Choosing the perfect wedding photographer

Do your research

Photography is so unlike the work of all of your other wedding suppliers.

Your pictures aren’t something you can hear, smell, touch, taste or even see until after the day. You can’t really be certain of what you’re likely to get until the day itself and afterwards when you see your pictures.

Careful research of photographers’ skills, artistic approach and personality are vitally important. You need to have complete faith and trust in the photographer. You’ll be seeing a lot of them on your special day, and they’ll be responsible for creating the images that will keep your memories alive for the rest of your lives. 

How much does wedding photography cost?

According to a 2018 survey of 340 professional wedding photographers by UK wedding site YourPerfectWeddingPhotographer, the average all day rate for a professional photographer is £1,480.

Then there’s all the aspiring photographers offering crazily low prices, right through to celebrity photographers charging eye-watering amounts of money!

So where do we start?

In the UK there are about 220,000 weddings per year, yet there are an estimated 50,000 wedding photographers. Like most established professional photographers, I attend about 40-50 weddings per year. This means there are a lot of photographers who are doing very few weddings.

In fact, the vast numbers of photographers advertising their services are either weekend enthusiasts or recently graduated photography students. Every year I see so many new photography websites appearing in Google searches, and many of these will vanish within a year or two. So when you see a whole day package rate of £350-£750, you’re almost certainly looking at the work of a part-timer or student graduate. Their packages are usually offered at near to cost price to finance their hobby or to build their portfolio. You might strike gold with this approach, I’ve certainly seen some fabulous pictures from the weekend shooters, and inevitably there are some rising stars amongst this group too, but taking a chance like this can be a bit like throwing dice and hoping all the sixes come up on each throw! 

The risk of a budget photography option

At many weddings I attend I hear comments from recently married couples who are very upset with the quality of their wedding pictures, the process and the experience. Many hadn’t realised that the photographer they’d booked was not a professional until it was too late.

The most confusing aspect was that they’d seen great pictures on their chosen photographer’s professionally styled website. These off the shelf websites can look very convincing, especially once they’ve been populated with a small selection of lovely images! Capturing a few good images of your wedding shouldn’t be a problem for anyone with a camera, the real test is whether can they do it consistently throughout the day! 

I meet quite a few of these weekend enthusiasts. When I enquire as to their experience, it often consists of a weekend training course, and sometimes they’ve covered a couple of family weddings. At least with a student graduate you’ve got more chance of getting someone who’s more knowledgeable behind the camera, although neither option gives you the several years of professional photography experience that allows a pro to deal with unexpected weather conditions, changes in timing and creative requests.

Salvage-the-day photography

Most years I’m asked to capture a few of what I call ‘Salvage the Day’ photo-shoots, in which the couple dress up once again with their immediate family and bridal party to re-stage their wedding pictures.

These are usually captured at my Manor House premises or back at their wedding venue. This is such a frustrating and expensive experience for the family, and with a little research and a realistic budget these situations can be avoided completely. 

What to expect from a professional photographer

When you book a pro you’re paying for their years of training, experience, expertise and eye for detail, not to mention the costs of their latest professional camera and computer kit which becomes obsolete every few years! 

A professional photographer is also likely to have excellent people and organisational skills, honed over many years of weddings. They’ll have the expertise to handle extreme lighting and weather conditions, they’ll work fast, they’ll be fully insured, and they’ll ensure your images are captured and processed to an optimum standard. Overall you’re dramatically increasing the likelihood that the whole experience will be enjoyable and unintrusive, and that you’ll love your pictures for many years to come. 

Most people don’t realise that pros spend 40-50 hours in total working on an all-day wedding booking. The quality processing and photoshopping we include in our prices is the most time consuming aspect of our work.

As professionals we don’t compete on price with the vast number of weekend enthusiasts and graduate photographers, but I believe the two experiences and end results are worlds apart.

How do you know you’re booking a professional photographer?

Please do your research, read lots of online reviews, and meet potential photographers in person. Professional photographers will initially invite you to visit them at their studio/premises, do take them up on this offer so you can check out their professional setup. Proceed with great caution if anyone asks if they can do a Skype meeting or come to your home, or if they wish to meet you somewhere halfway, you can be sure you are about to encounter one of the many weekend part-timers.

Always ask to view complete sets of wedding pictures, ideally you’ll have access to a few recent entire wedding galleries captured at your venue, or from another venue that is similar. Also, check to see which venues recommend them, top pros will have a number of local venues that are happy to recommend them, which is the ultimate form of referral for any photographer.

Choose someone who has a passion for their work

Read the various photographers website ‘about’ pages, and view their web postings, you’ll be amazed at how much of an insight you have into how passionate they are about their work. Reading their customer reviews will also give you a fabulous opportunity to hear their customers’ thoughts too. 

Choosing a style of photography

You’ll soon discover that no two photographers have exactly the same style. Spend time thinking about the kind of imagery you love, by following photographers blogs, Facebook or Instagram posts. Once you’ve decided which style of imagery inspires you the most, try to narrow in on what you both believe most authenticates the two of you best. 

You may like a more classic style, or maybe a reportage approach is your preference, or possibly a mixture of these styles. If you love colourful, sharp and contrasty imagery, perhaps a photographer with a flair for the dramatic is the right choice for you. Alternatively what’s in vogue at the moment with many photographers is a more Instagram look, this produces quite a dreamy faded vintage look. 

Try to avoid anything that you think may be too “now”, as your photographs could date pretty fast in the years ahead. Above all else, if there’s a special style you adore, make sure you only consider photographers who specialise in it.

Booking a professional photographer

Once you’ve found someone you get on well with, and you love their work, and they are within your budget, don’t hesitate to book them. If they are good it’s unlikely your date will be available in their diary for long. 

There are some amazing photographers out there, choose well and you’ll have amazing memories that will last you a lifetime, good luck with your search.