“The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”
You've just got engaged, the excitement has peaked and reality sets in - it's time to plan! Oh, so much planning. How do you pick from all these photographers? As your friendly neighbourhood wedding photographer, hopefully I can help you. (short answer: call me 😉)
Don't Go For Uncle Bob!
I have an obvious bias here, but for good reason - I strongly suggest choosing an experienced, professional photographer for your wedding. If you have a family member/friend that fits that category that want to shoot your wedding, perfect! But often people will go for a family member/friend who has a nice camera, likes to shoot wildlife and extra-nice holiday pictures, but has never been a wedding photographer before. And while it's not always bad, it often leads to disappointment.
Make sure your photographer has testimonials, ask for a full album or even ask for permission to speak to a previous client!
Know Your Budget - And Stick to It
Weddings are expensive. We all know this. But it doesn't have to break the bank. How then do you budget for a wedding photographer?
Generally, people will say wedding photography should take up between 5-15% of a wedding budget. I personally disagree. For someone like myself who find photography and videography to be a huge part of my life, I'd be inclined to way upwards of 15% of that budget. You may not! Work out how much you can realistically afford, and then consider how important the pictures are to you, to decide whether you're closer to that 5% or 10%. What I will say is - these photos should last generations. They could be on your walls, decorating the house for decades to come. Going for the experienced
Even in the lower price range you will find passionate, talented photographers, maybe just a little earlier in their careers. Most of my career I've been in that category... speaking of which...
While you're here I'll do my little sales pitch - I've been a photographer for around 7 years now, my first wedding being shot in 2016. Most of that time was as a second shooter but after the pandemic I knew I wanted to take it up a notch and lead weddings myself. I may not be the most established wedding photographer but I believe to think my service, ability and drive is going to make me (& my team!) the best choice as your wedding photographer(s).
Know Your Style
If you know what you want, it's very important your photographer does too. In your search for a wedding photographer, try to find a photographer that displays photos that look similar to the niche you're after. If you can't quite find what you need from a photographer based on portfolio work, reach out to them! Try explaining what style you want in as much detail as possible and include example images if you can - this will help the photographer hugely in working out if you'll be compatible to work with, and give them a fun challenge too.
Hugely important - do you want primarily candid photos? Do you want a dramatic, grand photoshoot for the mantelpiece? Or a short relaxed photoshoot so you can get back to the family? Make sure you're clear with the photographer what you want. If you do want the grand, vogue cover style photos, make sure that photographer has them in their portfolio! I personally much prefer the more lowkey, reportage style of wedding photography so wouldn't particularly advise picking me for large scale directed photography for example.
So you know your budget and have a shortlist of photographers that match your style. What next? Contact them!
You may have found the absolute ideal, perfect photographer in budget and top quality portfolio that matches your style. They have your date available, easy peasy!
But what if your ideal photographer may have their prices on their website but out of budget - contact them, let them know your budget - you never know what might happen. I personally have had this, but the couple were at a venue I've been desparate to shoot at for a long time so I gave a considerable discount to make it work for both of us.
Some photographers don't have their pricing public, don't let that scare you - pricing is really difficult and they don't bite! If they get back to and you're out of their budget, let them know. No harm done!
Otherwise, I'd always suggest arranging a call or meetup with those that do seem suitable, get to know them a bit. I like to think after initial calls, you work out quite quickly who you want to work with. Take notes, compare them after and hopefully the right choice will become obvious to you.
I Can't Decide!
So after following my advice in the last paragraph, you've come to the conclusion I'm a complete liar and you still can't choose between the last few photographers on the list. Don't worry, I've got you covered. I'll do a completely new post soon about what to ask a wedding photographer, but here is the summary of things you can use to build a pros/cons list:
- Do they know the venue? Have they visited the venue or shot there before? Would they be willing to get a venue tour before your wedding? (For the record, less established photographers like myself obviously haven't shot at every venue in the area just yet - an opportunity to visit a venue with a contract to shoot at their venue in the future is an absolute godsend so yes, I would visit your venue. Sales pitch over.)
- Do they know many other photographers, in case a backup is needed nearer the time? Can you see the work of their suggested backup photographers?
- How long can they stay at the wedding, are they going to be flexible or strict on timing?
- Do they have many extra services available? Albums, prints, videos etc. - or will you have to find new suppliers if you do decide you wants some extras?
- How will you get your photos? Many photographers will have a swish online portal to send your gallery - you may find older fashioned methods of delivery (cloud folders, USB, CDs etc.) to be a right pain to view, share and print your photos.
- Will they provide a preview of photos in the day or so after the wedding? Lovely to have something professional to share on Instagram straight away!
If you're still unsure after all this - just go with your gut if you can. Ask for discounts from them and see what you can get. Arrange for them to fight to the death. Hire them both? I don't know. I do hope this guide has helped a little, I wish you all the best in finding your photographer, and know you'll have a great wedding day. And I also sincerely hope you choose me 😉