• Jade Elora

How to Choose a Wedding Photography Package

As a wedding photographer, sometimes it can be easy to forget that not everyone knows all the little details and technology and jargon that go into photography packages, so I've put together this quick guide to what you really need.


Woman looking over planning sheets
Photo: Unsplash

Professional Wedding Photographer


What it is:

This one is pretty simple. A wedding photographer is the person who handles your wedding photography. Beyond that, a good wedding photographer controls the chaos by organizing group portraits, keeping the day on schedule, and solving problems. After your wedding, your photographer is still hard at work going through photos and selecting and editing the best ones.


How important is it?

Really, really important. Of course, I'm a photographer, so I'm biased, but one of the biggest chunks of my own wedding budget went immediately to the photographer. Not only does a good photographer make the day run smoothly, but I wanted to invest in the memories above all else. Sure, you'll still remember your wedding day without photos, but a good photographer captures every special detail, even the ones you might otherwise miss.




Engagement Photoshoot


What it is:

A more casual pre-wedding photoshoot with any theme or idea you'd like to try. Consider it a "test run" for your wedding day, where you get used to working with your photographer and posing with each other for photos.


How important is it?

Pretty important. You can get away without doing engagement photos if you're on a tight budget, but there are a lot of reasons you might want to consider doing one. Firstly, it gives you a chance to see your photographer in action and make sure you work well together. Secondly, most couples don't have nice casual photos of themselves (especially during their time as an engaged couple) and not only are they great memories, but they're extremely useful for wedding websites, save the dates, and wedding decor.




Photo Editing & Retouching


What it is:

Most photographers perform basic edits on their images before delivering them to you. That usually means making sure the colors look right and the light looks good. Retouching is more hands-on and includes blemish removal and detail work to make you look good in every shot. (This is what most people think of when they use the term "Photoshopping".)


How important is it?

Very important! Most photographers will include basic editing in their prices, but look for a photographer who also includes some retouching. It's so easy to have a photo ruined by an unfortunately timed red bump on your nose. Instead of worrying about it all day, invest in a photographer who will take care of those things so you can relax.




Full Set of Prints


What it is:

A collection of 4x6 or (more typically) 5x7 printed photos, usually delivered in a nice keepsake box.


How important is it?

You won't miss them. Printed photos are great! I love them! There's something really special about pulling out a box of photos and going through them, but if you're on a budget, this is one area you can comfortably cut back on. When in doubt, opt for a wedding album instead.


Why you might want it anyway...

A box of prints is exciting and fun to look through. Plus, you can frame them and swap them for new ones whenever you like. Think of it as a fun add-on.


Recommended for: Bigger budgets, Physical print lovers



Second Shooter


What it is:

An additional photographer to cover moments while the lead photographer is covering something else.


How important is it?

More than you might think... If you have a very small wedding where everyone is in one spot, you can get away without a second photographer, but if the couple is getting ready in different locations, if you want to do a first look, or if you just want to see all the moments you missed while you were off getting pictures done, you'll be glad you got a second photographer.


Recommended for: Weddings with 100+ guests, Multi-location weddings



Wedding Album


What it is:

A custom-designed and printed book of wedding photos.


How important is it?

Definitely get one! Digital files are great, but you're never going to look through your USB drive with your grandchildren. (At that point, they probably won't know what a USB drive is! And did you know USB drives lose files over time?) A good wedding album will stand the test of time and be an important piece of your lives together. If you can't afford one, consider working out a payment plan with your photographer or ordering one later for an anniversary.


Recommended for: Everyone



Parent Album


What it is:

A smaller version of your wedding album to give as a gift to parents or loved ones. They're often cheaper than a full album because they're smaller and do not require additional design time.


How important is it?

Worth considering, but not a must. Parent albums make great thank you gifts for loved ones who contributed to your wedding. They're also perfect for upcoming holidays or birthdays. Since they're a newer offering, most members of older generations won't expect them, so you shouldn't feel obligated. If you can't afford them now, ask your photographer about ordering more copies in the future.


Recommended for: Anyone who can budget it



Rehearsal Coverage


What it is:

Your photographer comes to and photographs your rehearsal and rehearsal dinner or other pre-wedding events.


How important is it?

Not a big deal. As much as I love having photos of all my memories, you can safely stick to photos of the big day. The rehearsal dinner will get lots of photos from everyone's iPhones, but it can be a more casual, intimate celebration.


Why you might want it anyway...

If you're throwing an elaborate or large pre-wedding party or rehearsal event, it may be worth getting a professional photographer. It's also worth considering if you have attendees to this event that won't be making it to the wedding.


Recommended for: Multi-day or multi-event weddings, Larger events




Reception Coverage


What it is:

Photography of your reception, including dinner, dancing, and other party activities.


How important is it?

You'll want it, but only to a point. If you have a long dance party into the night, you may want to opt for less coverage (especially if you're not big on lots of photos of people dancing). But if you have lots of events (cake cutting, dances, toasts, bouquet toss, etc...) you should probably consider getting at least enough hours to cover the events and a bit of late night dancing.


Recommended for: Everyone, but more for hard-partiers



Digital Files


What it is:

Electronic copies of your photos, either delivered on a USB stick or downloaded through an online gallery.


How important is it?

It depends. If you're planning to post your photos to social media, make slideshows or videos, share them with friends, or incorporate them into other projects, those digital files are going to be really important. If you're not a big sharer and plan on ordering a wedding album or prints, the digital files may not be that important to you.


Recommended for: Anyone who wants to share online or on social media



Print Release


What it is:

Legal permission to have your photos printed however you'd like.


How important is it?

Again, it depends. If you're ordering prints or albums directly through your photographer, you probably don't need to worry much about print releases. But if you're planning on ordering your own prints or albums, you'll need a print release. Many printing services will require you to prove that you have printing rights when printing professional-quality photos. Having the print release assures that you can print whatever you'd like, even if your plans change in the future.


Recommended for: DIY-ers, Anyone who wants to keep their options open