How To Choose A Wedding Photographer
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This little guide started off as a general guide – just a few things that I’d encourage people to look out for when booking a wedding photographer. The more I started to write the bigger and more comprehensive it got but if you follow the advice in this article you are very unlikely to be disappointed with your wedding photographs and photographer. So on with my article!
When it comes to wedding decisions, choosing your wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions that you are likely to make for your wedding, although I suppose choosing who you are going to marry is slightly higher on the list!
Long after the favours have been forgotten, the wedding breakfast and canapés have been digested all that remains are your happy memories which hopefully will be enriched by your wedding photographs and possibly your wedding video. This advice applies largely to wedding videos as well, although is written from a wedding photographers perspective.
A good photographer can make an average scene look absolutely stunning and leave you speechless when you see your wedding photographs. However a bad photographer can make the most beautiful of venues or scenes look distinctly average.
As this turned into such a long article it was suggested that I write a summary of key advice.
I mention price first as it’s something that requires serious consideration. I’ve heard it said that ” The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten. ” and this is never more true than with wedding photography. Simply put “Try to spend as much as you can on your wedding photographs. Make photographs a priority in your budget.” It’s an area that simply can’t be chosen based on the most competitive price.
it’s best to choose a photographer whose work you love – a photographer offering basic coverage with the option to upgrade later may be a better option than choosing a photographer that is considerably less skilled but at a similar price- offering the biggest album and a million and one prints and canvases. To start with look solely at the photographs and how they make you feel, give albums and products secondary priority. A poor collection of photographs will always be a poor collection of photographs, however they are packaged. Having your wedding captured in the best way possible should be your priority.
Be careful however that some photographers prices can quickly escalate. This is to be expected. Just as at the car dealership – once you add metallic paint and those nicer alloys the car rises in value – so can your wedding package. To avoid surprises make sure that you have done your sums before you confirm your choice in photographer so that you don’t get a nasty shock.
Some photographers may have a pricing model that includes so many images in the album but then charge £30 an image after that. For example- If you had 50 images included as standard and you wanted to add 50 images (we often produce 100 image albums) this would add on an extra £1500.
I am not trying to discourage you from using such photographers- it is expensive to run a photography business and a good photographer deserves to be paid well, just be aware of the potential costs that may come and make sure that you are happy to pay them. Having said that choosing the right photographer is key and most photographers will allow you to book them on a base package and add on to your package from there after the wedding- once you have a bit more money. You may be able to add photography items to your gift list! Just ask your photographer.
Where To Start?
Ask your friends who were recently married who did their wedding photos. If you like the style of their wedding photography and feel it would be a good fit for you, ask them about their experience working with their photographer.
Don’t just choose the first photographer you see, or the one recommended by the wedding venue. We have seen some terrible wedding albums in the most beautiful of venues, simply because the venue receives payment for referrals they make. One local Cheshire wedding venue charges photographers 10% of their total sale for photographers they recommend. Any good referral for wedding photography will be based on quality and service, not on commission.
Google is your friend and although there are a plethora of wedding photographers to search through, it’s well worth making a shortlist to compare. I would highly recommend another website which was set up by myself to help brides and grooms find photographers for their wedding day. It uses an availability function to search only photographers who are available on your wedding day to save you time. The website is www.theweddingsearch.co.uk Before compiling your list it’s good to sit down and think about exactly what you want from your wedding photographs so you know what to look for when searching. This leads us on to our next sections.
Photographer Style & Skill
Reportage, Portraits, Group Photographs
Photojournalism & Reportage photography have become a buzzword in wedding photography, and for good reason. This is a key role of any wedding photographer.
A wedding photographer should capture candid photographs of people laughing, crying, hugging and kissing – and all the little moments that would go unnoticed by a casual observer. They should always be ready to capture these shots and not be sat down, waiting for clock to arrive at the next main event on the schedule. This is how the best photographs would be missed by an inexperienced or an undedicated photographer. (Having said that they do need a 5 minute water break every now and then!)
We hear lots of clients request that they only want reportage type photographs and this is fine, but often after talking about their true requirements and showing them our portfolio we find out what they truly mean. They often mean that they don’t want the cheese- they don’t want the hours and hours of stand in a line group photographs that weddings are famous for. Often brides & grooms we speak to want a mix of styles. They want it all captured in the best possible way it can be and why not?!
They want candid photographs of their parents laughing and their grandparents crying but they also want a beautiful family photograph that their parents and grandparents will treasure forever.
Capturing Emotions is a Key Role of Any Wedding Photographer
They want beautifully styled romantic portrait photographs that look natural, photographs that look like they’ve come straight out of the pages of a magazine.
Your photographer should be able to capture beautiful well lit portrait photographs
They also want all the little details they have spent so long choosing photographed for their memory.
A wedding photographer should photograph all the important details
If you choose to hire a wedding photographer that only shoots reportage photographs because that is truly all you want, that’s absolutely great. Please make sure that’s the photographer is truly skilled in this area and does not just specialise in this area of photography because its what they find easiest. Their are many examples of skilled photojournalists – one of the most famous in the UK is Jeff Ascough who captures beautiful moments – superbly composed, not just snapshots of events but true photographic art.
Truly a wedding photographer should be able to beautifully light a portrait photograph or group photograph should the need arise. They should understand light and how it works and they should be able to create beautiful photographs even in a dark room.
If a photographer can’t do these things, don’t let them tell you that it’s because they only specialise in reportage or natural light photography – its just that they are lazy and have not truly learn’t their craft.
Although this is quite controversial, I say this because with wedding photography and the infinite variation of situations that can present themselves, it’s always beneficial to have such necessary skills even if you don’t choose to use them for your general photography style.
I am not saying that every wedding photographer should take lots of portrait photographs or that they should use flash or a particular format for photographing weddings- I am saying that they should know how to take beautiful photographs in any setting should their client really require it. They should use the appropriate technique that will lead to the best photograph and collection of wedding photographs.
What Should I ask the Photographer to see?
When choosing your wedding photographer ask to see lots of examples of their work- not just their best ever super duper favourite display albums- but the standard of their last few weddings at least. Looking at a photographers blog can really help in this regard.
Have a look at weddings they have photographed at the same time of year as your wedding. If its a winter wedding- did they handle the low level of light well? Or do other photographers do this better? Just because you like how a photographer photographs outdoor summer weddings – it doesn’t mean that you will like how they photograph a 4:30pm ceremony in the middle of winter when it is pitch black outside. If its a summer wedding – did they find places to take photographs in nice light or are all the people squinting and are there lots of unpleasant shadows on the subjects faces in the photographs.
Do I need a photographer that has been to my venue before?
This is a question we are often asked, but in answer to this – Do not discount good wedding photographers just because they have never been to your wedding venue before.
Wedding photographers often photograph at new venues and a good wedding photographer will adapt to your venue very well. Often they can approach your wedding with a fresh pair of eyes and find new and exciting ways to capture your wedding at this venue.
Sometimes it can be a disadvantage that a photographer is overly familiar with a wedding venue. They may have a standard approach that is not tailored to you as an individual couple with your unique wedding. If the photographer has photographed at your venue before – ask to see examples of their weddings there to check that they don’t just do the same thing every time. If they do- make sure that you like what they do every time!
Backup, Equipment & Insurance
Does your photographer have backup equipment should theirs fail or should they have an accident? Your wedding photographer should have at least 2 cameras and at least 3 lenses. They should have a backup flash as well should an accident occur.
Although it is not the camera that takes a good photograph, it’s the photographer – good equipment certainly helps and will produce higher quality results. A cheap lens cannot match a more expensive lens in its levels of sharpness and clarity.
A pro photographer should have professional equipment if they take their trade seriously. At Tobiah Tayo Photography we have 5 camera bodies worth over £10,000, many lenses again worth over £10,000, and around £5000 of lighting equipment to make sure that we are always prepared to cover your day.
Having professional indemnity insurance is key. A wedding photographer should have a valid certificate of insurance – and some venues even require this for a photographer to attend.
Will the photographer insist on their way? Do they need a list?
Its my honest feeling that a wedding photographer should be flexible to your requests, after all it’s your wedding. A wedding photographer is not a fashion photographer with Diva demands – they should be helpful and listen to your requirements. A wedding is not a photo shoot – although there are many opportunities for brilliant photographs. Its important that you feel your photographer understands this.
Having said that- respect for the photographer goes a long way. A true professional photographer shouldn’t need a long list of must have shots like the magazines may suggest. If they are trying to read your list all day they will be missing real moments that are happening.
They capture the day and everything that happens. A clear concise schedule should suffice. If there is anything particularly unique about your wedding that you would like to be photographed then it’s helpful to let the photographer know this. But a list that includes obvious shots like “Exchanging of rings” & “first kiss” is not necessary.
It’s also very helpful to provide an accurate list of group family photographs that you may require and allow sufficient time for this in your schedule. This is only if you choose to have group photographs obviously.
Will the Photographer need a Schedule?
A good schedule is key to making sure that your wedding day doesn’t feel rushed. A good schedule will allow you plenty of time to talk with your guests and have the photographs taken that you would like. Using the schedule should be a general guideline and not a strict military operation. A good photographer will understand this and offer suggestions on your schedule if you ask them.
Allowing enough time for photographs in your schedule will help you to feel less rushed. If you are having group photographs, Its good to have them as early as possible so that your guests can enjoy the rest of the day. We often recommend around 10 or less group photographs but that is something for each bride an groom to decide depending upon their family setup.
After the group photographs its nice to photograph the bride and groom on their own. Just 30 minutes can be ample to create beautiful wedding portraits that you will treasure forever. Often our brides and grooms comment how much they have enjoyed the photography time together as its some of the only quiet time that they have during the day.
Do you feel comfortable?
Last of all but one of the most important things I can think to mention is, make sure the wedding photographer you choose makes you feel comfortable and relaxed. Make sure that your personalities work together. You spend the most special day of your life in the company of your photographer. Making sure you get a long with them will go a long way to making sure you make the right decision for your wedding photographer.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this article. I am no writer, but I thought I would share things I think would be helpful to those who are looking for a wedding photographer. I am sure I have missed many things, please feel free to let me know what I should add and If you have enjoyed reading this article, please do leave me a comment.
Written March 25 2012