Planning your wedding is often a stressful process. Between caterers, venues, the dress, rings, and of course HIM, there is an endless amount of choices and decisions to be made before the big day. We recognize that one of the biggest decisions you will have to make is which photographer you will trust to capture your beautiful day. We hope this page helps make that process a little less stressful! And of course we hope you choose to share your day with us, but this is to help all brides-to-be not just our beautiful SJP brides.

Along the way, we will offer you some general advice and direction but will also provide you with information on what we do personally at SJP. You will find our policies and ideas in italics throughout the guide.


First, we want you to think about how important it is to choose a wedding photographer that is the perfect fit for you. No matter your budget, your photographer is not the place to cut corners. Why? Well, for starters in 50 years these images, the ring, and your family are the only things you will have left of the day. The food is eaten in an hour, the decorations are torn down when you leave, the dress is stashed in a closet, the tux is returned, the flowers die and the music fades; so what is left? How do you cherish and remember the happiest day of your life for more than just a few hours? And how do you share the love of that day with your future children and grandchildren? Walking by a stunning wall portrait of you and your husband at your happiest everyday is a great start, and having your little ones open up your timeless wedding album is another.

At Sarah Jane Photography, our goal is to give you and your husband a beautiful legacy that you can share with friends, family and the next generations. Our albums will outlast your lifetime and will become part of your families legacy. And specializing in custom wall art, we love to create pieces that will become a part of your home and your lives.

The sections on this pages are designed to help you navigate through the world of wedding photography with ease. You may read through each section or jump to the one you need by selecting the links (Finding a Photographer, Engagement Session, How Much Time, etc.) and simply select Wedding Guide to return to this page.



————————–Finding a Photographer—————————-

While the Internet makes it easy to browse photographers in your area and quickly view their work and style keep in mind that you will need much more information aside from what you can get off their website to make your decision. In your initial online browsing make sure to look at the photographers main site as well as their blog (if they have one – they should!). The main site will give you a formal look at their work, but keep in mind that this work could be outdated and could be compiled from work completed over many years. Check their blog for their recent work and more images from each wedding. Take your time and look at your options.

When browsing through portfolios (either online, or in person), you want to be sure to see many images from each single wedding. Be sure the photographer can show you images taken both outdoors and inside, of individuals and groups and both candid and posed. This will show you that they have the range, skill level and knowledge to capture every aspect of your wedding day.

Talk to friends! Step away from the computer and talk to your friends. Nowadays everyone “knows” a photographer and most families have a certain photographer they trust for all their events. Your friends will tell you if they loved (or hated) a photographer they used in the past. This is a great start but keep in mind that while a photographer might have been a perfect fit for your best friend that doesn’t guarantee he/she is the perfect fit for you, but referrals are a great start!

Call and Come In!!! Reputable photographers will offer a complementary consultation where you can meet with the photographer (or an associate) and go over their pricing, products and the contract. This is SO IMPORTANT.

While images are very important you need to see more than just a photographers online work before you book. You need to see products! Plus, you really need to have a chance to meet with the photographer. The relationship between you and your photographer is just as important as the images. Unlike most of your vendors, your photographer is with you throughout your wedding day and on many occasions we can directly influence the feel and flow of the day. Your photographer should work with you to make sure everyone is where they need to be and to help you know what to expect. We have done this many more times than our brides so we are not only here to photograph your day, but also to help it run smoothly. Because of the impact the photographer can have on so many aspects of your wedding, you want to make sure that you and your future husband click with this person. If you have a bad feeling when you meet them – don’t book! You will have that bad feeling all day and that is not what you want on your wedding day!!

Many times our clients compliment us after the day on how ‘calming’ we were and even when they thought things weren’t going as planned (because at some point during your day, something will not go as planned), that we stayed calm and helped to get the day back on track.

Also, make sure you get a chance to meet your photographer at the consultation. Even if the consult is conducted by an employee of the company make sure you have a chance to meet your photographer. It is that relationship that is important. The associate may not be at your wedding.


————————–What to Look For—————————-

Relationship – Make sure you like and trust your photographer!

Images – The photographer should be able to show you a variety of images of past weddings, products (in person not just listed in a pricing brochure), albums, wall portraits. Keep in mind that most people can take a few good images, but only a professional produces hundreds of great images from your day and they should be able to show you a number of different images from past clients.

Contract!– The contract is very important. This document protects you and the photographer. Do not give money without first signing something that guarantees your date. The photographer should go over the contract with you during your consult to explain what it contains. Be sure you understand what happens in the event of cancellation, mechanical failure (prepare for the worst), date changes, late arrival, etc. Your photographer should have a policy in place for all of this.

Associate Photographers– Some photographers offer less expensive options if you choose to use an associate photographer. What does this mean? Basically, the associate photographers are often younger, less experienced photographers that have been trained by the main photographer. You get a cheaper rate since you are not getting the established photographer’s experience, style and expertise. This is a great option for those brides looking to save a little money and still get the experience and quality product line of a great established photographer. The savings with the associate photographer may or may not translate in to savings on your products, many times these will cost the same.

SJP introduced our associate line a few years ago in response to brides who wanted the SJP experience but whose dates were already booked. In our program, all pre and post-wedding sessions are still done by me (Sarah) personally, couples still have access to the SJP quality product line, design services and more. Brides who choose this option have their wedding day covered by one of Sarah’s hand-picked associates. These photographers have her full trust and they have been trained to capture images in the same style and quality as Sarah. Many of these associates operate their own successful businesses as well. 

Brides often ask us to suggest other photographers that we recommend if we are booked on their day, and our recommendations are always to go with one of our own associates, we did after all select them to represent the SJP name, so they are the photographers we trust the most to provide you with beautiful images.


————————–What to Expect—————————-

Organization and control. Your photographer should be confident in how much time you will need to take the images you want. You do not have to make all the decisions, a good photographer will listen to what you want (getting ready images, family images, locations with the groom/bridal party, etc) and will help you decide on the amount of time you will need to accomplish everything.

Direction. You should never feel like you do not know what to do or how to pose in front of the camera. As your photographers, our job isn’t just to push the button (why hire us if that was all there was to it?). Our job is to create the most beautiful images from your day, this includes handling the lighting, posing, direction, and more so you don’t have to worry about a thing! Look for someone who will direct you, make you feel comfortable and do everything they can to make you look your best.

Each photographer at SJP, both Sarah and her associates have extensive training in lighting and posing to ensure that you always look your best. Once we place you in the light we will work with you and your husband, bridal party and family members to pose everyone in what we like to call a “quietly perfect” way. Most of the moments you see in our images did not happen naturally but instead were prompted or posed. We would love it if couples walked down the hallway of their church, paused in the beautiful mid-afternoon light of a tall window and peered outside casually, as if to look out onto their future together, but that doesn’t just happen, so we make it happen (see image below). He then spontaneously pulled her close and dipped her down to kiss her… NOT but he did do that when we told him to and we got another beautiful image.

Of course we customize our prompts to the personality of each client, but we assure you that you will never feel lost or uncomfortable in front of our cameras.


————————–How much time do I need?—————————-

As a photographer, I have to start out by saying that more is (almost) ALWAYS better. No this is not about me wanting to sell you my top collection. This is about me wanting to give you the best images possible with the least amount of stress. We need time to make great images!

If you want a complete and unique album, you need to plan to go to another location to get some images of you and the groom (with or without the bridal party). Look at your favorite images on our website. Most of these are probably some romantic, fairy-tale or just plain fun images of the bride and groom and I bet they are not in the front of a church. So if you want these images, plan the time for them. You will be much happier in the end. Plus, most photographers give incentives for booking more time up front.

The SJP collections include not only 5-10 hours on your wedding day but just about everything else you need from engagement session to album and more… for complete collection details give us a call to schedule your consultation.


————————–Do I really need a PRO?—————————-

YES!!!!! I know everyone is a “photographer” these days and your friend, uncle or cousin might have a “good” camera and offer to take your wedding images for free. Stop! Think about this. This is your wedding day, there is no re-shoot – no do over and no matter how many images digital technology lets them take, 1000 blurry, dark, or otherwise poor images doesn’t equal 1 breath-taking one!

Professional photographers have the experience, trained artistic eye, and back up that your friends do not. What if their camera malfunctions the day of your wedding and you are left without any images? (We bring 2-4 cameras so if one fails we have more, plus Sarah always shoots with a second photographer and her associates always bring an assistant).

A professional has the experience to give you beautiful images all day, not just a couple decent shots. Plus, we have done this before, we know what images there are to be taken. You don’t want to get the images back from your friend and find that there are no images of you and your mother, or worse, none of just you and the groom. Your day is hectic and fast-paced and even those images can be forgotten if you are not working with a professional.

Professionals also have the product line to respect your images. A CD from a friend will end up in a drawer and your images may never be seen, or you will have to print them yourself from a subpar printer (do you want that stress after your wedding is over?)

We also understand lighting, posing and retouching to give you unique, stunning, and maybe even a little sexy images that no friend/family will be able to parallel. Let your friend photograph your graduation party or birthday party NOT your wedding day. You do not get a second chance for these images


————————–Other Advice—————————-

Find a photographer you trust – Then listen to them. This is your day and yes you should get everything you want! A good photographer will make sure they can give you anything you ask for, but they will also tell you what it will take. You cannot get amazing images of you and your groom in the beautiful meadow on your farm if you only schedule 5 minutes between ceremony and reception. We will tell you how much time you need to get everything done and how to make the day less stressful for all, but this only helps if you listen to our advice. Don’t worry, it sounds like we are taking over but we wont. 🙂 Give us the time to get you great images before/after the ceremony and we will fade into the background during the ceremony and reception!

Do not get in your dress before we arrive. There is nothing like the look on your face when you step into your dress for the first time on your wedding day and you do not want to miss that! (Great album page!!)

See each other before the wedding. Yes I know this is a big thing for a photographer to ask, and we do not do so lightly. We understand the emotion of seeing each other for the first time on your wedding day and we make that special. At SJP we arrange a fairy tale moment for only you and your groom. While your groom waits for you at the alter we bring you in and down the isle alone, with no one in the church except for us. And we photograph you as you first see your groom and as he stars in awe as you walk to him. And then we start the day, with no one worrying about if you can walk down that hallway because he might see you and without the stress of getting “half” family photographs finished before. We have not had an SJP bride who opted to see her groom before the wedding regret the decision!

Also, did you know: the tradition of not seeing eachother was started with arranged marriages… they wanted to make sure you didn’t run away when you saw him. We are certain you won’t run away, we haven’t lost a bride yet! 🙂

Allow for late arrivals. Invariably, someone in your family is going to be late so plan ahead for this. If family images start at 3:00 tell your family they start at 2:30 or 2:45! This helps to ensure that your family is at the location and ready to being when the photographer is ready (a little delay at the start of your day can push everything back).

Don’t be afraid to ask!For anything! This is your day and at SJP we make sure you get what you want. If we can find a way to make it happen we will. This includes crazy shots off the rooftop as well as personal financial plans. We understand how important these images are and that not everyone can afford to pay over $1000 or $2000 for the photography at their wedding. But we do not want to see you disappointed with your images. If price is the thing keeping you from booking us, call us! We work with each client individually to work out payment plans and other options like associate photographers to make sure you still get beautiful images. You only have one chance to capture these memories and get breathtaking images, and we can make SJP work for you! Just ask.


————————–Why so Much $$$—————————-

Ah, yes the price tag… First of all, it’s important to understand what you are paying for so at the very end (so you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to) I’ve detailed a bit about what goes into your wedding day, behind the scenes.


A wedding day… what we do:

  • Preparing for your consultation: 30 minutes. (Gathering, printing, preparing your contracts, pricing information, etc and setting up sample albums and displays).
  • Consult: 60 minutes.
  • Engagement Session: 45-90 minutes for session, up to 60 minutes travel time plus 20 minutes prep time.
  • Engagement Images Process & Prepare: 90 Minutes (Edit, process, pre-touch images plus prepare your show).
  • Engagement Premier: 90 Minutes
  • Order Prep: 45 Minutes (Invoicing, pulling files to send to retoucher, artwork, crop and send to lab.)
  • Order Completion: 30-45 Minutes (Unpack, check and package when received from lab).
  • Album Design: 4-8 hours
  • Facebook: 20 Minutes
  • Wedding Prep: 2-3 hours (Includes equipment prep/check, additional meetings and phone calls to complete schedule, etc).
  • Wedding Day: 7-12 hours (With travel and prep and location scouting, we work about 2 hours longer than the hours you see us!)
  • Travel: Average of about 90 minutes.
  • Post Wedding Day: 2 hours (SAVE and backup the images!!)
  • Wedding Image Prep: 3-4 hours (Edit, process and pre-touch images and prepare your show).
  • Wedding Premier: 2-3 hours per premier (we often do 1-3 per client so each family member who wants one-on-one service has it.)
  • Order Prep: 45 Minutes (Invoicing, pulling files to send to retoucher, artwork, crop and send to lab.)
  • Order Completion: 30-45 Minutes (Unpack, check and package when received from lab).
  • Album Design: 4-8 hours
  • Facebook/Blog: 30 Minutes
  • Archive Order: 30 Minutes
  • General: Phone calling/emails, and office work (including contract work, filing, billing, etc): 60-90 Minutes
This all adds up to an average grand total of 3160 Minutes or 52+ hours per wedding. Keep in mind that your collection doesn’t just include our time but also a second photographer, album wall art, products and more!



30 thoughts on “Wedding Guide

  1. Hello, I am interested in booking you for my wedding on June 5th, 2010. I hope you are available because I love your work, and you don’t charge an arm and a leg for brides on a budget! I hope we can work together…let me know what you think about the date. Thank you!

    1. Hello Kristen! Congratulations on your engagement! I am sorry for the delayed reply. I don’t check the blog as often as I should and I have been out of town for about a month!!! I am still available for June 5th, though I have gotten a couple other requests for June already. I would be happy to email you my pricing catalog and I have a couple options for you if my standard rate is above your budget. I have an associate program which is very inexpensive without sacrificing quality or giving up your experience with me. Also, I am always willing to work with brides who would like my photography but are on a tight budget. Since photography is one of the few things from your wedding day that will last forever I hate to see brides have to take a lower-end option so we can always work out a plan that will work for you!!! Look for my email soon (check spam if you don’t see it)

    1. Rene!!! You are so welcome! I am happy to hear you like the album. I was so excited to be able to create one for you and I loved the idea of it being a surprise gift for you! You both were so great to work with and I would be thrilled to be able to photograph your family as it grows!

  2. Hello,

    I was curious if you would be available for a June 12, 2010 wedding in Columbia, and what your rates would be. I look forward to hearing from you.



    1. Hello Catherine! Congratulations on your engagement! I am currently available on June 12, 2010. I will email you my pricing catalog if you like. I would love to meet with you and your fiance and to help design your perfect wedding day!


  3. Hi, I am interested in your photography. I am getting married June 9, 2012, and I am in need of a photographer. Can you shoot me some prices and availability? Thank you so much.

  4. I am interested in you wedding photography. I am getting married October 13, 2012 and still in need of a photography. Are you available that day and what are your prices?



  5. Hello, I would like to get some pricing information for my upcoming wedding, June, 29, 2012.
    Thank you,

  6. Hello! I am getting married July 7, 2012. I didn’t know if you were available and your pricing? Thank You!


  7. Hi! I was just at the Bridal Extravaganza in Springfield, IL and love your pictures. I am getting married Sept. 15, 2012 and am on a very tight budget. Would still be available and could you send some price lists my way. Thanks a bunch. Karen

  8. hello! i am getting married on october 6th 2012 & was wondering if you were available & if you could please send me some pricing info?!? i look forward to hearing back from you! thank you so much, stephanie

  9. Hey there Sarah,

    My Fiance and I are getting married Aug 4th 2012 in Springfield, IL. First and foremost, are you available on that date? Second of all, could we set up a time to discuss pricing and details? I look forward to hearing back from you soon.

    1. Hi Mandi! I would be happy to talk with you about photographing your wedding. Our couple steps are 1) to check my availability on your wedding date if you have set the date and 2) to invite you and your fiancé in for a consultation so we can go over all the details of your day and the wedding collections I offer. My first openings are now the week of March 13th and I am available Tuesday-Friday 9-5 and Wednesday evenings until 8. I will email you as well so we can set up your consult. I look forward to meeting you both!

  10. I was wondering what your pricing for wedding photography is. Could you please email me that information? and what city in Illinois are you traveling from?

  11. Hi Sarah!!! I’m trying to plan out wedding in a very short time period (no exact date yet but possibly sometime mid December 2012). I know this would be late notice and we are on a tight budget, as my fiancé will be deploying overseas again and this seems to be the only time we can have us and our families together at one time (we live out of state but would be getting married in JC MO). I’m planning majority of everything on my own and honestly dont have a clue on where to start! Could you please email me some prices as well as if you might have anything available? Thank you so much!!

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