How to Choose your Wedding Photographer
You've set the date for your wedding. You've booked your venue. Now you're looking for your wedding photographer. You've gone to wedding fayres. You've looked online. You've spoken to friends and family for their recommendations. And what have you found out? Yup, there's lots of photographers out there. I've exhibited at wedding shows and on one occasion I counted 23 other wedding photographers. TWENTY THREE!!!! All in one room. So how on earth do you pick the right wedding photographer for you??
A little bit of background
Before we look at what to do, I'm going to give you an example of what not to do. Let's take you back to the year 2000. I was getting married to my high school sweetheart. We lived in Southampton but were getting married in Northumberland where we grew up. The internet was still a relatively new thing. I'd been using it for 5 years ever since I began my degree at University. Did I use it to find a photographer for the wedding? Of course I didn't. I didn't do any research....at all! We picked our photographer because, well, where we were getting married, everyone used him. For weddings, christenings, family portraits. My parent's used him in the 1980s to do a family portrait of the three of us. He was great at portraits. In the lead up to the wedding we wrote to him (he didn't have email...it was 2000 remember...not everyone had an email address) telling him what we wanted; capturing people as they arrived at the church, during the ceremony (we'd had permission from the vicar), some group shots and just general "off the cuff" shots of people enjoying themselves.
On the day my best man and I were greeted by the photographer. He grabbed us, moved us to a corner of the church yard, took a couple of pictures of us and off he went. I was inside the church being the nervous groom so was oblivious to what WASN'T going on outside. I'd find out a few months later. The next time I saw the photographer was when we were signing the register and then when we went to a garden to get family shots. This is where things fell apart for us. We spent just over an hour doing group shots, on a baking hot July day. He was there with his medium format camera on a tripod and a black cloth which he kept diving under for each shot. Each shot that took an eternity to do. The forced smiles started. Kids were getting restless. Parents were getting irritable because their kids were getting restless. We could see our guests losing the will to live which showed on our faces.
It then took the best part of 3 months to get our proofs back. All 40 of them. The photos were dreadful. Just lots of pictures of bored static people in groups. No shots of people arriving. No shots of people enjoying themselves. Just endless group shots. Pictures of the newlyweds? A couple. The only one we could actually use, my eyes were closed but he'd superimposed eyes onto me so I'm looking in a weird direction compared to where my face is pointing.
To say we were crestfallen was an understatement. And this is why I started as a wedding photographer. I had been using a camera since I was 5. I had done courses. I'd read books. I knew how to use a camera and use it well to compose pictures. I spent time practicing with friends and family asking me to shoot their weddings over the coming couple of years. The rest as they say is history. Here I am 21 years later having travelled the world capturing weddings. And it is a massive case of "If I knew then what I know now". Within this post I hope to provide you with all the advice you need.
Where do I Start?
There's two main things to do. Set your budget. How much do you want to spend? To give you an idea the average price for a wedding photographer in Britain is £1590 ("Wedding Photography Industry Statistics and Report 2021"). This ranges from an average of £1100 in the North East to £1700 in the South West. You will find cheaper prices, you will find more expensive. My favourite phrase is "You don't get champagne for beer prices". Essentially you get what you pay for. Yes, you can get a good wedding photographer for very little. However, I shudder when I see ads on the likes of Facebook offering things like "Full day wedding photography with 1000 images, an album and a USB with all your images for £250". A case of "if it looks too good to be true then it probably is". Just like anything, you're putting your trust into this professional's expertise. I charge just less than the national average. That's my personal choice. However, I've been known to take bookings for less than I quote on my website. Just depends on the circumstances of the wedding. Never be afraid to ask the question of "This is our budget, what can you do for us?"
Which leads us to the next part of the beginning of the process. Do your research!
Research Research Research
The internet is a wonderful thing. It can also be a minefield. Get your heads together and ask yourselves "How do we want to remember our wedding day? What sort of images do we want? What style do we want?" My own personal approach would be to get some wedding magazines. It's a bit "old fashioned" but everything is contained and condensed within those covers. It's a great place to start. Magazines like Belle Bridal and County Wedding Magazines are great to look through. Make a note of the images that you like and build up a Wishlist of what you want in your portfolio. Do you want lots of formal shots? Do you want more photojournalistic? Do you want the latest trend? Do you want heavily filtered (I have been asked before to present the images like they've all been done on Instagram).
On the web there are so many places you can look. Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, wedding directories such as Hitched or Bridebook, there's google.....I could go on. But what this does mean is you can do extensive research on photographers, their portfolios, prices etc. Start local so for example "Kent Wedding Photographer". You'll still find loads of photographers on that search but they'll be local to you. Your wedding magazines will also contain adverts for photographers with links to their websites. Ultimately you want to compile a list of 3 or 4 to get more information from.
You've whittled your research down to a few photographers. Here's the point you make contact. My big tip and request as a photographer. Please don't just email "Can you send me your prices?". Give some details. Help the photographer. I normally ask for at least the date and the venue of the wedding. That way I can check my availability and if I am already booked then we're not wasting our time emailing backwards and forwards. This is where the relationship begins with your potential photographer. Out of all your suppliers on the day, your wedding photographer is probably going to be the only one who will be there with you from start to finish. Therefore, it's not just a case of whether the imagery is right for you, it's also a case of you need to get on! A clash of personalities is a big problem when you're working in close proximity to someone. Make sure you arrange to meet your prospective photographer. Have questions ready. I'll list some great questions below. I worry when somebody emails me back and says "Great we'll book you" having only received one email from me with my basic info on and no further questions. I'd rather somebody grilled me first to make sure we are right for each other.
How Many Weddings Do You Shoot a Year?
Can I See Some Full Wedding Albums? Are All the Images Yours? How Recent Are They?
Have You Worked at Our Venue Before? If Not, Will You Visit Beforehand?
Have You Photographed a Wedding of a Similar Size to Ours Before?
What Information Do You Need from Us Before the Wedding Day?
Can I Speak to Some Former Clients or Read Testimonials?
What Time Will You Arrive at the Venue?
Do We Need to Provide You with Food?
Do I Need to Cover Travel Costs?
Will you be the photographer on the day?
What happens if it rains?
What happens if you're ill?
Do you have insurance?
Do you back up the images?If so, for how long?
What is the booking fee?
The list isn't exhaustive. One question I was asked recently was "What was the most memorable wedding you have shot?" That REALLY got me thinking!!!
Ultimately meeting potential photographers is about getting to know them, their personality as well as their knowledge and expertise. NEVER FEEL RUSHED INTO BOOKING!
If I had done the above then I would have chosen a different photographer and ultimately be happy with the images. However, if I had done all that, I wouldn't be here now typing this giving you advice, doing the best job in the world!
So hopefully this little insight will help you. It's not exhaustive by any means. But it's here to help you make a start.
So what are you waiting for??? Go find your photographer!!!!