Every client wants very nice pictures taken when they hire a photographer, and they should expect nothing less, so when you choose who you want to hire to take pictures of your special day, or your loved ones, what you really need to ask yourself is, "what do I really want from my photographer?"
There are more than one kind of photographer.
There is the"Too Good to Be True" photographer. This one has a portfolio with some good pictures, and they charge very little. Keep in mind, if someone is charging $50 for a session, and giving you all the fully-edited, full-resolution digital negatives they took on a CD, they have no faith in their own abilities, and that is being reflected in their pricing. Just because they have good pictures in their portfolio doesn't mean they don't often take a ton of terrible pictures too. You might luck out, and get a good deal, but it also might cost you that magic shot.
There is the "I'm an Artist, You Are Paying For My Vision" photographer. This one does the shoot, and afterward, they only try to push buying a ton of large, expensive wall art on you, and sometimes even refuse to provide any digital images, even if you do buy a print product. Don't get me wrong, physical prints are a magical thing, and if you hire a photographer, you should absolutely buy at LEAST one print—your favorite one—to proudly display on your wall. Despite my love of printed photography, I think some of the sales tactics employed by this variety of photographer can be a little heavy-handed.
In the photography world, you kind of get pushed and prodded into one camp or the other. I struggle with this. The reason why is because not all clients are the same.
Some clients just want digital files to share on social media. While many of them regret not buying at least ONE print in the long run, they just aren't overly concerned with having art to hang on their wall, and they should not be judged for this. These kind of clients need photographers too—and not fly-by-night operations. They need real photographers who are still willing to put their heart into the work knowing full well they are not making a ton of money on print sales.
The trap in "being affordable" or offering a full digital negative collection for a reasonable price is that some "discerning" customers look at this as a bad sign. For those clients: You need to know that not everything is better because its more expensive. By choosing the highest price tag in hopes they are the best, you might be sacrificing your own satisfaction with the final product.
Compromise, flexibility, collaboration—these are often hallmarks of a good photographer. And why is that? Because they encourage a positive connection between the client and the photographer. A real connection with your photographer—a warm feeling of "just clicking"—is going to show in the photographs. If you feel right about your photographer, your photographs are more likely to make you happy, because you're working together to achieve an end goal, instead of just one of the two parties trying to steer the ship.
So if you are drowning in a million different wedding package choices, or various portrait options, and trying to pick your photographer, start thinking about what really matters.
I have a feeling, if you think long enough, you will come to the conclusion that you want natural-feeling, organic photos that show the reality of a magic day or the beauty of a genuine bond between loved ones. If you talk to a photographer who places anything above that goal as their first priority, you should cross them off the list.
If you talk to a photographer who won't provide you with your pictures in the format you want, cross them off your list. If you talk to a photographer who scoffs at your budget, instead of offering some options for compromise, cross them off your list.
When you find a photographer who just feels right, and you like their work, leave them on the list.