16/07/19How to Choose your Wedding Photographer
Tips on choosing the perfect wedding photographer
A few years ago my friend Dj Mark from thedj.co.uk suggested I write a guide to choosing your wedding photographer. Then recently I was asked by Ramster to do a guest blog post on the same theme – so at last I did. An edited version of what follows is on the Ramster site, but here’s the full version.
It’s tempting to say the same way we choose anything else – go online, look at websites, pictures and prices, and then fire off a few emails. Many Brides and Grooms do just that, but there are a few things you can do to make sure you get a better result and someone exactly right for you.
Finding the perfect wedding photographer
The first is to project yourself to one year after your wedding and think about what you would like to see in your set of pictures – and what you would be disappointed to find missing that you didn’t have.
The second, and here’s the key that is all too often overlooked, you need to like the pictures you’re seeing, but you also need to like the photographer(s) who are going to be around you for an awful lot of your wedding day.
Just looking at a website is not going to tell you about the kind of presence your photographer will be at your wedding. Feedback from other brides on a photographer’s website will give you an indication, but you really need to talk to any photographer – on the phone is a start but meeting them if you are seriously considering them is miles better.
To go back to the start of the process, there are literally hundreds of wedding photographers for you to choose from. Recommendations from your venue and your friends should provide a good working shortlist – most venues have list of recommended photographers with different styles and different prices.
A bride’s mother said to me a few years ago “A wedding photographer is a wedding photographer, there can’t be much difference between you”.
But there is and to find those differences you need to do two things. The first is to explore their site in detail, not just the first few images. Many sites start with a handful of breathtaking images, but keep looking as often there’s a sudden fall off to much more ordinary pictures.
If a photographer is going to hand over 500+ pictures after the wedding you want to get a sense of what the set will feel like, not just the one fantastic image on social media. What you are trying to find is a sense of the photographer’s style, whatever they may say it is, because that will impact on how you spend your day, as I’m about to explain.
What kind of wedding photographs do you want?
Are you looking for a traditional photographer, do you want lots of posed or arranged groups, or do you want wow factor pictures that look natural, but have been very skilfully and time consumingly set up to look like they happened of their own accord? Or do you want fly- on-the-wall pictures that capture the day naturally? Or perhaps a blend of all the above? What you choose will make a difference to the feel of the day – is the photographer organising, bossy or intrusive? Is that what you would like, someone to shape your day, or is it the last thing you want? There are fans of both approaches – which works for you?
I recently saw a truly stunning set piece picture that had taken over an hour to set up and execute – is that you? Because the style or blend of styles you choose will alter how long you have with your guests. Lots of family groups can take time away from your guests and a visit to the gardens that produces beautiful pictures of the two of you will do the same.
In many ways the heart of the day is the reception after the ceremony and before the wedding breakfast – so how much of that time should be spent with your guests and how much with your photographer? It needs careful thought and the answer should be unique to you, so make sure your photographer doesn’t assume you will follow her/his/their ‘normal’ routine.
Before I close here are a few other often overlooked areas. Most photographers should be able to show you fabulous pictures from summer, but if you’re getting married in winter – and photographically really that’s from the end of October when the hour changes to the end of February – make sure you see pictures from your time of year to see how the photographer copes with your conditions. Ramster is an amazing venue at any time of year, but how it looks on a rainy day in December is different from a 90 degree day in June.
Do you really want to trust your lifetime memories to someone who is willing to ‘have a go’ for you?
Which leads me to my next point: getting your uncle, a friend’s wife, the lady in Accounts who is obsessed with photography or your usher who has just got a new camera to photograph your wedding. Wedding photography is uniquely stressful – it took me over 50 weddings to get remotely used to it – and requires very specialised photographic and above all people skills, so do you really want to trust your lifetime memories to someone who is willing to ‘have a go’ for you?
If budget is really the issue – and I remember it well from my own wedding – have a professional photographer for less time. The absolutely vital bit of the day is from the Bride’s arrival until you sit down to eat, so if necessary have that covered professionally and get your helpful friend to cover other elements of the day for you.
We’re nearly there! There are just a few more Faqs to answer:
Do I need two photographers?
Two photographer teams would not surprisingly say yes! It really depends on how many guests you have – over 150 it’s a probably good idea if you can run to it. Between 120 and 150 there are pros and cons, depending on what you want covering, such as the Bride and Groom getting ready at different locations at different times, but remember it changes the nature of the day, especially if you have one or two videographers as well.
Effectively four photographers around you and your guests can be intrusive for some, and make others feel like a Celebrity and the Star of The Show in a positive way, so think about what would be right for you. If you want your photographer to blend into the background and to feel like a guest then stay with one. For less than 120 guests unless there are very specific logistical problems one photographer is absolutely fine. It’s better to have 600 pictures from one photographer whose style you like than a thousand from two photographers who aren’t quite right for you – less can often be more.
Is a pre-wedding shoot essential?
Like the ‘you need two photographers’ approach above, this has become a marketing tool for many – a way of persuading you you need their services rather than anyone else’s, or of offering something ‘free’, even if you don’t need or actually want it. If you are looking for a lot of posed shots or want the photographer to be a controlling or organising presence then it can be a good idea – you can see what it’s like to be directed by your photographer and how comfortable you feel with that.
If you are looking for a ‘captured moments’ or reportage style then it’s less important, because it involves a very different style of photography – you’ll be much more aware of the camera in a formal or semi formal shoot with just you and the photographer than you will be on your wedding day when fabulous and exciting things are happening all around you. It might be fun, it might be interesting and you might like the pictures that come from it, but it’s not essential – meeting your photographer before the day is essential and talking to her/him/them is the priority.
How long will it be before the photographs are ready?
One really important and often overlooked question is how long it will take for your photographs to be ready. It usually takes me four days to edit a full length all day wedding. If all the pictures are online the morning after the wedding then clearly not a lot of editing is being done. But more and more I’m asked at weddings by guests whose weddings I didn’t photograph why their wedding pictures took 8 -12 weeks to arrive.
The answer is that more and more wedding photographers are part-time, so at busy times of year they simply won’t have a chance to edit your pictures if they have to go back to their day job on Monday morning. It may not bother you in the least to have a 3 month wait, but make sure you ask the question so that there are no surprises later on.
A few words on wedding albums …
Finally I should probably add just a few words about albums. The most important thing above all is to capture your wedding day in photographs that you will like for all time. Albums are secondary – as long as you have great pictures you will always be able to find a suitable album for them. But if your pictures are disappointing no album in the world will compensate for that. The ‘inclusive’ package is very tempting, so make sure the album provided is one you like, that it’s flexible in size and how many pictures it can accommodate – and that you are choosing the pictures that go in it and how they are arranged. Ask to see an example as sadly I’ve seen many albums with very strange colours.
My own preference is for thinking about whether you want an album once you have the photographs – recently one bride wanted 24 pictures in an album, whilst another wanted 189 pictures included. A ‘one size fits all’ approach just isn’t good enough to do justice to your wedding. Remember too that once you have the digital files from your photographer there are many easy ways of producing your own album online from the likes of Blurb, Photobox, and Snapfish, which may well give you a larger, higher quality album for less money – and as one client put it to me, you may have greater ‘ownership’ of the album if you plan its layout and the pictures that go in it yourself.
So there you have it – if you follow the above you should end up with a great photographer who will capture your day for you in the way that you want and produce pictures you want to look at for the rest of your life.
Last, but not least …
And one final “don’t forget” – always ask about back up, both in terms of equipment and what happens if the photographer is ill or unable to get to your wedding for any other reason.
If there’s anything I haven’t covered you can always reach me on 07979 645540 or via www.henrywells.co.uk – there’s nothing I like more than talking about weddings!