As a wedding photographer and artist, one of the things I do is look around, try to learn from others, and figure out people I can recommend if I can’t do a wedding. One thing I’ve learned: some people think that just because they have a camera and like to take pictures, that makes them a photographer. NOOOO. There’s a big difference between a quality photo and a thoughtless one, and you will be disappointed if you don’t take the screening process seriously. There are a lot of bad photographers in Boise, Idaho, even if they are cheap. I don’t know what it is about small towns that makes amateurs think they’re good enough.

However, I also know that many people don’t know how to tell a good photographer from a bad one simply by their photos. So here is one thing that all good photographers use and I often don’t seen in amateur photographers. This is something you can seeĀ just from their portfolio.

No depth of fieldFstop-Differences

Depth of field is the blur in the background. Amateur photographers who don’t know good composition or settings will oftentimes use automatic or high f-stops, leading to sharp photos, but with no romantic blur in the background. You really want this because it leads more focus onto the couple, especially when photographing wedding portraits. Here’s an example of low vs. high f-stop.

Now, in many photos, good photographers will not have a lot of depth, but it will still be composed in a way that focuses on the faces. But almost all amateur photographers I’ve seen use automatic settings or have little understanding of aperture, so they can’t get that nice blur. So it’s one easy way to tell if someone knows what they’re doing.

Just because they use it doesn’t make them a good photographer, though. So, how to pick?

How to Choose the Right Photographer

There are hundreds of photographers in your area, most likely. And most photographers will travel if you have some sort of budget to compensate them a little for their travel time and/or mileage. So in the end, their PORTFOLIOS, not their price sheets, should guide your decision. Do you like their pictures? If you do, but they’re out of your budget, talk to them. Depending on the time of year or if they like you, they may give you a discount. You can skimp on a lot of things, but I would not recommend you skimp on photography. The right photographer can make you remember your day as beautiful and romantic or dull and cheap.

Also keep in mind that if you aren’t impressed by their portfolio, you definitely WILL NOT be happy with the pictures from your wedding. A photographer’s portfolio is the BEST of their work. That’s the best they can do. Don’t gamble on a poor photographer hoping that your wedding will be beautiful enough to make up for it.

You can find the right one!

I’m one of those photographers who is on the lower end of the price spectrum, but also does a decent job. I’m not experienced enough with difficult lighting situations to get the perfect shot every time, but you will end up with quite a few gorgeous, frame-worthy shots from your wedding, and I get better every time.

And if you search hard enough, you can find a good deal on a great photographer who may be building their portfolio or just starting out and has an amazing eye. (WARNING: don’t hire a relative who has never shot a wedding before but likes to take pictures. Weddings are incredibly stressful and they really need to be a second shooter before trying to be the only photographer there.)

*Note: I realize this article kind of makes me look like a photography snob, especially in light of the fact that I am a photographer. I am totally for learning photography and expanding your horizons. But if you’re going to call yourself a photographer, LEARN WHAT THAT MEANS. Use your manual settings, don’t be lazy! I take my job seriously because I know I’m documenting one of the most important days in a person’s life. Please just don’t think you’re a photographer because you have a camera that cost more than $100 or because you like it.