Wedding photography is pricey for a reason: you’re entrusting an expert to do the day’s most crucial job – capturing memories to last a lifetime. So how do you ensure you pick the right one?
Words by Jessica Kiddle
In the months leading up to your big day, magazines, blogs and Pinterest are essential research tools. Brimming with wedding tips and tricks to make the planning easier, they’re also full of images of nuptials the world over. As a result, these go-to bridal bibles should teach you another lesson: the importance of professional photography.
To be able to capture the day that you put your heart and soul into planning – and to capture it in its very best light – is an essential part of the proceedings. With the right photographer, your wedding album will become a memory box of a perfect moment in time. Plus, if you take into account how many times it will be looked at, on a cost-per-wear basis, photographs are a lot better value than a dress.
The advice from John Hendry Photography (jhphoto.co.uk) is this: “Put simply, if you want beautifully crafted professional-quality photographs, don’t ask a once-in-a-while photographer to photograph your once-in-a-lifetime event.”
Grahame Smith of GWS Photography (gwsphotography.co.uk) agrees: “I always say that on a nice day, with an attractive couple in a great venue, at a stage of the day when everyone is relaxed, a friend or family member will be able to get a great photo of you. But if you want wedding photos that give you a lasting reminder of that special day, you really need a professional. You need someone who has been to lots of weddings, knows how they work, knows where the hiccups may occur (and how to remedy them) and knows how to get great photos no matter how little time they have or how bad the weather gets. Not only that, but they need to be able to do it from first thing in the morning right the way through to your taking part in the first dance.”
While the case for hiring a professional for your wedding day isn’t a hard one to make, the question of how to find a good one is slightly more difficult to answer. It depends, in part, on the decision-maker – whether they are ruled by the spreadsheet or by their heart. A bit of both is normally the right approach.
There are, however, a few crucial steps that will send you well on your way to finding the photographer for you.
“Recommendations from friends and family are always a good place to start,” suggests John Parris, one half of Parris Photography (parrisphotography.co.uk). “Just bear in mind that what they thought were important qualities in a photographer may differ from what you are looking for. There are many styles to choose from, such as relaxed and informal, formal, creative/fashion style, or a combination of them all. You need to decide which style you would like your wedding day to be captured in. Some photographers will excel at one certain style; others will be great at producing them all.
“Look at the posing the photographer does with the couple and their guests. Do the people look comfortable or does the pose look awkward? Do the subjects’ expressions look relaxed and natural or stiff and uncomfortable? You want to be able to relax and enjoy having your wedding pictures taken, not feel silly or embarrassed.”
“Look for photographers who have many hundreds of weddings under their belt and who have shot several times at your chosen venue,” adds Martin Weir of Martin Weir Photography
With your research complete, make a shortlist of names you like (and that are within budget). From there, it’s time for the all-important face-to-face meetings, or if time and geography won’t allow, a Skype call.
“It’s extremely important to meet up with your chosen photographer as they will be the one person who spends the most time with you on your wedding day,” says Jillian Clark of Jillian Clark Photography (jillianclarkphotography.com). “If there’s no rapport between you both, the process could feel uncomfortable – and unfortunately it would show in the photographs.”
To help facilitate the conversation at the meeting, there are also a few important things to ask. “How many weddings has the photographer shot is always a good question,” says Grahame. “It might seem a bit obvious, but someone who has only covered a few weddings just might not have enough experience to ensure everything works well on your big day.”
Sandra Parris – the other half of Parris Photography – also recommends looking through a few complete wedding albums so you can check for things like consistency and print quality. “Any semi-decent photographer can produce one or two lovely shots from a wedding, but can they repeat that right through the album – and for every album?” she asks.
“View their work very carefully,” advises John Hendry. “Look for quality throughout the complete album.” This, he says, includes checks for consistency in colour and contrast, an ability to retain detail in the brocade of a dress, for example, and any distracting elements, like a fire exit sign, that should have been fixed in post-production.
Plus, if you have a clear idea of what you want from your photos (thanks to all that visual inspiration), then Jillian suggests asking the photographer early on if your ideas are something that they can provide. “That way you both have a clear vision of what is expected,” she says.
No matter how many questions you have
to ask, remember to be guided by your instinct too. Do you like the photographer in question and can you imagine them being part of your wedding? You’ll remember this person every time you look at your album, so it’s important to let your heart do some of the talking. After all, isn’t that what your wedding day is all about?