Virginia Wedding Planning Series Part 1: Style | Charlottesville Wedding Photographer

Looking for the best Charlottesville wedding photography? Kara Leigh Creative is working on a series of wedding blog posts that will help you plan your Shenandoah Valley wedding to perfection.

Last week I published a blog post – Sixteen Things Wedding Photographers Wish They Knew When They Got Married. Over the next few weeks I’ll be breaking those points down into individual posts to help couples navigate the strange and often confusing world of wedding planning. To begin: Style.

Research Style Rather Than Going With Whoever Is Cheapest

It may seem strange that this is my starting point (obviously you want to love the editing and shooting style of the wedding photographer you choose), but this came up several times when I was researching these posts.

Having a budget for your wedding is inevitable. What I tell couples during consults is to sit down and make a list of what is most important to you. Do you want the fancy, albeit expensive, venue? The couture designer dress? Flowers that would make a bridal magazine envious? The best photography you can possibly purchase?

I know I’m biased, but I’m going to advocate, hard, that photography should be at the top of that list.

Here’s the thing - after the cake is cut and the food is eaten and the venue is cleaned up, photographs are what you have to remember your wedding day by. Yes, your friends can take photographs on their new iPhones or you mom’s aunt may have a fancy camera, but even if that person is a professional photographer, it does not mean they know how to shoot weddings.

If you are envisioning an elaborate ballroom wedding with light-creamy, old-movie-style photographs, choose a wedding photographer who specializes in that type of wedding photography. If you want to head to the mountains and love moody, contrasty images that embrace shadows, choose someone with that type of work in their portfolio.

So how do you know what you like?

Based on my personal experience with scheduling family photographs and my own wedding planning process as a bride, here’s what I’ve learned to look for.


  1. Do I get an emotional reaction from the photographs?

  2. Do the subjects look stiff and uncomfortable in front of the camera, or do they look natural and like they are having a good time?

  3. Does the photographer have a mix of candid, artistic and comfortably posed shots? (If everyone is looking at the camera, they’re  largely posed.)


  1. Are the colors true to the natural-actual colors? (I don’t love really desaturated images – I think it’s a fad and that in five years people will be bringing color back.)

  2. Does the photographer embrace shadows? For me, photographs are as much about what you don’t see as what you do. I love images that tell a story and are a little bit more photojournalistic.

  3. Does the photographer TAKE photographs or MAKE them? By this I mean, is the photographer looking for the story – the little moments, the in-between that truly captures the relationship and the story of the day.


  1. How does the photographer handle not only good light, but rainy days or harsh light – do they have the skill to still take beautiful images in less-than-ideal conditions?

  2. Do they push the boundaries of their field? Do they include really cool artistic images that may be different than anything you’ve seen before, but that work in some mysterious way?, Or are they content to take the same poses over and over again?

  3. Do they have the ability to draw out authentic interactions with their subjects? This is more of a people skill than a photographic one, but it’s JUST as important if you want authentic images full of connection.

There are two final pieces I look for when booking a photographer: communication and cost. Does the photographer respond to messages within 24 hours during the work week? (I don’t expect to get a response at 9 pm on a Wednesday or Sunday afternoon, but reasonable responsiveness is really important to me, both as a business owner and client.)

And finally cost. Like an iPhone or new clothes most of us don’t need, professional photography is a luxury. My husband and I are solidly middle class. So, for us, sessions are a true investment. How do we afford to book  top-notch photographers to capture our own lives? I save for it. I value capturing our memories and family year by year. And, as with many things, with photography, you tend to get the quality that you are willing to pay for. Yes, absolutely, photography is expensive. But a talented photographer can make a $5,000 wedding look like a $50,000 wedding. An unskilled photographer will make your $50,000 wedding look like a $500 knock-off.