Guest post by David Walker Photography
Choosing your wedding photographer has to be one of the more difficult decisions to make when planning your wedding. Just check the number of search results you get from a typical local search, for example for Essex wedding photographer there’s 541,000!
With other suppliers such as the venue, the cake, the flowers etc. you pretty well know what you are going to get as you can see the exact products on offer. When choosing your wedding photographer however things are a little different.
Photography is a very subjective thing, what tickles your pickle might not be the same for someone else and as you are paying for a service rather than something tangible, it can open up some grey areas where you start to question what it is that you are actually paying out for.
Hopefully this will serve to help you decide on the wedding photographer that is right for you, while pointing out some potential pitfalls along the way.
The Short list
This is one of the biggest decisions when planning your wedding, right up there with the venue and THE dress. Once the flowers have wilted and the cake has been scoffed the one lasting reminder of the biggest day of your life is your wedding photos. You don’t want to go diving into a decision you may look back on with regret. So the first job is to make a short list of potential wedding photographers that may be right for you.
Your first step in choosing your wedding photographer will likely see you heading straight for google and come up with pages upon pages of local photographers, wedding fairs are also a good place to look and not to forget recommendations.
In my opinion not all recommendations are equal and come in two guises, recommendations from friends/family and recommendations from venues.
Recommendations from friends and family are great as they come from people you most likely trust and you have a pretty good idea of their tastes so you know if someone they rave about is likely to be right for you.
Recommendations from venues need to be handles with a little more caution. In an ideal world, venues will always recommend the best person for the job because they will make sure that you are happy with your photos. In return for the venue you end up sharing your beautiful wedding photos which also happen to show how amazing the venue is too which works as a kind of advertising for them.
However some venues have been known to take a more short sighted approach and rather recommend suppliers who they trust to provide a top notch service, they actually sell spots on their supplier lists under the guise of them being a legitimate recommendation. That is not to say they should be discounted at all, just don’t take a venue recommendation on face value and do continue to apply the advice here.
When it comes to creating your short list, try to focus mainly on the style of the wedding photographers that you look at rather than being purely focussed on price. I fully understand everyone has a budget to work to, but I just don’t feel that searching for “cheap wedding photographer” or something similar is the way to go. In my opinion, when choosing your wedding photogrpaher it is better to find what you like, then check to see if it is within budget. If they are then great, if not then you may want to re-look at either your budget or your expectations and go through the motions a second time. Bear in mind not every photographer may advertise their prices on their website.
The even shorter list
Now you have a list of wedding photographers whose work you like, their style aligns nicely with your personality and all are within your budget. Great! Now how do we cut that list down and find your wedding photographer?
There are other things other than style and price that you will want to check before booking, some of these you may be able to check simply by reviewing their website, others you may need to ask, it depends on just how much information they provide on their website.
So let’s get in touch and set up some meetings….
Although maybe not the most important, I will put this first as it will be the first thing you learn about each photographer that you contact. I don’t know about you, but one thing that I really don’t like is bad communication and it has always put me off from using a business if they cannot respond in a timely manner.
2. Real weddings
You have a short list of photographers whose style you like, but that has more than likely been based on viewing an online portfolio made up of images from many different weddings, but we want to see AT LEAST two full weddings.
There are two things we are checking here.
Firstly, the main portfolio is going to be made up of images that show off the photographer’s ability as well as they can which is fair enough. And although you can’t expect every single shot from a wedding to be front cover magazine material, you want to be sure that the standard of photography is consistent. What you don’t want is to be sucked in by a portfolio of lucky shots.
The second thing you are doing by seeing some real weddings is weeding out potential chancers. Photography unlike many other professions has very few bars to entry, anyone can pick up a professional looking DSLR for not much money these days and with no need for any qualification can set themselves up as a professional photographer. Unfortunately this is abused by a minority of people that see it as an easy way of making money, sometimes portfolio images are actually from a training day that the photographer attended, occasionally they have been lifted from other photographers websites.
Seeing a couple of sets of full weddings gives you confidence, if the photographer refuses to show you this for the reason of client confidentiality or any other reason, then have a good think as to why this may actually be.
3. The BIG one – Can we go for a drink?
Ok, I’m not actually suggesting you go out for a beer down your local or meet up for a Costa (other overpriced high street coffee outlets are available) with your potential photographer.
But could you?
Personality is probably the most important factor, do you get on? All of your suppliers for your wedding are important, but there are few that you will spend much time with on the day. The cake, flowers and décor will be dropped off to the venue in the morning, the DJ or band is only around for the evening reception. With the exception of maybe a toastmaster if you have on, your wedding photographer is the only person not part of you actual wedding party that you are going to be around all day long, right from your preparations in the morning right through to throwing some shapes on the dance floor. A personality clash would be disastrous, you won’t enjoy you day like you should and it will show through in the photos.
The photographer will likely be thinking about this too during the meeting for exactly the same reasons. For the record, every couple whose wedding I have photographed I would happily go out for a beer with, you don’t get that with many jobs!
4. What products does the photographer offer?
In this digital age, the number one output that couples want from their photographer is digital copies of their wedding photos, but physical products such as albums, parent books, prints, canvases etc. are still very popular.
Fortunately the days of photos printed and stuck in a generic album and separated with sheets of tissue paper is well behind us. There are now a whole range of albums available and not all are created equal. The photographers most likely have images and descriptions of all the products that they offer, but nothing beats seeing them in the flash.
Today’s story book wedding albums also take a lot of work to set out, so it is an opportunity to see how well the photographer uses images from the wedding to tell the story of the day.
5. The nitty gritty
There are a whole host of other things to think about, such as
Is the photographer insured?
What happens in the event that the photographer is taken ill?
Does the photographer carry backup cameras and lenses in case of equipment failure on the day?
The list goes on so I won’t get into these now, but for a more detailed explanation of questions to ask your wedding photographer and the sort of answers you should hope to get back you can check out the FAQ page on my website.
Questions to ask your photographer.
By no means am I suggesting a formal Q&A session, but things to keep in mind and ask about if the photographer doesn’t cover them in their spiel.
Time to book!
You may or may not have reduced your short list now, but for all the photographers that remain on your list you have some confidence that they:
- Produce great work with a style that suits you
- They are experienced and professional
- Are affordable to you
- Have the range of products to best show off your wedding photos
- Are all round nice people that you will get on with on your wedding day
Good luck in choosing your wedding photographer!