How to choose a wedding photographerIt’s pretty exciting when you first start considering how to choose a wedding photographer – there are so many amazing options out there and so many inspirational UK wedding photographers whose job it is to document your day exactly how you want it. On the other hand, there are a fair few unfortunate amateurs calling themselves professionals, who you will pay good money for and be disappointed in the results. This is your wedding day, the most important day of your life, and your wedding photos will provide those lasting, precious memories that money can’t buy. In light of this, there is one very simple rule to follow above all else:
Follow your heart
Photography is like any other creative art: individual. Each photographer sees the world in their own way. That’s why when considering how to choose a wedding photographer, you should follow this piece of advice above all else: go with who you love.
It might be that you love the look of a photographer’s work but can’t quite put your finger on what’s giving it that certain je ne sais quoi. That’s OK. You don’t need to be a photography expert to choose a wedding photographer, but you do need to follow your heart (and ask the right questions). If you’re not sure, don’t risk it. And so it probably goes without saying but…
Hire a professional
Unless you want the disappointment of looking back on your friends’ drunken snaps taken with disposable cameras, photo booth strips or ‘trendy’ Polaroids, always, always hire a professional. You just can’t rely on your guests to take enough photos and document the day the way a professional would, and even if they do take enough, it’s pretty clear that alcohol and a steady hand do not a good combination make. That’s not to say your friends shouldn’t take photos with their phones or cameras and share these via social media, or that you shouldn’t hire a photo booth – far from it. But it is to say that these images, while a nice enhancement, can’t be relied on. And who wants that risk or worry on their wedding day?
Further to this, don’t give the job to a friend. Yes, you might get mate’s rates (an awkward discussion in itself), but do you really want to risk your friendship over something as important as your wedding photographs? Business and pleasure rarely mix, and wedding photography is a paid service, and therefore a business.
Do your research
All good photographers will have a website. A good, portfolio website, with the correct size images (i.e. images that aren’t really, really small or really, really huge so they take ages to load). Why? Because a good photographer will be aware that they need to showcase their work properly in order to reflect their ability. If a photographer hasn’t taken the time to invest in perfecting their images on their website, there’s no way they’ll take the time to perfect the images on your wedding day.
So have a look around, Google local photographers, browse their portfolios and see what you like. It’s actually really easy to build a website these days, so no website = no business. And where you just see a minimalist website (i.e. just a few select photos), ask the photographer for a link to their private online gallery where you can view hundreds of images they’ve shot for other weddings.
Review the cost
According to New York Magazine, 21% of brides wished they had spent more on their wedding photography. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event; you can’t go back in time and have your photography taken again. You get one shot, so make it count. Think about it: you’ve invested so much time, money and effort into planning all the tiny details of your wedding – wouldn’t you want all your months (perhaps years!) of hard work to look as beautiful as possible? Consider your wedding photography as an investment: something that will increase in value over time. A good photographer will recognise the incredible value in what they are offering you, and will charge accordingly. You really do get what you pay for with wedding photography: if the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Check their equipment
In theory, a brilliant photographer should be able to shoot with anything. In reality, the equipment really matters. Always ask what cameras they are using to shoot, and check that they have a back-up that is of an equivalent standard. And then research these cameras! Professional equipment costs upwards of thousands of pounds. If you spot they are using cheap equipment (i.e. they can’t be bothered to invest in a decent set of tools that will enhance their craft), you should walk away.
Check and measure their skill level
This is a bit of an odd one – how can you possibly measure someone’s skill, intuition and talent? Of course, there are industry awards and recognition, but these more often than not involve a bit of back-scratching, or rely on paid entries. There are so many places to get recognition from, that it makes it difficult to judge someone accurately, or really understand their value. So, how to you really measure skill?
It’s more than having good equipment. It’s more than having a great portfolio. It’s spectacular imagery that makes you look at the world differently. It’s reviews from other couples who rave about the photographer’s work and commitment to them on their wedding day. It’s about consistency: being able to consistently produce image after image that show you standing still, moving, dancing, from day to night, and capturing the smallest moments and details that maybe you don’t even notice, and that you can look back on in years to come and go: “Wow, that happened”. A professional photographer should be able to produce images of exceptional quality day in, day out, year on year. And most of all, it’s that notion of going with someone you love – and someone who you implicitly trust. If you do this, the rest will follow.
Go with someone who listens
As with choosing any wedding supplier, your wedding is about you two – and not the supplier. If a photographer doesn’t want to listen to the style you want (say you want formal photos as well as journalistic ones) and says they “only do photojournalism”, for example, you should avoid. Make sure you meet with the photographer before committing to them, and check that they actually understand what it is you’re after, and that their style fits in with yours. Ask them where they’ll be on the wedding day – will they be hovering in the background, or will they be in your face at the altar? A decent wedding photographer will be flexible and capture your day exactly how you want it, while exercising some creative licence, of course.
Beware the second photographer
Many couples think they really need a second photographer. But a good photographer will get around your wedding and be everywhere you need them to be – unless of course your wedding guest numbers are HUGE or there will be events in different places with a significant number of things all happening at once. The truth is, many people are swayed by the ‘package’ of having another photographer, and end up paying more for an assistant who is much less skilled who is only there to capture the ‘filler’ shots. If you do really want a second photographer due to the size or complexity of your wedding, always check that their credentials match up with your photographer’s.
Note – the same is not true for wedding videography, where more people may be needed to handle larger equipment.
Read the contract before committing
As with any wedding supplier, always, always, always get a contract. And read it. And then read it again. The contract should define what happens in case of illness, equipment failure, hours covered and so on. And get a receipt for any amount paid. If you have any questions about the contract – even the smallest thing – just ask. A good photographer will have had a lawyer oversee their contract and should be able to easily answer any questions. If you sense hesitation, or something fishy, leave it. Keep any emails you send to each other, and always put everything you want on record in writing.
Check what you’re actually getting
So you have the final result, and you’re happy. Now is not the time to discover that your images come with watermarks (a light layer on top of the image with the photographer’s branding). Or that you were promised high-resolution images, but these are actually not large enough to print your own album or memory book, and that you need full-resolution images, which were not included.
Questions to ask your photographer:
- Are you available?
- What style of photography do you specialise in?
- Which areas do you cover?
- What equipment do you use?
- How many hours will you stay on the day?
- Do you have insurance?
- What happens if you’re ill or your equipment fails?
- Who holds the image copyright?
- What resolution size image will you provide?
- Are the images watermarked?
- How much do you cost?
- Is a pre-wedding/engagement shoot included in the price?
- Are travel/accommodation/food costs included in the price?
- How long after the wedding will the photos be ready?
There’s a lot of information here, but when it comes to considering how to choose a wedding photographer, it makes perfect sense to pay due diligence. This is a huge decision! Given how much time and effort you’ve invested in your wedding, you want to come away with a record of spectacular images taken by a photographer you love. After all, your wedding photos will last longer than just about any other wedding-related purchase you’ll make.