Navigating choosing a wedding photographer – advice for engaged couples
Ahhhh the minefield that is choosing a wedding photographer. Well, it’s not really a minefield but it can be a little overwhelming! Most people have never done this before (and repeat business would be aa bit weird…), so they’re not sure how it all works, or where to start when looking for a wedding photographer.
This post contains some useful tips and things to think about when finding a wedding photographer, including wedding photography styles and things you might want to check before booking someone. Do you want fine-art wedding photography? Or a documentary wedding photographer? No idea? No problem, keep reading!
Start with a little research
We’re lucky to live in an age where there seems to be an inexhaustible list of options, but selecting the right person to photograph something as important as your wedding is key to how happy you are with the end result. I’ve heard so many stories where couples haven’t invested time (and, frankly, money) in the right photographer and, as a result they don’t love their wedding photos, which is a huge shame!
As an aside, you might want to have a read of my “How to love yourself in your wedding pictures post“. If you don’t love yourself, there isn’t a photographer in the world that can make you love yourself in your wedding pictures.
Start the process of choosing a wedding photographer with a little research. Online wedding blogs, google, recommendations and magazines are a great place to get ideas. Look at different styles of photography to work out what you do and don’t like. Most photographers will have an approach or a mixture of approaches, along with their own style and aesthetic.
Wedding photography approaches from classic to alternative
Some of the approaches you might encounter include
– Traditional – classic, posed
– Photojournalistic/Documentary – informal, reality-based, candid, unposed
– Alternative – A focus on a creative approach, uses the details of your day to capture personality
– Fine Art – tends to be editorial in style
You can find out more about different styles and approaches in this post.
Finding someone whose style you love should be your priority
Realistically there is often cross over between styles. Many documentary photographers will do a selection of posed portraits alongside classic group shots and fine-art photographers also document the real moments of the day as they happen.
Personally, my approach is to tell the story of the day by documenting it candidly and unobtrusively, however, I love spending time creating portraits and I am always more than happy to spend some time doing group shots, as I think they’re an important part of the day.
In my view, someone whose style you love should be the number 1 consideration when choosing a wedding photographer. You’ll want to look at your photos again and again, for the rest of your life. Picking a photographer whose work you love will mean you stay in love with your wedding pictures.
Think about what you’d like to achieve with your wedding photography coverage
Things to think about at this stage include the number of hours’ coverage you want, whether you both want your preparations photographed (this may require a second photographer if you’re not getting ready at the same venue) and the budget you’re working with.
Budgets will vary from wedding to wedding but a good guideline is to set a budget of around 10% of your total wedding cost. You can feel free to take this with a pinch of salt. Some couples allocate a huge proportion of their budget to photography and, for others, photography isn’t as much of a priority as other things.
Approach your potential photographer for a chat
Once you have a shortlist you may wish to approach a few photographers (or The One if you’ve fallen in love with one photographer’s work!) to check their availability and find out more about them and the way that they work.
At this stage, it’s a good idea to provide as much information as possible to your potential wedding photographer, so that they can get a really good feel for the day that you’re planning. Tell them about your wedding venue, outfits, what you’re excited about the day and what you want from your photography.
I always arrange to have a chat over the phone or Skype with couples who are interested in working with me, as I want to make sure my style and approach is a good fit for them and their wedding day. I also love to get to know my couples as much as possible, at every stage of the process!
What questions should you ask a wedding photographer?
I talked a little bit about the questions you should (and shouldn’t!) ask your wedding photographer here. There are a few vital things that you should check out before you go ahead and book in with them:
-Ability to do the job. You should look at at least one or two whole weddings, to ensure their photography is of a consistent standard. They might have examples on their blog but this will still, generally, be edited highlights, so do feel free to ask to see a whole gallery of client’s images if you want to. It’s a great idea to look at a wedding that took place in similar circumstances to yours. For example, if you’re getting married in the winter, you need to be sure they’re experienced shooting in low light.
– How experienced/established are they? Do they have any industry accolades or awards? What do their couples say about working with them? Awards and press features are by no means necessary – some of the best photographers I know don’t care about awards at all – but these kinds of things help you to build up a picture of your photographer and their business.
-What’s their approach on the day. How do they work?
– Check they have right tools for the job. I would never suggest you get into asking your photographer about what camera they use – it’s a bit like asking a chef what oven they use – but do check they have back up equipment in case anything goes wrong on the day.
– Are they insured? This is crucial. They should have professional indemnity insurance, public liability insurance and equipment cover.
– What would they do if they’re ill on the day? Do they have access to other photographers they can refer work to if they are unable to make your wedding because of an emergency?
– What are their terms and conditions? This is their contract with you and covers both you and them in case anything goes wrong.
Check your photographer can meet your needs!
It sounds obvious, but don’t forget to also check that they can meet your needs. For example, if you want a wedding album, it will be useful to know in advance if your photographer can provide that service. If you have a list of people who might want photographs from the wedding or mini wedding albums, make sure to check that those items can be included. Lots of photographers offer packages that will give you an idea of what end products you can order.
The business end of things aside, there are two crucial things that you need to ascertain. 1) That you love their work. 2) That you get along with them and can see how they will fit into your wedding day.
Work with people who are invested in you and your wedding day
Your wedding day is special and you should choose to work with people who are invested in making sure it’s all plain sailing. After meeting with your potential photographer, take the time to review your meeting with them. Rapport, trust and creative understanding will go a long way to making your day run like clockwork when it comes around, and towards you having a beautiful set of images to remember your day by.