How to find the perfect wedding photographer

Got a wedding to organise and no idea where to begin? Read on for the second installment of Ann Russell’s planning diary: sorting your photography

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Photo: shutterstock.com

Apart from the rings, photographs will be the most tangible memento of your wedding. The day itself is likely to pass by in a blur of champagne and dancing, so it’s worth investing in a good photographer who’ll capture all the moments you miss. Like everything else in the world of wedding planning, it pays to get organised early, especially when it comes to big-ticket items.
But where do you start in your quest for a photographer? Take your time weighing up the pros and cons of their portfolio, professional skills, artistic style and personality, and you won’t go far wrong.

STREAMLINE YOUR REQUIREMENTS

First things first: how much do you want from your photographer? A quick ceremony and a drinks reception will need just a few hours of their time, especially if you have keen snappers in the family. Or do you need a full-day package, from the morning prep until the evening reception?
Next, pinpoint the photographic style you like. Browsing a variety of portfolios will help you do this. For a relaxed do outdoors, a photojournalistic approach might suit best – spontaneous moments of you, your guests, the décor and venue, rather than a series of posed shots. It’s a great choice if you’re camera-shy or just want to get on with the party. If you’re planning a more formal occasion, you might prefer traditional portraits where family and friends pose together. These pictures are more staged but still allow lots of room for creativity.
Most professionals can do both portraits and documentary-style shots and will offer black-and-white and colour images to give you a variety of final images to choose from.

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You should get a sneak preview of your pictures when you get back from your honeymoon

DO YOUR RESEARCH

Once you’ve settled on a style, it’s time to start looking for a photographer. Narrow down the options by finding out who covers weddings in your area.

Go with a true professional who understands wedding etiquette and won’t be scared to chat to your auntie Jean over a canapé

There’s no point considering people at the opposite end of the country unless you’re willing to fork out extra cash for travel expenses. (If you’re getting married abroad, ask your venue to recommend local photographers.) Get friends and family to pitch in with ideas, but don’t be scared to point out that you’re looking for a certified professional rather than your cousin’s best friend’s uncle.
Carefully review potential photographers’ websites, looking at a wide selection of their work. The written content is just as important as the imagery because their tone should communicate something about their personality and the way they do business. We were attracted to a photographer by his bright and airy pictures but also by his warm, engaging home page. We contacted him and found this personality resonated through his emails too, which encouraged us to arrange a meeting in person.
It’s worth asking new brides for their honest opinion of the photography process itself, from working with the photographer on the day to receiving the final results. And when it comes to meeting photographers, don’t forget to tell them who recommended them – they can say thanks and you might get a discount!

ARRANGE A MEETING

Before meeting, have a clear idea of your budget. Photography fees plus albums generally take up at least a tenth of the entire wedding budget, so keep this in mind. Draw up a list of a dozen or so photographers that you like based on their online portfolio, then send out an introductory email enquiring about availability, services, packages and prices. Indicate that you’re in the first stages of your search and that you’ll be back in touch should you wish to arrange a meeting.
Look at all the quotes on offer and discard any candidate who is out of your price range. Be sure to compare each photographer not only on price but on the services they offer. Is an engagement shoot included? Does a wedding album come with the package? These additional costs can mount up, so consider value for money as well as price.
From this, you’ll have a shortlist of photographers you want to meet in person. Be prepared to talk about your venue, the style of your wedding and the type of photos you’re looking for. A photographer friend of mine told us not to base our decision solely on an online portfolio, as this is the photographer’s very best work. Ask to see a whole selection of galleries and albums to allow you to make a more informed decision. If you like more than 80% of the images, you’re on the right track.
Ask how long they typically take to process images. You don’t want to wait more than a few months, and most photographers will send you an unedited image gallery once you’re back from honeymoon. And ask about image resolution, about how many images you should expect to get, and whether they use post-production programs like Photoshop for retouching as part of their standard package.
Go with a true professional who understands wedding etiquette and won’t be scared to chat to your great-auntie Jean over a canapé. Capturing natural smiles is an art, so you’ll need someone with a positive, likable presence. You want some­one who listens, pays attention and will go with the flow of the day.
Chat with your other half about the pho­tographers you meet and be honest with one another. It’s an important decision so spend time together comparing the packages from people you both like. Once you’ve found the right person it’s time to discuss the finer details like full album fees, the length of coverage and any extras like special effects.

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Looking through entire albums of a photographer’s work is a must

CONFIRM YOUR PLANS

Amid the thrill of wedding planning, a lot of brides forget to check the photographer’s contract before they sign it. You must look for clauses referring to image rights. If the photographer owns the image rights he/she can reproduce your wedding photos without your permission. It also means that if you want to create an album yourself you’ll need to pay an extra fee to buy the image rights. Lots of photographers watermark their images and won’t allow clients to share images that don’t display this branding. Be careful and make sure you enter into a contract that all parties are happy with.
Insurance is also vitally important. Make sure the person you meet is indeed the person who’ll shoot your wedding and ensure they have emergency cover in place. Lastly, double check whether they’re bringing any assistants. It’s also customary to offer the photographer a meal at the wedding breakfast, even if they have to eat it behind the scenes. They may not take you up on the offer, but it’s nice to ask.
By now you’ll have realised that the key to stress-free wedding planning is being well organised. Remember to confirm plans several times – when signing the contract, a few months before the wedding and again a week or so before the day to finalise any last-minute details. Then leave the photographer to it and get on with enjoying yourself!