Let me tell you a little story about a girl who got married back in 2010… She was pretty young, none of her friends had got married and she thought a photographer was just that… someone who took pictures. She took the first recommendation she was given and stopped looking at other photographers. Her photos were ok, she thought, and then her friends started getting married and she realised that her photographs weren’t what she’d have liked, didn’t really capture her day and very soon none of those pictures were on the wall of her home…
That girl was me! And goodness, if I could turn back the clock I’d approach choosing my photographer so differently, even though my circumstances have changed I still regret our choice in photographer… But now I have the wisdom of having shot nearly 400 weddings myself so it’s easy for me to say that, I guess, because I do this week in week out… You’ve likely never done this before! When I tell prospective couples about my wedding photos, it always sounds like an awful sales push but it’s absolutely true…
The wedding industry is saturated with photographers at a variety of prices offering all kinds of deals and packages and it’s hard to know where to start. I’ve put together my top tips, things I’d consider (and advise my clients of) when looking for and booking the perfect wedding photographer, and answers to the commonly asked questions I get when I meet prospective clients.
Look around & ask about
All hail Google, Facebook, Instagram… These are a great starting point for searching for a photographer for your wedding, either in the form of recommendation or by a quick search. You’ll quickly be able to read reviews and see extensive examples of a photographer’s work and get a feel for whether you can see yourself in those images. Do have a read about what they say online… if you hate having your photos taken then someone with an unposed, candid approach may be your bag, but someone who shoots that way may not want to give over a lot of their time to shooting a lot of formal group photographs. Similarly look at their editing style and consider if you like that finish on their photographs. I make it really clear on my website about what I’m looking for on a wedding day so from the get go my clients know I’m pretty documentary, emotion driven and all about not taking my couples away from the party.
Make sure you know what you want from a photographer
Also, don’t just consider searching for photographers in your local area, if you know you want something specific, consider search terms like creative wedding photography, documentary wedding photographer, fun wedding photographer etc as most photographers happily travel and this could find your perfect match. I live on the Cumbria/Yorkshire border but happily travel all over the UK so it’s definitely worth an ask!
Once you’ve found some photographers you like and who fit in your budget (more about that below), I firmly believe you should, at the very least chat on the phone or Skype with them, or if you can, meet for a brew and a natter. I don’t care how much you like their photos, if you find them really annoying in person they’re going to be a bore to have around on your wedding day (and you may well spend more time with your photographer than your new spouse on your wedding day… remember that!)
I often get asked why photographers are so expensive – after all we produce a digital product and Joe Blogs down the road will shoot all day for half the price, so what’s the difference?
Remember it’s not just the day we spend with you shooting your wedding (which could be anywhere between 8 and 15 hours in my case!), it’s the time we spend editing, preparing, planning, meeting, learning, charging batteries, replying to emails, maintaining our websites and social media so you can find us in the first place.
It’s not just about time…
It’s about ensuring we have the best kit to do the job that’s been maintained, owning back up equipment, insurances of various kinds that allow us to shoot at your venues and protect us both in the event of something unforeseen happening, investment in training and mentoring, making sure our cars are roadworthy…. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. Suddenly when you look at it like that it doesn’t sound like so much money.
Invest. When the day is over, the cake is eaten and the flowers have died, your photographs are the only things you have left to remember your day by. You only get one chance to get the perfect photographs… Give over as much of your budget to photography as you possibly can. No one regrets the photos they had taken, only the ones they didn’t.
What to ask
So you’ve fallen in love with a photographer and read every page on their website carefully, what kind of things might you want to consider asking?
Tell me more about you?
Find out how long they’ve been shooting for what experience they have. Someone who shoots fashion photography will no doubt take amazing photographs but are they ready for the pressure and spontaneity of a wedding day and rapid changes in lighting conditions, by the same token your friend might “have a nice camera” but does it perform in low light and do they know how to use it to the extremes of its capabilities if needs be? Of course every wedding photographer started somewhere, but it’s just important you know what you’re getting. I always send two full galleries of images to clients at the point of enquiry as I think it’s important they see what a whole day of photography looks like, not just the best of my work in my portfolio and on my social media pages.
What is included in your price?
That includes the hours they will cover (all day might mean 8 hours or literally all day, so be sure to clear that up straight way), how your images will be delivered, whether you get a print license, or any extras like prints or albums included in that cost. It’s worth asking if you can buy addition hours if you don’t think the coverage included is enough for your day.
Does your cost include travel and overnight accommodation?
Check this if your photographer is coming a long way to shoot your wedding. Generally we’re used to travelling but you don’t want to find yourself with a bill for accommodation if you weren’t expecting it.
Do you require feeding?
Don’t even ask them this, just do it. They’ll be delighted.
How much notice do you need?
If they’re free and you love them, book them. Photographers can book up to two years in advance, there’s no point in coming back a year after you enquired as the chances will be that date is long gone.
How many images do we get?
Whatever answer you’re given, just make sure you’re satisfied. I don’t give a set amount, it’s usually 400-500 but I don’t ever withhold the good stuff and the shape of the day massively dictates what you’ve got to shoot. My job is to cover your day thoroughly and I don’t want to include near duplicates or pants photos for the sake of making up numbers.
Can we have the RAW files?
Don’t expect your photographer to entertain this. We are proud of our work and our images and identity isn’t just in the way the pictures are shot, it’s in the way we edit and what we deliver. You should choose a photographer you trust to give you the very best because you love everything about their work.
How long until we get our photographs?
Make sure you’re fully aware of your photographer’s turn around time and expect to wait that long. Remember that some photographers shoot up to 50 weddings a year, if not more. Some photographers offer a rush service for an additional fee; ask if this is something you’re interested in.
Have you shot at our venue before?
By all means ask but don’t worry about it if they haven’t. Last time they shot there it might have been sunny, which will be very different to your late winter wedding which could be wet, dark and present different challenges!
Are you insured?
If there’s any hesitation in the answer “YES” then back away. Any photographer should be able to provide you with certificates upon request and are required to have professional indemnity and public liability. Having their kit insured would be pretty handy too.
What’s your back up plan?
What happens if they’re sick? What happens if they drop their camera and it smashes into a million pieces? Make sure you’re happy with their answer. In the event of illness I’d employ a second at my own cost who I trusted to take over if I really had to leave. If I really couldn’t make it I’d send a trusted photographer in my place and would edit the photographs afterwards but I’d have to be on my death bed for that to happen. I shoot on two camera bodies and always have a spare with me too. Both cameras shoot to two memory cards just in case a card fails and I back up my images in three different places when I get home. Super safe!
Can we have a second photographer? Can you tell us who it’ll be? Do we need one?
Find out if a second is included, if not, how much one will cost and whether your photographer thinks you need one. Some photographers may work with a regular second, whereas others may employ a second who is an established photographer in their own right and might not be able to guarantee who that photographer is until closer to your wedding date, but either way they will be selective about who these choose to work alongside them to ensure their style and approach matches their own. [Read more here]
How will you use your photographs?
The likelihood is that you fell in love with your photographer’s work because you saw their stuff online somewhere, or perhaps in print at a wedding fair or open day. It’s fair to assume that your photographer would like to be able to use your images in a similar way, so chat to them about how they use their photographs and talk to them from the get go if there’s a reason you wouldn’t want them being used promotionally.
Do we need a prewedding shoot?
I recommend them for a number of reasons, not least getting to know your photographer and getting over that initial anxiety about having your photos taken. There’s so many reasons to be stressed and anxious in the run up to a wedding, why not eliminate the ones you can take control of? [Read more here]
Of course there’s every possibility that having spent hours flicking though pictures that your top pick might already be booked. Don’t be afraid to ask them for recommendations of other photographers who have a similar style to them.
Feel like you’ve found your perfect photographer here? Let’s chat!
Recently wed: What do you wish you’d known before you’d booked your photographer?
Wedding photographers: What would your top advice be?
I’d love it if you left your advice in the comments!