Wedding photography is an exciting field with many photographic hobbyists looking to make some extra money on the side providing cheap wedding photography.
After paying hundreds for just the dress alone, never mind the church, the flowers, the reception and all of the food and drink. It’s very tempting to book a cheap wedding photographer; after all, the photography is probably the last thing you want to think about.
Choosing your wedding photographer is the most important thing to do when planning your wedding. In fact it should be the first thing you do.
First-class wedding photographers get booked up months in advance so don’t leave it to the last minute to book. However saying that, there could be a few dates not booked, so give them a ring and see if your date is free.
Obviously everyone wishes for the dress to be beautiful, the flowers stunning, the food to be delicious and the reception to be charming. The wedding photographer, however, really should be one of the top things on your list of essential items.
If you choose a poor quality wedding photographer, it will be felt in every photograph that you look at.
Nothing is more significant than your wedding photography. Why’s that? Well, just think about it - what happens when your wedding is over? The flowers are dead, the dress gets freeze-dried (or whatever it is the cleaners do) and put in a box, the cake is eaten, and a year after your wedding you won’t even remember what you ate. All you’ll have left from this day are your memories - and your photos are the doorway to those memories.
Down to the tips:
1. DOES THE PHOTOGRAPHER HAVE MANY DIFFERENT PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE SAME WEDDING TO SHOW YOU?
I’d be concerned if they were all from the same wedding.
Proper professional photographers have taken wedding photographs for many different brides and that should reflect in their work.
On the other hand if you only see one photograph from each wedding I would suspect that the photographer only gets one good picture from the whole day.
You need to know that they are consistent and have taken photographs at many different weddings with at least three different pictures from each wedding in their gallery or book.
As an average guide, photographs from three recent weddings are appropriate.
2. DOES THE PHOTOGRAPHER LISTEN TO YOU?
A photographer that talks all the time about how great they are is someone you should be wary of. If a professional is not prepared to listen to you then they are not very professional, I mean how do they know what you are looking for?
3. DO YOU ACTUALLY LIKE THIS PERSON?
You will be spending the most important day of your life with a stranger, make sure you like them. If the photographer’s personality clashes with yours, you could be in for an unhappy day - or at least an awkward one.
Why risk being unhappy on the most important day of your life? That’s why reading the photographer’s personality is, in my opinion, more important than analyzing their portfolio. Will they be officious? Offensive? Aloof? When you talk with a prospective photographer, get a feel for them and see if they are someone you’d want to be friends with.
If the answer is “yes”, then put them high on your list!
4. A PROFESSIONAL HAS STYLE.
A professional photographer will have a distinct style and taste. The photographs may be in black and white or in colour; you may see lots of manipulation in the images or none.
5. AN AMATEUR PHOTOGRAPHER POSING AS A PROFESSIONAL WILL NOT HAVE MUCH OF A STYLE.
Their images will look uninteresting and vulgar. If their style is all over the place then you can bet your life that they are not professionals.
6. WHAT ARE THE IMAGES LIKE?
a. Are the images flat?
b. Too dark or too light?
c. Can you see the details on the wedding dress or is it just a white blob?
d. Do the people in the pictures look awkward or distracted?
e. Do the group photographs look messy?
f. Are the backgrounds in the pictures cluttered?
g. Do the backgrounds compete for attention for the people in the picture?
h. Are the people looking at the camera?
i. Do they still have their heads?
If you answer yes to these questions then I would say that the photographer is not a professional.
There are exceptions though; with the Photojournalistic style, most people in the pictures are not looking at the camera and the backgrounds can be a little distracting.
Also ask the photographer where the photograph was taken; sometimes they have done the best that they can do. This is especially true with registrar weddings, where the registry offices are usually situated in or near industrial areas where the backgrounds are not very pretty anyway.
7. DOES THE PHOTOGRAPHER SEEM PROFESSIONAL?
This is the most difficult one to gauge as many people know to dress smartly and it’s easy to learn the technicality of the camera, the terminology to explain the photographs and sell their presentation.
You can never know for sure but there are a few pointers:
a. Ask them if they do photography as a full time career?
i. If they answer yes then it’s one point in their favour.
ii. If they say no, then ask them what else they do. If it’s a completely different field, like building or office work, then they aren’t a professional photographer, they will have nothing to lose if they mess up the photographs of your wedding.
b. How long have they been in business?
i. Anything under a year is suspect, mainly because they will probably not have enough experience with professionally covering weddings outside the seminars and courses.
ii. Two to three years is good, the photographer has probably had enough wedding experience to know what to expect and how to deal with any situations that may arise.
iii. Anything over three years is very good (as long as it is their full time employment) as it shows that they are doing pretty well and they should have a good reputation.
Ask about the photographer with your friends and acquaintances; see what reputation they have achieved. If it’s good then they can be trusted, if not then don’t trust them, think of it as a confidence rating.
c. How many weddings have they photographed?
i. This is important, if they give you a figure under 20 then be on your guard and take all of the other answers into account when finally deciding on whether to book them or not, especially take into account how many years they have been in business. If they have only done 20 weddings in two years, then perhaps you shouldn’t book them. 20 is a very low number of weddings for two years; you can expect an expert photographer on average to photograph at least 20 weddings per year.
ii. If they give you a figure over 200 and they’ve been in business for only a couple of years then they are blatantly lying. There is no possible way for them to have covered so many weddings in two years.
iii. For a business that has been operating for two years, a reasonable figure for weddings covered is 60.
d. Does the photographer go on seminars and courses if so which ones?
i. If they haven’t been on any courses or to seminars and say that they are completely self-taught, then they are definitely amateur photographers. Professional photographers frequently attend seminars and courses to keep fresh, and their skills honed to a fine point.
ii. If they have been on a few courses when they started up then they are not committed to quality and excellence within their photography and probably cut corners a lot. Be wary of these.
iii. If they attend general courses, not specific to wedding photography then question their commitment to their craft.
iv. If they go on specialist courses on wedding photography quite often, then excellent! This proves that they are committed and focused on their craft.
I frequently attend specialist courses on specific styles of wedding photography. This is to keep me fresh and at the peak of my profession. I do learn from books and practise often but you can only get so far learning by yourself and there is absolutely no substitute for hands on experience and training.
8. DOES THE PHOTOGRAPHER HAVE A CONTRACT?
A photographer who doesn’t have a contract is not to be trusted. If you purchase any kind of service, from plumbing to photography there must be a contract. This is to protect you from anything that can go wrong and also so you know exactly what you are getting. The contract can either be long and complicated or short and sweet.
The photography contract guards against a photographer not completing their end of the bargain. It also protects you from them taking your money and running. It also allows you a legal entitlement to the service you have paid for and also tells you what you are allowed to do with the photographs. The contract should also have a section attached which tells the photographer all of the details of the wedding.
9. DOES THE PHOTOGRAPHER ASK YOU ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TAKEN ON THE DAY, DO THEY ASK YOU ABOUT FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS AND FAMILY POLITICS?
The photographer should ask you about the photographs that you would like on the day, a wedding is a great event that gathers together many estranged family members and there is usually only this day to photograph them all together. Many relatives will be coming from far flung places and the photographer must know to get these important people.
A wedding is a very emotionally charged event and the photographer should ask and know about any potential problems between family members so they don’t start any fights.
As well as knowing all of this, the photographer should ask for a liaison within the wedding party, it’s usually an usher from both sides of the family, some one who knows all of the family members by sight. Remember the photographer has probably never met your family before so appointing them someone who knows everyone that will be there is paramount to getting everyone you would like photographed in the right place at the right time.
10. PRICE: “If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is!”
I honestly wouldn’t look at your photography budget the same way I would look at the budget for example; your wedding dress.
a. You might get lucky and find a cheap and talented photographer for under £500 for a whole day coverage, but like most things in life you get what you pay for and you will most likely end up with nothing like you asked for, poor quality, badly composed photographs or no photographs at all!
b. If you can find the budget to move out of the bottom range and into the next level (say, £500 to £1,000 for half day coverage) you will expand your choices of truly professional photographers greatly and you will no doubt end up with gorgeous photographs that last a lifetime.
c. If you move to the next level (say, £2,000 - £4,000) your choices expand exponentially, because now you’re not limited to the photographers in your local market, you can begin to source from photographers that are willing to travel nationwide.
d. The price of the service is obviously important to you, as you have probably already spent thousands on the wedding itself. There is no point scrimping on the photography. As mentioned above, everything else gets eaten, forgotten or put into storage, the photography pretty much the only thing you will have from your day to show everyone.
Everyone has a budget, try your best to stretch that budget and book a professional photographer for as long as you can get them, you won’t regret it.
Michelle Jones an expert photographer working for Catkin Studio, a professional Wedding and Portrait photography company. She has been taking professional Photographs for over five years and is highly commended for her work. Michelle attends many seminars and courses on both Wedding and Portrait photography and takes photographs in both classical and contemporary style.
See www.catkinstudio.com for more information.