Choosing a Wedding Photographer
& Not Regretting Your Choice
Choosing a wedding photographer for your big day should be high on your wedding checklist. Getting it right is important. He or she is the only hired hand who’s going to be there with you every step of the way. Having someone around that you get on with is vital. Your photographer is the one you’ll give the biggest thank-you to at the end of the day. The pictures they take will become a family heirloom for generations to come. There aren’t any second chances so make sure you’re sure about who you’re hiring. Here’s a few tips on choosing a wedding photographer and not regretting that decision.
You might have a family member or friend who’s a keen photographer. Consider this though: Uncle Bob won’t be able to deliver consistent and memorable pictures unless he’s a seasoned professional. While most professional wedding photographers wont mind at all if your friends and family take pictures, some might. Personally I don’t mind one bit as long as said enthusiasts don’t interfere with my ability to do my job by getting in the way. In short, an enthusiastic family friend doing your wedding photography isn’t a good idea in the long run. Their apparent economy of doing so is a false one which brings me to my next point.
Forget about Budget
Put the cost out of your mind! In your initial wedding photography research, settle on a style before you consider your budget. There’s no objective value on photography – your wedding pictures are worth what you’re prepared to pay for them. If you want to your pictures to look like X or Y wedding photographer’s, they’re the ones for the job. Consider this before weighing up the asking price. Your wedding photos and the emotions and memories they engender will be with you for the rest of your lives. The value of that is priceless. Thus, a photographer’s artistic style should be your primary concern, not their asking price.
If you’ve ever wondered why photography prices vary so wildly consider the following. You might think your photographer’s work is done once he leaves the venue. However, if your chosen photographer has any degree of professionalism, his job has only just begun. Thereafter begins a long process of editing thousands of frames into a manageable catalogue and retouching each and every frame by hand. This process takes days and is where the real graft is. The amount of time and effort a photographer puts into a catalogue after capture will greatly influence their asking price.
Choose your Style
There numerous types of wedding photography. These include traditional, illustrative, documentary/photojournalism and fashion. If you like informal (un-posed) pictures, then a documentary style photographer will fit the bill. Like high fashion pictures? Use a fashion photographer. If you want posed shots, use a traditional wedding photographer. Like arty pictures? You get the idea. You’ll probably still want some formal group shots and portraiture too and any photographer (documentary style or otherwise) worth their salt will cater for this. I’m a documentary style photographer and you can find out more about what that means on my web page here.
Square Peg Round Hole
We all know the adage about trying to fit a square peg into a round hole so make sure your chosen photographer is a good fit. You shouldn’t expect a documentary style photographer to do endless posed shots or a film photographer to perform extensive edits and retouches after the fact.
Know What to Look For in a Portfolio
There are a few simple things to bare in mind when browsing portfolios and some red flags also. Interesting angles, variation of shots, clever use of light and timeless post processing are all things to look out for. On the subject of post processing, consider the following. Is a portfolio an expose on mad Photoshop skills or great photography? You can take a very average photo and jazz it up with all manor of filters and Photoshop tweakage. Just remember: You can’t polish a turd but you can spray it silver and roll it in glitter. It’ll still smell the same though.
For me, the strongest indicator of a photographers skill is a variation of shots with a consistent style and character. The number of compositional elements captured in an image also show talent – especially in documentary style photography. By ‘elements’ I mean the faces and shapes (eg objects in the background). Capturing a smiling face is one thing, framing said face, what it’s reacting to and the setting it’s happening within is quite another.
My biggest red flag when choosing a wedding photographer is portfolios entirely made up of portraiture shots. Sure, portraiture is important but that’s the easy bit in covering a wedding believe me. Sure – these kinds of images sell but they constitute a very small portion of complete wedding gallery. If portraiture is your primary concern, fine. You’ll need a photographer with a wider range of skills if you want a quality record of your day in its entirety though.
The most boring shot in the world
Another red flag is what I call ‘the most boring shot in the world.’ Images taken at standing height from 6 feet away = yawn. Someone with an iPhone could have done that. Sometimes this type of shot is the right one but if all a photographer’s images a taken this way, run away!
Missing feet are a pet hate of mine. Whole body shots should include the entire body. This is really an extension of my comment about completing shapes and shows consideration for the whole image, not just its subject. Sometimes missing limbs are unavoidable but if feet are consistently missing and there are large areas of the frame with empty space, this shows a lack of forethought in my humble opinion.
Excessive use of flash is another thing to look out for. Flash can be very intrusive both to you and your guests and it’ll drive everyone mad! Unless you specifically want high fashion style images and your special day to resemble a photo shoot, flash just isn’t needed most of the time. Below are some examples of great wedding photography by yours truly 🙂
See what I mean? Good aren’t they!
The Character Behind the Lens
Of equal importance to a photographer’s style is the character behind the lens taking the pictures. You need to get on with this person! In my experience as a wedding photographer, building a rapport with my bride & groom, not to mention their guests, is vital. Not only will we be spending up to twelve hours together, a friendly rapport will make for great pictures. The same is true for portraiture work too. In a word, trust is key!
To this end, I can’t recommend more that you meet with your prospective photographer before booking. Often, the most convenient way to do this is via Skype, Face Time or other video conferencing platform. In doing so you can talk through what you want, discuss the details of your day and get to know them as a person. My last wedding clients hired me because we shared a love of surfing. Obviously they loved my photography too but the deciding factor for them was my personality. Please don’t hire a photographer for their surfing abilities unless you’re getting married in the sea!
Has Camera, Will Travel
Just because a photographer is based in one location doesn’t mean they wont come to you. I cover weddings and events across the UK and Europe. My first ever wedding booking was in Italy which is quite a long way from Devon! Before choosing a wedding photographer, ask them how they handle logistics and the cost there of.
You might have heard that it helps if a photographer has worked at a venue before but I disagree. A skilled and experienced photographer will adapt and work to his environment come what may. Unless you’re doing an African-welly-dance ceremony on stand-up paddle boards in Yemen, they’ll know the form and what to expect.
Be Reasonable with Your Expectations
Be clear about what you want and make sure your chosen wedding photographer is on the same page as you. It’s important to be reasonable though. For example, springing extra demands on the day will not go down well and might end in disappointment for you.
Time is of the Essence
Consider your schedule on the day. This relates directly to you photography requirements. It’s important to agree what you want covered ahead of time and not to cram too much in. If you spring extra demands that impact the schedule on the day, your guests will get bored, the chef will have a meltdown and the venue manager will pull their hair out.
Consider hiring a second shooter
In the past, I’ve been asked on the spur of the moment to cover photo booths while being expected to cover the reception simultaneously. I would have been happy to do this but would have quoted accordingly so as to provide a body to do the work. You’ll have to compromise somewhere unless you can find the man power to cover everything. Suffice to say, your photographer can’t be everywhere at once.
Sign a Contract
Signing a contract agreeing to the terms of service is critical both for you and your chosen photographer. This will give everyone involved peace of mind. Indemnity insurance is also something to check your photographer has. You’ll both be covered financially if Uncle Bob – who’s photography skills your spurned – spills his pint over your photographer’s camera and destroys his pictures. It’ll also cover you in the event something happens to your photographer and is unable to attend or vise versa.
Your wedding venue is important from a Photography Standpoint
Your venue choice is a significant to how your wedding photos turn out. I will be writing a blog post on choosing a venue that lens itself well to photography at a later date. In essence though, featureless walls, low ceilings, LED spot lights with mismatching colour temperatures do not memorable pictures make, no matter who’s taking them.
Location Location Location
If you’re getting married in a hotel function room you can’t expect your pictures to look like a stately country home. This echoes back to my earlier comments about the elements within an image. You should consider how well your favoured photographer’s style will translate to your venue. If you’ve got a really special venue in mind then it’ll be worth while finding a photographer who’s going to capture you in that setting in am amazing way.
Choosing a wedding photographer and getting it right will pay dividends in the long run. In short, make sure their creative style is inline with your vision. You don’t necessarily get what you pay for but skimping can be a false economy. Look very closely at a photographer’s portfolio and hire them based on that, not their asking price. Tell Uncle Bob he’s very welcome to bring his camera along but don’t rely on him to capture your day of days.
When choosing a wedding photographer, make sure you like him/her as a person. Meet and talk with a range of photographers and then decide. You’ll be spending all day with them so you need to get on well.
Agree what is to be covered and the terms of service before hand and stick to the schedule. By all means ask if you’d like something doing but be reasonable. If the schedule slips too much, it’ll stress everyone out.
I hope this post about choosing a wedding photographer was insightful for you. Please let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment. I’d love to know what your experiences have been.
Rex Preston is a Devon based wedding and event photographer. He shoots across the UK, Europe and beyond. To find out more about him and his work visit his home page. His full portfolio can be found here. For bookings and availability or just to say hello, get in touch here.