Long after the last slice of cake has gone and your guests have danced to that one final song they begged the DJ for, you’ll still have your wedding photos to remind you of the ultimate party – and all the hard work that went into it. That’s why finding an amazing person to shoot them is right up there with choosing the groom (we exaggerate, but you get the idea). So where, and when, do you begin the hunt? Follow our how-to guide.
Make sure you get a photographer who will capture those special moments forever
“Ideally you’d start looking a year before the wedding so you have the most choice but try to book someone as soon as possible once the venue is decided,” says Alison Freeman (Freeman Photographics).
Make a mood board
Get the ball rolling by cutting out images from adverts and real-life weddings you like to get a handle on your style, and make a note of any photographers in your area whose work you love.
Do your research
Recommendations from friends or your venue can help point you towards strong candidates, as can The Master Photography Association which lists members on its website, thempa.com. Other great resources include local wedding fairs, the Y&YW classifieds section and our online where to shop guide.
Pro’s the way to go
Keep in mind that, as tempting and cheap as it might be to delegate the wedding photography to your arty friend from uni with the fancy digital camera (it shoots in colour, sepia and black and white!), only a pro with proven wedding experience will do.
Meet and greet
Shortlist at least three photographers available on your selected date and arrange to meet them in person to get a feel for whom you, ahem, click with best. The one you choose will be an intimate insider on the craziest day of your life, so it’s essential that you trust their abilities and feel at ease. “It’s also important to ask to see a few of their complete albums – not just one, but two or three,” says Ewen Forsyth (ewenforsyth.co.uk). “All wedding photographers have a sample album of their best work, but the finished product will show you what he or she can actually accomplish in one day.”
Ask questions like how long have you been shooting weddings, what you love about it and, how many do you shoot each year? Is their style traditional or journalistic, quirky or classic? Find out if it matches what you have in mind.
Make sure it’s legal
Look for photographers with professional indemnity insurance which protects against negligence and loss of data, and public liability insurance, which covers them in the event a guest trips over their equipment and gets injured.
Get a back-up plan
Ideally, your photographer will have a list of colleagues of a similar calibre and style who’ll cover in the (unlikely) event they can’t make it on the day due to illness or unforeseen circumstances. If you’re concerned about it, ask to see portfolios for these photographers as well. And make sure you include in your contract that they are obligated to get you a substitute in a worst-case scenario.
Go with your gut feeling
“There has to be a bond between you,” says Ewen. “Never be apprehensive about asking questions or calling for their advice. Your photographer should make you feel really important.”
Make the best of your budget
Quality wedding photography is an investment, so set aside at least 5% of your budget for pictures (the UK average is about £800-900)*. “Don’t scrimp on cheap deals, because you generally get what you pay for, and this can lead to a lifetime of regrets,” says Sussex-based photographer Peter Prior (peterprior.com).
Seal the deal
With so much money changing hands, it’s essential to get the contract right. First and foremost, be clear on how many hours the price includes (as well as overtime costs if you run late on the day) and the number of prints that come with your package.
Don’t expect negatives or a disc of images, as most photographers will retain the copyright, which means you’ll have to pay for extra prints (how they make a large portion of their money).
Ask if they work with an assistant and plan to scout out the venue in advance – and whether you’ll incur extra charges for either.
Do your sums
Finally, beware any photographer who doesn’t include VAT in the original quote to make the price seem artificially lower. “Watch out for any deals that seem too good to be true,” recommends Ken Buist (kenbuist.com). “That can indicate that they’ll take shortcuts, add hidden costs or try to upsell later. The cheapest option isn’t necessarily the best option.”
*Y&YW Cost of a Wedding Survey