You’ve found your wedding venue, you’ve picked your dream dress and you’re wondering what to do next. Finding the perfect wedding photographer to capture the highlights of your wedding day is definitely a job to tick off the checklist at the early stages of your planning journey. Have a read of our top tips and questions to consider when choosing your happy-snapper.
What’s the first step?
Do some research in mags and online – youandyourwedding.co.uk has a great channel devoted to real weddings – to get a taste of different styles. A photographer’s blog is a great source of inspiration, as it shows you images from lots of different weddings over a long period of time, rather than just selected highlights in a small gallery. Don’t just go for the photographer your venue recommends, because their personality and style may not suit you.
What should I look for?
As well as the style of the photos, it’s important to like your photographer as a person because they’re going to be with you the whole day. Try to meet them face-to-face before you book them or, if you live a long distance apart, suggest an informal chat on Skype. If you can imagine being friends with them, that’s a really good sign! Ask your friends who they used at their weddings, too, and learn about their experiences. What did they particularly value or wish they’d done differently?
When should I book?
Many photographers get booked up 18 months in advance, so if your favourite is really important to you, book as far in advance as possible. You may find you have a bit more flexibility for a weekday wedding, but still give yourselves at least six months. Bear in mind also that a Friday wedding may not be possible if your photographer has another booking a long way from your venue on the Saturday.
Where can I find a good deal, and is it worth trying to negotiate?
With photography it really is true that you get what you pay for. If you find a photographer offering surprisingly low prices, it might be because they have another part-time job to help finance the photography, which could make them difficult to contact when you need them and could hold up delivery of your final photos. Or they could be scrimping on other business essentials like full insurance or back-up cameras. If everything goes well, this may not be a problem, but should the worst happen, you may end up wishing you’d paid the extra with someone else. Great photographers don’t tend to offer deals, particularly during summer, because they know they will get booked up by couples paying full-price anyway. Most wedding photographers work for themselves, so their business is an extension of themselves. It’s much more personal than asking for a discount in a store. If you ask for a discount and handle it badly, it could put them off working with you altogether. The secret is all in the way you approach it.
Contact your favourite photographer and say you love their work, that you’re flexible on dates but you literally only have whatever you have in your budget and wondered if they could offer you anything. That makes the photographer feel you value them and their work, and they may be more likely to create a package just for you; for example fewer hours coverage to accommodate your budget. Contact photographers one at a time if possible. If your first choice is not available, move on to your second and so on down the list. A lot of wedding photographers are friends and do chat about enquiries and bookings over coffee. If you try to play one off against another in terms of price, or you’re asking a lot of photographers for quotes, it could damage the relationship with the person you decide to go for in the long run. It’s better to set your budget in advance and go direct to your number one choice.
How do I decide on a style?
Ideally you want a photographer who’s good at capturing beautiful shots throughout the day from getting ready and the ceremony through to candid guest shots, relaxed group photos and special pictures of you and your husband. Some photographers offer very dramatic bride and groom shots, which are amazing, but double check how they shoot the rest of the day too.
Do I need a shot list?
Good photographers don’t need a shot list because every wedding has the same must-have elements like the bride coming up the aisle or posing with her bridesmaids. However, if you have anything particularly significant happening, like a soloist, it’s a good idea to tell your photographer in advance.
What about family group shots?
This is where it’s a good idea to work on a shot list with your photographer. There are so many possible variations and couples have different ideas about how long they’re prepared to spend on group shots. Pre-agree that list with your photographer. There’s nothing worse than thinking 20 group shots will only take 20 minutes, and then having everyone standing about in the sunshine without a drink an hour later!
How much time should I allow?
I recommend half an hour for group shots, keeping it to immediate family, bridesmaids and groomsmen and, potentially, one or two different friends shots. Any more than this will take longer than half an hour and can leave everyone feeling tired, when they really want to be having fun and chatting! I plan half an hour for the bride and groom’s creative portraits, too, as this is almost always the couple’s favourite part of the day when they have time to themselves. Go somewhere where guests can’t see you, otherwise you’ll get heckled and snapped by hundreds of camera-toting guests, which doesn’t make for beautiful, intimate moments on camera.
Will my photographer bring props?
If your photographer offers a photo booth then, yes, they will probably bring props, but unless this is included in the price, most won’t bring anything additional apart from their camera and kit. If you want fun photos with props that’s something you should plan for yourself (and talk to your photographer about so they can factor in time). Creative details really make a wedding pretty and individual, so lots of flowers and colour always help make beautiful images.
What about copyright?
Most photographers retain their copyright – as the person who took the shots, they ‘own’ the images. However, when you get a disc as part of your package, this usually includes the right to make copies and prints or albums yourselves. Buying the copyright instead of having the ‘right to print’ is generally very expensive and doesn’t offer any additional benefits apart from totally controlling the use of the pictures. Most photographers will ask your permission before posting the images online (apart from on their own website/blog) or in magazines anyway, even if you don’t have the copyright, but it’s worth clarifying that point if it’s important to you. Remember that being able to post images of your wedding on their blog is really important to photographers, because it’s how they showcase their work to future brides.