Fifteen?! Hey, we love the photos on their website, what else matters? Well, that's a great start, but these are memories you'll want to keep for a lifetime, and great photography is likely to be a sizeable chunk of your budget, so it's worth doing a little homework. Yes, there are other blogs out there on this topic, but I'm still asked most of these things by prospective clients, so I'm writing this based on my own eight years' experience of photographing weddings and what I myself consider to be important.
Definitely number one on my list. Let's face it, you've got to love the images. Whether you're planning to invest £500 or £3000 on your photography, if you end up with images you'll cherish forever, then the investment was worth every penny.
Love the images on the photographer's home page? Then delve a little deeper. Head over to their portfolios, where you'll likely find more examples. If you're on a tight budget, then a photographer who's just starting out with minimal experience but bags of enthusiasm could be perfect! But if your wedding images are top of your list of priorities, then chances are, you'll be prepared to invest a little more. What's important here is not what you're spending, but that you'll end up with images that are comparable with those you see in their portfolios. Of course, if you're loving their summer sunset beach shots, and your wedding is in the South Downs in November, then be sure to add a dose of reality. Ideally, try to see plenty of examples of real weddings: you want to see images from bridal preparation through to the dance floor, and all parts in between. Head over to their Blog - chances are, if they specialise in weddings, you'll find plenty of examples to browse. If you love the photographer's style consistently - whatever the location, weather or season - then chances are, you're onto a winner.
15 Things to Consider When Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No. 1Love their portfolio? Then head over to their Blog for examples of weddings in all weathers and different seasons... and from bridal prep to the dance floor
On the subject of style, there are many adjectives photographers use to describe themselves - natural, documentary, photojournalistic, traditional, contemporary, fine art.... Just remember these are largely subjective, and what one couple considers to be a 'natural' image, may in fact be carefully posed and heavily edited - more fine art than documentary. A wedding photographer describing themselves as 100% or purely documentary will photograph without influencing the day in any way. This may be exactly what you're looking for, but be aware that couple photos and traditional family groups don't fall within their remit.
Depending on the couple and the wedding, candid or documentary-style images comprise round 75-90% of my day, but the vast majority of my clients want a few group shots, and many book me because they love my couple images. Yes, they look natural, and we have fun creating them, but a bit of direction and time out from guests is a must! I would describe my style as storytelling - a mix of observing and creating to capture perfect memories of each stage of my clients' special day.
Remember too that the style and look of the finished image is likely to be a combination of the photograph taken and the subsequent editing (also known as post-processing) of that photo in the photographer's own style. Just flicking through a few websites will give you an idea of the different 'look' adopted by individual photographers. If you have particular questions or requests, don't be afraid to ask! I've lost count of the number of brides asking me to Photoshop them thinner! And even one who wanted me to add hair to her near totally bald husband-to-be! (The answer was a firm but friendly no, but I never mind being asked!)
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No. 2Beautiful Story-telling imagery is created, not purely documented. Share ideas with your photographer and work together to achieve the images you want
Most photographers I know are prepared to travel if they meet a couple who values their work and are happy to provide a hotel room for a night or two, depending on distance. One of my favourite weddings last year was a couple who live in Kent, who I met at a wedding fair in Brighton, and who chose to get married on their favourite beach in Cornwall (You can view their wedding here!) They loved my work and we hit it off straight away - and because I don't do consecutive day weddings (see Point 15 below), I was free to take the weekend to travel and arrive a day early to check out their venue.
I photograph plenty of couples living in London or in places convenient to their work, but who choose venues in Sussex and Surrey because they have parents living there or grew up there, possibly returning to a familiar church for their ceremony. We usually plan their pre-wedding shoot for a time they're visiting relatives, or meet half way. If you live close to where you're getting married, then it makes sense to start with local photographers and take it from there.
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No. 3Many photographers will be happy to travel for your special day. Check availability early and factor in a night or two at a local B&B
If you have 100 guests for a Saturday wedding in June, chances are you'll be wanting full day coverage. If it's an intimate gathering midweek or out of season, you may feel that half day or even 2-hour coverage would be perfect. Most photographers offer set packages to keep things simple, but many will offer a bespoke service based on your needs. Full day photography can vary from 7 hours to unlimited coverage, with 8 or 9 hours being the norm. It sounds a long time, but if you're after a couple of hours' bridal preparation and want some cracking dance floor shots, you could be needing 10-12 hours coverage.
The vast majority of full day weddings I photograph fall within the 10-12 hour time period, especially in the summer when daylight hours are longer. If you're having sparklers in July, then do talk though timelines with your photographer to make sure they're happy to stay until 10.00 pm to capture those cool sparkler hearts you've seen in their portfolio. And don't forget sunset times too! Of course, your photographer can't guarantee a glorious sunset (I wish!), but it's worth while checking they'll still be around to photograph it, just in case! I have a handy 'sunset times' app on my phone and discuss timings with all my clients to take advantage of any stunning orange sky that decides to make an appearance.
15 Things to Consider When Choosing your Wedding Photographer: No.4Talk timelines with your photographer! Will they still be around to capture your ceilidh or 12-piece band, or that magical sunset you'd be gutted to miss?
Ah budget. It's such a personal decision. I meet couples who are spending tens of thousands on their wedding venues and catering, but balk at the price of wedding photography. I meet other couples opting for low cost venues or diy catering, for whom photography is their absolute top priority. Chances are if you're reading this, you appreciate that having gorgeous memories of your day is worth a little thought and investment. You may also understand that the modern-day wedding photographer (generally speaking) does not just turn up for a few hours on the day, enjoy the free bubbly and then output their staged set pieces straight to disk. There are many blogs out there on the subject of what wedding photographers do for the other 6 days of the week - which I probably should have read myself before deciding to become one! I won't elaborate here, but suffice to say, if you invest in a great wedding photographer, then they'll be wholly invested in your day too. That said, most couples do not have unlimited funds to spend on their big day, and you'll need to prioritise what's important to the two of you.
Love a photographer but simply can't afford their full day package? Talk to them! Maybe give them your budget and see what level of coverage they could offer. Whilst most won't offer part-days on a Saturday in August for example, if your wedding is mid-week or outside of the main season, or it's simply an intimate family wedding, it's certainly worth a shot. Three hours of your favourite photographer may give you more value than a full day of a cheaper photographer.
Although prices vary widely, it is certainly true to a large extent that you get what you pay for. I meet too many people who regret not spending enough on their wedding photography. Last year I photographed a Brighton couple on their 5th wedding anniversary, white dress, bouquet and all, to give them the lovely couple images they sadly hadn't received five years previously. In the South East, you can expect to pay upwards of £1,500 for a great photographer, although ultimately, you need to compare prices, images and service to find out what represents best value for money for you.
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No.5On a tight budget? Opt for quality over quantity. Book 2-3 hours with your favourite photographer for images you'll love!
Most wedding photographers I know are happy to provide a pre-wedding or engagement shoot. Some photographers include this shoot with all full-day weddings, others charge separately, with prices typically starting at £150. I include this shoot with all full day packages ultimately because I've found it really does make a difference to your actual wedding day images.
Why? I've written an article on this topic which you can read here: "5 Good Reasons to Book a Pre-Wedding Shoot". But in short, the main reason is that it can make you feel more confident and relaxed in front of the camera, leading to more natural-looking and flattering photos on the day. I always ask my couples for feedback on their pre-wedding images to ensure we're totally on the same page for the wedding itself. It also gives me more of a feel for their personalities and how best to tell their story through my images. My couples have all found it to be fun and really useful preparation for their day, and I love how we start their wedding day with a big hug having spent that time beforehand getting to know each other. Definitely time well spent.
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No.6A pre-wedding shoot is great fun and essential if you're camera shy! Take this opportunity to practice for the best wedding photos!
Not something most couples consider. There is often an assumption that a person calling themselves a professional wedding photographer will have a level of experience and qualification commensurate with that of other professional service providers. Unfortunately, there is no legal requirement for a photographer to be qualified or experienced to charge others for their services.
A qualification tells you that photographer has undergone a level of rigourous assessment on their images and business practices. To qualify with one of the professional photography bodies in the UK, images are required to be submitted from a good number of recent weddings and at different parts of the day. They'll also have been assessed on their business practices and customer service, so you can be sure that a qualified photographer is up to the task!
So does this mean that an unqualified photographer is a bad photographer? Not at all! Many are excellent photographers with a wealth of experience, who I wouldn't hesitate to recommend. But with the advent of digital photography and the relative affordability of high-end equipment, getting set up as a wedding photographer is as simple as having website telling people that's what you are. Sadly I know of several photographers who've found their images illegally appearing on other so-called photographers' sites, passed off as their own. There is a reason I watermark the images that appear on my blog! I personally wish the industry was more regulated, which is why I joined the Master Photographers Association and gained my Licentiate qualification. If you're interested, you can read more on this subject in my article: "Is Your Wedding Photographer Qualified?".
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No.7Look for a qualification with a professional body like the Master Photographers Association. Your Photographer will have been rigourously assessed on their skills and business practices, ensuring you'll receive high quality images like those displayed on their website
This seems to be one of the most asked questions by couples looking for a photographer. And certainly, from my experience, as I'm sure is the case for most photographers, the more I photograph at a particular venue, the more a Google search brings up my name, and the more I am recommended by the other wedding suppliers I worked with, including the venue itself. That's all good, as I do love returning to familiar venues, but equally, I find myself excited and often at my most creative when photographing at a venue that's new to me. Some of my best images have been taken at those venues, when I get inspired to experiment by the grounds or the architecture surrounding me.
So while venue familiarity can help couples feel trust in a photographer, I wouldn't choose a photographer based solely on this point. Instead, why not ask if they'll visit the venue with you before the day (often referred to as a site visit)? You can then explore together and discover great places for your family or couple photos. I believe that what's far more important to consider, is whether they have experience in weddings taken in similar environments and at similar times of the year. Which leads me nicely onto my next point...
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No.8A great photographer in a beautiful location will take stunning images even if they haven't photographed there before. Why not book a site visit with your photographer and discover together the best locations for your special photos!
If you want to have confidence that your photographer can cope with your dark church in winter or candlelit barn ceremony at dusk, without killing the atmosphere with flash, have a scroll though their blogs or ask them to view images taken in these situations. This is where professional equipment really shines, giving the photographer the tools to focus quickly in low light and enable fast enough shutter speeds to capture the bride walking down the aisle without blur.
But equipment is only as good as the photographer operating it. Emerging from a dark church to bright sunlight requires a photographer to know his or her stuff inside and out to quickly adapt their camera settings. As you break into a carefully rehearsed fast Latin number half way through your first dance, your photographer needs to be on the ball. So too for the ceilidh, the sparkler arch and those long exposure love hearts. 'Auto' setting just won't cut it for a wedding. This isn't just a winter/low light/speed thing either. Top tables in front of big sunny windows are another example in many of the venues I photograph at - balancing daylight with flash to obtain natural-looking images is key. Silhouettes can make stunning images, but won't work so well for the speeches!
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No.9Want killer sparkler shots? Your photographer will need off-camera lighting, a tripod and technical know-how!
Ha! This wasn't a consideration 20 years ago. Your photographer would likely turn up before the ceremony for some bridal portraits, hang around outside the church and capture group and a few couple photos before heading home, or onto the next wedding. It didn't hugely matter if you liked them or not. My average time at a full day wedding is 10-12 hours. I'm mingling with your guests, I'm there (albeit discreetly in the background for the most part) wherever you are! We spend time together for your pre-wedding shoot. We might do a site visit together. We meet afterwards for the image handover and to play an awesome slideshow of your day. It's a relationship, often lasting a year or more, and you want to enjoy it!
Read the welcome message and the blogs. Are they speaking to you? Think about the type of person you are, and whether you would feel more comfortable with a male or female photographer. Many people feel a little uncomfortable being photographed, but if you feel at ease with the photographer, that's half the battle. The relationship you have with your photographer will certainly show in your wedding images. So meet with him or her in person before booking, and don't be afraid to meet with 2 or 3 photographers to make your decision. A good photographer will understand, although I can't promise they'll hold the date open, so if they're still in the running, do keep them in the loop.
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No.10Having a great relationship with your photographer is essential! Choose someone who will put you and your guests at ease.
You may have seen your ideal album on their stand at a wedding fair, or you might be thinking a USB's the way to go, and you'll make up a photobook online. Do you want to offer your guests an online gallery where they can purchase prints? Whatever's important to you - or if you don't yet know what's important to you! - find out what your photographer is able to offer and keep your options open. Many of my couples who weren't going to have an album change their mind - sometimes a year or more later!
And while on the subject of albums, even if you're opting for a USB of images I thoroughly recommend viewing a photographer's sample albums; seeing the complete story of a couple's wedding day in print is very different from seeing a handpicked selection of their best images on a backlit website.
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No.11A contemporary album is a great way to showcase your images. Ask to see samples and consider getting your precious memories off the hard drive!
The simple answer is, it depends. There are many husband and wife photography teams out there. There are also 'second shooters' - photographers who work alongside the main photographer. So why would you not take advantage of the two-for-one option, or pay extra for the second shooter (typically around £200-£400)?
Well, you may well decide this is best for you. But when making this decision, consider the relationship factor (Point 10 above). Couples often say they hardly noticed I was there for most of the day. Just head over to my recent client testimonials to read their comments on this point. From my hiding places behind church pillars, giant light-up letters or in the dark recesses of the barn, I candidly capture all the laughter, the tears, the emotion. In smaller venues where I'm closer to guests, I'm extra aware of minimising my presence, and being careful not to poke my lens into a guest's face. It's important to me to put my camera down to chat with guests and take the time to answer those photography questions I'm inevitably asked! This is your day, and my aim is always to come away with an exceptional set of photographs with minimal photographer presence. I love it when guests assume we were friends before becoming your photographer.
From my experience, as soon as you add a second photographer to the mix, the photographer presence increases, and the dynamic changes. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. It just doesn't work with my particular style of photography and would alter the end result. That said, for weddings of more than 200 guests, or taking place over more than one day (such as traditional Indian weddings), I'd usually recommend having a second shooter to ensure good coverage, knowing that the additional numbers would keep the photographer presence to a minimum.
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No.12Are two better than one? A discreet photographer working along is perfect for those candid 'fly-on-the-wall' images!
If your photographer drops a lens, it's their fault if they're not insured isn't it? Well, yes, but what's more important for you to consider is whether adequate compensation would be paid should the photographer's light fall and injure a guest, or if (God forbid) the memory card failed and the images were lost forever.
Most venues if asked would tell you they expect the photographer working there to have adequate public liability insurance, but since returning to the UK in 2012, I have only been asked to show my certificate once. (I started my photography business while living in Miami, Florida, where I was asked to show my insurance docs everywhere!) This is not really the venue's responsibility, however, it's up to you to read the small print. And whilst no amount of compensation would bring lost memories back, any photographer charging for his or her services should carry professional indemnity insurance. It's probably in the photographer's booking contract, but if you're not totally sure, it's worth just double-checking with them.
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No.13Rain doesn't have to spoil your day, but an uninsured photographer might! Always read the small print!
Which leads me on to equipment. Does it matter if they shoot with a particular camera or lens? In my opinion, it's really not important if your photographer shoots with a Nikon, Canon, Sony or any other kind of camera - if you love their images, then that's what really matters. Unless they're just starting out, professional photographers tend to choose the equipment that suits their individual style. (In fact, even for my very first weddings I used similar professional Nikon cameras and lenses to those I currently use - the difference was that I rented it.) What is important however, is that their kit is sophisticated enough to cope with all venue and lighting scenarios and that they have adequate backups - of cameras, lenses, cards. The thought of a memory card failing makes me feel physically sick, but by using only professional grade cards offering image rescue assistance should the worst happen, and by ensuring all the key parts of the day are shot on two different cameras, the risk can be minimised.
And while on the subject of equipment, please don't be fooled by your uncle Bob's expensive pro DSLR camera. If he's also experienced at wedding photography, then go for it! But if excellent wedding imagery was simply a matter of having the best kit, then with the quality and accessibility of today's cameras, I'd certainly be out of a job!
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No.14Great photography is never about the camera. Creative lighting, composition and timing are the key to beautiful, emotive images
Last, but certainly not least! Ticked off the other 14 criteria and ready to make a decision? Don't delay! I'm lucky enough to book many of my summer weekends 1-2 years' in advance. Winter and mid-week weddings are more usually 6-12 months in advance, but once the date's gone...
I've also chosen to photograph no more than 20 full-day weddings a year with no consecutive days to ensure I can offer exceptional service to each and every couple. So if you book me for your Sunday wedding, you can rest assured I won't be tired from the previous day. It also leaves me free to travel for couples who love my work but whose wedding requires an overnight stay. The downside in terms of dates, is that once Sunday is booked, then the Saturday is no longer available either. I know I'm not the only photographer who prefers to offer a more individual service to a fewer number of couples, so my advice is to put down that deposit as soon as your venue is confirmed and you've decided on your perfect photographer.
15 Things to Consider when Choosing Your Wedding Photographer: No.15Venue? Tick. Caterers? Tick. Photographer... Don't delay! Many are snapped up 18 months to 2 years in advance
Phew! Well, I didn't set out of write 3500+ words, just to help couples choose the photographer that's right for them. I hope you've found this useful - if you even take away one key point you hadn't considered, then I feel like I've done my job! Please do leave a comment if you've found this helpful, and forward it onto your newly engaged friends. Or scroll though my wedding blogs for inspiration and ideas. You can also view most of the weddings featured above in full: just click on the link beneath the photo. Some of the more recent weddings haven't featured on my blog yet, so watch this space over the coming months.
And if I sound like your kind of photographer, please do get in touch with me via my Contact Form. You never know, it could be the start of a great relationship!