Having been through the whole business of getting married in 2016 I like to think that I can now share some words of wisdom from my experience.
I would put the importance of photography right up there alongside the wedding dress. Why? Well, in all honesty, no one remembers your wedding breakfast, no one remembers the content of your speech and by the evening no one remembers very much at all due to your complimentary bar.
For yourself as either the bride or groom, you will be running around all day like crazy and meeting your guests hurriedly during your brief interludes. With so much going on, you will either miss things or simply forget them.
Your photographer is therefore the 3rd most important person at your wedding, documenting the day and capturing all of those little moments and details that you could otherwise forget about. Choosing the right wedding photographer is critical so here are my top 10 tips for getting it right.
1. Set a budget
So the first thing you will be doing once you’re engaged is figuring out how much money 1) you need; 2) you have; and 3) you can afford.
This for me was the most difficult part of the wedding planning. With so many things to buy and hire, from the venue to the dress, it can be extremely challenging to get the balance of your budget right. There is only so much money to go around and with every product and service you look at, you can always pay more or less as although prices can be steep, they do still vary wildly.
Therefore it really does become a case not of how much do you want to spend on your photographer but in fact what percentage of your total wedding budget do you want to allocate to this service. With every extra pound spent on your photographer, you’ll need to cut back elsewhere.
Obtain a range of quotes and make a decision whether or not the additional services being sold to you are really worth it or if that cash could be better invested elsewhere.
2. Obtain a fair price
Now that you have a rough idea of what you can afford to spend on your photographer you need to ensure you get the most for your money, at the highest quality, at the best price. This means you need to get as much of a like for like comparison as possible between different suppliers.
Be sure however that any quotes given to you are indeed quotes and not just estimates. Lots of estimates will have details missing which may affect the price such as distance for the photographer to travel, pre and post-wedding services and how many photos you will end up keeping.
The only way to ensure you have the best deal is to compile your full list of requirements including the venue and date and get it all priced up properly from multiple photographers.
You’ll probably find that many photographers will also throw in services for free or negotiate on price; all considerations for a getting the best deal.
3. Be fully informed about what services are offered
Like all wedding services, photography is no different – it’s really competitive for all of those service providers. As a result, you will find that photographers are doing more and more to differentiate themselves from the competition to make their prices and ultimately their business look more attractive to you as their customer.
With this in mind you should find out exactly what different photographers can offer you within their fee as although they will all take photos, other services and add ons may also exist.
This could include things such as:
- Free family portrait
- Miniature photo albums for family
- USB sticks
- Thank you cards
- Engagement shoot
- Online photo album
- Evening photos / early start (some photographers won’t arrive or stay after a certain time)
Before putting pen to paper, make sure you have obtained all of this information to ensure you get the best possible deal.
4. Meet photographers face to face
In our digital world it’s all too easy to rely on emails and social media. Meeting your photographer before your wedding is however really important as what you see and read on a website will be quite different to the person.
Your wedding is the most important day of your life and your photographer will literally be there alongside you both and your guests throughout the entire day.
You need to ensure you have a good rapport with them, are relaxed around them and that they will blend in with your guests.
Meeting prospective photographers face to face is therefore a great way to discuss how they will manage the day for you, let you know what ideas they have and reassure you that this isn’t their first gig and that they really do know what they are doing.
You are also likely to have your own ideas too. Have you seen a funny groomsmen shot online that you want to try and replicate? Do you definitely not want a certain group shot? This is the time to talk things through and get clarity on what is/isn’t possible and what they are willing to do and not do.
5. Pick the right photography style for you
Wedding photography can be a bit of a minefield as there are so many different styles used.
Some photographers like to formalise things a little with lots of group or portrait shots whilst others steer more in the direction of documentary style photography.
Do you want to look back on your day with fly on the wall style photos where your guests were unaware they were being photographed or do you want to have face on shots of all of your guests.
Similarly do you want lots of moody shots that are heavily filtered either whilst the shots are being taken/post-shoot, or do you want a more natural unedited set of shots. Think along the lines of Instagram filtered images versus #nofilterneeded.
You need to decide how you want your photos to look – they are your photos after all. Do your research, find shots you like the look of and then find a photographer who fits your style.
6. Ask if they offer a pre-wedding photo shoot
I can almost guarantee that unless someone bought you a gift experience for your birthday or Christmas it’s unlikely that will have ever had your photo taken professionally. And this is a problem. A big problem.
Having your photo taken for the first time can be incredibly daunting. Not only that, it feels very unnatural and can look a bit wooden. You don’t know how to stand, where your arms and hands should go, where to look, what your “good side” is or what facial expression to use! Honestly, until it happens you don’t think about these things.
By having a pre-wedding shoot with your chosen photographer or an engagement shoot with a different photographer, it will be an excellent way for you to experiment with different angles, positions and styles. It will go a long way to helping you relax in front of the camera and know what to expect on your wedding day.
My recommendation here however would be to use the same photographer for any pre-wedding shots or engagement shots as your photographer can not only learn what you like and don’t like but also works for them. It’s a sure fire way to ensure you build a strong rapport with your photographer and learn to relax around them.
7. Find out if they are familiar with your venue
Once you have picked a wedding venue, unless it’s REALLY local to you, chances are you will only have seen it maybe a couple of times before the big day. Maybe at an open evening and then again during your wedding day consultation with your wedding planner.
Ultimately this means that you don’t know the venue, the best spots or more importantly the best spots with the best lighting at specific times of the day.
If you then factor in your photographer turning up not knowing the venue, everything is likely to be a little rushed and unplanned or you’ll need to be asking the venue for tips for your photographer.
Choosing a photographer who has been to your venue before has already tried and tested photos in different locations with different lighting conditions. This will mean you can draw on your photographers experience and maximise the photo opportunities to obtain the perfect shots.
8. Ask to see examples of their previous work
Any photographer who is good at what they do will be more than willing to share with you their previous work. Unless they are starting out, they should have countless examples of photos from the weddings they have shot, in different locations at different times of the day.
Ensure if you are shown an album you take a proper look through it too, don’t just flick through quickly. Check where the focus points are placed, what sort of scene setting has been done and if you get a good gut feeling for what you see. If you don’t love what you see, consider other suppliers.
This communication of their previous work will go a huge way to learning about who they are, how they undertake their photography and give you a real sense of what to expect on your wedding day.
9. Read reviews and testimonials
We all know the deal, most reviews online are negative as people are too lazy to compliment and all too ready to provide criticism and complain. In those terms do your research online for any mentions of your proposed photographer via a Google search and other trusted websites. If you don’t discover anything it can certainly be a case of no news is good news. If however you discover comments relating to the photographer being unreliable, late or spoiling the day in any you know it’s a red flag.
You should also take a look at the photographers’ websites. They will often post reviews and testimonials from previous couples and if unless they have something to hide they should be willing to put you in contact with some of their previous clients.
Finally, look closer to home. How many couples do you know who have got married? You likely know a fair few and what better recommendation do you have for a wedding photographer than a word of mouth recommendation from a trusted friend. You’ll be able discuss all the little details about why they are making their recommendation, can learn from their own research and you can of course take a look at all of their photos to get an idea of style.
Word of mouth remains one of the most trustworthy sources of information so by all means, fully explore and exhaust this avenue.
10. Ask how they would structure your day
During your wedding day there is a huge amount going on. You are being pulled from one end of the venue to the other by both your wedding planner, your wedding guests, family and friends. What you don’t want on the day is to be worrying about where you need to be for your next set of photos or which guests need to be obtained for them – someone will need to be constantly fetching the groomsmen from the bar!
So ask your prospective photographers how they would structure the photos on your wedding day based on the timeline you are considering. Are formal shots to be done early morning or later on? Will there be enough time to undertake a group shot of all your guests and if so when is everyone likely to be immediately available and not dispersed around the venue?
Being reassured that your photographer knows how to control and lead a large crowd and plan with you in advance of the wedding day exactly what shots will be taken and when will remove a huge amount of stress.
So ask these questions as early as you can during the research stage – it will let you know if who you are speaking to is an amateur or a real professional.
Bonus tip – Hire Aaron Collett!
No, this isn’t a sponsored post! For my wedding I hired the incredible Aaron Collett who provides documentary style photography.
All photos in this post and the majority of the wedding photos you see on my website were taken and edited by Aaron. If you like the look of what he does, check out his website (his favourite shots from 2016 are great!) or take a look at his pages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Professional, experienced and likeable, you won’t be disappointed.
So there you have it.
10 11 of my top tips for hiring a wedding photographer based on my own personal experience! If you have any additional tips that I’ve not mentioned here, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
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Thanks for reading!