| WEDDING PLANNING GUIDE - 2 | How to choose a wedding photographer

Part 2 of my wedding advice guide is here. Hopefully you saw and liked last week which was all about the things to think about when you're starting your planning process. After the venue one of the main things people start thinking about is wedding photography. So,

How do you choose a wedding photographer?

Choosing a wedding photographer can be a fairly daunting task. There are thousand of people working as wedding photographers in the UK, with so many different styles, personalities, and experience levels and business ethos. 

For this blog post I've chosen photos from Stella & Ashlee's wedding day that I shot in Bristol last year!

Once you’ve booked your venue you can start enquiring properly, although you can research prices before hand you will of course need to check that the photographer you like is free when you’re getting married! 



First thing I’ll say is - don't rush it! It's a big decision and although wedding photographers do get booked up quickly, don't let that pressure you into making a choice if you're not sure. You should absolutely chat to someone before booking -   I recommend Skype rather than the phone as I like to speak to the both of you so everyone's involved!  This gives you a chance to get a feel for them and see if your personalities gel. Loving their photos isn't enough if you don't fit well as people, the wedding photographer is likely going to be around all day and if you realise you can’t stand them in real life or they have very different outlooks to you this can cause a big stress.

Bristol Registry Office Wedding Photography

THE DOLLAR
Budget can be a good starting point, most full time professional wedding photographers are £1,200 - £1,500 (lower end) £1,500-2,000 (mid range) and £2,000 + (high end). This will be reflective of their experience, their target market, their style, their equipment and their personal price point given how many weddings they shoot a year. Some photographers shoot less, charge more and give their clients a more tailored and personal experience. Less than £1,200 you can still find someone but they will likely have less experience, less kit and less training. They also may be doing it as a extra job to earn more income, and if running a business isn’t their full time job it might mean it’s lower down the priority list too. I cannot stress enough that you get what you pay for, and generally if it’s too good to be true, it is. ALWAYS make sure you sign a contract with whoever you book, to make sure you're covered if the worst does happen. 

Emotional wedding ceremony photography in bristol registry office
TheStationBristolWeddingPhotography-10.jpg

THE DREADED D-WORD... DISCOUNTS
If you're getting married on a weekday or want shorter coverage, some photographers might offer discounts for this, as well as out of season (usually Nov-Feb). Personally I don't think that asking is rude if you have a valid reason, for example wanting less coverage, taking out something from the package like the engagement shoot, or if you've having an out of season wedding.  If you're getting married on a peak Saturday in summer, it's unlikely you'll get any discount though - a photographer could be turning down a full price wedding for your reduced price. Bear in mind that all photographers run their businesses differently and some don't discount at all. That said, winter weddings are really hard to shoot, so definitely don’t scrimp on the photography as they will need to know their stuff with lighting, off and on camera flash, bad weather alternatives and many other things. 


THINKING OF HIRING ONE OF YOUR FRIENDS...?
For a lot of people this crosses their minds at some point – usually because you trust them, they know you and what photos you’ll want, and most likely – they’re doing it for free or very, very cheap. First off, there are plenty of stories on the web about this gone wrong and although yes occasionally someone says a friend did it and they did a great job, you’re taking a risk on the one thing that is the lasting product from the wedding day. If your friend shoots cars, it does not mean they will be good at shooting weddings. Some photography skills aren’t transferrable.  Also, if they’re a good friend you’ll want them there as a guest, and trust me you can’t do a good job as photographer and guest at the same time. There’s also a chance if things go wrong you ruin a good friendship. Over the next few weeks I'm writing a more in depth post about why hire a professional wedding photographer .. 

What are the different styles of wedding photography?


please note this is just my personal findings and opinions! 

What is traditional wedding photography?
This style is an old fashioned and it’s hard to find a ‘true’ traditional wedding photographer who does this style not mixed with another. Generally the photographers are very posed shots,  you would be told how and where to stand and nearly always looking into the camera. There is little emotional connection in these images, it’s more capturing just the surface image of what is going on. There would typically be a long list of group shots too. If candid style is when you’re unaware of the camera and not looking at it, traditional photography is the total opposite. There quite often isn’t a lot of editing that goes into these images usually, some photographers favour a vignette or spot colour. 

What is fine art wedding photography?
Fine art photography is a beautiful branch of the styles of wedding photography – however it isn’t for everyone. There’s heavy emphasis on the styling of things – undoubtably they will spend a good amount of time positing the shoes, perfume, jewellery, the dress etc to create beautiful editorial style photographs. The couple portraits will be elegant but very posed - think styled weddings that wouldn’t looking out of place in Vogue. Often people choose to have weddings abroad (France, Italy etc) because of the gorgeous golden light you get over there. A lot (but not all) fine art photographers shoot a mix of film and digital, or purely film, because of the grained soft effect it gives the images that’s hard to replicate in post production. 

What is documentary wedding photography? Also known as candid, reportage, photojournalism
You’ll probably see the documentary photographer around a lot of websites, and it basically means candid style imagery with little or no direction or posing - watching the day unfold without getting involved and altering the scene. It means spontaneous moment. Documentary photographs aren’t about producing polished, posed, curated or formal photographs, it’s about capturing real moments and expressions.  I would expect a good amount of black and white images in your collection, as well as colour, as documentary style photography lends its self so well to it! 

What is contemporary wedding photography?
Describing contemporary photography can be particularly hard as it seems to have a different meaning to different people. In my particular experience and reading, it can mean anything which doesn't fall under the 'traditional' bracket - therefore using documentary and unposed imagery as a basis for it's style. Usually the goal of contemporary wedding photography is to capture the story of the day and to give the viewer an appreciation of the unique moments that happened, rather than pre-planned shots from a list. I also find modern or contemporary photographers are happier using heavy filters in their editing (think instagram-esque)


What is creative wedding photography?

Creative photographers often use their surroundings and pieces of photography equipment to create 'creative' images. This means playing with light, location and using different techniques - they might use a mirror, other reflective surface, a prism, tubes etc or perhaps play around with double exposures creating a more surreal photograph. They will more often use flash and might take some time setting up shots.


WHERE DO YOU START YOUR SEARCH?
With so many people out there, I would say begin with recommendations from friends and family, and also of course  Google your desired style and possible location of where you’re getting married too, as well as the style you think you're going for. Searching on google can take a long while but often yield great results. You can also try wedding blog directories of your favourite blogs, social media etc. There are also recommended suppliers lists at some venues, and generally these photographers have shot there before and have a good relationship with the venue. That said you DO NOT have to book someone who's shot at your venue before! A good, experienced wedding photographer will think on their feet and doesn't need to know the layout of the venue.

Think about what you want your wedding photography to be like -  if you want a couple that work as a team, if you want someone that offer instant prints, that shoots film, or that offers a video highlights package too.


Once you’ve got a list, I'd say narrow it down to your top three, enquire to see if they're available and how much they are. Wedding photographers absolutely love to get nice messages saying that you like our work and a bit about yourself, emails that read – hi how much for wedding photography on this date – don’t fill us with excitement or start a great relationship.  If someone's a bit out of budget then don't be put off by this immediately, sometimes a bit of money can be found to help meet the cost for someone you really love. Once armed with your small shortlist of people who’s work you like and are roughly within budget, organise a Skype chat with them to get a feel for them as a person. After that it’s down to whose work you love the most and who you feel you connect with.

THE NEXT STEP...
All pro photographers will ask for a deposit and a signed contract (bear in mind you won’t get the deposit back if you cancel so make sure they’re right for you!) Some people have engagement shoots included, and if this is the case have a think about when you’d like that. An engagement shoot is a good a chance to get to know the photographer a bit more, as well as getting some lovely photos. If it's not included in your chosen package, consider getting one added on. You can read why I love engagement shoots here!

Once you’ve got your photography sorted – Following them on social media is a great way to get you excited for your own pictures and helps build a relationship. I always say I’m on call to help brides and grooms who want advice - whether it’s local suppliers, help with designing the timeline of the day, or concerns & thoughts about the photography. I love hearing how plans have progressed from the first Skype chat right up until the wedding.

A FEW DONT'S...

Don’t send them a list! Trust is so important and don’t be persuaded that you NEED shot of your ring on top of the flowers just because Pinterest says so. If you’ve hired a documentary photographer this is not going to be what they're interested in capturing. If there are a few important things you want photographing them by all means let them know, but don't send them a ten page list of things like 'bride looking in the mirror with her bridesmaids watching adoringly'..



There you go, job complete! Although it’s a great thing to have done, try not to view it as ‘ticking it off the list’ – it’s a huge investment and something that you want to spend a good amount of time thinking about. 

Next week you can read a bit more about why you should have a professional capture to your wedding day, although I’ve touched upon it above I’ll be going more in depth for any of those couples out there tempted by a £200 full day package by their Uncle’s cousin’s girlfriend, or who are considering *shudder* a Groupon deal... 

Why not take a look at my other blog posts!

 

1 - How to plan your wedding

2 - How to choose a wedding photographer

3 - Why should you hire a professional photographer?

4 - How to have a budget wedding

5 - Getting the most out of your wedding photography

6 - What is an unplugged wedding?

7 - How to plan the best wedding day timeline

8 - How to beat the wedding stress

9 - What's an engagement shoot?

10 - What's a second shooter & why should we have one?

11 - On the day wedding tips

12 - What can you do with your wedding photos?