You’ve met the love of your life, your soul mate and you can’t bear the thought of ever being without them.
The two of you have decided that the next step in your life together is to get married – but where do you start? There is so much to plan and organise!
There are many wedding guides that give excellent information on the overall planning process of arranging a wedding, but there are not so many articles on how to choose the best wedding photographer.
So what do we mean by:-
“The Best Wedding Photographer”?
Well, we don’t really mean the actual BEST wedding photographer in the World. If such a person actually existed they would likely be very expensive and probably located in another part of the World from where you wanted to get married.
So, we should probably think of this more in terms of “The Best Wedding Photographer FOR YOU” and how to maximise your budget!
Before we talk any further about how to choose the right photographer for you, there is one very important question that you need to answer honestly! - That question is:
HOW IMPORTANT ARE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHS TO YOU?
If they are not very important to you, but you thought you'd have one because everyone else does - THEN DON'T!
Instead, get Uncle Bob with his new camera to take a few snaps throughout the day. They almost certainly won't be as good as hiring a professional, but you said photos weren't that important to you anyway. Seriously, save yourselves some money!
If you DO value photography as something that will beautifully tell the story of your day and allow you to be able to reminisce for years to come with joy, pride and emotion, then continue reading.
Choosing the right wedding photographer can easily be broken down into a number of steps as follows:
Before you even start on your search for a photographer, you should obviously have an overall plan for your wedding day celebrations and this is where your general “Planning a Wedding” guides come into play.
In that plan you will almost certainly have set some financial budgets, every wedding as a budget, some bigger than others, but a budget none the less!
In that budget you will have set a figure for every element of your big day - the venue, catering, the dress, the rings, flowers etc. And of course your photographer.
So step one in your quest for your best wedding photographer is to have a budget! There really is no point looking at photographers whose prices start at £2000, when your budget is up to £1000.
Your actual budget is completely up to you; however do consider that most things at your wedding will cease to be after your wedding, EXCEPT for your photographs! Your flowers fade, your food gets eaten, the suits go back, but people will look back on your photographs and the story of your day for years to come!
This does "tie-in" to some extent with "Budget".
You should decide how much of you wedding day you would IDEALLY like your photographer to cover?
The main elements you should consider are:-
The Wedding Ceremony
Formal Family & Friends Group Photos
Romantic Couple Portraits
The Wedding Breakfast / Speeches
A typical "Prep" to First Dance is in the region of 8 hours, but your timings my vary?.
Whether your budget allows for your ideal coverage is another story. By that I mean, if you would ideally like All-Day coverage, but your budget is only £400, then you may struggle to get much choice of photographer within that price bracket?
Conversely, with just a little searching, you may find that your budget actually allows you to have GREATER coverage of your day than you had first expected AND / OR you may even be able to have a full-size wedding album in addition to digital copies of your photographs!
This also "ties-in" closely with “Budget”.
You should have a clear idea of how you would like to receive your photographs after the wedding. The main options being:
For example, many photographers these days will only provide digital copies of the photographs. They do this to keep their prices low by not having to include the cost of an album in their prices.
The digital copies may be supplied via an on-line gallery (where you can download the images), or possibly presented on a USB memory stick (normally wedding themed, not just a “box-standard” USB stick), or occasionally on a DVD in its own presentation case.
Photographers who fall into the "digital only" category will sometimes offer wedding albums as an optional extra.
Some photographers will offer packages that are Album only (no digital copies) and some will offer packages that include the best of both worlds, by offering digital copies of all your photographs PLUS a wedding album, all included in the package price.
Other things you may want to consider when thinking about your “End Product” are:
Is there an "Upper Limit" to the number of photographs supplied?
Some photographers will put an upper limit on the number of edited photographs they will provide you. Be sure you understand if this is the case!
Parent Albums - Check whether any parent albums have to “mirror” the main album?
Some photographers allow the parents to make their own choice of photographs, but many don’t, so do check!
Pre-wedding Shoot – If you feel you would benefit from having a pre-wedding photo shoot, then many photographers will provide this.
Some will offer packages that include a pre wedding shoot within the price, with others offering it as an optional extra.
Loose Prints – You may decide after the wedding that you would like some additional loose prints so you can frame them or provide them to friends and family.
Many photographers will provide this service, but it may be worth checking their prices. Most will be more expensive than a “supermarket” price, but will normally be printed in a professional laboratory using top quality paper and ink.
Wall Canvas Art – As with loose prints, many photographers are able to provide you with wall art canvas’s and again will normally be of good quality.
Step four is to decide on the “Style” of your photography.
Some years ago wedding photography used to be very static, predictable, staged, some might say boring!
That really is no longer the case. Today’s wedding photography is more dynamic, exciting and is likely to tell your wedding day story in a much more vibrant, celebratory fashion.
The wedding industry talks about photography styles with terms like:
But what do they all mean?
Let’s look in a little more detail at what these styles really mean.
Traditional style is largely the “old-fashion” way of more staged photography, but in a nice, fairly timeless fashion.
The photographer generally will be happy to take many more formal “Family / Friends” group photographs along with a good combination of posed and unposed romantic photographs of the happy couple together.
This Style may appeal to couples who have more traditional values, and want to include their guests with formal “family & friends” photographs and probably also want help and guidance in getting nice photographs of the two of them together.
Documentary, Reportage & Photo journalistic are essentially the same – they are styles that involve telling the story of your day, largely without the photographer influencing proceedings or being directly involved.
In other words, they record the events as they unfold, but do not seek to direct what actually happens.
They tend to take minimal (if any!) formal “Family / Friends” group photographs as that would involve them directing proceedings!
In addition they will probably take a similar line with the happy couple, so they would mainly aim to capture just candid / unposed photographs of the married couple, as opposed to “creating” images and environments in which to photograph the couple.
This style would tend to suit couples who simply want their photographer to record their day as it unfolds, and really aren’t bothered about having many “formal” friends and family photos or indeed many posed photographs of themselves either.
Natural / Candid this is largely the same as Documentary and Reportage, with perhaps more of a tendency for the photographer to be a little more involved, thus allowing them to get photographs that will look natural, but may be “staged / encouraged” to some degree!
This style is probably the most popular style that couples go for.
By incorporating a degree of photographer interaction and guidance, it provides a good blend of documentary type storytelling, with some of the more traditional elements of group photographs and nice romantic photographs of the happy couple, with a few posed shots thrown in to complete the mix.
Funky / Quirky The photographer will probably help to direct the couple and / or guests to stage fun scenarios that are in keeping with the theme of the wedding.
They tend to take minimal formal group photographs of friends and family, unless they are in some form of “funky / fun / theme” setting?
This style tends to suit the more outgoing couples, who are looking for a less traditional approach to their special day.
They will often have quite specific ideas themselves regarding the kind of things they would like to include as part of the photography.
Fine Art The photographer will largely take over the running of your day to ensure they can achieve all the “staged” shots they want and thus produce a stunning portfolio of images.
It will often involve special lighting, props and possible travel to other locations at certain times (sunset for example) to ensure the lighting is just perfect.
Most of the attention will tend to be focussed on the couple and not the guests. The final images should be stunning, with a wow factor.
This style is great for couples who want high end, magazine stylized photography of their wedding day, which is largely focused on them and don’t mind spending time away from their guests to get the shots.
Closely tied with STYLE.
Although a photographer may claim to photograph weddings in a certain style, it is obviously important to check their portfolio to ensure that their work does actually reflect the style they claim to represent.
So for example, a photographer who claims to be a Fine Art wedding photographer should have a portfolio that is largely full of high-end, stylised, wow-factor images. If they don’t, there is a good chance they are not all they claim to be?
It’s goes without saying, that you should love the style and portfolio of your photographer before booking!
Many people these days check out reviews before purchasing anything. From washing machines to “take-aways” - people check reviews!
The same should apply to your wedding photographer. You need to know if previous clients were happy, or if they encountered any problems?
100% purely 5 star reviews are difficult for any company / product / service to achieve (there is always someone who simply likes to have a moan about something!).
However, if the prospective photographer has a large number of mainly 5 Star reviews, you should be fairly confident that they will meet or exceed your expectations, as they have with their previous clients.
Many photographers will have a few reviews on their own website and obviously these will be good reviews! By all means read them as they probably will be representative of the standard of their work.
However, other more independent reviews can often be found on Google, either as Google reviews, Facebook reviews or various other wedding related websites.
To find these, simply Google your “photographers name + reviews” and you should be presented with a number of different websites that include reviews of your photographer.
This is often overlooked by couples, but is really important.
Potentially your photographer is going to be with you all day, much longer than any other of your suppliers, so you need to be sure that you will “get on” and be happy to have them around all day.
Reading reviews may give you a few clues as to their personality, but obviously the best way to make a judgement is to sit down and have a chat. Talk about all things wedding related, not just photography to see how they react.
Are they going to be passionate about your wedding? or is this “just another job” for them!
There is no right or wrong personality, you may actually want a quiet, relaxed photographer or maybe you’d rather have an out-going, vocal type; either way just make sure you feel comfortable in their presence and you should be fine.
Wedding photography is a real-time event. You cannot stop the wedding because the photographer was changing lens and missed your first kiss!
So, make sure your photographer is preferably a full-time professional (not a part-timer just making a bit of extra cash on the side!).
Make sure they have good quality equipment, which includes back-up camera bodies, lenses, batteries, memory cards etc.
If they are professional they WILL have all this equipment and more!
Although I have put this as Step 9, in truth as soon as you have put a particular photographer on your “short-list”, you probably should check if they are actually available for your wedding date!
It obviously makes no sense in doing lots more research if they are not available for your date!
So there you have it, How To Choose The Best Wedding Photographer FOR YOU!
By following the guidance in this article you should be able to book a professional wedding photographer, who knows their trade, are skilled at what they do, provide you with a wonderful record of your special day, in a style that matches your aspirations AND all of this whilst staying within budget!
Have a wonderful wedding!