There are many professional wedding photographers out there who all say they are the best – yet every single one of them is different. It’s an important decision to make though as once you’ve had the first dance, eaten the cake and returned from honeymoon – your photos will live on; letting you relive the day and remember one of the most important days of your life – not just right now, but for years to come.
From chatting with our couples, choosing the right wedding photographer or indeed style of photography for your wedding celebrations is often one of the hardest decisions to make when it comes to planning your wedding.
With this in mind, I’ve put together a few thoughts below on some of the things to think about when trying to choose your perfect wedding photographer or to decide between various wedding photographers on your top ten shortlist.
Choosing your wedding photographer
Choosing a wedding photographer can be tricky. The quality and overall look of their photos is important, but it’s also crucial to consider their experience level and whether you get on with them well. It’s also important to consider how long you would like them to be with you on your wedding day and to have a think about whether you only need shorter hours of coverage for perhaps the ceremony and photos afterwards, or whether you’re looking for someone who will be with you until the party’s in full swing later into the evening.
Taking a step back for a moment, it’s worth remembering I suppose that just owning a camera doesn’t make you a good photographer – in much the same way that owning a paintbrush doesn’t make you an artist. It’s how you use them and what you create with them. A good wedding photographer knows both how to use available light, but also how to create and manage light (be that with flash, continuous lighting); creating a beautiful image while also capturing the moment and emotion in just one shot. They will be able to compose an amazing photo, ensuring the focus is perfectly captured and not ruined by distracting elements in the background.
Lots of this boils down to knowing how their equipment works but also having the skills , experience and confidence to adapt to the conditions they’re presented with on your day as sadly the “great British weather” isn’t something any of us can control. Real weddings are not things that can be paused or rescheduled for a better day – sometimes we’ve just got to keep going regardless of what’s thrown at us!
But… where to start?
Start looking for the perfect photographer to choose for your wedding by having a good think about the style of wedding photography you like. Maybe you love photos which are genuine with true-to-life colours which exude warmth and happiness. Perhaps you prefer bright images with lots of saturated colours, or perhaps you prefer a more vintage look with more washed-out tones or a darker feel. There’s no right answer to this one but knowing what you like makes this much easier. It’s worth keeping in mind that wedding photography styles can sometimes come and go with the wind – and on-point editing styles right now don’t always last much more than a fleeting moment. History is littered with wedding photography styles that haven’t stood the test of time, which have the result of instantly dating your wedding photos. No right answer to the question but something to have a think about.
There are many wedding directories you can browse as a starting point, and I’m proud to be included in some of the finest. Use them for ideas – find a few photographers whose real-wedding images you love and try and work out what it is you love about them.
Also have a think about the content of the wedding photos – do you prefer posed images where every aspect of the shot is carefully curated, formal wedding photos where everyone’s carefully arranged into a structured group; or do you prefer candid natural photos which are full of life, moments and reality? Again, there’s not a right answer to this one but it’s pretty important to decide between more traditional wedding photography and fresher reportage / candid / documentary wedding photos as it’s rare to find a photographer who’s at their best doing both.
How do YOU prefer to be photographed?
Part of this decision is also about how you’d like to be photographed on your big day. Do you just want to be able to relax and let your photographer capture the day as it unfolds, photographing the emotion and laughter of you and your guests? If yes, then a reportage / candid style is for you – and they’ll shoot all of the awesomeness as it happens. If you prefer more traditional photos or like the idea of someone telling you exactly how to stand, where to place your hands and what sort of expression to hold – then look for someone who offers a more posed approach. A give away if you’re not sure is to look at photos from more than one wedding… if every couple is stood in much the same way or using a similar pose, then the photographer is probably more reliant on posing or prompts. If every couple is different and you get a clear feel for their special day’s uniqueness, then they’re probably rather more documentary or candid.
Formal Group Photos & Details
It’s worth not forgetting about group photos or detail photos too. Most photographers will be more than comfortable covering a number of family group photos during the day. They’ll usually ask you to provide a list of the group photos you’d like to have along with asking for someone to be assigned to help find people on the day. Groups don’t need to take a long time to shoot, but we’d always suggest trying to limit it to no more than 10 or so – purely as otherwise you start eating up time on the day.
Stunning photos of all the small details, your wedding cake, your wedding dress, handmade wedding items or your carefully styled wedding venue are all important too. If it’s not obvious from looking at a photographer’s real wedding photos feel free to ask them about detail shots! Everyone’s going to be different in terms of how they approach this but as per the rest of the suggestions, finding someone who has the right approach for you is important.
If you want to be able to rely on the wedding photographer you choose, it’s helpful if they know what they’re doing. Experienced wedding photographers will know how real weddings work from the morning’s preparations, to your wedding ceremony and onwards to the party in the evening. They’ll know what happens and how a typical wedding day is likely to flow along with already being aware of how to work with other suppliers, your wedding planner and of course registrars and celebrants. When it comes to photos, they’ll be able to capture events as they happen – using that experience to be in the right place at the right time along with making the best of your venue and whatever the weather throws at you on the day.
Real weddings are very different to fashion shoots or staged portfolio builder shoots as they are dynamic. They’re live events packed full of once-in-a-lifetime moments that can’t be re-staged or recreated. Everyone does however have to start somewhere, so if you decide to choose a wedding photographer who is new to photographing weddings – make sure you’re comfortable with the risks of doing so as your wedding day isn’t something that can be easily recreated if it all goes wrong or the photos don’t turn out as you’d hoped.
But… how do I know if they have experience?
Talk to them 🙂 Ask questions! Chat about how they approach shooting your day and ask about other weddings they’ve shot in the past. Chat through what happens if it rains, or perhaps ask if they have any advice on how to manage timings on the day or what time of day it’s best to aim to shoot portraits.
Also when reviewing photographers’ websites and social media, if you see the same couples or very similar weddings appearing on their pages as per a few others – suggest asking if they were from a workshop or styled shoot. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with featuring workshop or portfolio builder day photos but as it means someone else will have styled the couple, arranged their pose or created the moment; perhaps even told the photographer where to stand… it’s not really the same as photographing an actual, real-live genuine wedding.
Everyone will have different answers but suggest urging a little caution if they try and evade any questions or don’t seem to know how they would approach a particular situation.
You may have found a wedding photographer with the perfect style you are looking for, they have some great shots on their website, and you like the sound of how they work. What’s next? You want to see lots more photos – from different weddings. Preferably covering complete weddings from preparations through to party rather than just a handful of extra-special “hero” shots or portraits.
When choosing your wedding photographer, you are looking for consistency and whether the style and approach you love flows through the whole set. It’s important to be sure that you’ll receive a full gallery of stunning photos, not just one or two showcase photos that might make it to a social media post.
Wedding photography isn’t just about a few stunning photos, it is about a beautiful story you will treasure for life. Ensure the galleries document and tell a story through stunning photos, that ensure the quality is consistent throughout and each photo on its own stands out as worthy of a place in the gallery.
Have a look through their social media profiles too. Some photographers post more frequently than others so try to avoid judging them based on activity – but you can often quickly see the types of wedding they capture and get an overall feel for their style.
Previous weddings at your venue?
Have they shot at your venue? Assuming they satisfy your checks on consistency and have plenty of experience, then previously shooting at your venue is much less vital than if they’re inexperienced or new to shooting weddings. It can be an added bonus if they have worked at your venue before as they’ll usually be able to show you previous photos from other weddings there – and may already know the best places and locations to use on the day. However, any good photographer will take the time to look around when they arrive and make sure they’ve got some ideas before venturing out with you to create something awesome.
You venue may recommend and suggest photographers – do check them out but also don’t feel restricted. Venue recommendations happen for many reasons; some are the result of the photographer (and other suppliers paying to be on the list), others are based on merit or that the venue team appreciates a photographer’s work or trusts them to do a fantastic job. Don’t be afraid to ask your venue why they’re on the list and go from there. Either way, do check them out but also take a look at others and see if there are other photographers that suit you better and get in touch with them.
Backups & Plan B’s
As touched upon earlier, you need to have confidence in your photographer – covering that they’ll deliver what they’ve agreed to do, and trusting them to do a fabulous job. As part of chatting to them, ask what their backup plans are in the even they’re unwell, or if there is an emergency or they cannot make it? They should have a network of contacts they trust that maybe able to fill in for them and should be able to talk about reaching out to other trusted photographers in the area to help find someone to cover. If they don’t, or don’t really give you much confidence that they do, then walk away and get in touch with another photographer.
In the world of weddings, community is much more important than competition – and this is critically important when it comes to suppliers who can only cover one event at a time as they’re reliant on their community to pull together and help if anything happens.
Also feel free to ask them about backup equipment and what happens if something breaks. Anyone worth their salt will have spare cameras, spare lenses and plenty of spare memory cards / batteries. If they don’t talk about having two cameras or are comfortable with describing what they’ll do if something does go wrong – book someone else!
When meeting the photographer either in person, at a wedding fair or online via Zoom (and you really should do this before booking them!), ask them questions, tell them about your day and have a conversation with them. How do they come across? Do you feel at ease with them? Do they answer all your questions with confidence?
It’s really important to make sure you feel happy working with them and feel at ease. Make sure you feel you can trust them to capture the biggest day of your life.
When chatting with them you want it to feel relaxed, like chatting to a friend or someone you have known for years. If you feel relaxed and at ease with them it will help for better and more natural photos, you will feel more relaxed around them when they are taking photos and are more likely to be up for more fun and creative photos, and ideas your photographer may have for great shots. Choosing your wedding photographer can sometimes take time, but a little like choosing your perfect wedding venue – trust your instincts!
Another approach is to book a pre-wedding or engagement shoot with your photographer. Engagement shoots are a great way to both create some fabulous photos and help confirm your choice of wedding photographer.
Now that’s a whole separate blog post in the making!
All I’d say about budgets at this point is yes, they need to exist, and it’s important to have a clear idea of what does and doesn’t match with your plans for the day.
However, try at this point to not be guided purely by the financial side when choosing your wedding photographer. Photography is an investment and your wedding photos should be viewed as one of your most treasured investments into the future. A precious set of memories that will transport you right back to one of the happiest days of your life – rather than something that’s purely judged by a line on your wedding finance planner.
If you find someone whose work you adore, but the numbers don’t quite add up, the single most important suggestion I can offer is to talk to them! Many photographers will be willing and able to discuss some options to try and help. Perhaps it would be possible to adjust the hours they’re with you for, or to maybe alter what they include in their Collections. You won’t know until you ask!
If you haven’t already, please do go check out the rest of my website! As an award winning professional Norfolk wedding photographer I’d absolutely love to hear more about the plans for your big day – and can promise to tick off the boxes above. Head on over to the contact form and send me a message with a few more details about your wedding plans and we can get things started. I’m also always happy to help so if you have lots of questions about anything in this blog, just get in touch.
Good luck with the planning!