How To Choose Your Wedding Photographer
They said yes.
You both decided on a date.
The venue you always hoped to say “I do” in was available and you booked it.
You now need to find a photographer. But who?
Whomever you end up choosing will be charged with creating gorgeous images that will serve as a physical memory of one of the major milestones in your life. They will probably be producing an album that will act as an heirloom that your children will cherish beyond your lifetime and you will leaf through fondly on anniversaries or whenever you feel nostalgic.
It’s no small task. Once you wedding day is done, often only the rings you exchange and your photographs will stand the test of time. So who should you trust with such responsibility?
Grab your laptop or iPad. It’s research time.
If you have a recommendation from a family member or friend, absolutely add that name to your list. Near the top. A positive experience of someone you know where you’ve seen the end result is a huge check in the ‘pros’ column.
You might even know a few local photographers from seeing their work or passing their studio in town. Add them to the list too.
Next up to the bat is Google. This is where you can go down a rabbit hole.
Simply searching “wedding photographer” will bring up a seemingly endless list. Of course, you can refine that list if you know you want something specific. If you’re eloping, search “elopement photographer”. Maybe you really want that magazine look – try “fine art wedding photographer”. You get the idea.
Once you have a list of a few potential options, it’s time to look around their website. Or have a look at their Social media, Instagram is the perfect medium to browse a photographers work.
Most photographers will curate their site or social media to show only their very best work and clients that fit with their ‘ideal client’. This simply means they have a type of wedding or couple that they love shooting and want to attract that as best they can. An elopement photographer may well cover a classic church wedding really well, but they only post elopement wedding images as that’s what they enjoy the most.
While you look through your shortlist’s galleries, narrow it down as you go. If the images get a visceral reaction either discard that photographer at that stage or add another check in their favour. At the same time take note of the style you do and don’t enjoy. Are you drawn in by the dark, moody shots or are you cooing over the light and airy ones? It’s worth figuring out your preference so you can make sure the photographer you choose can use that as a guideline and shoot with that in mind.
So, you’ve narrowed the list down to 5 or 6 you really like. They all have great work and you’d be happy with any of the results.
How Do They Compare?
Now we need to dive deeper. If they have details on their site about what they offer, often listed as packages or investment check that out.
Each photographer will offer something slightly different and they will likely vary in price points, but we’ll deal with that shortly.
As a minimum you’ll want to know:
How many hours coverage do they offer?
Pay attention to ‘all-day’ coverage as that can truly be all day or sometimes ceremony to first dance.
Do you get one or 2 photographers?
Some work mostly solo, some always work as a pair and some offer a second as an add-on. There’s no right or wrong here, but in general, the weddings under 150 people will be fine with one photographer. Something you may see in their package (or sometimes you only find out on the day) is that they bring an assistant. The assistant is there to carry their bags, move lighting equipment and generally help the photographer. An assistant rarely takes any photos, other than of the photographer for behind-the-scenes content on their social media pages.
How many images do the usually deliver?
While there will likely be a couple of thousand images taken over the day, only the best will be delivered to you. This will vary depending on the style, how long you have them with you and which parts of the day they are covering. A fair estimate is 50-75+ images per hour.
Do you get digital files included?
Some include them, some offer them as an add-on. I think everyone should get digitals these days but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get an album too.
Today’s world is digital. We are all very used to living with our photographs on our smartphones so it’s natural to expect digital copies to be part of your package.
Pay attention and/or ask is what type of digital file you will receive. The typical options are Low-Res (low resolution), which are ideal for sharing online and viewing on a screen but do not print well and High-Res (High Resolution) which are ready to print and will still look great on screen.
The final check with digital files is to find out if they will be watermarked. This is typically reserved for Low-Res copies.
Do they include an Album?
It feels like digital trumps an album these days, but you can have both.
If an album is included, there are usually a few options such as size and number of images that you can tailor to suit your own needs. While this feels less and less like an essential, do consider one if it’s within your budget. You won’t regret it.
Will there be an online gallery for guests?
This is fairly common, but not always a given. An online galley means you’ll have somewhere to see your images quickly rather than waiting on a USB being delivered (let’s not even talk about USB’s becoming obsolete anyway, with USB-C becoming the standard). But It’s also somewhere you can point guests to, to see all of your beautiful photographs without having to visit every aunty and distant relative or even worse, having to send out your stunning album into the world.
Is an engagement shoot included?
Commonly re-labeled as a pre-wedding shoot or a practice shoot. It’s not often that the engagement shoot happens to take place anywhere near the actual engagement date now. Nevertheless, this is a brilliant little extra that can sometimes be included and will be a great way to get on the same page as your photographer as well as getting some bonus photographs to decorate your walls with.
The UK wedding photography market is wide and varied. You’ve probably heard you should spend around 10% of your budget on your photography. But what should you expect for your budget?
There are several factors that come into play for pricing. Experience, location, the date, and duration.
Typically a brand new photographer you has shot few or no weddings will be sub-£500, those with a little more experience but still only shoot weddings part-time will be around £500-£100 and you’ll find mostly full-time, experienced photographers over £1000. There will also be some offering an exclusive or premium service for £3000+
London and surrounding areas will be the most expensive in the UK as you would expect.
You’ll find that peak wedding season from June-September will likely cost a little more but will definitely find discounts for mid-week and off-season wedding dates.
Once you’ve investigated the packages your preferred 5 or 6 photographers offer, you might be able to whittle it down to 3 or 4 based on your budget and the service you’d like.
Now it’s time to get in touch. Send and enquiry to them via their contact page or social media, or call them if you prefer. If they are available, arrange to meet for a coffee or over a Skype call. If they are all available, arrange meetings with them all, if you can spare the time.
Let’s say you end up with 3 photographers you like, who are available on your date and you’re meeting them for coffee. At this point any one of the 3 could be the one you choose and you’ll be delighted with the results. You know they are in budget and they can deliver great photographs. All that is left to do is pick the one who’s personality fits best with you and your partner. I have an article here about what to ask at the consultation. You’ll be spending between 6-10 hours with this person only feet away from you all day and they’ll be giving you instructions from time to time so it’s important to have someone who you feel comfortable with.
Once you’ve chosen your champion, it’s a case of paying their retainer fee (usually 20-40%) and signing the contract. That guarantees your date and your photographer will take it from there, keeping you informed and finally delivering your perfect images.