The short and honest answer from any wedding photographer to the heading above would simply be, ‘Pick me!’
However, as with most things in life, the long answer is more detailed, and no one solution fits everybody’s needs. In this article, I will go over the main factors to consider when choosing your wedding photographer.
Styles of Wedding Photography
Modern wedding photography could not be more different than even a decade or two ago. Modern wedding photography can include those traditional, formal, posed shots we have all seen. But today’s wedding photography can also include every style imaginable from reportage to traditional, contemporary, and everything in between.
The benefit here is that you can choose a wedding photographer that fits your individual criteria. Everybody is different in this regard. Some have strong opinions on what they want, while others may want to see a bit of everything. We are talking about a visual medium here, therefore you can quickly evaluate a photographer’s portfolio to see if it clicks with you. It’s not really necessary to have an extensive knowledge of the history and mechanics behind reportage photography to see if you like the style or not.
The style that appeals to you the most is almost a gut feeling. Most people will evaluate photography or any other type of artwork in just a few seconds. It’s up to the photographer in question to get these elements correct on the day. It’s your job to see if the end result has an immediate response.
Set a Budget
How much you are going to budget or spend on a wedding photographer is usually the crux of the matter. You do really get what you pay for with wedding photography, no matter what packages or extras are involved.
Wedding photography can seem initially expensive, but you won’t be thinking about cost in a few decades’ time every time you walk past that cherished wedding photo you have on your mantelpiece. Therefore, budget or be prepared to stretch a little bit more for the style you like the most, rather than the cheapest option. It will be worth it in the end.
Generally, wedding photographers pitch their prices dependent on their skills, experience, and how many competitions they have won! Seriously though, a high-quality wedding photographer will pitch their prices compared to the rest of the market. They will know their worth and charge accordingly.
Feedback from other couples is a great way to find out about a photographer. If you haven’t already, ask the wedding photographer for a few testimonials. Usually, these will be links online, and you could even go as far as contacting the couple themselves, especially if you are spending a lot on your wedding photography.
View the Portfolio
Along with budgets, a wedding photographer’s portfolio is essentially the deciding factor for a future couple. This is a personal opinion, but a wedding photographer can have awards and qualifications coming out of their ears, but if their portfolio doesn’t appeal to a couple, then they won’t get hired.
For instance, I asked a model who had got married recently why did they choose that particular wedding photographer. They said they had the choice of two photographers. One was a high-profile photographer who specialised in fancy lighting setups. The other who wasn’t as well known, implied more natural light shots which the couple preferred. The natural light portfolio won in this case.
Questions to ask of a wedding photographer’s portfolio – do the photos capture the excitement of the day? Do all the photos look extremely professional and well-edited? (compare the photos to the best you can find online) Do the photos fit the style you had in mind?
Knowing the Venue
It obviously helps if a wedding photographer knows a venue intimately and the best spots to shoot. However, lighting, layouts, times of the year, and even times of the day changes in the venue means a photographer has to evaluate each photo as if they were starting from scratch. In other words, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker if a wedding photographer has shot at the venue previously. An experienced wedding photographer who is worth their salt, can be thrown into any situation and get a spectacular shot, which is usually the case.
With today’s wealth of online communications, is not always essential to meet up before the wedding day. However, there’s nothing like a face-to-face meeting for peace of mind. In this meeting you can ask lots of questions such as – will they be taking photos alone on the day? What was their best and worst wedding photo shoot? How do they conduct themselves on the wedding day – you don’t want someone rolling around on the floor in the wedding ceremony to get the ideal shot!
As above, the meetup is not always necessary as all this can be done through the likes of Zoom or Skype. But if you feel better meeting up prior to the wedding, insist on a short chat.
Shortlisting a wedding photographer involves not just the quality of photography, but also other factors such as the length of time they will be there, delivery time, and costs of extras such as printing – essentially what are you actually getting for your hard-earned money.
I simply deliver all the wedding photos, no matter the final amount with no upsells. It better tells the story of the day. However, some wedding photographers will only deliver a set amount of photos dependent on the ‘package.’ These points need to be clarified before you book.
Book an Engagement Shoot
An engagement shoot isn’t mandatory, but some couples prefer this option as it’s also a good chance to see the photographer in action. You may also be able to negotiate a deal, as in reality, this is extra revenue for the wedding photographer.
Another point to bear in mind with an engagement shoot is that some of the images can even turn out better than on the wedding day itself. For instance, an engagement shoot can take place in spring when everything is in bloom, while the wedding itself can take place in the winter months.
Like the rest of the wedding photography process, the booking should be simple and straightforward. The couple already has a billion things to organise for the big day, so the wedding photographer shouldn’t complicate matters.
Make sure there is a solid structure of when things need to be paid, when things are delivered, in what formats, and you receive everything expected. While it’s a rarity these days, you don’t want to be up-sold every wedding image after the event from an unscrupulous photographer. All the images should be yours after the event, and everything should be delivered which was agreed upon, without hidden extras.
The wedding photography process should be a straightforward one, with the wedding photographer quietly doing their job in the background.
Personally, I need to over-deliver every time. Provide more images than expected, work harder than anybody else on the day, deliver the images early, and essentially leave the couple with a 100% positive experience. At least, that is the aim.