How To Choose The Best Wedding Photographer
Unlike the job of your other wedding vendors (music, flowers, catering or cake), photographs are not things you can hear, taste, smell or even see at first—you are not really sure what you are getting until after the wedding. That means careful research and cull in regards to various professional skills, shooting style, and personal character are extra important when choosing your wedding photographer.
Step One: Decide On Photography Style
Before you start researching wedding photographers, you’ll need to decide what type of photography you prefer, as that will help choose the kind of photographer you will want shooting your wedding. Does any of the following styles appeal to you?
Instead of a series of posed wedding photos, these are candid or spontaneous pictures (not styled) of people, decors, and the action. The typical shots for this style might include some of the food before guests start digging in, your crew of cousins dancing, you and your bridesmaids laughing, a glass of champagne in hand. With a purely photojournalistic wedding photographer, you will rarely see people staring at the camera—the photos capture the wedding exactly as it happened, and they together they tell a story.
If you do prefer a more classical approach to portraits go with a more of a traditional kind of photographer who’s specialty lies in the realm of traditional wedding portraiture. This particular style is characterized mostly by more of a posed portraits, mostly of the two of you, but also including your close friends and the rest of the family. He or she would pose you in front of a different type of backdrops. Of course, there is some room for creativity in this particular style, but most “togs” prefer to take the classical route with this style. Most shooters will pose subjects in front of more traditional kinds of spots. A prime example is a shot in front of the ceremony altar or at the back of the church in more formal sorts of poses, like standing up, lined up in a group of sorts. There are some other artists that prefer to take portraiture further creatively using a bit of a more dramatic look and composition. An example of that could be either the bride sitting on the groom’s hip on a lounge chair at a posh hotel lobby or both of them holding hands and looking seriously ahead on a dirt road somewhere in the country. Some even use dramatic lighting and simulate certain weather conditions to achieve a specific look to their pictures.
Fine Art Wedding Photography:
Although it is a style a bit similar to the previous documentary photography style, this one provides the wedding photographer much greater freedom of artistic expression to be able to infuse their own and unique point of view and approach into your unique wedding pictures. Even though the pictures reflect the reality of the wedding, it very often the reality that the artist see through their own eyes. The photos that carry the stamp of the fine art style are usually quite whimsical, dramatic and simply gorgeous. Very often they are recorded on film or made to look as they are, with a more crude, dreamier, unprocessed and more muted feel. In many photos, the bride or both newlyweds are in sharp focus while the background fades away in a heavenly blur. Motion, in general, looks amazing as well, so often you will see the bride and the groom walking on a dirt road holding hands while the wind playfully caressing their hair. A lot of the typical artists that call themselves fine art photographers are still shooting on old school cameras using medium format film and their work has a very specific look and feel to it. They often shoot in black and white, but the colour is available widely as well. That being said, a shooter using only a digital DSLR can definitely still be able to capture this particular style with the proper camera body and specific lens, usually very fast, prime glass. A lot of photographers use both digital and film, but some of them are not available to shoot formal portraits because it doesn’t suit their vision, so you might consider asking for a second shooter if you insist have formal portraits from your special day.
Bold or Edgy Photography:
This particular wedding style is a stepchild of the fine art. It often carries the mark of “outside-the-box”. You will see in it a lot of unconventional framing, lots of negative space and tilted pictures. For example, instead of the traditional shot of the bride and the groom saying their vows near the altar, the photo will be tilted, it might include an interesting element of the church, rust candle holder or chandelier. You can also see instead of the traditional bride and bridesmaids portrait something like the group being in a quarter of the photo and the rest three quarters filled with the wall behind them, trees or whatever interesting is in the background.
Most of the very successful wedding photographers in the world actually shoot a different blend of shooting styles – a mix of fine art and portraiture with a documentary approach can deliver some amazing and unique results. My advice is that if there is and particular photo style that you tend to enjoy more than the rest, it would be better if you try to focus on artists who has specialized in this particular area and have the work to show it.
Step Two: Research Different Wedding Vendors
Probably the very first place to start researching for cameramen are wedding directories and blogs. You can ask your venue if they have a preferred vendor list or if they can recommend someone who delivered great work from their particular venue. Browse through the website and the blog of the chosen candidates to see previous weddings that they photographed and see if their style suits with the vision for your own special wedding. Thoroughly survey potential photographer’s portfolios and full wedding galleries to review pictures of other events that they might have photographed. It will help you get a better idea of their own shooting style. Having a beautifully designed website and blog certainly separates one artist from another. You can take a look at their social media profiles as well, some of them are updated more frequently than the actual portfolio shown on the web. See what other brides have to say about the vendor that you like. Are they raving about their photos? Are there any complaints against? Another indicator could be the speed and the manner they reply to emails and inquiries as well!
Step Three: Meet With A Potential Photographer
Deciding on a photographer for your special date is not an easy deal, it is hard to book someone just on presentation and online portfolio. Probably the best thing to do if you come upon a website or gallery that you like is to ask the photographer who shot it if he or she is available to the date of your wedding. If they are indeed available see if you can schedule a meeting in person with the potential candidate. If they are not available maybe they have an associate or someone who they can recommend instead, so it is always helpful to communicate with the photographers. It is best if you can schedule more that one meeting with two or three different professionals and see who you like best. Don’t forget that you will spend a lot of time with that person prior and at the wedding so if you have clashing personalities it might be best to have a backup plan, just in case. At the meeting, you can expect to talk a lot about the venue, your plans, and vision for the wedding and any specific ideas that you want to incorporate in the photos. For example, here are 21 questions to ask your wedding photographer at a potential meeting!
Step Four: Ask To See A Full Wedding Gallery
The vast majority of photographer’s websites only show the very best of the best from their work. You can’t really blame them for that, but you see only the cream of the crop of their work, and you see many pictures from many different weddings, which might not accurately represent the artist’s ability to capture weddings as they happen. Ask all the photographers that you talk to show you either a full wedding album that was designed for a previous wedding or ask to see a full wedding gallery that they shot before. That should contain at least 50-60 different images and follow the timeline of the wedding as it happened – from the bride and groom preparations through the ceremony and all the way to the first dance. That should give you the general idea how good the photographer really is as an all-rounder.
Step Five: Pay Close Attention To Details
When you finally meet your potential photographer and you take a look at their work, see if you can find all the key moments that you want to be captured in their work. See if they got photos of both the bride and the groom getting ready if the bridal portraits are beautiful, sharp and in focus. Did they manage to get shots of the bride walking down the isle? What about the groom’s expression when he saw the bride for the first time? . Look for great use of lighting and beware of washed out photos that look blurry and not really in focus. Those shouldn’t be in the portfolio of any self-respected photographer these days. It is very important to see if you artist of choice can capture emotions as they unveil, like the dad’s face when he sees his daughter in her wedding dress for the first time, or the bridesmaids cracking up about a joke of their own. See if people in their work seem relaxed and enjoy themselves, not looking stressed out at the camera on every picture, unless those are the photos that you want, of course 🙂
Step Six: See If You Click
You shouldn’t underestimate the importance of bonding with your photographer and actually enjoying their company. It is always a good sign if the photographer shows excitement with the vision you describe for your particular wedding. See if the make suggestions and offer revisions for your plans in a respectful and considerate manner and their behavior shouldn’t be offensive or inconsiderate. Your photographer has to be a respectful and calm, but with a firm hand when needed because sometimes in order to get the best possible shots you have to be a bit bossy with people, especially during the family portraits after the ceremony. You photographer shouldn’t irritate you at all in any way and should put you at ease in front of their lens. After all, you will spend your whole wedding day being shadowed by this guy, or girl, and the more comfortable you are with their present, the better the pictures will turn out. You don’t want any irritated glances from your guests either visible in the photos, so common sense and unobtrusive approach is a must for any wedding artist. See if they are good with kids if there will be many kids at the wedding. Some photogs they don’t get along with kids very well so it might lead to some awkward moments if you have any kids involved with the wedding. Your shooter should be a good listener and calm enough when taking suggestions and think fast on the fly, after all, few weddings really go as smoothly as planned, if ever, so they should be adaptable and fast thinkers when it comes to different scenarios.
Step Seven: Book Your Photographer
Please take your time and read thoroughly the wedding photography contract. Be very wary if the photographer doesn’t have on, or is being shady about the contract as that might be a possible disaster waiting to happen. Any respectful wedding artist has a contract of at least few pages, describing in detail how the wedding day should unfold and what will happen if a situation arise. You should be covered in case of emergency and there should be a backup photographer in case something happens to the main one. You should also ask if there will be any assistants or second photographers involved in the wedding and if so, how many. If the package you choose doesn’t include a second photographer, see if you want to add one for a little bit extra. Many established photographers offer packages with two or more shooters so they can offer a better coverage of your big day. The main benefit would be that, for example, one shooter can cover the bride walking down the isle while the second can be focused on the groom as he sees his bride for the first time that day. Another example might be during the cocktail hour, of one – the main photog can cover the fine art portraits of the bride and the groom while the second can focus on the guests and the wedding party – their interactions, smiles, and reactions as the main one is working. The provides great flexibility and the second shooter can really capture amazing shots that just one photographer would never be able to record.
The other thing in the contract that no one talks about is food – see if you have to feed your wedding vendors or not. You don’t really have to if you don’t, but most of them, especially the video and photo guys and girls, are standing and doing hard work for sometimes over 10 or 12 hours, so they do need a little break to recharge the batteries if so to speak. Many venues offer discounted vendor meals, or you can decide to include them in the guest count. Keep in mind that most vendors prefer to sit down away from the guests so they can review their work so far, replace drained batteries and put a fresh memory card in their cameras. Most vendors would be happy even with a sandwich, but do let us know in advance so we can prepare some food from home, especially if the wedding is in a secluded venue miles away from the closest food shop.
Step Eight: Compare Wedding Packages
It would be very hard to get an exact price quote for your wedding photography until you narrow down how many hours you will need, how many photographers, whether you need an album, pre-wedding session and so on… Wedding packages can range all the way from the lower end of a thousand all the way up to five or more thousand pounds in the higher end. Whenever you meet your photographers see what their general price range is so you can get a general idea how much they charge for their work. Many established professionals offer few different packages with different level of coverage, the number of shooters and some sort of print credit or an album. It is important to know what is included in your package so you are clear about what you should expect from you photographer. See how much they charge just for basic coverage, second shooters and how much is the wedding album that you want in particular so you can be better prepared in your expectations. Many established pros offer an “engagement session” or a pre-wedding shoot. Different wording, but it is basically the same thing – an hour or two photo session of just the two you somewhere in a park or a place with a very nice scenery as a background. It is a great way to get some really nice photos for your invitations or “save the date” cards, as well earn some bragging right on social media with some beautifully edited images. Whether an engagement session suits you or not it is completely up to you, but it is a great way to see if you “click” with your photographer and ensure you are not total strangers on the wedding day.
Another important thing with pricing is that you have to be completely clear how many hours of coverage you will get on your wedding day. Most wedding packages are for 8 to 10 hours of shooting. There are photographers who offer a full day wedding coverage that usually starts with the morning preparations and continues all the way to the first dance and some more. If you are planning any sort of grand departure or sparklers at the end talk to your photographer if they can stay all the way until the end of the wedding. A lot of photographers choose to end the day after the first dance mostly because there is not much going on after it. Usually, people start getting tipsy after the first dance when they join the newlywed couple on the dance floor and in reality – there are so many different pictures you can take of people dancing their hats off at a wedding. If you need more coverage – just communicate with your photographer – most wouldn’t mind staying a little extra time if there is a chance to capture something interesting and memorable to add to their portfolio.
Step Nine: Read The Contract And Know Your Rights
In law, the photographer who takes the photo is the owner of that photo. You have to know your rights with your wedding pictures and how they will be used by the photographer. Most wedding artists stipulate that they own the rights to the pictures and that they have full rights to use them to promote their work. That can vary from usage on their wedding website, social media, print or even advertising materials. If you don’t want to be the face of your wedding photographer you have to let them know so they can add a clause in the contract for usage of the images and so on. Most shooters insist on you only sharing watermarked images on social media and other outlets so they can promote themselves better. Other give you full rights over the images for you to use them as you like – print, share or do whatever you want to do with them. You have to know that in advance so you know in advance what are your rights over the images. Be aware that some photographers will not even allow you to print from the images, making you have to buy all the prints and paper materials from them and them only. Ask your photographer if you have to pay extra for the use of the images and if you have to credit them if you decide to share the images on wedding blogs or websites.
Step Ten: Receive The Final Product
Most photographers are all finished with the editing and culling of the photos from your big day usually withing a few weeks up to a month of the wedding. In case you wonder why does it take such a long time please keep in mind that we shoot sometimes over 2 or 3 thousand images per wedding. They are not the images that come out from your little point and shoot camera, they are high-resolution RAW files that need to be processed and edited before handing them over to you. It takes a lot of time to cull, edit and polish all the images and then decide which ones are to be included in the final cut. Usually, there are a lot of photos of people with closed eyes and weird faces that we have to remove or edit before delivery. We have to make sure all the images are colour corrected and cropped as well, sometimes we go in a bit more extensive editing to remove little skin blemishes or remove whole distractions from the photos. You should ask your photographer beforehand how many images are expected to make it till the end and if you are allowed to print them after delivery. Talk to the artist about certain types of retouch that you like done to the photos, for example, if you’ve seen a really cool photo on Pinterest or Instagram. Keep in mind that if you want your pictures to stand the test of time you have to keep it timeless – classic, well lit and tasteful photography has always been in fashion. You probably remember those awkward 70s and 80s photos that no one wants to look at them now. Please don’t be that person, your kids will thank you for it later!