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How to Choose a Wedding Photographer
A Guide for the Bride & Groom

Getting married is one of the biggest events in anybody’s life and as such you want it to go so smoothly in every way. One person that 90% of people have at their wedding is a professional photographer, but what should you look for in your wedding photographer?
 

An important point to remember is that your wedding photographs and wedding rings are the only aspect from the wedding that you will be left with to remember that special day and so its important to get it right!
The flowers will fade and be discarded the dress will be carefully stored away.

 

Here are some things to consider as you select your photographer, to ensure you get it right.

My uncle or a friend will take the photographs!

Some people depend on a family member or friend to take the shots on the day to save money, as some photographers can be expensive. The choice of a family member or friend typically has several big issues.

  • They don’t really know what they are doing – do they!

  • If they are being the photographer, they will not be “at” the wedding – they will be working

  • The don’t have good enough camera equipment

  • They don’t have the post processing skills

  • All in all this does not look like a great plan!

So you have decided to employ a professional photographer


But what should you do to help make sure you get this right?
 

The first decision is what style of wedding photography do you want, its an essential decision you need to make
 

  1. Formal style – posed shots

  2. Reportage - candid documentary style

  3. Informal – shots that don’t look posed

  4. Colour

  5. Black & White

  6. Retro style – a vintage look

  7. Country - rural style – flowers fields warm light

  8. Street style – urban little bit of grunge and contrast

  9. Something of all these
     

Typically, the formula most people end up with is:
 

Mainly 2 & 3 with some 1 and a Mix of 4 & 5

The general theme and the style of the couple dictates which of 6,7 and 8 will dominate.

Typically, people want some formal shots of the couple and family groups but mainly  reportage style photographs that are just taken as the day goes with no formal shots

What you want and how do you communicate this to the photographer?

Start collecting wedding images as you go from magazines or the web so that you can articulate to the photographer what you are looking to achieve

Do plenty of research and look at several photographers work and profiles
– but what to look for ?

 

Portfolios
Make sure you look at a good range of the photographers work which should be easy as they should have a web site. Look for sites that show a good range of images from several different weddings and a range on venues. These will typically be the best shots the photographer has taken at the wedding they enjoyed and be the images they are most proud of.

 

  • Do you like the images?

  • Are they in the style you like?

  • Are they well processed?

  • Do they photograph your style of wedding?

  • Do they have a lot of dramatic staged images?
    Beware these look great but take time and you need to invest a lot of time in order to capture that one shot?

  • Are the images very consistent in style and approach from wedding to wedding – which may indicate that the photographer shoots what they like and don’t adapt well to client needs?

  • Do you get a good feel about the photographer? - you need somebody you can develop a rapport.

Photographic Equipment

People never look at this aspect of the photographer but a “professional “photographer will normally use high end equipment such a Nikon D850, Nikon D5, Cannon 5D or Canon 1D.
The reason for this is that with the associated “high end” lenses they will take amazing quality images.
These cameras and lenses are expensive and hence push the price up but you get what you pay.

Insurance

Again, another aspect that people don’t look at is insurance.
Dose the photographer have public liability insurance which some venues will insist on as it means they are insured for accidental injury.
Professional liability insurance which ensures that they are covered for any claims against them for the weddings they have photographed.
Insurance will push the price up and is an aspect where budget priced photographers will cut corners so they can save money along with using lower specification equipment.

Second Photographers

Do they use a second photographer?
Having a second photographer is a fantastic asset at a wedding shoot for several reasons.

  • You have a backup if something goes wrong

  • The second photographer can help setup shots in advance

  • The second photographer will take backup photos but will also have their own style and will capture additional moments off to the side of the main event

  • The prime photographer can only be in one place at any point in time and so as not to delay or impact the proceedings the two photographers will split to ensure they cover all the aspects they need to

  • They are able to take up a totally different position for some shots and so you get two very different views of the same event

What do you get for your money?

Photographers will list packages on their sites, typically a bronze, silver, gold  that increase in price and increase in what you get.
Don’t feel that this is fixed as a good photographer will flex and adapt to meet clients needs.

But what do you look for in a package and what does it mean?

  • The more defined the package the more constrained you are , but you need to agree what you will get so make sure its what you want not what they want to give you

  • Typically, you will be offered

    • A number of images of a given size

      • Normally this is not many images when you think about it and hence you will be forced into purchasing more images.

      • The problem is how much will these additional images cost?

      • Friends and family will want images that you will need to organise and again how much will this cost?

      • Find out how much a print costs at various sizes

    • A "free" canvas print

      • Do you really want it

      • Is it the size you want

      • Quality of these varies massively depending on the supplier and it may be a cheap option, you don’t know as you have no control.

    • An Album

      • Is the album big enough – you don’t know?

      • Changing the album size will add cost – how much cost?

      • Do you get a choice of styles

    • A web gallery
      This will be a secure page on their web site where all the images will be so that people can see them and can order prints direct from the photographer if they wish.

       

So in summary what does all this mean?
You need to be sure you understand what you are getting and what it will cost to get what you want. The price can go up significantly if you don’t ask, plan and understand what you are getting. Arranging everybody else’s photos is a pain and will take a long time.

Are there any alternatives to consider?

Here are somethings to look for and what the implications are of these alternatives
 

  1. Digital copies of the images
    Some photographer will offer you the images digitally in colour and in black and white

    1. They will normally retain copyright but that’s not an issue for you

    2. You get all the images - why would you not want all the images?

    3. In colour and in black & white

    4. You can use them on social media as you wish

    5. You can send them to friends and family electronically and they can get their own printed

    6. You can get them printed at a professional lab
      - as many as you want
      - any size you want
      - you will pay surprisingly little compared to buying them via a photographer, but do not get them printed at a “cheap” outlet. You photographer will advise you.

    7. You cant get a canvas done and you can control the size and the quality

    8. You can control the process, what you get and what you pay.

    9. This option gives you the most control over what you get and what you pay. However the packages that the high end photographers offer are often all you could want with a high customer focus.
       

  2. Photobooks
    These are coffee table style books, they look great and are very accessible, but some things to consider

    1. These look easy to do but get you photographer to do them as they understand how to put these things together to create the right style and story

    2. They are cheaper than albums and more accessible and so you will keep them out and use them as opposed to storing them away as people do with albums

    3. Get two, a colour and a black and white one - it makes sense!
      The two styles of images look much better when separated from one another

    4. Once a book is “built” its relatively cheap to get multiple copies and so you can get a copy for the parents as well

What other aspects should you be aware of?
 

  1. Contracts
    You photographer should ask you to sign a contract detailing

    1. What will pay and when?

    2. How much deposit is required?

    3. Cancellation or change requirements

    4. What they will provide

    5. What you will receive at the end
       

  2. Food
    I would suggest you plan to provide the two photographers with a meal. They will be working a long day up to 12 hrs depending on the shoot requirements. Plan to give them the main course from the wedding breakfast. They will have their food in the bar area or somewhere away from the wedding reception.  If you keep them well fed they will work well and be flexible.

     

  3. Shoot list
    Expect the photographer to generate a shoot list detailing the shots that will be taken.
    This typically breaks down into several phases.

    1. Bridal prep and arrival – typically primary photographer

    2. Groom prep and arrival - second photographer

    3. Guests arriving at church

    4. Inside and outside of church pre ceremony

    5. Ceremony – both photographers

    6. Exit from Church

    7. Confetti shot - needs to be carefully planned

    8. Everybody shot - Do this as soon as possible before people rush off for a drink

    9. Group shots – both photographers

    10. Bride and groom will go off for a personal shoot at a pre-defined location – both photographers

    11. Reception venue shots inside and out

    12. Arrival at reception and pre meal shots – both photographers

    13. Meal - no shots as people don’t photograph well when eating
      (except young children who look great covered in food)

    14. Speeches and post meal – both photographers

    15. Wedding rings

    16. Early evening – both photographers

    17. Bride and groom will go off for a personal shoot at a pre-defined location – both photographers – both photographers

    18. Throwing bouquet – both photographers

    19. Cutting the cake – both photographers

    20. First dance – both photographers
      (don’t stand still – rotate as you dance it means the photographers will get a range of shots)

    21. Disco (don’t go on too late as the shots will diminish in quality as the night goes on) – both photographers
       

  4. Elderly or disabled guests
    Plan the shoot around these people if you can speed things up and make things as easy as possible for them.

     

  5. Walk DON’T run
    Remember during the day to walk don’t run and to stop take a breath and look around primarily

    1. Bride arrival at church

    2. Walking down the aisle

    3. Walking back up the aisle

    4. Confetti shot
      At all of these points walk don’t rush, stop take a breath and enjoy it.             You will enjoy the day more and they will get batter shots.
       

  6. Group Caller
    Identify a person who knows both families who will work with the photographers to get relevant people for the next group shot. As the photographers are shooting one group this person is getting all the people for the next group shot. This is essential as the group shot can consume so much time.

     

  7. Strange Things
    Tell the photographer if any thing strange or unusual is happening or if anything has a particularly significant value to you during the day. 

     

  8. Remember it’s your wedding you can do what you want outside of the legal bits
     

  9. Invite them along when you go to the practice and to the venue so they can discuss with the ceremony and the reception what they can and can do, can give you a feel for how it will work on the day and get some shot ideas as well as understanding the lighting
     

  10. Processing takes time
    Ask that they get you a few shots (3 – 5) through to you in 24hrs so you have something fast and then expect the others to take a couple of weeks.

     

  11. Rain
    What is the plan for the photographs if it rains ?

     

  12. Shots you forgot
    There will be shots on the day that you realise you forgot to mention. So simply ask if they can take these shots for you, as long as it does not increase the duration of the shoot they will be fine and not add any cost. If it does add to the duration of the shoot it may result in small additional cost or it may mean that another shot is lost.

     

  13. Role of the photographers - It is a strange part they play in the wedding!

    1. They see lots of weddings so ask them for advice 

    2. Pre wedding shoot with bride and groom parties

      1. Settling nerves

      2. Advising on what will or should be done

    3. Post meal and in the space ahead of the evening celebrations they tend to mill around taking shots and have a significant interaction with the guests and help move the mood along at this point​

    4. To be invisible at all of the key moments

    5. The should facilitate the proceedings not take control or be the focus.
       

  14. Have fun

Some Wedding Photographers to take a look at
(click on the name to follow the link)

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© Copyright Ian Howard Lensclof