"We can't thank you enough for our fantastic wedding photographs. You were discreet yet you managed to capture the atmosphere of every moment with perfect clarity and finesse. The whole experience of working with you was so smooth and such a pleasure that we will be recommending you to everyone! Being able to relive the best day of our lives again and again is priceless." - A testimonial from Mr & Mrs Olds for their wedding in the Algarve, Portugal.
OK, choosing the right photographer for your wedding is not as important as choosing the right partner for the rest of your life, but I bet you did a little more to find him/her than sticking a pin in Yellow Pages or picking from the top of Google or choosing the cheapest!
Your wedding day will be one of the most important days of your life and you'll put into it many hours of consideration and planning - venue, wedding dress - cuisine - invitations - entertainment - wedding favours - flowers - so that things go just the joyful way you imagined and you achieve value for the money that has been invested.......and, of course, that elusive PHOTOGRAPHER!
So, how do you go about choosing the right photographer for your wedding?
The following are only my thoughts, but one thing I would say is, don't leave it too late in the order of things to book your photographer - the good ones get booked up a year to two years in advance, especially for summer, Saturday and destination weddings!
STYLE: There are a number of styles 'out there'. Go for one you visually like, in spite of the way it is described on the website. There is a common tendancy these days amongst many photographers to to shoot in 'documentary' or 'photojournalistic' style. That's fine, and I do it myself. The thing to watch for is that it is not just a description for haphazard, machine gun blitzing by a super fast DSLR, in the hope that some images might be good ones.
ARTISTRY: Primarily you're looking for an artist with creativity amongst whose toolkit there is a camera! The photographer's camera is equivalent to the artist's sketchpad and pencil. But don't be fooled. Owning a good camera doesn't make a good photographer, just as owning an expensive car doesn't make a good driver, nor does owning a Montblanc pen put you in the running for the Man Booker Prize! In wedding and pretty much all photography, it's the eye behind the lens that is important. Only then does the photographer decide how and with what equipment he will capture and deliver those images with competence and certainty. True artistry is going to be the result of a passion for photography, thoughtfulness, engagement with your day, and experience. It will also show in the way the final images are processed and cropped, and the way in which - tell me about it! - the lack of distracting elements in the final images which cannot help but be in the photograph when it was taken e.g. fire exit signs, but which have been edited out.
CREDIBILITY: Do check out a few websites and certainly follow up references of photographers that you're liking the looks of. One thing to look for is creativity among the images that you see. Again, don't be fooled. Make sure you look at actual wedding day photographs. Many photographers - and there's nothing wrong with this - will showcase images that have been carefully created using models. You'll see the most amazing shots of couples on the tops of mountains, in forests, on the beach by stormy seas. Very impressive, but can you realistically expect to have time to do this on your wedding day! If you do, then please, I want to be your photographer!
COST: Don't just go for the cheapest. In my opinion if you do, you're probably heading for a degree of dissapointment and lacklustre images. It is a fact of life that John Ruskin (1819-1900) was correct when he famously said:
“It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that's all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.”
A photographer will spend one day at your wedding, followed by four, or so, days processing images. If they're professional in their approach, they'll have spent time with you agreeing and planning the photography of for day, ideally at the venue. There'll be a 'presentation' meeting - at least that's what I do with my clients - to go through and pick the ones for the album or for further editing. Beyond those five days there's a business to be run and a living to be made. Do compare like with like. Not always so straightforward, but at least try to. Watch for all the little add-ons, time limits on the day. I prefer to agree an inclusive, lump-sum, fixed price. The last thing you want is for the photographer to come up to you and say "My six hours are up, sorry you've not got to the first dance, but I'm off....but you can pay me £150 an hour to stay a little longer." Whilst it might be a commercially reasonable request, it's simply the last thing I would want to be having to deal with!
CONTRACT: Whichever photographer you choose for your wedding, make sure you draw up, agree and sign a contract. All 'proper' photographers will have one, which will be bespoked to your day around a set of their standard terms. A contract will give you peace of mind as well as set expectations.
PROFESSIONALISM: Along with technical ability and competence, this goes without saying. For me, I would be looking for the photographer to deliver the expected output from the agreed contract, however demanding that might be for the photographer on the wedding day. Photography in most of its disciplines is not necessarily the glamorous 'walk-in-the-park' career that many people think it is. Real pros work mentally hard and physically arduously to give you the best images they can that tell the story of your day as it unfolds. The right photographer for you will be flexible, accommodating, have a sense of humour, be in control yet defer to his client. I regularly go the extra mile for my clients, because I consider myself to be part of the team that makes the whole day go smoothly, and will sometimes find myself helping to clear up at the end!
INSURANCE: Pros will have comprehensive insurance to cover all eventualities, including last-minute back-up in the case of mishaps even on the way to the wedding.
GIVE UNCLE BOB THE DAY OFF TO ENJOY! We all have Uncle Bobs who might be very keen and extremely competent photographers with the latest technology. They might be as good as the pros, but do consider carefully the real burden that you will be placing on them, as well as the risk of upset in the event of things not turning out so well. It's one thing taking a photograph like a pro, quite another thing working like a pro.
KNOW YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER: It's always best to have had a number of exchanges by email or phone with you photographer prior to the big day. In my opinion it is essential to have met with your photographer face to face. One way to do this is by having a pre-wedding shoot. I include these as complimentary with all my full-day bookings. This helps build a rapport, experience the personality and sense of humour, reduces 'fear of the camera', and makes things so much easier on the day. If, when you meet your photographer for the first time, you simply cannot stand the sight of them, it goes without saying they're not the right one for you!
WEDDING ABROAD? There are real advantages to taking your photographer with you. You'll know who your dealing with; they're part of your team; they can't hide once you've got back home; it really shouldn't cost any additional money than a cheap return flight and a couple or three nights in an hotel. If you book a foreign photographer you might have language difficulties, and you'll be worrying if they'll be on time or turn up. If you go this route, then find a photographer who has had experience of destination weddings and check out the validity of it, not just the offer on the website to do photograph a wedding abroad.
For further information about my wedding services, or simply a no-obligation chat about your wedding, please contact me by clicking here, or visit my website page. There are also wedding galleries that you can look at by folowing this link.