Choosing a Wedding Photographer

Do you need a wedding photographer?

Choosing a wedding photographer can be a very hard decision, and with the amount of cameras I see at weddings today you may want to ask yourself if you want a photographer at all. For example, if you really don’t care about having a collection of beautiful images that tell the entire story of your day, you may find that collecting all your guests’ images afterwards is enough for you. I know people who look at photographs like they are an animated flip book; I am the complete opposite, I would prefer a few images that I can savour and bring back all the memories and feelings from the day. Photographs are not the only way to record your wedding either, check out Emma Woodhouse aka The Wedding Reporter who journals the day for you, amazing!

The first thing to ask yourself is what you want from your wedding photographs and I would start by forgetting all the terms you have heard about or read in magazines, like ‘Reportage wedding photography’, ‘traditional wedding photography’ or ‘wedding photojournalism’ etc. I have found after meeting with lots of people they start by saying they are looking for a particular style and then slowly add in all the other styles. Instead, focus on finding images you connect with.

Another problem is people often hide behind some of these terms. Some photographers will talk about having a photojournalistic style as a way to take a very hands off approach with low quality gear. Weddings are actually amazing places to get photojournalistic images as there is so much going on and almost everyone is ok with you walking around taking photographs, but weddings are often a nightmare for lighting so you need top notch equipment and as with street photography, you have to get in and around people and work very quickly. Standing at the edge of a room pointing the camera at anything that sort of happens is just not going to cut it.

These shots of speeches feel like you were there and everyone was having a lot of fun (which they were) but you can only get these from ducking and weaving around the room, staying just long enough to get the shot but leaving before anyone gets uncomfortable.

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The best way to get a feel is to look at each photographer’s general portfolio. A good wedding photographer will have easy access to a collection of 25-50 images that show not only their best images but their favourite images. This will show what they hope to capture at every wedding as well as what their favourite wedding themes are and what is important to them. Here are the first images you see on my website.

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I have this on my front page so potential clients can get a feel for what I am about very quickly. If I could be the right wedding photographer for a couple I want them to connect straight away.

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So if you really want to see candid moments and you see nothing but posed bride & groom photos, they are probably not the right wedding photographer for you. I like to shoot like a photojournalist for most of the day, but I also love to get up close at key moments to give a feeling of intimacy, and although I’m quick I love getting some beautiful wedding portraits and a couple of more large scale shots of the bride & groom with the local landscape. Hopefully those first images you see on my website show that without any words.

Making the decision

Next, narrow down your choice to a few that you are happy with. A good portfolio should also give you an idea of what a wedding photographer doesn’t do. You won’t see for example any setup ups like the groomsmen pulling a fleeing groom into the church, jumping bridesmaids or black & white photos with a bit of colour on my website. That is because I don’t do that. Any professional will work best when left to get on with what they do best; I once shot a wedding for a BBC director, I was a bit nervous but on the day they were one of the easiest couples I have ever shot because they trusted me. I later realised the fact that she was an experienced director, which meant rather than wanting to control every last detail, she knew to hire people she could trust and let them create what they were best at creating. It is still to this day, one of the best weddings I have ever done!

"A good portfolio should also give you an idea of what a wedding photographer doesn’t do"

On the wedding day I will shoot almost anything I am asked to, for example if the bridesmaids say can we get a shot of us all jumping in the air, I will gladly take that shot. However most of the day I am working unguided and won’t be looking for shots like that. Another problem with asking a photographer to start doing things that are not their forte on the day, is that it will often end with mediocre results as they are not doing what they have prepared for.

Once you have whittled down to a few select wedding photographers, you will want to meet them or at least have a good chat with them, as your wedding photographer will be with you all day. My ideal wedding is to cover everything from pre prep, i.e the last little bits of getting everything ready, all the way through to the dancing at the end (my record is 16 hours). I want to tell the whole story of your wedding.

Because you are with them all day and they are with your guests too, you will want to know you get on with them. I always try to have couples round to our house and will meet international wedding clients over Skype. You will also want to see a couple of full weddings. When you see a photographer’s portfolio it is of course their best work, so looking through a full wedding lets you see what you might expect from all your images.

Take the time to explain what you are planning for your wedding so they can show you a wedding that not only fits with your vision but also shows you what they can do given that destination. I would know exactly what wedding I would show. If it was a barn wedding I would show Cripps Barn, a country house wedding would have to be Orchardleigh House, and for a destination wedding I would show Berry & Roberto’s Destination Wedding in Naples, Italy so that the client can see first hand that I can produce consistently high quality work even when working in different countries. The wedding you are shown will still be one of their better weddings, but it will give you a clear idea of how they shoot the entire day and it lets you check that their portfolio is not just a couple of lucky shots. I show a slideshow at every wedding showing images from the day so far, and add a blog of images that are what I consider highlights of the whole wedding which give a good indication of the story I am trying to tell. You can see lots of examples on my blog but here is one from this summer at Orchardleigh House in Somerset.

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We often get asked a load of quick fire question some of which are unimportant, and almost always don’t get asked one that is very important. Questions like what camera do you use are not important, the only thing that matters is if the photographer can get the images you want, because of the speed and demanding nature of wedding photography very good equipment is needed and I shoot with a £4500 Nikon D4 for most of my digital work. I also use an F100 from 1999 and a Polaroid camera from 1969 and they have all produced images that are in my portfolio. However what nobody asks is “how do you shoot the day?” Obviously every wedding is different but hearing how ideally your photographer wants to shoot the day will help you decide who you want and also help you when you come to planning your day, as you will know what needs to be to in place to produce the kind images you have seen.

If your photography is important to you it is worth thinking about how it will fit around your day. If you want golden images in a field with a beautiful sunset behind, you need to plan your photos for sunset in a field. My couples often remark on my shots of the ceremony which I always get standing at the top of the aisle, however if you get a vicar or registrar who do not want a photographer in this position, it is only you who can get them to change their mind as they will rarely listen to the photographer.

 A quick check list of good questions to ask a wedding photographer:

• How many wedding photographs will I receive?

• When will I receive my wedding photographs?

• How will I receive my wedding photographs?

• Last but not least “ideally, how would you shoot the entire wedding”?

 

You will normally find you connect with someone, and if you love their work just book them!

 

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