Congratulations on your engagement! It’s such an exciting time starting to plan not only your wedding day but also the beginning of your married life together. Most couples tackle their wedding to-do list from biggest items first and that usually means photography is fairly early on in the planning. Read on if you want a breakdown of some of my easy steps on how to choose your wedding photographer.
Understanding the styles of wedding photography
Before you start sending random enquiries left, right and centre based on the wrong criteria, it’s important to sit down with your fiancé and decide what’s important to you both from your photos. I appreciate it can feel really overwhelming when you go onto people’s websites and they declare that they are a fine art or a documentary photographer (and truthfully a lot of people aren’t fully in the categories they proclaim to be, just to muddy the waters further!)
What are the main styles of wedding photos?
The majority of photographers fall into a more ‘traditional’ category whereby they capture the day in a fairly traditional way.
The different styles of wedding photography you’ll see frequently describe themselves as are fine art or documentary / reportage photography.
Fine art has become synonymous with light and airy imagery that takes more posing as a couple and is mean to be more used as art rather than a pure representation of your day.
Pure documentary photographers won’t intervene in your day at all, merely capturing what is in front of them. That also means no couple shots, no posed group photos, no detail shots.
What style am I?
I’m a documentary leaning traditional photographer if you really want me in a box! I definitely take a more story-telling approach to your day because I live for those moments. When you look back through your photos I want you to be able to remember how you felt about your wedding, not simply how things looked. However, I do also appreciate that it’s a time when family come together so I definitely know that you’ll want a few family photos and of course we’ll get some lovely couple photos as well!
Knowing the style you want for your photos is a great start to narrow down the number of photographers you want to approach in the first place, which will make your search a lot less overwhelming!
How to decide on your photography budget?
After style, obviously budget has to be taken into consideration. If you read wedding planning magazines they recommend spending between 10-15% of your budget on your photographer.
Not in all cases, but usually you get what you pay for so it is a good idea to make space in your budget for your photos as this will become the lasting memory of your day.
Most photographers have either package prices or starting prices on their websites. If they are way above your budget then consider looking elsewhere unless you are willing to rejig your budget a little.
I do appreciate that the prices can seem like a massive chunk of change, but your photographer is often there all day, working flat out (and then for weeks after the wedding) to deliver photos that will last you a lifetime.
How to check out a wedding photographer
Let’s be honest, there are a lot of us!
If you start with a quick google search of ‘St Albans wedding photographer‘ for example, there are dozens of pages that come up. So do you just go through every single result until you find someone? And then how do you even start to figure out if they are the right photographer for you?
Do a website overview
Do a quick skim of their website. This is a high level overview that will give you a first idea if you like the photos they take. You can quickly get a feel from their site if they are a professional wedding photographer or not. Is their site well built and showing photos that appeal to you? If not, move on. If so, add them to your long list.
Remember though that a portfolio is just our best shots and we can luck into those at any wedding, you’ve got a bit more digging to do yet!
Check them out on social media
Does this photographer have any testimonials on their website, or Facebook page or Google reviews? Are the reviews positive? Are there a number of them? If they don’t seem to exist on Google apart from their website, why not?
And what about social media? We can’t all be on all social networks, and I don’t think most of us want to be, but are they active somewhere and invested in their business. Do they engage with comments that people leave? Is this business actively blogging or do they just have a static website that you can’t tell when they last updated? This is a great way to see if they are actively working on their business.
I appreciate all of this takes time but your hard work will be rewarded with a great short list of photographers you want to reach out to.
Make an initial enquiry
If you love a photographer, send an initial enquiry asking about availability for your wedding date.
Just a quick word about us creative souls. It lights our hearts up when you get in touch and tell us a little bit about yourselves and your big day. We get excited when we hear your excitement about your wedding. Even if it’s a copy and paste job, I promise we put so much more into our replies when you’ve given us a bit to go on.
If you aren’t getting some replies back, even from photographers you adore, it may be because some of them get loads of enquiries and they don’t answer emails that only say “send me your prices please” or similar.
That isn’t me, but just a word to the wise!
Ask to see full wedding galleries
Is the photographer willing to send you over a few complete galleries of wedding they’ve photographed? I always share three complete galleries of previous weddings with couples if they’d like to see more of my work. And where possible I try and match these to the type of wedding they’re having (ie a church wedding or a wedding all in the same venue). I’m lucky I’m able to do so because of the sheer breadth of weddings I’ve photographed.
But I think this is really important because it gives you a good chance to really see what a full wedding gallery looks like and understand the type of natural photos, different angles and special moments of all the emotion of the day you would end up with from your own gallery.
After seeing more of a photographer’s work, hearing what people say on their website, seeing real reviews on Google and seeing full galleries you should have a good feel for a photographer.
Meet with the photographer
The last stage is making sure that you actually like the person! I always say to couples that you’re probably around your photographer most as they are there for the whole day from getting ready right until your wedding party, so if you don’t want to be around them after a coffee then your wedding day is a no go!
Having a zoom chat or a coffee, if you’re local, is a necessity to make sure that you’re a good fit. It’s definitely a two way street so the photographer can make sure they feel they can work well with you too.
At meetings I have been asked all sorts of questions, but it’s really a great opportunity to do that. Some couples come armed with long lists of questions such as wanting to know the ins and outs of my liability insurance, how I deal with difficult lighting conditions, what lenses I use, can I bring a second shooter, do I design full wedding albums, are there any additional costs, is there a right time of day for ceremonies and many other important things like this. Others just like to have a natter and get a feel for me – I don’t think there is any right way to do things.
Meeting or chatting in person is the best way to make sure you’re going to be 100% happy with the person you chose for your wedding day.
I hope these tips will help you narrow down your shortlist and help you figure out how to choose your wedding photographer. Now I hope you’re getting a bit closer to finding the person you want to capture your day for you and make finding a photographer a little less stressful.