Selecting a wedding photographer

It is estimated that about 70% of wedding photographers marketing their services in the UK are actually weekend amateur hobbyists.

My industry is totally unregulated, and many couples never think about the serious consequences of unknowingly commissioning someone to photograph their wedding who might not actually be qualified…or insured. Most assume that the photographers they find online or have met at wedding shows are experienced professionals. This is sadly not the case. To become a photographer, there are no exams to pass and no need to spend years training. They can work from home, and all they need is a half decent camera, a computer, an off the shelf website or Instagram page, and a mobile phone to get started.

Own a camera? Know how to use it reasonably well? Amazing – you can be a professional wedding photographer! WHOA! STOP RIGHT THERE!

This dramatic about-change has happened since the advent of digital cameras, as it’s now too easy for anyone to become a wedding photographer!.The instant view facility allows operators to keep hitting the delete button until they’re left with some reasonable images.

A hobbyist may tell you they can do everything the professionals do for half the price! If only this was the case!

Sadly, too many hobbyist photographers either believe or are convinced by their family and friends that they should use their talents to earn money from their photography.

For sure, owning a digital camera makes photography so much easier, but it doesn’t turn you into a talented wedding photographer overnight – it only makes you the owner of a decent camera.

For the vast majority of hobbyists who attempt to turn professional, their beloved pastime becomes a fun way to earn some extra money. But for most of them it all too often turns into a desperate fight for survival when they realise that customers are not beating their doors down.

I’m hoping this blog posting will point you in the right direction to select the most suitable photographer for you.


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!

Photography is so unlike the work 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.

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 marketing their services. Like most established professional photographers, I attend about 40-50 weddings per year. These statistics clearly demonstrate that there are a lot of photographers who are doing very few weddings.

With the vast numbers of weekend hobbyist photographers and student graduates advertising their services, it makes it more difficult than ever to know if you’re booking a professional photographer.

Every year many new photographers’ websites appear on Google searches in the Chilterns area, and most of these will vanish within a year or two. So when you see a whole day 8-hour package rate of £400-£800, you’re almost certainly looking at the work of a hobbyist 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 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 no matter what the weather throws at them, week after week!

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 many years of professional photography experience that allows a pro to deal with unexpected weather conditions, changes in timing and creative requests.


What to expect from a professional photographer

When you book a talented pro you’re paying for their years of training, experience, expertise and eye for detail, not to mention the costs of their professional camera and computer kit which become 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 not intrusive, 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. It’s highly unlikely that a budget priced weekend hobbyist photographer is going to provide this level of service, quality or expertise.

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 social media postings. You’ll be amazed at how much of an insight you have into how passionate they are about their work. A busy professional photographer will also blog regularly; again these posts provide an ideal window to hear about their latest commissions.

Reading their customer reviews will also give you a fabulous opportunity to hear their customers’ thoughts too. My many 5 star reviews are without doubt one of the biggest selling points for lots of newly engaged couples enquiring about my services. 


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 photography blogs, Facebook or Instagram posts. Once you’ve decided which style of imagery inspires you the most, try to narrow in on what you believe 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.

Read my blog article covering the past and current photographic trends


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.


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 fabulous memories that will last you a lifetime, good luck with your search.