Looking for a wedding photographer in a market crowded with wedding photographers can be confusing. They all look the same, right? They’re all much of a muchness, surely? Let’s just get a pin, close our eyes and pin one down. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, there are lots of things that can go wrong, so to help you choose the right person for you, here are my 5 essential things to look for before parting with any of your hard-earned cash.
Firstly, be prepared to pay for a professional photographer who knows what they are doing and has a track record with happy clients, rather than asking Uncle Richard because ‘he’s got one of those big camera things’ and you can pay him in pints at the reception! (Yes, that actually happens). I would also advise you to ignore any suggestions from well meaning relatives about just asking guests to use their mobile phones and then collate an album with the best shots. It sounds like a good idea, but those phone pics will not look good in print.
Seriously, there are plenty of stories of unhappy couples who relied on a family member to capture their special day and ended up very disappointed because either their relative missed some key moments, or they went down the mobile phone route and were surprised at the lack of quality when they saw them in print.
Instead, hand over the responsibility of the photography to a photographer! He or she will concentrate on capturing those special moments while you, your family and friends will be making them. The quality of the images will be so much better, and your experienced pro will have done the ground work (see points 2 & 3 below) and therefore know exactly how to go about delivering on your expectations.
When booking service providers you’re not looking for someone to be your best mate, but it’s important that you book someone who you can get along with and who gives you confidence that you are in safe hands. Everyone is different, and what makes some people click with one person will be completely different for another. However, your photographer needs to put your mind at rest before you hand over any booking fees. This starts right at first contact, whether that is by phone or email. Their response to your enquiry will give you a clue as to what kind of person you are dealing with, and then more reasons to book or avoid will become apparent as the process continues (see point 3 below).
A wedding photographer needs to get along with not just the bride and groom, but a whole host of ‘cast members’ on the day: bridesmaids, best man, other guests, the vicar/registrar/celebrant, reception manager, toast master, driver, DJ, to name a few! All these people will either be main characters in the final photos or key people who the photographer must collaborate and cooperate with in order to get the images that have been agreed with the couple beforehand.
At the end of the last wedding I photographed, the matron of honour came to me when she saw I was about to leave and gave me a big hug. “Thank you for everything you’ve done today,” she said. “You’ve been so lovely to everyone”! Maybe she had been to another wedding where the photographer was a distraction. Not so much ‘all the gear but no idea’ as ‘knows his stuff, but very gruff’, I don’t know. But whatever it was that prompted her kind words, I came away knowing that not only had I got some great shots, but that I had done a good job if the guests remembered me for the right reasons!
This covers a whole range of things starting with the photographer meeting up with the happy couple in plenty of time before the wedding and visiting the venues. This should be standard!
I make it a matter of course to meet the couple as soon as possible if they indicate they would like to go ahead and book. When they have booked, I then contact key people involved in their wedding in advance to establish a rapport and check out some important details. For example, if the wedding is in a church I will make contact with the minister and arrange to visit so I can check out the lighting in the church and look for potential backdrops for photos in the church grounds. It is important to find out if flash photography is allowed in the church, where I can stand, if there are any ‘out of bounds’ areas, if we can use confetti and what time we need to be off the premises as there could be other events booked after ‘our’ wedding.
Also, and this applies to my landscape photography workshops as well, I use a flight compass to work out where the sun will be at that time of year and day, so then I can prepare and make a plan for the best part of the grounds to have group photos.
Google Earth is also very handy for this stage of the preparation, and there are other apps which can be used alongside to gather more information.
I’ve used this mantra before and it really is worth repeating when it comes to wedding photography –
PRIOR PREPARATION PREVENTS POOR PERFORMANCE!
4. PRICING & PACKAGES
Most wedding photographers offer a choice of packages and prices to match, and there is a wide variety in the pricing of these. Some photographers use a ‘Bronze, Silver or Gold’ system, while others like myself will use ‘Basic, Mid or Full’ package options which amount to the same thing, just another way of describing what is on offer. My basic package, for example, gives the couple a beautifully presented USB with high resolution printable images, while the mid and full packages provide the USB and a coffee table style photobook. At the time of writing my prices are £550 for a basic package, £800 for mid and £1200 for full. I am not the cheapest in this region, but neither am I the most expensive, so it is important to look around and find someone who fits your budget and meets the other criteria outlined above.
It’s a bit obvious really, but you want photos of your special day, so when choosing a photographer have a look at their websites and see what style of wedding photography the produce. There can even be a variety in styles, although one very popular style in recent years has been ‘high key’, which gives a light, airy feel with reduced or no shadow detail, and is used to convey an upbeat mood. Any decent photographer should know how to achieve this effect if that is what you want, but be aware of other styles and editing effects that might appeal to your own tastes.
You should also confirm exactly how you will receive your final images, and where and how they can be viewed if you need to select your favourite shots for a printed album. Check out their Ts & Cs and if you are allowed to print the photos yourself. Again, this is a variable, but as a general rule, copyright of the original images belongs to the photographer but you may be given limited printing rights and not necessarily obligated to the photographer for extra prints.
So these are my 5 things to look for in a wedding photographer. I hope you have found it helpful, and if you want to chat further about your own wedding photography then please do get in touch. Or if you know someone who is not sure how to go about the process and where to start then feel free to share this with them. It might help them navigate that crowded market and find just the right photographer for them!