Choosing your wedding photographer by Fiona Kelly
Its Fiona here, I want to say I totally understand choosing your wedding photographer can be the most confusing and daunting task when planning your wedding. Most people have never had to find or hire a photographer before. Where do you start? What do you look for? How do you know how much to spend? Before you get overwhelmed with the options, there are a few simple pointers that I often share with couples who I meet, and I'm happy to pass this information on regardless of whether they book me as I believe that finding the right photographer for you for your wedding is really important.
So, where do you start?
Personal recommendations are invaluable. I love a good recommendation…we all do. We use Trip Advisor to research our holidays; companies like AirBnB are based on the premise of trust and recommendations. We have Trust a Trader, where people can recommend tradespeople, and who doesn't read the reviews on Amazon? I certainly do. We trust what people say and we particularly trust our friends and family. Perhaps a friend or a family member has someone they can recommend or one of your other wedding suppliers just raves about a particular photographer. Almost half of my bookings come through personal recommendations. It is a fabulous place to begin your search. You do, however, still need to make sure that this person is the right person to photograph your wedding. The wedding photographer who is right for your friend might not be right for you.
Whether you start your search from recommendations, looking on google, contacting the suppliers linked to your venue, or finding them on social media, there are some steps you should follow. These will help when it comes to choosing your wedding photographer and making sure they are a perfect fit for you and your wedding.
Choosing your wedding photographer - do you like their work?
This seems a bit obvious, but make sure you look through the work properly and find what really grabs you. What do you feel when you look through the photographs? Can you imagine your wedding captured in the same way? If you want family photos do they do these? Do you like soft colours or a more vibrant feel? By looking through a variety of different photographers portfolios you will begin to get an idea of what sort of photography you like and what you don't.
Photographers are often asked to explain their 'style' and this is not always straightforward. Many photographers shoot with a mixture of approaches to capturing a wedding day. I like to combine candid photographs, where I can capture the emotion and the real moments as they happen, with beautiful, natural portraits and editorial style details. Have a think about what you like and what appeals to you. Choose whether you would like someone who will record the day in a purely documentary way, which will sometimes mean no couples photos and family shots. Or would you like someone who offers a storytelling approach but is also happy to do a small number of family photos and relaxed couples photos (this is the approach I take). Or maybe you prefer someone who offers a more traditional way of shooting, which includes more of the formal, posed photos and you are less interested in the more candid photographs.
When you have found a few people whose work really resounds with you make sure to really look at their portfolios. You can also ask to see a wedding in full, to make sure they didn't just get lucky on a few shots. Most photographers are on Facebook and Instagram, which is also a great way to see their most up to date work.
These are photographs you will have for a lifetime. You have to be happy with how they will look and the approach that the photographer will take to capture your wedding day.
Choosing your wedding photographer - do you like the photographer?
This is one of the biggies when choosing your wedding photographer. Having a good connection with your photographer is important as you spend a lot of time with them! They are there in the morning when you are getting ready, they will capture the ceremony and the reception. Even if they are capturing your wedding in an unobtrusive way, they are still there so you want to be happy with having them around. You will spend time with them when you have photos of the two of you and they will be there when you are partying the night away. If you have an engagement shoot, you will hang out with them for a few hours having your photo taken. They will be a part of your wedding day in the way that many of other the businesses you hire won't be.
I like to be there as a support to my couples as well as their photographer. I like to be able to offer advice and guidance, assist where needed both before and on the day. Building a relationship with my couples helps me to understand them and to know what's important to them. Capturing their wedding becomes very personal and I make sure to record it in a way that is unique to them.
If possible, meet in person or have a chat over Skype. Make sure the person you choose is someone you feel comfortable with and trust to photograph your wedding. I'm always flattered when one of my couples emails me after the day to say it was like having another friend there. This is the relationship I like to have with my couples, it's personal, I feel the emotions of the day and I am massively invested in capturing their day in the best way I can because of it.
Choosing your wedding photographer - what about budget?
Price and balancing a budget is always going to be tricky. What's reasonable for one person may not be for another. Try not to base your decision purely on price! When budgets are tight it's easy to look at the prices before the work itself. Try to look for photographers that tick all the boxes visually and then narrow down to what you can work to budget wise.
I know it's easy to say (and I might be a tad biased) but don't scrimp on your photography budget. The photos really are the one lasting memory of your wedding day. So many couples are left disappointed and upset because they chose a very cheap photographer, with limited or no experience, who didn't capture their day the way they wanted. There is only one chance to photograph those important moments and if you miss them you don't get a chance to do it again. A professional photographer will have invested not only in the best kit but also in developing their skills and knowledge. They will put the time and effort in to make sure your wedding photos are amazing. This includes hours of post-processing and editing to really make your images look fabulous. You really do get what you pay for.
If you simply love the work of a particular photographer it's worth chatting to them and trying to make it work financially, obviously within reason, bankrupting yourself isn't the way to start married life! Many photographers offer a range of packages. Some offer gift vouchers so your guests can pay towards an album, for example. Many will also offer reduced hours coverage for a smaller price. Don't immediately rule someone out because they are a little over your planned budget.
A good rule of thumb should put aside at least 10-15% of your wedding budget for the photography. Having images that in 20 years time will make you smile, laugh and feel the emotions of the day is worth the investment.
Choosing your wedding photographer - have they worked at your venue and does it matter if they haven't?
The simple answer to this is, they may or may not have worked at your venue and honestly, it really doesn't matter. If they are a professional photographer with good skills and have shown they can cope with a variety of lighting scenarios they will be fine. Every year I work at venues I know and I work at venues I don't.
I enjoy working at venues I know as I generally know what to expect and I have a relationship with the team who work the wedding. The challenge for this is to keep things fresh, to make sure you don't get stuck in a rut shooting the same places in the same way. Thankfully for me, I very much take my inspiration from the couples I work with. They guide me in my choices for photos and they each bring their own style to the day. It never feels like too much of a challenge to find something new and different in places I know well. I also make sure to only work at the same venues a limited number of times a year.
I also love working at new venues. There is something really exciting about visiting a new place. The light, the rooms, the outdoor spaces. Finding those little, hidden, places that others might not spot, but offer the most beautiful photo opportunity. It's always fun and allows for a different type of creativity because its all fresh and new. The challenges for new venues are often logistical rather than creative. Is the venue easy to find? What's parking like? What are the events team like? Will the satnav try to send me into a field via a hedge on the way to the venue (this actually happened to me once!)? I often overcome these challenges by visiting the venue before the day, if it's not too far to travel to. Obviously if its the other side of the country this isn't possible, so in that situation I tend to turn up an hour early to have a wander around and get my bearing. I also like to scope the venue out on google earth! It's amazing what you can work out with a bit of internet searching and a clever app or two.
What experience do they have?
Whether you choose to go with someone with lots of experience or very little it's good you know either way. When you have photographed a lot of weddings you learn how to cope with pretty much anything that can be thrown at you during the day. From changeable weather to things running late, to last minutes changes of plan or venues that are tricky to work in. With experience comes knowledge and you can approach the day with a calm manner, knowing you will be able to capture what's needed and deliver beautiful images.
However, everyone needs to start somewhere and there is nothing wrong with choosing to book a photographer who is just starting out or has only photographed a handful of weddings. You just need to know this. There may be situations they haven't dealt with before or lighting conditions that are challenging. That's not to say they won't do an awesome job, but it's good to know up front. You will generally pay less for someone with less experience, which can be helpful if you are on a very tight budget.
Do feel free to ask your photographer how long they have been in business and how many wedding they have photographed. It will give you a guide as to their experience. Something I am often asked is how many weddings I take on a year. Every photographer is different in the number they like to do in a year. It very much depends on each individual. For me, it's between 20-30. I have done more in the past, but this is my sweet spot. Plenty to keep the year busy and full of lovely weddings, but not so many that I can't keep up with the levels of post production and provide the client experience I want to give.
What do they offer in the package?
Once you have whittled down your favourite photographers you need to find out what they include in their packages and what they offer as extras or add-ons. Most photographers will include the photography coverage on the day, an online gallery, and the digital files as a basis to their packages. Optional extras might include a second photographer, an engagement shoot, extended travel options, thank you cards, photographic prints, and albums.
Work out what you really want as part of your photography package. Either choose a package that offers those things already or ask the photographer if they would work up a bespoke package for you to include them. I have a range of packages that offer shorter coverage, full day coverage with either one or two photographers and one that also includes an album.
If you do think at some point you might want an album its good to know what your photographer offers. There are many options for albums in terms of style and finish. Most photographers will choose products that they feel reflects their style and photography best. Ask to see samples of albums so you know what your album would look like if you choose to get one.
Make sure when you are looking at the packages you know exactly what's included and what isn't. If your photographer has to travel for your wedding, do they include this cost or is this extra? Before making a decision it's important to have all the information and the final package price, so you can make the right choices.
Go with your gut and lead with your heart!
The final point might seem a bit daft but it's something I believe in. When it comes down to it trust your gut instinct. If you click with a particular photographer, like their work and they have a package that fits then get them booked in! If there is anything that doesn't feel quite right, go with your gut instinct and don't commit. It might be you come back to that person in a week or two and feel differently. In which case, great. If not then keep looking until you find someone you feel truly happy with and someone who's work you just adore. This is your wedding day, it only happens once and you want to ensure that the person you have capturing it is someone you truly trust.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. I hope this has provided some help when it comes to choosing your wedding photographer. Once you have found the right person book them. Then relax, safe in the knowledge that you will have an amazing wedding day and end up with the most fabulous images that make you smile and bring back those wonderful memories for years to come.
If you have any further questions or want to share your thoughts please do. I always love to hear from you.
Thanks for popping by.
See some of Fiona's work by going to https://www.fionakellyphotography.com/