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Written by Amy Croffey Last updated: May 24, 2012
So you’re on the hunt for your wedding photographer, but where do you start looking? Internet, wedding fairs, magazines, local studios and recommendations are all great, but how do you know which one to choose? Photographer Lisa Gill gives an insider’s view on things you need to consider when choosing your photographer.
Images by Lisa Gill Photography
First you must ask yourself – ‘why get a professional photographer?’ Because your wedding photos will last forever, that’s why. There are many amateurs photographing weddings at £250 – £500 a pop, they often have full time jobs and do photography on the side for extra money. If they do a below-average job, they don’t lose a thing – but you certainly will.
1. Do you like the photographer’s pictures?
You can see the photographer’s pictures on their website/ blog, and most of them are going to show off their best pictures only. This does not really mean a great deal, because often these pictures will have been taken on training courses and setup by someone else. What you really need to see are photos from a whole wedding to see what you are likely to get.
2. Are you comfortable with the photographer?
This is arguably the most important point – how well you bond with your photographer. This is your wedding day, you are going to be running around in your smalls at some stage, and you want a photographer who is going to fit in around you, your friends and your family.
3. What is the photographer’s personality like?
Your photographer needs to be the type that can organise a group of people and engage with them to get great shots. The right person is assertive and confident but friendly, with enough personality to make it enjoyable. They should work well with kids too, if you’re having children at your wedding.
4. What equipment do they have?
Professional camera equipment is very costly, and can run into thousands of pounds. A part-time photographer is unlikely to have the full setup of camera bodies, lenses and lighting, and will therefore be limited in capturing the same level of quality and range of shots. If you ask what camera they have, a quick Google search will tell you how much their body costs. Professional grade bodies start from £1,000 and go up to £5,000 for the high end models. Lighting is particularly important, especially if you are planning a winter wedding, and you plan to get shots in the dark or indoors.
5. Do they have an assistant?
If the photographer brings an assistant to the wedding, the main photographer has time with the bride and groom, whilst the other photographer can capture great images of the guests. Also, an assistant is very useful to capture the bride walking down the aisle, and the bride and groom’s faces throughout the ceremony, whilst the other photographer can be at the back of the church capturing the dress and train. If a photographer is bringing an assistant, they will normally be part of the package.
6. What does the end product look like?
This is sometimes overlooked, but you need to see some real wedding albums, actually feel them in your hands to feel the material, the weight, and whether you like the overall look of the album. If you are interested in getting some framed pictures, then make sure you see the photographer’s frames to see if you like the style and quality.
7. Can I get the images on a CD?
Photographers want to protect their business so they copyright their pictures, and often you cannot buy the disk of images, or if you can, it may be more expensive than you expect as the price reflects the amount of work that goes into each image. If you want all of the images, ask up front. Many photographers nowadays are able to put pictures on an online gallery. This is nice for auntie Mary in Australia, but it is worth realising that the photographer still holds the copyright to those images which means you can’t download them or print them off or pin/post them on social networking sites without the permission of the photographer. The images will also be in a low resolution, so even if they were printed out, the quality would not be good. Some photographers sell prints, some may only sell images in a wall display format like a canvas or frame. Some may sell a select few images on a disc, others won’t.
There is a huge amount of work behind the scenes for a photographer and every wedding can take a week at least to process and design albums etc., so a true professional is unlikely to sell a cut priced product as this will not cover the amount of hours it takes to deliver a complete set of high-quality images.
Have a think about what you might like before you book your photographer, then you will be better placed to get a true feel of costs before you sign up.
8. How much will it cost?
Some photographers will not publish their prices. If you are on a budget, then ask before you see the photographer to send you a price list - if they don’t, they are probably expensive. Money will be tight after your wedding so you need to ensure you are going to be able to afford to buy your wedding pictures!
Be sure to ask for freebies! Many photographers will do free engagement shoots as part of the process of getting to know the bride and groom. After the wedding, ‘trash the dress’ shoots are a nice opportunity to get some artistic shots that you wouldn’t dream of doing on the big day in case you get your dress dirty.
9. What experience do they have?
You need to find out what is the background of the photographer and what qualifications they have. Ask them: how many years have they been shooting weddings? How many weddings have they shot? What venues have they shot at? Again experience counts, particularly when the weather, venue or other unknowns occur on the day. You need to make sure your photographer understands how to shoot weddings, knows the critical shots that can’t be missed, and is organised and prepared.
10. Does the photographer have insurance?
You should ask to see a copy of their public liability insurance and professional indemnity policy.
11. Do they know the wedding venue?
If the photographer knows the venue already, then they know where to get the best shots. If they don’t ask them to check it out beforehand.
12. What happens if the get sick?
Check the contract – the photographer should have made reference to what happens in the event of accident or illness.
13. What is in the package?
Obviously finding out exactly what you are going to get is essential so you can find out if you’re getting value for money. Ask if there is any flexibility in the package if you want more or less time with the photographer. Make sure you find a package that suits you.
A minimum package should include the photographer’s attendance on the wedding day, and usually an engagement shoot. How long the photographer is there is also variable, some charge by the hour, most professional photographers will offer a price for the entire wedding day, from bridal preparation through to first dance.
Once attendance is covered, packages often include DVDs, albums, CDs with high resolution prints or Facebook-ready images (low resolution web images). Some photographers will require you to feed them the same as your guests or pay for travelling time/costs which all adds up, so just make sure there are no hidden extras in the contract and that you understand and are happy with what you get for your money.
Some photographers offer a DVD as part of the package, but this is not to be confused with a high resolution CD of images. With the DVD, you cannot easily extract the images (which will usually be under copyright anyway) whereas with the high resolution CD, you can print out any images, any size to a high quality.