Choosing a Wedding Photographer
Photographs are the lasting reminder of your wedding day. They record the atmosphere of your wedding, your choice of dress, colours, venues and guests. They will be on display in your home, and the homes of the people who shared the day with you, or those who were unable to attend. They are a record of the most special day of your life for you to look back on with future generations.
It is important then to find a photographer who is well qualified, experienced and aware of the requirements for your special day. You need to feel absolutely sure that the photographer you choose will capture the essence of your wedding and be able to make you and your guests look a million dollars.
Nowaday's there is a huge saturation of part time wedding photographers, who are little more than keen amateurs with budget, consumer cameras and lenses, no insurance and little experience. Sure we all start somewhere, but a wedding is not a place for practice!!... There are beginners and newcomers that dive straight in and advertise for wedding work... and unfortunately it's the wedding couples which pay the price... receiving mediocre, badly posed, badly lit, badly post produced photography, and sometimes they may receive nothing at all, and with no comeback.
An experienced professional will have good on the job training, having shadowing another experienced photographer or perhaps some qualifications from some of the professional qualifying bodies, such as The British Institute of Professional Photography or The Guild of Wedding Photographers.
A quality, experienced, professional photographer will carry backup cameras, and for weddings, usually 'dual slot' cameras, meaning each image taken is backed up in-camera to two separate digital storage cards. He / She should have public liability and professional indemnity insurance, normally required by many 'high end' venues, especially the National Trust Houses & Halls.
Important things to consider when viewing a photographers website and meeting...
Clean design / up-to-date material and styles. A successful, working photographer should be updating his or her portfolio regularly.
The ability to capture a moment or an emotion
A flair for making the ordinary appear beautiful
The ability to make the images tell a story
The confidence to work under any condition of light, weather, and/or time constraints
A complete set of images from the same wedding/s, not a series of selective one-offs. (Look for consistent quality from a number of different weddings)
Confidence in shooting one person or a group of 150+ people
An eye for using different locations well, to set the stage for the photographs
Use of light and lighting equipment, to enhance the mood of the photographs. A portfolio should include images photographed under more conditions than just sunny days.
Formal photographs which work well to the eye. Posed photos should be of a clean composition, postures should be confident and hand placements should look natural.
An experienced wedding photographer will often remain quiet while their portfolio is under review, giving potential clients a chance to breathe; to step into his or her shoes and see what he or she sees. Look at the work - really look at the work - and decide if it speaks for itself. If it does, you are ready to move on to the next stage of the discussion - the fees.
A wedding photographer will price an assignment based on their overhead, what they would like to make per year, and their experience & skill level. Deducing whether you are getting a good fee for a good photographer entails judging the quality of their work, their experience, their creativity, their problem-solving abilities, and the service they offer.
Fee structures generally fall into one of two schools: those offering set portfolio packages and those offering bespoke pricing. There is no right or wrong here - it is a matter of what you feel comfortable with. The bespoke client prefers the opportunity to mix and match, have some input themselves and be charged for precisely what they request, while the package person is happy to fit in with a set offering.
Whichever pricing system you go with, make sure you are happy with the quality and level of experience of the wedding photographer. Extras and big prints are useless if the work is dead and uninspiring, So, while getting a variety of quotes is always a good idea, make sure you match the fee to the work, and do not be seduced by all the extras if the work does not stand out.
A word on websites acting as marketing material to promote a photographer. - When viewing work on a website, look carefully at the pictures themselves and try to separate them from the 'packaging' which may help to promote the work.
You like their portfolio and the price seems right, but you don't feel they are quite 'there' with you; there is no 'click'. First, ask yourself first why this may be. Is it something you can get over, or is it deeply intuitive?
You are commissioning an artist, and if there is a lack of rapport between you, this could show up in the final product. If you want wedding photography which feels personal, your photographer should invest time in getting to know you, and even in visiting your venue and pre-planning shots. It's about building a relationship. After all, this is the person who is producing the images of one of the most important days of your life.
To help steer communication in a clear manner, a photographer should keep up to date with the details of your day, and should provide a contract or terms in which they sum up what is expected of them. This should state:
What the photographer is expected to do and provide for the fee agreed
What the clients are expected to provide in order to assist the photographer in getting the best shots possible
Details of the shoot - where, when, schedule, guest list etc.
Agreeing this a few months in advance means that client and photographer are moving towards the same goal - everything running smoothly on the day that counts, and the resulting images being the best they possibly can be.