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How to choose the right Wedding Photographer

Why am I writing this article? As some of you lovely readers out there are aware, I got married myself very recently. So of course, when I tell that to couples, they immediately ask me how I fared when looking for my own photographer; and to be honest, I didn’t find it that easy. Over the next few minutes I’ll try and explain the importance of a little research and cover the bases of things that you need to be thinking about.

The beginning seems as good a place as any to start, and I’ll start by saying that wedding photography has been through a revolution. If your parents’ wedding albums are anything like mine then they’ll be formal shots of the bride and groom, along with a handful of group shots of family members. Depending on when they were shot, they were almost certainly shot on film cameras, and there’ll only be a handful of photographs to look at. Since the advent of digital cameras and their rapid development, the technology has allowed wedding photographers to shoot an awful lot more than they used to on film; not only because they were no longer paying great amounts in film and development, but those digital sensors allowed them to easily shoot in a whole new host of situations without an endless supply of different films. Now look at your friend’s photographs from their wedding last year, and you’ll see a story of their wedding day laid out beautifully in photographic form, a far cry from the staged photographs of your parents.

So I can already hear you saying, why does that matter to me? Well, everything when looking for a photographer; it may be that you’ve seen wedding photographs and loved them but can’t quite put your finger on why. I guarantee an awful lot of that is going to come down to a photographer’s personal style; and I’m not talking attire here, but their artistic flair, the way in which they like to photograph weddings. Given that the technology of cameras has moved on so far, it means a plethora of different styles have emerged too.

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 Before I go any further, I need to point out that there is no wrong way to photograph a wedding (okay, maybe insulting the Bride’s mother at every opportunity may not be the best start) and like most things choosing your photographer is going to come down to your taste. The days of only staged formals are pretty much over for most people, and most photographers will shoot all day to tell the story of your wedding. Some will stay with their tried and tested staged approach, they’ll employ the old tricks that they used to use back in the film days to ensure they get the photographs. The downside to this for some couples is that it can feel like the photographer is interfering, and perhaps trying to control certain elements of the wedding day; on the other hand, some couples like the photographer to be in control and love the direction. Another way to approach wedding photography is to allow the wedding to flow authentically in front of the camera, making sure you capture all the important moments as a bystander. This is really great because it means that all those emotions, all that feeling is 100% genuine, and who wouldn’t love that? Of course, these two approaches are the extremes, and for most people the truth is that they may want somebody in the middle; somebody willing to shoot in a photojournalistic approach capturing all those real moments, but then is also willing to just step in at key points to edge couples in the right direction. For example, I tell all my couples that I like to take control for a total of around 15 minutes a day (and most of that is to organise the group shot with everybody in it.) It’s particularly important to have a look at a series of photographs from a wedding that your photographer has taken, this will give you a good insight into the kind of photographs you can expect of them. Not all photographers share this on their website, while there is nothing wrong with that, it’s good practise to ask to see a full wedding; any photographer confident in their work will gladly provide this, any photographer not willing to should start ringing alarm bells.

Now you might be thinking, “Wait a second, I’m the one paying my photographer so can’t they just adjust themselves to my taste?” While most photographers will be as accommodating to their clients as they can, and will of course shoot the things you want, asking a photographer to change their style for you is a little counter-intuitive. A photographer’s style is honed over years of shooting, and when a photographer is shooting in their own style then you’ll be getting their best work; of that I promise you. That’s not to say you can’t tell them what you like too, perhaps show you them other photographers’ work that you admire or point out their previous work that drew you to them in the first place. You wouldn’t necessarily walk into a Mercedes dealership and demand they sell you a 3 series, your photographer is a similar sort of deal and it’s important to choose the one that fits in with you as a couple the best.

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So let’s just get the awkward bit out of the way, budget. While budget is important it’s equally important to find somebody you like. One of the things that really struck me when setting up my own wedding photography business and then subsequently looking for my own was the variation in price and here begins the first minefield. There are 3 areas that need to be addressed, the first being time. How long is your photographer going to stay with you on your wedding day? Most photographers will offer you a couple of choices, the first being a full day that generally covers you from the preparations in the morning up to the first dance in the evening and everything in between. The other choice will be a reduced time, normally half the amount to be used to your preference, not everyone wants the preparations or the evening being covered and this is a great way to save some money. The next thing to consider is what’s included, the basis of most wedding photographers these days work off the delivery of the images in a digital form, either on USB drive or internet download (or both). Beyond that some photographers offer bundles of the digital images along with prints or albums, which you decide is best for you is a personal thing but something to bear in mind when comparing prices; make sure you’re not comparing apples and oranges. The last thing is a tricky one, more “experienced” photographers tend to charge a little more but that’s not to say you must spend massive to find a competent photographer. Sometimes the photographers charging more are working in 2-person teams, which makes for the extra money. Some photographers charge more because they believe they are offering something beyond what the next photographer is, the key point to remember here is to find the photographer whose work that YOU like and want to shoot YOUR wedding. The most expensive photographer may not necessarily be the one that’s best for you.

I’ll leave you with this final thought, meet up with any prospective photographers or failing that set aside a little time for an in depth phone conversation to go over everything before making a decision; it’s important to get a feel for your photographer to make sure you’re going to be happy to have them around. Your wedding photographer is somebody that’s going to be one of the few people that you actually spend most of one of the most important days of your life with so it’s important that you like them, and not just their photographs. A great way to see how they’re going to work and to make sure they’re right for you is to have an engagement shoot with your photographer, besides seeing how they’re going to photograph you it’s a good opportunity to get to know them better too.