So you’ve gotten engaged. ‘Congratulations’ all the wedding industry people will say, I’ll say it too because it definitely warrants it and I’m nice like that.
You’ve got a venue and someone to marry you, maybe someone to do some food and you’re looking to get your other date-related ducks in a row. One of those is finding the perfect photographer for you. But you’re quickly realising that there are about a billion (this might be a slight exaggeration since the population of the UK is only about 66 million) photographers out there. So how on earth do you choose?
I’m going to caveat everything I’m going to say below by saying that I am a big fan of listening to your heart and going with your gut. So some of the technical things I’m talking about below will be relevant, but if you are drawn to working with a particular person, then they are probably the photographer for you. I feel like throughout my life – gut instinct has done me fairly well!
Style & Approach
Usually when I meet with someone to talk about their wedding, the inevitable question is ‘how would you describe your style’ and I find it pretty tough to answer. I feel like style should be evident in the images, they should make you feel a certain way. If that’s little flips in your belly, you know you’re onto a winner.
What I do find more useful to describe is my approach to the day – by which I mean my thought process, the way I set about capturing the day feels like a more useful thing to describe than to say I am a ‘creative, contemporary photojournalist’, or whatever that means.
The images are evident for you to see, you want the photographers you’re considering to describe their process of achieving them – are they hands on or hands off, will you be away from your guests for longer than you like? Do they have quite a posed style or are they really candid. Getting them to describe how they approach the day can be far more valuable than stylistic buzzwords.
This is always one of the big questions – it is said that you should set aside around 10% of your budget for photos and/or video. However wedding magazines have often presented an ‘average’ price for the UK which is usually just over £1000, which is a kind of meaningless figure. It represents not only a huge range of photographers – newbies, part timers, those providing short coverage, but also a huge range of weddings happening in different socioeconomic circumstances; which could be further skewed by who has actually been surveyed.
How much you have to spend is personal to you, some couples spend way more than 10% of their budget since photography is so important to them, some far less.
There are many things competing for your wedding pennies and I always think it’s worth working out what is your priority, and what you would gladly sacrifice. For some favours, or cars, are super important (in which case you probably don’t need to read much further!); but if photography is one of your priorities, and harking back to gut instinct – if one photographer you really love is a few hundred pounds more than another that seems similar, but you don’t love as much, then I encourage you to go for it. Your photos are really one of the true mementoes from your wedding day that lasts and grows with value, long after the cake has been eaten, the flowers wilted and your shoes packed away. In a few years, and over the course of your wedding spend, that few hundred will soon be forgotten.
How experienced is your photographer? This might not necessarily be so much of an issue – some newer photographers are prodigiously talented and by booking them early on, you might catch them before they become stratospheric and start winning all the awards.
However the more experienced they are will mean the higher the likelihood it is they’ve dealt with a range of situations – low light, awful weather, crazy schedule, or things going wrong (obviously we don’t want to imagine things going wrong, but sometimes they can, and you want all of your suppliers to be able to perform regardless).
It can also be relevant to their workflow and way of doing things – more experienced photographers often have their systems and ways of working nailed down and can deliver a smoother experience pre and post wedding.
Following on from thoughts around experience, this feeds into how much guidance they are able to give you, and how much they can smoothe or aid the planning process for you. For instance I provide a few tools to the couples I work with to help improve their planning process and give them full transparency about how I work on each part of the day. We have meetings and chats in the lead up to the day, and I’ve perfected the exact amount of information I need from my couples to be totally awesome on the day.
The amount of help and guidance you need to make things smooth in the run up to the wedding might vary, but my aim is always to be an asset to those planning weddings; and to try and improve the process as much as possible.
A few technical things
There are a few technical things to consider. Professional photographers should always be insured, but it’s public liability insurance that’s the one you’re interested in and your venue may ask to see copies of their certificates.
There are no standard industry bodies in wedding photography, and all the bodies out there are elective, and some are quite old fashioned (Hello SWPP) and awards can be a little hit and miss too – so it doesn’t help those looking for a sort of minimum badge, in the same way you might a tradesperson or a solicitor.
With that in mind I’d recommend ensuring that any photographer you have a chat with shares at least three full galleries – ideally they should be in a range of scenarios although I usually opt for sending those that have a similar venue or time of year to the wedding enquiry, since I think it’s most useful to see something relevant to what you offer.
I hope that’s given you some food for thought with regards how to choose your wedding photographer, and if you’re interested in having me shoot your wedding. You can get in touch here.
And if you want to see more of my portfolio, head over and look at my Best of 2019 review.