With hundreds of photographers out there, how do you ensure you pick the right one for your wedding? The Master Photographers Association is a very good place to start
Google ‘wedding photo nightmare’ or ‘bad wedding photography’ and you won’t be short of sites that make your blood run cold. It seems quite incredible that couples will budget generously for a wedding to give their friends and family a great occasion never to be forgotten – but then engage someone with no experience or qualifications to be their photographer.
When booking a photographer it is essential that you meet them, see how you get on with them, have a good look at their work and maybe talk to some of their happy clients. Never book blind! At the very least you should choose your photographer by reputation and recommendation.
Britain’s qualifying organisation for wedding photographers, the Master Photographers Association (MPA), takes a more measured approach. Only working professionals can become members, so a track record is needed before someone can tackle its working profile or qualify as a licentiate, the basic professional grade.
Scotland is lucky to have a lot of very strong professionally qualified photographers. Go to the tropics where a sunset is guaranteed at the same time every day and the sun shines all year round, and you’ll find that most photographers are unqualified part-timers – one of the risks of the Caribbean wedding experience. But in Scotland, professionals need all the skills of using what light there is, mastering exposure, using location flash and processing images taken under the worst of conditions to secure the best of results.
In fact, Scottish photographers regularly win top international awards because of the country’s great venues and unpredictable, ever-changing light. From brides on the battlements in the rain to brides in falling snow at night, the MPA’s annual Scottish awards get to see the best.
The right wedding photographer can be a couple’s best friend on the day, someone who has been at hundreds of weddings and knows how to keep things running smoothly while making unforgettable images. Today’s wedding photographer is a specialist and an expert – it’s a lifetime creative career, not something the local passport studio does at weekends. And the Master Photographers Association, with its thriving Scottish region, represents the best who have made it their vocation.
You only have one chance to get it right and a professional will have the experience and knowledge to cope with all possible eventualities and still turn out a great set of pictures that you can treasure forever.
Using a professional Master Photographer will be well worth the investment. Professionals have different levels of competence, but what is really important is that you a) like the pictures and b) get on well with the photographer who will be shooting your pictures on the day. To help you further, some professional photographers offer a pre-wedding photo shoot in addition to a pre-wedding consultation. This will give you and your wedding photographer the opportunity to develop a working relationship and will better prepare you both for the actual wedding day. It will also help you to become more accustomed to being photographed, whilst helping your photographer discover under which conditions you look your best.
The ‘click’ checklist
So what does the MPA reckon makes for a happy couple when it comes to choosing and booking a photographer?
Meeting the photographer and seeing their work is most important.
You must be compatible with each other, and be completely at ease with the photographer during the wedding. And you must love their creative style.
Make sure they are qualified and experienced, not just a lucky amateur with a few good examples.
Ask to view several finished albums or complete wedding coverage photo sequences. Most photographers will have permanent samples and may also be allowed to show you their latest commissions. Professionals respect privacy and will never show anyone else your images without permission.
Make sure they are properly insured.
All MPA members are obliged to carry Professional Indemnity and Public Liability cover, safeguarding both clients and guests, and the work carried out.
Ask your photographer if they have back-up in case for any reason they can’t be there on the day.
MPA photographers have a network of fellow professionals and a service which can help find emergency cover from a qualified colleague in the association – often someone who works in a similar style. Many top photographers have an assistant or a ‘second shooter’ to capture more of the day. If you’d prefer a female photographer or a male photographer with a female assistant, ask if it’s an option.
If you want a CD or DVD of your images, ask about this before booking – don’t assume it is available from every photographer.
Some photographers will put all your images online in a gallery with a password so you can let your friends see it. Some will create electronic albums for your HDTV, tablet or computer. There are now so many ways to keep and share your photos, from a printed coffee-table book to a YouTube video. It’s rare to be given the original files, though, as most photographers like to ensure they are always printed to the highest standard.
How much should wedding photography cost you?
With popular magazines often making unwise suggestions like ‘getting a friend to do it’, it’s true you can find wedding photography at all levels from free to exclusive. As a guide, you can engage many good professionals for under £1000 but it’s not unusual to budget £2000 or £3000 after looking at the options for albums and the type of coverage. At the lower end, you’ll have one photographer attending from just before the ceremony to the start of the reception; at the higher end, you may have a second shooter, coverage at the bride’s home, and a full story right up to the dancing.
The MPA is the premier professional organisation for Wedding, Portrait and Commercial Master Photographers; all are bound by the Association’s Code of Conduct. When you choose a wedding photographer registered with the MPA, you can be certain that they will strive continually to uphold the professional standard of their work, and deal fairly, honestly and helpfully with their clients.