A wedding album, they say, is like a dress. It’s meant to be enjoyed and it’s supposed to be looked at. However, just like designing the perfect gown, there’s an art to capturing a wedding so that it reflects the personalities of the people in it. So how to find the person who’s going to deliver? Our ten-step guide to choosing your wedding photographer will help you make the right decision.
1 TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE
If you want your pick of the bunch, leave plenty of time – especially if, like most people, you’re getting married in the summer. Good photographers will get booked a year or more in advance, so don’t leave it too late. If your first choice is unavailable, don’t panic: ask for recommendations – they may know a fellow snapper with a similar style.
2 A QUESTION OF STYLE
One of the most important questions to consider is: what style of photography do I actually like? If you’re not sure, it’s time to get flicking through magazines and blogs to find out what works for you.
“First and foremost, the most important thing when choosing your wedding photographer is to like their photographs,” says Mark Archibald of Archibald Photography
(archibaldphotography.co.uk). “Photography is
such a subjective thing that it’s important to trust your own eyes. Make sure you view as much of a photographer’s work as possible to make sure they are consistent and that you like what they do.”
3 DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO OFF-LIST
A lot of venues will have a selection of photographers on their preferred-supplier list – but that doesn’t mean you have to choose one of them. A knowledge of the venue is useful, of course, but it’s not a deal-breaker. “Don’t get bogged down in questions over whether the photographer has shot at your venue before,” says wedding photographer Emma Lawson (emmalawsonphotography.com). “Put yourself in their shoes: would you be more creative in a place you’d never been before or somewhere you’ve been a hundred times?”
4 A DAY TO REMEMBER
What parts of the day do you most want to capture? When budget is a concern, it’s especially important to try to pinpoint what really matters to you. Perhaps you just want the ceremony – in which case a few hours will suffice – or you might want every little moment from the getting ready all the way through to the first dance.
5 QUALITY CONTROL
The number of hours spent at a wedding does not necessarily directly relate to the number of images you’ll have for your album. Processing photos takes time – and costs money – so make sure your expectations marry with what the photographer typically produces. Anyone can point and shoot, says Mark, but not everyone has the skill and talent of a professional: “Base your decision on talent rather than on the fact that one is offering an album twice as big for half as much. A simple book of really beautiful images covering the story of a wedding is something that can become a family heirloom. A book of disappointing images is destined to be stored under the bed.”
5 DO THE MATHS
As a rule of thumb, a photographer’s fees and albums will come to approximately 12% of your entire wedding fund, so doing a quick sum will help you to quickly eliminate those who’ll blow your budget. There’s always room to negotiate, though: “Many photographers will list guide prices on their website – if they’re just a little out of reach, you should get in touch to try to work out a price,” says Emma. “That said, there’s no point in setting your heart on a photographer whose charges are way beyond your budget.”
6 GO SURFING
Research pays. The most helpful tool for the modern bride is social media, so get surfing photography blogs and Pinterest. “One of the best things about our modern internet-led society is that photographers can engage with potential clients before direct contact is even made,” says Mark. However, he asks that we remember that the perfect photographer might not necessarily be ranked first on Google – it pays to scroll down and have a good look at who’s out there.
“If you find a blog that you like, it will help you style your entire day, not just the photography,” adds Emma. “Blogs are full of real-life wedding photography too. It may be when you see a real-life wedding, the style you thought you liked isn’t for you after all.”
7 CREDIT CHECK
“The industry has been flooded with wedding photographers in recent years so it can hard to work your way through it,” warns Sandra Parris of Parris Photography (parrisphotography.co.uk). “Just make sure you employ a full-time photographer, not someone who’s doing weddings at weekends to make a bit of extra cash.”
She suggests looking out for accreditations from either the Master Photographers Association (MPA) or the British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP). “To become a qualified member of either of these two associations, you have to prove you work to an extremely high standard,” she says. As a bonus, if they’re with the MPA, they’ll have all the necessary insurance.
8 REALITY SHOW
Once you have your wish list of names, it’s time to pick up the phone. Chat to each candidate – checking first that they’re available on your date – and finding out how much experience they have. Portfolios are usually just a selection of their best work, so if you haven’t seen their pictures of a full wedding from start to finish, ask to see them. “Ask to be shown a few complete wedding albums so you can check for things like consistency and print quality,” says the other half of Parris Photography, John Parris. “Most photographers can produce one or two lovely shots – but can they repeat that quality right through the album, and for every album?”
9 PERSONALITY MATTERS
If you can, meet your photographer in person, or arrange a Skype call. “Other than the person you are marrying, this is who you’ll spend the most time with on your wedding day, so it’s vital they’re someone you gel with,” says Emma. “You’ll find that out pretty quickly if you have a coffee with them.”
When you meet, go through some more wedding pictures together, asking how they achieved various effects and took particular shots. “It’s a mistake not to meet up and just assume everything will be brilliant,” warns Elaine from View Photography
(view-photography.co.uk). “Always get together well in advance – you need to have a good rapport to ensure you feel comfortable.”
10 GET A CONTACT
While your decision should be style and personality-led, it’s the paperwork that should seal the deal. Make sure you read it – there will be lots of detail in there – and agree with each other what’s in it. If you aren’t sure about anything, ask lots of questions.