There appears to have been a large surge in recent months of people trying their hand at offering photography services.
I have absolutely no issues with competition, but where I do have concerns is with people mis-leading others and then couples ending up disappointed with the results. That isn’t good for the couple, and it’s not good for the wedding photography profession either.
As a result, I thought that I would write a blog post as an educational article, in a bid that it might help some people avoid making a decision that they might regret with hiring the wrong photographer for them.
I’m not writing this post to suggest that people should use my services, my aim is to create awareness and help people select the right type of photographer that will fulfil their requirements.
I’ve broken my advice down into specific areas as follows below…
Styles of Photography
Firstly, photography like art is subjective. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder as they say, and this is most certainly true. So one photographer’s style might be one person’s love and yet to another it could repulse! Finding the right style of photography for your own taste might well vary from what your friends and family like and advise. Only you will know what floats your boat, and or what doesn’t.
There are two main categories that the majority of wedding photographers fall into; Reportage, and Traditional.
Reportage is where the photographer plays a subtle role, floating in and around the background photographing natural and un-staged pictures, documenting everything as the day unfolds.
Traditional is where the photographer plays an active role in orchestrating formal portraits and photographs of people, groups and posed shots of the couple.
Some photographers might only specialise in one of these areas, others will offer a mixture of the two, so this is an area that you should really consider first to help you decide what type of style of photography you want to represent your wedding day before looking for your photographer. Or similarly when you are choosing your photographer, ask them about their typical schedule for a wedding and how they shoot it, are they hands-on or do they only record natural shots as some might refuse to shoot any formals.
This is something that you should always ask your photographer – how long have they been shooting weddings? How many weddings do they shoot in a year on average?
Is this their full time profession, and or are they a part timer – if they are part time, why are they part time?
The more weddings they’ve shot would suggest that they have been successful and built a solid reputation. A wedding is something that is meant to be be the happiest day of the couple’s lives – if a photographer did a bad job, their reputation would suffer considerable damage.
As with all walks of life, experience is an important factor, it means that the photographer has most likely worked in many different venues, conditions, time frames and with various different backgrounds of people, and as a result is equipped well to deal with most situations that can arise at a wedding.
In general photography as a trade is unmonitored, there is no industry standard organisation to police it or those who practise in it.
This means that it is easy for anyone to pose or promote themselves as a professional. This is something that has become even easier in recent years, with digital SLR cameras more affordable, and anyone able to create a website using accessible template designs – many are trying their arm in the profession despite not having the the necessary skills or training to fulfil the service to a high standard.
It makes it all the more harder for the couple to find the correct photographer, as they have to sift through a forever growing market, many of which is fraught with such people that are not qualified to deliver the quality of photography that they desire. Sadly many don’t know what to look for and or to ask, and as a result select the wrong photographer and end up disappointed and upset with their photographs.
One thing that you can do is ask your photographer if they are part of a photographic organisation, possibly such as the SWPP, BIPP and or the RPS – all of which are fully recognised societies/institutes. Whilst this is still not a qualification, it again would suggest that they are dedicated to their profession and keen to stay in touch with their peers and current trends from investing in an annual membership.
This is the main selling point of any photographer, it’s a body and collection of their work. This should showcase their style, their ability, and also their creativity.
What you should be looking for here is a nice variety of different weddings to back-up their experience.
You should always ask and seek confirmation from the photographer that firstly the photos within the portfolio are their own, and another question worth asking is to check that they are of ‘real’ weddings – and not mock or themed photo shoots posing as weddings or models as brides? The reason I mention this is that whilst there is of course nothing wrong with a photographer conducting wedding themed photo shoots, it is more so that photo shoots are so far removed from a real wedding; you don’t have the luxury of time to perfect everything, more like only say 20-60 minutes to capture all the formal photographs which contrasts greatly in comparison to a 4-8 hour photo shoot!
Real weddings are pressure, there are tight timelines, you’ll also most likely be shooting in undesirable lighting conditions due to the time of day and it means working fast and on your feet – you have to get great results and all from within tight time frames. The other thing with photo shoots is that they do use models who know how to stand, pose and work the camera – a real life couple will not, and that’s where your photographer’s skill and experience will be required to gain the best results.
If there is not a great deal of variation within a portfolio or showcasing various different elements of weddings, why not ask the photographer if they can provide you with a full example of a couple of their weddings they’ve photographed so that you can get a real understanding and insight into what they will capture and the format they look to follow.
What is the deal with images? Do you receive images on disc, or are you given a number of physical prints and or an album product containing a specific number of shots?
If you get a disc, does that mean you receive all of the edited images or only a selection? Are they high resolution files granted with a license to reproduce? Ensure that the high resolution images do not feature watermarks through them!
Do you get full colour and black and white images? Is this supplied as a selection by the photographer, or do you get each and every image in both formats for the ultimate choice?
All these things can vary from photographer to photographer, so it’s well worth asking and don’t presume that you will get ALL the images and or granted a license to reproduce – such privileges if not granted as standard will cost you more should you want them included…
Some photographers will offer different packages that might feature an album, and others might only offer what we call a ‘disc-only’ package (this means exactly what it says, a disc containing images).
There are many different types of albums out there on the market, varying from the more traditional matted pages through to the more contemporary digital albums. These can all vary in specifications and page counts, all of which means that prices will vary accordingly.
It’s always advisable to view sample albums when you meet with a photographer, firstly as it’s another opportunity to vet their work, and secondly it also allows you to study the quality of their album products in depth. When you’re buying an album from a professional photographer, they should be providing you with a trade-only based album product that is printed and produced by professional album suppliers. The quality of these should be far superior to anything that you will see on the general consumer market, these should be professionally printed to the highest standard which is maximising the quality of the photography.
If you are investing in your photographs, you really should make sure that they are printed and or that your album product is of a professional quality. It is crazy to invest money in having top quality images taken to then have them reproduced into an inferior product that will not do them any justice… it is counter productive.
It’s also worth asking the photographer about their album process, are you allowed to chose the photos that go in your album or do they chose for you? Again this can vary from photographer to photographer, so well worth asking before you book!
In my honest opinion, I believe that this is an area that is quite often overlooked when people choose their photographer. Yes, the style, ability and creativity are all important ingredients for your selection, but do not underestimate the influence of your photographer’s personality, whether that be a positive or negative thing!
This is your special day, it is meant to be a celebration, and ultimately a wedding is in simple terms, one big party! You want to enjoy your day, and the whole vibe should be exactly that, fun and enjoyable.
You should bear this in mind when you come to choosing your photographer, yes they might take great photos, but will you feel comfortable with them on the day, are they a happy and positive person that will help you to enjoy your day or are they someone that lacks people skills and of whom might irritate and dampen spirits?
Out of all your wedding suppliers, the photographer is the one person that will share most of your wedding day with you more than anyone else! You must therefore in my opinion, select someone that you can see both of you building a rapport with, someone that makes you feel at ease, and ultimately someone that will get the best out of you!
Do ensure that you check if your photographer is insured; for both public liability and also professional indemnity. You want peace of mind knowing that they are covered in case granny trips over their tripod and breaks her arm (a happy thought I know!) and or in the worst possible case their memory cards corrupt and they lose all your images, they at least have insurance to compensate for any disastrous and unforeseen events.
Hopefully none of these will ever happen, but it is just common sense and responsibility for any professional to have these measures of cover in place.
Everyone has a budget of some kind. Some might have a larger budget for their photography than others. Ultimately it will vary in regards to how much they value their photographs.
Certain people treasure their photographs and the memories that they provide them, they are a timeless documentation of their lives at a certain period of time. Others don’t share the same level of value for photographs and might see them more as purely a record that needs to be recorded for purpose rather than for treasuring.
This means that some people will be willing to invest more for their photography than others due to their perception of importance. There is no right or wrong, it boils down to your personal outlook and what you value.
In general, like most things in life, you get what you pay for as the old saying goes. Just be aware with the market currently saturated there are many people out there claiming to be a photographer who are not qualified to produce professional results. If you see someone promoting themselves for peanuts in comparison to most other photographers in the profession, just be aware that their pricing will reflect their quality of photography – if you are happy with this, then there is not a problem and I certainly have no qualms as I say as people have different values and requirements, that is their prerogative
All I will say is if you pay the price for a hamburger, don’t expect to be given a steak!
This is like the ‘feedback’ facility in eBay, this gives you a real insight into what couples have said and thought about the photographer and their work.
If viewing testimonials on a photographer’s website ask them to clarify that the they are 100% genuine, as unless they use a third party facility/website for their testimonials, there is a chance that they might not be authentic. It’s also is worth checking out their social media pages for client interaction and reaction to photo and blog posts to gauge how their work is perceived and accepted by couples and clientele.
Other things to ask and consider
If there will be children at your wedding does the photographer hold a CRB check? In this day and age, it’s always reassuring to know that the photographer is CRB approved.
What research does your photographer do ahead of your wedding? Do they conduct a consultation meeting with the couple in advance of the wedding day to discuss timings and formalities? Maybe they visit the wedding venue(s) before the big day to familiarise themselves with the photographic opportunities within so that come the day they know where they will conduct the formal photographs and not leave anything to chance? If they don’t, why don’t they?
What happens in the case of illness? Do they have someone that they can call upon in their absence should the worst case scenario occur and they’re struck down by illness?
Do they carry back-up equipment in case of electronic/mechanical failure? Any true professional will bring a spare of each piece of equipment from camera bodies, lenses through to flash guns in the event that if something might break, they can then still continue their job without interruption.
If you truly cherish your photographs, I cannot stress highly enough following all the points that I have highlighted, this will give you a good understanding of what you should be asking and looking for when shortlisting your choice for a photographer.
Don’t try and save money or cut corners on your photography if it means a lot to you. You get what you pay for, and if something looks incredibly cheap there is most likely a good reason why it is! If you truly want top quality or decent photography, you have to invest in it, otherwise you are gambling with your pictures and memories, and if you ask yourself would you be upset if someone made a complete mess of your photos, and the answer is ‘Yes’ I strongly suggest that you don’t cut corners.
Don’t gamble with your wedding photos, you only get one chance to do it properly, so make sure that you are entrusting the right person/people.
Your photographs are the only thing alongside the wedding dress that will probably still be standing in 20 years after your wedding, the wedding car a distant memory, the flowers long dead, the cake eaten, the favours binned. For that reason, if you want to invest in your memories, make sure you invest your budget so that it will provide you with the longest serving service/product that will live on forever and future generations = your photographs.
I hope that you have found this article helpful!