How to Choose a Wedding Photographer: 8 essential Steps
Your wedding photos are something you'll want to keep forever, so you'll need to make sure you get the best photographer possible. Here's our tips to finding the right photographer for you.
Once the confetti has settled and the honeymoon is over comes the exciting time to receive your wedding photos.
The walk down the aisle, the proud hug with your Dad, that joke in the best man’s speech: you’ll be able to look back on all those special moments and remember one of the happiest days of your life – not just now, but in years to come.
It’s so important then that you’re happy with your wedding photos. It can be one of the biggest wedding regrets for couples that they either didn’t capture all the moments they wanted or they ended up not liking the photographer’s pictures.
So how do you go about choosing the right photographer? Firstly, we’re going to explain a little about the different styles of wedding photography and then give you eight easy steps to choosing a wedding photographer.
The Three Main Styles of Wedding Photography
The terminology around wedding photography can be baffling, especially what the different styles of wedding photography mean. Regardless of your budget, you’ll be able to find photographers offering each of the three most common types of wedding photography for every budget. We’ve got a complete explanation of wedding photography styles and jargon that can help you too.
Reportage photography is also known as photojournalistic or documentary photography. Your photographer will stand among and around you and your guests capturing candid and spontaneous shots. Reportage style is all about reactions and emotions so expect your photos to tell the real story of your day. It can feel like the most authentic form of photography as there’s no posing.
Pros: Captures story and emotions while being relaxed and unobtrusive
Cons: No posed group photos unless you ask for them
Traditional or formal wedding photography is the classic posed look you see in conventional group shots of the couple and the wedding party. This used to be the most popular style and involves plenty of direction from the photographer, but it also takes time and you might miss some of the action of the day. Your photos are likely to be a bit formulaic, but will be beautifully shot and well-lit.
Pros: Lasting pictures of family and friends in a timeless, beautiful style
Cons: Takes time and staging so you can miss the emotion of the day
Contemporary photography will feel more like fashion or editorial photography combined with reportage. It’s ideal if you want fashion-led couple photos and an artistic approach to other shots. You’ll need to find a photographer with the same creative vision as you, whether that’s street style, portraits, conceptual or nature-focused.
Pros: Dramatic, beautiful, unique shots
Cons: Sometimes the vision comes ahead of capturing the personality of the couples
How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer in 8 Steps
1. Set a Budget
No point finding a photographer you love and then discovering they’re well beyond your budget. We’ve got our complete guide to wedding photography prices to give you a good idea of what you can get for your money – the average is £1,500-£2,000.
Your first step is to discuss how much you can legitimately spend and always keep that in mind as you continue your search. Lots of photographers have starting prices on their website or you could ask a few in your area for a quick quote to see what the going rate is.
While £1,500 sounds a big chunk of your budget, your photos are one of the most important things to invest in. See if you can shave your budget somewhere else to give yourself as much money as possible for this. You get what you pay for.
2. Find Your Style
Now for the fun part of starting your search! Your preferred photography style really is one of the most important things to consider. We’d suggest you browse our wedding photographers section – you’ll see the styles of hundreds of photographer and can easily work out what you do and don’t like. Do you want candid, classic, a mix of colour and black-and-white, creative, contemporary? Normally one of the styles above will jump out at your straight away.
Start creating a shortlist of the photographers you like and research a little more about them. Weddings are unique in the scale and speed of the action so you’ll want to pick a photographer with a few years of wedding photography experience under their belt.
3. Ask for Testimonials
One of the best ways to find a photographer is to ask friends for recommendations. If anyone has got married recently and you loved their shots, find out who their photographer was. Other places to get recommendations from are your venue, social media and online reviews. Is there a forum for your county? What about asking in Hitched’s forum?
A reputable photographer will have lots of testimonials from clients they’re happy to share with you or will put you in touch with previous clients. Once you have a shortlist, get in touch with the photographer and ask 1) do they have availability on your wedding date? 2) Can they send through a full album for you to look at (see below)? 3) Can you read testimonials or speak to a recent client? We recommend asking how the day went, did they get everything they wanted, and were they happy with the end result.
4. See a Portfolio
Naturally, seeing a portfolio is essential! Their website will showcase a highlight reel, but what you need to see is a full wedding album. Three or four photos don’t tell you the whole story.
The reason is that the photographs should tell the story of the day, all flow and all be equally as beautiful. You want each photo to be consistent in quality and look. You may realise that you don’t like the way the photographer shoots in low-light or their style when it comes to group photos doesn’t fit yours.
5. Do They Know Your Venue?
This is by no means a deal-breaker but it always helps if your photographer has shot at your venue before. It means they’ll have experience of the best locations and know the lighting conditions.
Your venue will happily provide a list of recommended photographers or most photographer have blogs featuring their real weddings. Hitched’s Real Wedding section can help you too!
6. Arrange a Meeting
Your photographer is going to be spending a whole day with you – you need to make sure you gel! Meet them face-to-face, ask questions, go through their portfolio and see how you feel with them. Do they put you at ease? Do you feel they understand what you want? The more relaxed you are around your photographer, the more natural and at ease your photos will be.
We have a full list of questions to ask your wedding photographer, but here’s some important things to pay attention to:
- Will they be the one taking the photos on the day? Some national agencies will have multiple photographers on their books.
- Photography is a lot about directing people and you can see how they handle this best in the group shots. Does everyone look relaxed? Is there a good mixture of group shots with portraits and casual shots?
- Ask them what their favourite wedding photo is – you’ll get a true feeling of their vision.
- Is the composition right in all the photos? Have they got shots like the first moment you see each other and your parents’ faces? Do the photos shows the right details, e.g. are the faces clear and the background not too distracting? Are the photos flattering?
- Do they have a back-up in case anything goes wrong, like they’re ill on the day?
- If you’re having a second shooter, request to see samples of their work too.
7. Narrow Down Your Shortlist
You’ll probably meet with two or three photographers and then need to pick just one. As well as feeling comfortable, the right photographer will come down to price and package options. Consider what is included in the contract (number of hours of coverage on the day, a second shooter, prints or albums, extras like an engagement shoot), how long the proofs will take to get back and retouching options.
8. Book an Engagement Shoot
Again, not an essential, but you’ll be so much more comfortable on the day if you’ve had some experience of being directed and posing beforehand. An engagement shoot is a great way to all to get to know each other and see if your personalities mesh. Your photographer will be shadowing you for a whole day so if they irritate you or are off-putting, that’s a bad sign.
The right photographer should be respectful and have the social know-how to blend into your wedding, yet still be bold enough to seek out the shots they need. They should ask you lots of questions and, importantly, be excited about your day. You may have paid a deposit but if you really don’t think they’re the right photographer after the engagement shoot, you are perfectly within your rights to cancel your wedding with them. Hopefully by following these eight steps that should never be the case!
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