We touched briefly on choosing the right photographer for your special day in our last blog post. But how do you decide who is the right photographer for you and your wedding day?
Here are some questions you should ask to your candidates...
1. How long have you been photographing weddings?
There are some photographers with zero experience, who may be starting out and wanting to build a portfolio, and some with 20-30 years experience shooting weddings. You may find an experienced photographer from another genre, that is just starting out with weddings! One is not necessarily better than the other, but it's worth knowing to gauge how they will fit your wedding day.
Photographers generally price based on their experience, which means you may be able to get a very talented 'newbie' at an inexpensive price (our first couple of years were very cheap!). Be aware though that lack of experience may mean no backup plans if things go wrong, no insurance policy, and no backup equipment. You usually get what you pay for.
Note the difference between our own images from 2012 (left, when we'd just started and were 'portfolio building') and 2015 (right, when we are more experienced with composition and lighting).
On the other side though, we've also heard from couples who have met very experienced photographers who seem set in their ways, and provide quite an old-fashioned service.
It's not about finding someone with the most experience, but finding someone with the right level of experience for your expectations, and your budget.
2. What is your working style? (traditional / photojournalistic etc)
The last thing you want is someone barking orders at you all day, if you expected a photographer to be unobtrusive, and capture natural, candid photographs. Vice versa; if you want many traditional, staged photographs then you don't want someone that will just fade into the background.
Your photographer is working closely with you at your wedding for the whole day; they need to be a good match to how your day is going to run.
3. What's your image style?
You should already have seen (and liked) a photographer's style prior to meeting with them; that's what drew you to their work initially. How a photographer takes and processes (edits) their images is a very unique, personal thing; and there a many different styles out there.
Even the exact same image can be edited in very different ways. We edit in a light, airy and natural way (left), where someone else may choose a darker, more contrasty style (right).
Also be aware of some of the implications of a photographer's style. For example, someone who produces cinematic images with dramatic lighting will probably use large lighting equipment, and require lengthy setup; which may not be so suitable for a low-key wedding.
Again, it's not to say that any one style is better than another, but you want your wedding photographs to be a style that you prefer, and will still like in years to come. (I will offer a personal opinion to stay away from any colour-splashing for your wedding photographs - imagine how dated that will look in 30 years!)
4. How long will you be staying at the wedding?
The photographer should cover these details as part of their packages and contract (and may have different packages for their length of stay). Just make sure it's something you've agreed upon beforehand; you don't want to be shocked when the photographer leaves after the speeches when you expected coverage up to the first dance!
5. How do we receive our photographs?
It should be clear what is included in the package you are paying for. Digital files are becoming the norm now, but don't just expect and assume this is what you'll receive. Some photographers do still use an old-fashioned pay-for-prints service, and may charge extra to provide all of your digital files.
On the other hand, many photographers simply cover your day, and provide you with just digital files. This is convenient and low cost, but if you want high quality tangible products, then these aren't the photographers for you. Ask about books and prints that are included, and ask to see real-life examples.
Remember, you normally get what you pay for - higher quality products will come with a price tag. Don't scrimp on price if you want high quality products that will last you for years.
6. Will you be at our wedding?
Sounds like a bit of a silly question; but I've actually heard numerous stories to the contrary. Couples that have met with a photographer, liked their work, booked them, only for them to sub-contract the wedding day to someone else, or send their second shooter. You should be booking a photographer partly based on them and their personality; you don't really want a complete stranger at your wedding.
7. How many photographers will be at my wedding?
A relatively new trend in wedding photography is having not one, but two photographers covering the event. Often a single photographer may bring an assistant or second shooter to your wedding. Others (like us) work as a duo, covering a wedding day from two different perspectives.
Many couples now seek out two photographers like ourselves. Be aware of the difference between two photographers (who will work in tandem to capture the day), and a photographer with a second shooter (who may not be at the same level of experience).
Just be sure to know how many people will be turning up to photograph your wedding; nothing worse than an unexpected extra person, or missing person to put you off!
8. Is this your work from real weddings?
Again, another seemingly silly question; but we've heard and read stories that make us shudder! You want to know the level and quality of work the photographer can produce under the pressure of a real wedding - not in a lovely, relaxed staged photoshoot with models (it happens).
Ask to see images from a full wedding, to ensure your final photographs will meet your expectations.
9. Do we need to sign a contract?
It may seem you are signing your life away if your photographer asks you to sign a contract, but it's usually a sign that your photographer knows what they are doing. It's always a safer bet to choose any vendor that provides a written contract, so everyone knows what to expect of each other.
New photographers may not have a written contract yet, which may be fine (we didn't when we just started shooting weddings!), but just be aware that you won't have a leg to stand on if images don't meet your expectations, or you run into any problems with them.
There is no set 'correct' answers to any of the above questions, but a photographer's answers should determine if they are suited to you and your wedding expectations.
Overall, when making your decision, it should be mainly based on:
- Do we feel a connection to the photographer(s)? Do our personalities match?
- Has the photographer listened well and addressed any concerns?
- Do the images and products they produce meet our expectations?
- Am I happy with this person (or people) being at my wedding day?