What you should look for in a wedding photographer
As a child I had a keen interest in photography, my teenage years got in the way, and so did sport and I sold all my camera equipment. Years later I’ve redeveloped a keen interest in photography, in between I also got married and went through the selection process for a photographer. Knowing what I know now about some of the aspects of my own photography and where I’ve seen the good and bad in commercial photographers I hope the following is a useful guide.
In 2004 we got married in November, being involved in a bridal shop, my wife’s dress was sorted long before anything else. To say we were relaxed about the whole wedding planning thing was an understatement. We’d decided on the venue (Dartington Hall in Devon) but hadn’t really thought about other aspects of our big day.
Most (good) Wedding photographers get booked up weeks and months in advance and I soon found this out as I started ringing around the local photographers. Our wedding was set for November, but still we struggled. By chance we found Janet and John, we made an appointment to go around for a chat. They had obviously done many weddings and as they asked us about the style of photography we wanted, ideas we had and what time each part of our big day was going to happen, we realised we didn’t have a clue! Most worrying was our timings I can’t stress how important it is to work out a plan for the day, arrival at church, leaving church, journey to venue, time of meal, etc . etc. In the end Janet and John almost ended up project managing our wedding, and with good reason.
A good wedding photographer costs money but until I analysed just what Janet and John did for us, I hadn’t really reconciled how that money was built up. The following is a guess at what they did for us…
- Appointments, we had two (or three) consultations prior to the wedding lasting about an hour to an hour and a half each. During these we gave information about our church and venue, we picked shots and drew up a shot list of posed shots we would like – Parents, family, Bridesmaids, Ushers, Friends etc. etc. We also got a really good idea of timings, some of our shots were pre wedding, during the wedding and at the venue. In total ½ day of time
- It became apparent on the day that Janet and John had been to both the church and the venue. If you’ve shot somewhere before it gets easier but if you are unfamiliar with the venues that a scouting mission is going to help with the quality of shots on the day. Again this must have taken ½ day to do both venues.
- On the day Janet and John spent much of the morning and well into the afternoon with us (in fact due to a cancellation they stayed for dinner) but effectively they have written off a day to cover a wedding.
- Afterwards we had a further appointment to view the shots from the wedding and pick the ones for our album. With 40+ shots there has to be a large element of post processing, even if this is just cropping pictures. If your photographer is retouching the photos or adding special effects then that time can escalate pretty quickly. With basic cropping I’d say it was at least half a day to provide a short list of shots, following this, work to produce the album and finish the pictures was probably another half day. If you went for retouching then you could probably add another couple of days!
- Finally someone has to physically make the album, frame pictures, upload proofs to websites etc. etc.
Types of Wedding Photography
We went for a more formal style of wedding photography (as was the fashion) with mostly posed shots, throwing in a few candid shots thought-out the day. One word of warning about this style is that posing shots can take time, it can have a big impact on your day, you get a much better memory for you, but you can be AWOL from your guests for a long time if you aren’t careful.
There’s a fuller article here about the different styles you can choose from http://www.wikihow.com/Choose-Between-the-Different-Wedding-Photography-Styles
So what should you look for in a wedding photographer?
When you meet them, or before, be sure to take a long look at their previous portfolio, style of photography and ask for recommendations. The last thing you want is someone turning up with a £50 DSLR they purchased from Currys operating on a wing and a prayer.
Find someone that really knows their trade and someone that is going to put the work in prior to your wedding to do their research, work out where the sun will be and at what time and research the venue to find the best shots to make you look good. Whilst there are probably a few people with the skill of Michael Angelo the best shots, even candid are probably planned long before.
Look for someone with a good reputation and longevity. We attended a friend’s wedding, I’m not sure I remember the end result, but what I do remember is that their Photographer was very hard to get hold of after their wedding, they eventually tracked their photographer down to the channel Islands and got their photos almost a year later!! I don’t think they even paid fully upfront, he just lost interest. That said, pay enough to cover the photographer’s time on the day, but make sure that you have some leverage to get your prints. I think from memory we paid 50/50
Finally this is going to be your good day, there’s a good chance that you’ve spent months in the gym or starving yourself to look fantastic, make sure that you get someone you trust to capture your big day with the style of photography that you can look back on and evoke the fabulous memories of the day.
In total I’d guess Janet and John spent at least 2-3 days working on our wedding. You may think wedding photography is money for old rope but a good wedding photographer will put the effort in to make your photographs look spectacular -make you sure you pick wisely
One final thought, 10, 20 years past your wedding; it may not be just a reminder of your big day but the people that attended, in my case my dad who has now departed – I look back and remember how much fun he had and how proud he was, for me one of the most endearing memories Janet and John captured was my dad’s joy on my big day.