Man steals almost 50% if you’re doing it right. Through federal, sales, and state taxes…it adds up. Of course, this varies from state to state but regardless, everyone pays a small business tax. It’s so gross. Then you have all of the programs and services required, like monthly subscriptions, accountants, education, etc. Of course, then there is the cost of living, which is out of control everywhere.
So someone who is charging only $1500 for an eight-hour wedding is very very very unlikely to pay for even insurance, let alone taxes. Why is this a problem? They have nothing truly invested in your day. They aren’t hungry. They aren’t concerned about reviews. So many horror stories are built around people trying to save a buck…and paying out of the ass for that mistake later.
I made sure to make that bold and italicized because it’s so damn true, I need you to absorb this fact. This is how people put money towards a vendor that just ghosts them or legitimately steals images from real professionals, making up a whole portfolio. Yes, this happens. Every single day this happens. The sense of entitlement and lack of understanding concerning copyright law is a real problem. Look at full galleries. Ask for references. Check on the reviews. You wouldn’t just buy a car because it looks pretty, right? Don’t hire someone just because they have a cool website—check under the proverbial hood.
Engagement photographers (and inevitable wedding photographers) offer different aftercare as well. Someone who doesn’t do this full time will likely take months to get your images back if they do it at all. There are so many amazing engagement photographers in Austin but so few are real professionals. What kind of turn-around time are you looking for? How edited do you want your images? Do you care whether or not that asshole pimple on your chin is removed or not? Someone who has charged you $900 for eight hours of photography will not take care of you. It’s also unlikely they will prioritize your experience over their own lives. You just have to ask yourself whether saving money is more important than possibly losing your memories forever.
If you’re looking for a quality engagement photographer, expect no more than six weeks turn-around time (Creatrix is less than 30 days, guaranteed). Images are backed up in at least two places as well. Make sure you hire someone that cares for your memories like they would a beloved dog.
Ah. Experience. This is a term that also runs the gamut. Doing five weddings certainly counts as experience. Driving a car five times in your life is also experience. Would you prefer someone who has been driving five times or five years? Would you prefer someone who has worked five events or five hundred events? Anyone charging less than $1800 for full-day weddings is undoubtedly inexperienced and almost guaranteed to not be running a legitimate business.
Let’s say your wedding makeup runs late and now the whole timeline is shoved forty-five minutes behind. A photographer that has only done five events will sit back and pray things will readjust themselves. A truly experienced photographer will be able to work rapidly to catch up, direct activities in a more efficient manner, and do whatever it takes to remove some of the stress off of you.
Another example: your venue has horrific lighting. Dark ceilings; maybe no windows. It’s all at night, too. What will your photographer, with less than thirty weddings under their belt, be able to do with that? Expect really flat and dark images. A truly experienced photographer shows up being able to make their own light. This is one of the biggest reasons photography can become “expensive.” A reputable experience will save your memories every time.
What Style Do You Want?
There are five base styles of wedding photography:
Here’s a rundown on these styles:
Light and Airy – This is often reserved for film photographers. Bright whites, soft focuses, pastel colors. Think Style Me Pretty (an upscale wedding blog).
Dramatic – Think Vogue and GQ. These have dark colors, dark shadows, even styled posing to add some real depth to the images. More often than not, this includes off-camera flash and takes time to set up perfectly.
Photojournalistic – The truest form of this style is no posing and no adjusting of moments or surroundings. There is no crafting, only capturing. This is a good fit if you don’t want any posing whatsoever but also aren’t hoping the photographer will pose you and make sure you look your best.
Traditional – This style will make even your grandma happy. Smiling, looking at the camera, holding one another close. There’s nothing wrong with this style if it’s what you prefer.
Creative – This one can be a hodge-podge of styles but it usually involves crafting images that will really catch the eye.
It’s very very very very very very VERY VERY VERY important to find a photographer who fits your style. It is entirely inappropriate to hire someone and ask them to edit differently. Some styles will be more expensive. Light/Airy will cost a LOT more because film is hella expensive. Traditional will generally be more affordable (depending on the target market) because it’s not that hard. Of course, this is a generalization and not a rule. But knowing what style you want will definitely help you narrow down exactly who you’ll hire.
Finding an engagement photographer in Austin is easy but finding the right fit is so much harder. Just like the journey it took to find your partner and get engaged, it will also be an adventure finding the right engagement photographer. Don’t forget to breathe, enjoy the ride, and be grateful for everything in your life. It’ll all fall into place as it should.