You’ll want to remember this day forever – and the best way to do that is with photographs. Here’s Ann Russell’s guide to picking the right person for the job!
Savvy brides know that wedding photographs last a lifetime, so when it comes to choosing a photographer it’s important to find the right match. Once you’ve narrowed down a shortlist of suppliers, use this handy checklist to plan your picture-perfect day.
Confirm the date
Strike while the iron is hot and contact your shortlist of photographers before another bride snaps up your all-important date. “When couples approach us they’ve already looked at our work online, they like our style and they want to check our availability for their wedding date,” says Ross Walker of Number 94 Photography. “People are becoming much more aware of photography now so they do a lot of research. Couples are very clued-up when they contact us and know they’ll have to spend some money to get the best results.”
Check past experience
Due diligence is key when it comes to choosing a photographer, so take time to view as many images as you can. “A good photographer should be able to show you albums that tell the story of a full day from start to finish,” advises Andrew Warren of Andrew Warren Photography. “To show online galleries from previous weddings, however, they will have to consider their clients’ privacy so they’ll ask permission from a couple they’ve worked with previously before granting you access.”
Spot red flags
“A photographer should always have a website and not just a Facebook page,” says Andrew. “If they have a limited selection of pictures it suggests they haven’t photographed many weddings before. There should be a clear and obvious consistency across the board.
“As a guide anything below £1000 should be looked at carefully,” he warns. “That’s not to say you won’t find a reasonable photographer below this price; just bear in mind that you’re charged a certain fee for a reason.”
Keep budget in mind
Whether your budget is lavish or limited, every bride has a photography spend in mind. “We openly put prices on our website,” says Russell Hogg of Aboyne Photographics. “Many photographers have really cryptic websites, which doesn’t help the couple to make an informed decision. So be up front when you’re looking for a photographer and say that you’re comparing prices across the board before selecting the supplier that suits your needs best.”
You wouldn’t book a holiday without checking the small print, so don’t ignore the finer details of photographic packages. “We only offer two packages and they are both for full-day coverage,” says Ross. “That could be anything from nine in the morning until nine or ten at night. Some photographers might only stay until after the ceremony – if you want them to stick around for the cake-cutting and speeches, they’ll increase the fee.”
Ask who’s in charge
It sounds obvious, but if you don’t confirm exactly who is photographing your wedding, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. “So many couples book well-known names only to find out a month before the wedding that it’s not the lead photographer who’ll be taking their photos,” warns Russell. “An assistant might be more than competent, but you’re paying a lot of money for the named photographer.”
Find the right match
Clicking with your photographer is one of the best ways to feel relaxed on your wedding day. “Our clients tend to be quite similar,” says Russell. “They’re in the same sort of age group, have a certain personal style, use Pinterest and read wedding blogs. We find that giving open and honest answers to questions is the best way to build their trust.”
Budget for booking fees
Once the research stages are complete and you’ve found the right photographer, they’ll typically ask for a booking fee or deposit to keep your date free. “It’s important to have a signed agreement so that couples know what they are entering into,” says Andrew. “I’ll ask for around £300 to £500, which is a standard amount for securing their date. On average, this is typically paid around a year before the wedding.”
Recce the venue
It’s fantastic if your photographer knows your venue inside out, but don’t be put off if this isn’t the case. “Some venues are trickier to shoot than others, so past knowledge can help in some situations, but having experience of a venue isn’t essential – photographers can’t be expected to have been everywhere,” says Russell.
“It always helps if we’re familiar with the venue, as we’ll already know the best places to take the couple,” adds Ross. “But if it’s a new one to us, we’ll arrange to visit it twice before the actual wedding.”
Plan a pre-wedding shoot
“Pre-wedding shoots always help if you’re nervous about having your photograph taken,” says Russell. “Lots of couples have nightmares about awkwardly posed school photos and imagine wedding photography will be the same – but in reality it’s completely different. In any case, the day passes so quickly you won’t have time to worry about posing for pictures.”
Calm camera nerves
“I’d say that during at least 98% of appointments, either the bride or the groom will mention that they’re camera-shy. Ironically, you’ll find that many photographers don’t like having their picture taken either!” says Russell. “So we’re happy to give subtle tips about posing to make people feel completely comfortable. Cameras are so quick that we can have the lens focused on you and capture a natural shot before you even realise what’s happening.”
Create a schedule
“We try to break our photo sessions into 20-minute slots if we can,” says Ross. “Other than the ceremony and speeches (where we take as many images as we can), we tend to keep the family photo session short so people don’t get distracted. Couples often ask for over 30 family photos, which eats into their photography time and takes away from the day. I think it’s a mistake to do so.”
Andrew agrees: “I always give the couple a clear timeline for their day, from taking photographs of the bride in her dress right through to the group photographs which can last around 45 minutes. If we don’t have clear guidelines, timings can easily slip and disrupt the flow of the day.”
Search home and away
Tread carefully if you’re getting married abroad, because your dreams of serene beachside shots might be disrupted if you choose the wrong photographer. “Couples are often stuck weighing up the option of paying a hotel package photographer, taking a punt on a local photographer or spending a bit more money to hire a photographer from the UK,” says Russell. “With local photographers, special requests are at risk of getting lost in translation, but we also understand that flying someone out to a wedding is quite a big additional expense. If you don’t live in the country in which you’re getting married, or have relatives who are based there and can do some research for you, it can be hard to meet photographers in person to see if you click.”
Take another angle
“One of our brides wanted a picture taken with her giant long-eared bunny – it was about the size of a golden retriever,” laughs Russell. “The rabbit had a top hat on with an elastic band around its chin. Another bride wanted to pose for photos with her chickens. We were also asked to fly by helicopter with the groom and the best men and photograph them on the way.”
There are great pictures out there, so don’t restrict your ideas to tried and tested shots of the bridal party.!