Top Tips For Choosing Your Wedding Photographer
By Mark T Pearson
Getting married is an amazing experience. It is a day filled with emotion, joy, happiness and sometimes a little sadness when a family member or friend who is no longer with us is not there to share our special day.
As professional wedding photographers we know how stressful arranging your wedding day can be. With so many photographers around, where do you start? What do you need to know when looking for a wedding photographer? With prices ranging from a few hundred pounds to many thousands, how do you know if they are right for you?
It is a simple fact of life that with the arrival of digital cameras, many people now call themselves a “photographer”. Over recent years there has been an explosion of people offering their services as wedding photographers, many of who have never received any training, have no insurance, do not use professional equipment and do not have sufficient backups in place to cater for any eventuality.
A professional photographer will have all of the above and this post is a quick “Help Guide” to the things to look for and the questions we recommend you ask when choosing a wedding photographer. Grab yourself a cuppa and get comfy. This is not a definitive guide, merely a general overview of what to look for.
Looking for a Photographer:
Personal Recommendations: Have you been to a wedding recently? What did your friends think of their photographer? As a Yorkshire wedding photographer the majority of our clients come from personal recommendations from either Bride and Grooms who have used us, or from Venues that know the quality of the work we produce and the fantastic value for money we offer.
A quick search on any of the major search engines will produce a mind numbing amount of choices. For example, if you type into Google the search terms “Wedding Photographer” it will return millions results. Simply going through each result would take you years, so as a general rule of thumb, stick with those on page 1 or page 2. The reason for this is simple: If they are on page 1 or 2 then they have taken the time to ensure that their website is well designed, optimised and placed, to ensure that their products or services are easy to find for prospective Bride and Grooms.
Choosing A Photographer
As soon as you have decided on a date, have booked your wedding venue and received confirmation then book all other services required for your wedding day as quickly as possible. Leaving it to the last minute to book your wedding photographer is not a good idea.
Many Bride and Grooms start looking for their photographer the day they get engaged.
The first thing to do is look at a photographers website but do NOT be fooled into thinking this is the be all and end all. Always concentrate on the images and not the website design. These days for a few hundred pounds you can have a real classy looking website designed. Never forget that a website only shows the content that the photographer WANTS you to see. You will only generally see the best images, the ones they want to use to showcase their abilities so take a good look around the website. Have a look and see how many different weddings you can see. If there is only one or two, have they only photographed a few weddings? Also how much information does the photographer give you? Are they up front about their prices or do you have to go in and see them to find out how much they charge? Do they give you specific detailed information about their services?
Also be VERY wary if they say they are a member of a “Professional Trade Organisation”. Some trade organisations only require photographers to pay an annual subscription fee to join then allow the photographer to use the Organisations logos on their website. Indeed some organisations have absolutely no joining requirements, you do not even have to own a camera and your Granny, who has no idea about photography, could join if she wanted. Do your homework and check out Trade Organisations carefully as they are not all the same.
Some are for full time professionals only and Members are required to undergo evaluation, inspection and have insurance documents checked, others simply let you pay a nominal amount and declare you to be a “Professional Photographer”. Remember that the photography industry is not regulated and anyone can claim to be a “photographer”.
If it seems too good to be true, chances are it is! Many photographers just starting out tend to charge really low prices and only cover their costs. Many see your wedding as a way of building a portfolio of wedding images. Now this will not apply to all budget priced photographers but as a general rule of thumb, if the price seems really low, then there is a reason for it, so try and find out what it is.
For many Bride and Grooms, price ends up being the determining factor. You spend hundreds, if not thousands on the dress, the venue charges a small fortune, then there are the cars, the Grooms attire, Bridesmaids dresses, the cake, the flowers – cutting costs on your wedding photography can result in poor wedding photographs resulting in huge disappointment and photographs of the day that you simply do not want to look at.
Remember it is a one shot event – to get everyone back to retake the photographs will be time consuming and very expensive.
Make An Appointment:
Until you go meet the photographer, you will not be fully informed if they are the right person for the job. At the meeting ask to see photographs from AT LEAST five recent weddings. Ask if the photographer has worked at your venue before and if so ask if you can see some images from that wedding. Ask to see the demo albums – is there a good range to choose from? Does the photographer have letters of recommendation from previous clients, if so ask to see them. Does the photographer work from home or from a Studio?
Q. How long have you been trading and how many weddings have you photographed? If the answer is “6 months and 2 weddings, both of them friends of the family who I did not charge because I need the experience and the images for my portfolio” – is this the right photographer for you?
Q. Are you insured?
All professional photographers should carry Professional Indemnity and Public Liability insurance. If they do not then tread carefully.
Q. What are your prices, and what do I get in my package?
Seems a silly question to ask right? Well no! There is nothing worse than handing over your hard earned cash only to find that after the wedding you are not getting what you thought you were. Is there an album in the package? How many hours coverage do you get? What additional products are included in the price? Does the price include image editing? Do you have an overtime fee if we run over?
Q. Do you contract out your wedding photography service?
Picture this scene….. you spend months researching photographers, finally decide on one, get them booked then on the wedding day, someone you have never met before turns up to photograph your big day. How are you going to feel? Angry?
Make sure that the person you book with is the person who will attend and take your wedding photographs. Sounds simple I know but you will be surprised just how many photographers sub contract out their work to other, often inexperienced and uninsured, photographers.
Q. Is this your full time job?
Many photographers have full time jobs and photograph weddings on a part time basis so may not necessarily be available to answer your questions or emails during normal working hours. If you have a last minute question, it may take some time to get a response or you may not be able to schedule meeting times that are convenient to you.
Q. Do you provide a written contract?
It is absolutely critical that you receive a written contract detailing your exact expenditure and what products/services you are getting.
Q. How many weddings do you cover per day?
If the answer is anything other than ONE – be careful. Many photographers will cover more than one wedding a day and this can lead to problems at YOUR wedding. What if the first wedding runs late? This will mean that the photographer may be late to yours.
Q. Can I see some of your work / view the demo albums?
Make sure you have a good look at the photographers work. Look at image quality, look at album quality. Looking at images of babies, sunsets, buildings or family portraits will not give you any idea of their abilities as a wedding photographer. Also ask the question “Is this from a real wedding?”. You will be amazed just how many photographers use images taken on training days in their portfolios. They attend a training session where a Trainer sets up the shot then tells the photographer how to take it. The image may be amazing but can they reproduce it during a real wedding with all the pressure and stresses involved?
Q. What backup equipment do you bring to the wedding?
It never fails to amaze me that photographers still attend a wedding with only ONE camera! If that camera breaks down what are they going to do? Pop out their mobile phone and carry on shooting?
Q. Do you do a pre-wedding site visit?
Have you ever been to a wedding and when it comes to having the photographs taken, it is absolute chaos? Uncle John has gone to check in, Aunty Flo has nipped to the loo, your Best Man has popped to the bar. Surely the Bride and Groom should have been a bit more organised shouldn’t they? Well actually no!
This is down to the photographer and not the happy couple. Site visits allows photographers to create a plan for the day and are a critical component to the overall planning of the day.
Q. What “style” do you photograph in?
There are different styles such as Traditional, Reportage, Photojournalistic, Fashion, Glamour – does the photographer photograph in the style YOU are wanting? Do they do it weekend in, weekend out, or are they trying to photograph in a way they may not necessarily do on a regular basis. Get this bit right and you will love your wedding photographs as you will receive what you expected. Get it wrong and you could end up hating them.
Q. Will you put my wedding photographs online for our guests to see?
The majority of photographers now do this as standard though some still do charge extra for it. Check if there any additional costs involved.
Q. Do you do a pre-wedding meeting?
A professional photographer will prefer to sit down with each and every Bride and Groom at some point before the big day to discuss the day itself. Topics covered may include things like what photographs are to be taken and where, any special requests by the Bride and Groom etc. This helps ensure that the day runs as smoothly as possible.
Q. What will you wear when photographing my wedding?
Again seems a silly question right? You will be surprised how many “professional” photographers turn up to photograph a wedding dressed in jeans, t-shirts and trainers. Smart business attire is the norm but do check!
Booking Your Photographer:
As soon as you have decided on the photographer who is going to cover your big day… PHONE THEM! It is not unusual for photographers to work on a “first come, first served” basis and there is nothing worse than doing all the hard work only to find that someone booked your date 2 hours earlier.
Many photographers will require you to pay a retainer to secure the date. This will be either a fixed amount or a percentage of the total package price and will be deducted from your total photography costs.
Remember: Make sure you get a written contract which details the amount you are paying and what you are getting.
One final thing to think about: Personality. Chances are that your wedding photographer will spend more time with you than any of your other suppliers. Can you spend a whole day with them? Can you work with them for an extended period of time? This is a point that is often forgotten about!
Hope this has helped and if you are getting married in the near future, I hope you have a wonderful day!
Mark Pearson is a professional wedding photographer from Leeds, West Yorkshire. Trading since 1991, Mark offers a bespoke wedding photography service from his Studio. Further details may be viewed on his website: Wedding Photographer Yorkshire Mark Pearson or via his Yorkshire Wedding Photography blog
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