Whoever you choose to capture your special day, there are things every couple can do to help your photographer gets the best results and make sure you get the level of photography that you expect and deserve.
I’ve shot a lot of weddings and my clients are always happy because I make sure that each bride and groom understand the photography process so I get the great shots they want and they can get on with enjoying their wedding.
What follows is a collection of tips to help find the right photographer for you and once found, help you get the very best images from your big day.
Before your wedding – Choosing a photographer
Image is everything
The first and most important thing is the images. Every photographer will be eager to show you a portfolio of their very best images, the one’s where everything was just right and they captured a truly great moment. Ask to see full albums to get a feel for a photographers style. An experienced photographer will be happy to show you the last 12 months of work, including how they can handle things if it gets dark, or rains. You never know what will happen on the day so your snapper should be ready for anything.
Personality is everything else
A fact that you might not be prepared for is that as a couple, the person you are going to spend the most time with on your wedding day is your photographer. You’ve invited family, friends and kids and everyone wants to say hello. Your photographer will be with you for most of the day and you should feel confident and comfortable at all times. Make sure to meet with your prospective photographer before deciding based on a portfolio and price and don’t feel bad about having a consultation and choosing someone else. You should never feel pressured, any professional will be happy to sit down with you and answer any questions you have with no obligation.
What makes a professional
So what makes a professional photographer? The truth is it’s a lot easier to call yourself a wedding photographer than to actually be one. Professionalism is obvious when you see it. There are always plenty of part time snappers eager to take your money because they’ve bought an expensive camera but you can spot the signs if you know what your looking for. When you look through portfolios how many couples are there? Do you want to be wedding number 4 or 5 for someone? Does a web search reveal they have another job? You should never judge ability by equipment but do they have a backup? A professional will take at least two pro level cameras and a selection of off camera lighting to your wedding in case of accidents and to be prepared for every eventuality.
How much should it cost
When I started out I thought that wedding photography was expensive. I think most people do which is strange considering it’s the only part of the whole day that you are completely entrusting to someone else. For every other aspect of the day you have total control over the result. Your photographs rely entirely on someone else’s skills and experience to live up to your expectations. When I book a typical wedding I’ll spend a few hours in consultations, maybe a pre wedding shoot. I’ll bring a full time photographer as a second camera, we’ll shoot all day with professional equipment, then spend up to two weeks working just on your images before uploading them to online storage and producing a finished album optimised for print and web. This takes time and skill and it should. When clients approach me and say “how come this other photographer can do all this for £400?” the honest answer is “they can’t”. There are good deals to be had and everyone has to start somewhere but a photographer who doesn’t value their time may not value your custom either. You get what you pay for and If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Plan your day
Depending on the style of images you choose your day will require different amounts of time dedicated to just that. Your photographer should help you with a plan if needed, knowing how long to allow and how to fit your key shots around the rest of the day.
- Candid / Reportage – This takes the least amount of time out if any. Your photographer will not ask for your time but will work around you. You may be asked to go for a romantic walk or spend some time alone for key shots.
- Traditional – Often the most time consuming, set aside an amount of time for group photographs, plus combinations of bride, groom, family and friends directed by the photographer and assistant. This is becoming less and less popular in favour of reportage styles.
- Editorial – Think of the kind of shots you see in bridal magazines, where there is often complex lighting, and a small team of assistants. If you’re looking for a lot of bridal-shoot styled images be prepared for it to take time, though your images will be studio quality.
- Contemporary – A mix of the above, with time set aside for the various different styles as and when required. If you want a first dance, or cake cutting shot, these can be moved around to fit in with your day as needed. Allowing you to enjoy those moments without them being all about the photographer.
During your wedding – How to look your best
Have a pre wedding shoot
This is something that is becoming more and more popular and I can’t recommend it enough. Spending some time in front of the camera lets you get used to being in the spotlight and gives your photographer an opportunity to see what works for you. You can preview editing options and see whether you prefer a posed or candid style. Having great images as a couple before your day can really boost your confidence in front of the lens and is well worth it.
Know the rules for your venue
Most wedding venues will give your photographer the freedom to move and shoot as they please. Some may restrict the amount of shots, use of flash or amount of movement allowed so it’s important to check before the day. If there are restrictions, make sure your photographer knows and they can be prepared, for example setting up a discreet remote camera before hand for another angle.
“But I’m not smiling in any of my photos”…
A typical wedding photographer might take 1500 photos over the day, a second shooter might get another 500. If you aren’t smiling in any it probably isn’t the photographer. Weddings can be stressful if something goes wrong and a good photographer will capture shots you won’t see them taking. I’m not saying you should fix a smile at all times, just that you deserve to enjoy it. A bride and groom do not need to stress about their day, that’s what the best man, bridesmaids, and venue staff are for.
An experienced photographer will be able to organise your guests and be confident when arranging groups or setup shots. It’s always helpful though to have someone on side who knows everybody by name. If you have a list of group shots you want, give that list not only to your photographer but to your best man and bridesmaid, or whoever knows the most people. When the guests need rounding up, calling for people by name is easier for everyone. When it comes to your key shots, having a bridesmaid on hand to fix the dress or hold the flowers speeds up the whole process and lets you make the most of your time alone.
Your photographer may ask you to pose in a certain way and will probably make constant observations about the images, giving suggestions and tips as they shoot. Obviously if you don’t feel comfortable or it doesn’t feel like you, tell them but do trust that we are always looking for the best image and if we think we have a great idea it might just be great! Try to keep in mind the images that you’ve seen and liked. You don’t have to copy other shots but there’s nothing wrong with a little inspiration. Don’t be afraid to say what you want and suggest ideas.
Get everyone on the same page
If a particular shot is really important to you, let your quests know. Everyone wants you to have a fantastic album to look back on but the people who really care the most about your images are your photographers and you. Some guests will not want their picture taken and letting them know how important it is to you can really make a difference.
This is by no means a complete list or a fail safe way to perfect pictures. Each couple and each photographer is different but I hope this helps you find the one that’s right for you. Nothing amount of preparation can ensure that magical shot, but there’s plenty you can do to help.