How do you find the right wedding photographer? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again: your wedding photography is one of the most important parts of your day. After your day is over your photos are all you will have left to remember the day by: they are, in essence, the final product of the wedding. And how do you pick someone to take on that responsibility? It’s not an easy decision.
It’s also important to ensure that you like the person you are choosing to spend your wedding day with. Even being around the most unobtrusive of photographers, you will still be sharing 7-12 hours (or the most of your wedding day) in the company of this person. Don’t settle for somebody you don’t get along with, it may impair the feeling of the biggest day of your life! Meet up with them beforehand, if you choose, to get to know them and ensure you are a good fit!
First of all, you need to decide what kind of photographer you have in your mind’s eye. What style is the photography you like the best?
Posed / Directive / Styled Wedding Photography
These type of photographers are the ones you traditionally think of when someone says “photographer”. The guys who will direct you into every pose, tell you to stop at random moments, set up frames and settings throughout the day to get pretty pictures, direct you as you go about the day to remind you how to stand and where to look, style the setting and a range of other things. They can be very bold individuals and really bring you out of your shell if you like to be guided!
Documentary / Candid / Natural Wedding Photography
Documentary photographers like to capture what really happens. In essence, they tell a story through their pictures of what happened during your day through their eyes. They are generally very relaxed, light-hearted and fun with an artistic flair and won’t do much posing of you at all. They may direct you a little during the couples/group portraits (if this is something they offer) and take detail shots – but otherwise they are very photo-journalistic and real: focusing on your emotions and the day as it unfolded.
Alternative / Bold / Experimental Wedding Photography
These photographers may take a variety of approaches – often using very controversial and alternative methods that some hate and others love. They think in an individualistic, really very different style and you will often see odd effects or angles, dutch tilt, sepia and over-edited effects that to some will be the worst and others – the best! These may also include a lot of composite shots, dramatic lighting effects and non-conventional styles. Not for the feint hearted – but really a very artistic and fiery bold bunch!
The photographers themselves are sometimes reserved and relaxed and sometimes very directive and will pose you – it will depend on the individual themselves.
Once you’ve decided on the style of photographer you most like, the internet is your oyster! It’s time to make use of google, Facebook, Gumtree and every single wedding blog or planning site to search listings and websites of photographers. Do you want to choose someone local to you – or are you willing to go farther abroad to find your perfect fit? Look on Facebook groups, search Gumtree and free ads, google near and far. Make a note of every photographer you would love to have at your wedding – the bookmark tool comes in handy here!
Once you’ve searched through as many listings as you deem relevant, see if you can narrow your favourites down to under 10 – or even under 5! At this point, we should also be considering your budget. Do you have a high or low budget? And remember, just because you have a lower budget – don’t rule out the higher end photographers straight away. Many good-hearted TOGs will be happy to fix a bespoke package with shorter hours that will better fit your budget if you are really in love with their work: some may even discount if they like you enough – so don’t be afraid to ask and be personal – that’s what we love.
Don’t send out a mass email to all the local photographers with a bunch of automated questions asking for a quote for your day – this really puts us off. We want you to know you have chosen us for our work and individuality, not just based off of a price listing or not even taking the time to ask your own questions. Think now about the questions you want to ask – what do you want from your photographer? What kind of images are you expecting? What kind of coverage do you want? How do you like their work? Tell us more about your wedding – even the little details or timings, make it personal and bring the conversation forward and we will already be in love with you! You should try and get a feel for the photographer here – see if you get on well!
(Some people set up a face to face meeting at this point before booking – others book and book an engagement shoot to “test out” and meet a photographer. Some choose not to meet before their big day at all – this is okay too! Providing you keep in good contact and converse what it is you expect from your photographer – that will ensure you aren’t let down on your big day if things weren’t communicated properly.)
Before booking, always make sure you see at least 2 full wedding galleries – not just the “favourite images” on their portfolio. It’s important to know what you will be getting as the final product – not just the best photographs!
If you’re still undecided at this point, after talking to a couple of photographers, then it’s time to really look at their full gallery work critically. What do you like about the images and what don’t you? Make a pro con list for each photographer’s work. Does your budget affect this? Are the shots edited in the way you like? Are they angled and composed in a style you enjoy? Are they focused and crisp enough? Most importantly – how well have they captured the wedding day? Are the emotions and the story there?
Once you’ve decided on a photographer, let them know you’d like to book with them and ask to look over the contract so you can understand what the terms of the service will be and know what to expect in the end. Before signing this, make sure you accept and agree everything in it. Have you checked how long it will take for the images to be returned to you? Is this in the contract or has your photographer mentioned it? If not, ask. Most photographers will take at least 1 month (averaging out at about 6-8 weeks) to deliver the final images to you. This is because of the work that goes into the hundreds of photographs we will deliver. We shoot in RAW image format, which means not the JPEGs you may take on your phone or camera, but the pure data that was in front of the camera. We then post-process it in specialist programs (much like when someone develops film from a camera roll) and then can edit it accordingly in styles, sharpness, composite effects, lighting and more. We take time to make sure each individual image looks great before delivering – and we check and re check. It takes such a long time because there is so much to do. Think of it like this: If you are receiving 800 images from a photographer and the photographer spends only 10 minutes processing and editing each image, that professional will spend at least 128 hours on your wedding. They also take hours to download and upload the images – as well as culling thousands of duplicates and inadequate shots down to your final product. Then they have to check, composite edit (if necessary), fix errors and anything else that may be necessary. This doesn’t allow for those who go a little slower or faster of course.. But you get the point. For a professional who takes a lot of time and care to do (while working at peak season on other weddings as well), is it any wonder it takes weeks to receive professional photos? Would you really settle for less and be confident in their quality? Many photographers will however, provide you with a couple of sneak-peak preview images within a week of the wedding – just to quench your thirst to see the photos!
Another factor to remember here is your payment. Most photographers take a deposit to secure your wedding date (ranging between 25-50% on average) – and this is so that if you were to cancel on them, they wouldn’t lose out on revenue for a date when they could have booked someone else. It’s usually called a retainer fee (or booking fee) and is non refundable, as will state in the contract. From there, you need to ask how the photographer takes payment? Many TOGs accept a payment plan and say that so long as the final balance is paid off within a month of the wedding, they’re happy. Others are more strict – 3 months, and some are lenient with just days or weeks before the wedding. Some don’t mind being payed on the morning of the wedding, providing they get the money before they start work! If you’re having problems with a payment date, it’s always best to communicate with the photographer who can sort something out.
Also, check at this point whether you can print your own copies of the images or whether you have to use the photographer. Make sure they are not charging you for digital copies of the images (proofing) on top of the fee already negotiated at this point too.
If you’re at this point now, you understand all the terms – then you can go ahead and say you’ve finalised and found your wedding photographer! Good luck from here!