choosing a wedding photographer - robert auckland

how to choose a wedding photographer

Choosing a wedding photographer is right up there near the top of most people's wedding planning list. I have photographed weddings throughout Wiltshire and Gloucestershire and across  the UK. Based on this experience I have put together a list of questions that will help make getting the right wedding photographer much, much easier for you.   Use the list to help quiz your wedding photographer before booking! Or simply read through my answers to the questions to help understand the important things when booking a wedding photographer

questions to ask when booking a wedding photographer

Here are some questions to ask before booking your wedding photographer to help you book the right photographer for you:

what style of wedding photography?

what makes a good wedding photographer?

do I need to talk to the wedding photographer before booking?

do different styles of wedding photographer suit different events?

does the wedding photographer use natural light in all their photos?

what shots are really important to you on the wedding day?

what fraction of my budget should I spend on wedding photography?

how involved do you want to be in your wedding photography?

do I want a wedding album?

what personality traits make a good wedding photographer?

do you want a businessperson or an artist to photograph your wedding?

how private are you as a wedding couple?

what do you want in your wedding photography package?

exactly how much should I spend on a wedding photographer in 2021?

scroll down to find some possible answers to these questions or use them to interview your photographer !

what style of wedding photography do I like?

 The big question...but surprisingly ,the one that most people ignore. Perhaps because  it's actually quite a hard question to answer, which requires well .... some thought and some...research ( don't worry). There are many different words to describe the  styles of wedding photography  e.g. editorial, reportage, documentary, photojournalistic, classic, traditional, modern, contemporary, quirky and vintage are all styles of wedding photography. I prefer to describe wedding photography in simpler terms . Every good photographer has their own unique style and it's usually a mix of the styles below:

light and airy       dark and moody       documentary storytelling      traditional posed groups 

how do I decide what style of wedding photos I like?

Pinterest is such a great way to quickly see and group wedding images into those you like and those you don't. If you're not sure whether you prefer light and airy wedding photography to dark and moody wedding photography type these words into the Pinterest search and pin all the moody wedding images to one board and all the light, bright weddings to another. You will soon work out what you prefer after less than 10 pins! Why not go retro and hands on and make up a  mood board in just same way by cutting out photos from you favourite wedding magazines. Sometimes it's what you don't like that stands out. But that's great, it will help you to focus on the styles that you love.

what makes a good wedding photographer?

Well, this is subjective , but the group of wedding photographers known as Fearless represent some of the world's finest and they judge images based on just three criteria: light, moment and composition. If two of these things come together you have good photo but if all three elements are there then you may just have a great wedding picture. Good pictures do not happen in the click of a shutter. They build up slowly and a good wedding photographer will plan for and anticipate exactly what is going to happen and and then be positioned in the right spot to take the photo. A tear wiped form an eye, an impromptu hug or kiss are all important parts of the day. It is experience and awareness coupled with technical skills that help photographers to make great wedding pictures.

warm hugs

do I need to talk to the wedding photographer before the wedding?

Do you need to spend time talking with the photographer before booking the wedding? Oh my, this is sooo important! Why? Having a good chat on the phone or meeting up beats emailing hands-down. Arrangeing a phone call to your photographer, with  both of you listening and asking lots of questions is ,for certain, the best way to ascertain the experience, professionalism and degree of passion that the photographer has for what he or she does. If the photographer has long delivery times, sounds weary or seems formulaic in their approach when you talk on the phone or at your meeting , think carefully about booking them. Some  photographers aim to shoot a lot of weddings at low prices and it is possible to shoot  50 or more each year. Shooting a very large number of weddings each year can often  make it hard to offer a good service and to remain energetic and creative for every wedding.

Talking on the phone is also the best way to see if you like your photographer, this is not as important as liking their style, but often people give 110% if they like each other and get on well from the outset. There is no way you can really tell if  you like a photographer from his or her well constructed and thought through website and 'about me' words, so pick up the phone and don't rely on text and email! 

do different styles of wedding photographer suit different events?

 I'd say this is not so important. It's more important that you choose a photographer whose style you like rather than the guy who is famous for Icelandic elopements because you're getting married alone in Iceland. This said, I do think if you have 350 people coming to your wedding it makes sense to think about a second photographer. Second photographers are very useful if you have lots of guests because there are more moments and fun happening in more places, hence to get all of the atmosphere and feel of your day two photographers are needed.

Equally, you do not need two photographers for a wedding of 100 guests. Why not? All documentary photographers like to blend in and this is how we capture those moments without people noticing. If you have 2 photographers at a smaller wedding they will find it much harder to blend in and document the day well.

Wedding photographers sometimes work in a pair as a business/ husband and wife team. I would tend to avoid photographers who insist on working as a pair,  for most weddings, they only come into their own if you have a very large day planned! 

Where is the wedding taking place? If your venue is a dark one then a great question to ask is "Do use you natural light in all your photos?"

 Natural light at its best makes beautiful images. Some photographers class being all natural light as a badge of honour. In reality, dark venues or the darkest of December days do benefit from some flash illumination and the few photographers who know how to use flash creatively can still make eye wateringly good images in dull, dark looking locations and in the time just after the sun sets! If you like dramatic moody images then look for a photographer who uses flash well at dusk. If you want vibrant, energetic dance floor photos then again ask the photographer if they are happy using flash. If you have bright venue in summer and just want document of the daytime then natural light photographers should be fine.

family embrace at wedding

what are your must take shots?what is really important to you about the wedding day?

 The kind of things I like to know before the day are: " My Gran is really special to me and looked after me for a big chunk of my childhood". It just heightens my awareness and helps me to watch out for nice moments when your Gran is around. Group photos are important, particularly to your parents and grandparents and its always important to set aside 15-30 minutes for these. A list of 5-10 groups is a great idea. A list of 50 shots including every detail throughout the day would probably have the photographer spending every minute of her day trying to get shots 49 and 50 and missing all the spontaneous stuff which happens. You have been warned! 

how on earth do I work out how much you should spend on photography?

There are some people who suggest that your photographer should cost more than your wedding dress, based on the idea that a good photographer can make an in expensive dress look good but a poor photographer will struggle to make good photos of an expensive dress. There are others who assume that because their brother or friend has a great camera and enjoys photography it should be OK to entrust the photography to them. The reality is somewhere in the middle . The most expensive professional photographers are artists at the top of their game and this certainly doesn't come cheap, but at the other end of the spectrum, it would be a big risk taker who entrusted their memories of the most special day of their lives to someone who'd never actually produced a full set of photos to tell the story of a wedding day before. The sensible option is to pay a professional whose work you've looked through and who you've talked to for a while and who you like. Working out exactly how much to spend on a wedding photographer is one of the hardest things so I have put together some ways to calculate what you should spend at the end of this blog post...

how involved do you want to be in your wedding photography?

 Do you like to feel in control over everything that happens on your day with a must-have shot list and a must not waste time on list or are you okay veering off the plan and going with the flow on the day and perhaps not having a must have list at all? Well, I'm quite a planner and I do like to talk beforehand, visit the venue if I've not shot there, when possible and think about the light at the time of the day you're getting married. However, once all the plan is in place I'd suggest that you relax, follow your whims, curiosity and then great and often unexpected things will happen to make your day different and these will be the bits that you will remember. When the page boys spills the petals down the aisle just before the bride arrives or when the dads start burning up on the dance floor. The best photographer will have the experience, and foresight to anticipate these things and be there to capture them. The most important thing is to let go and totally trust your photographer on the wedding day itself.

do I want an album?

 Are you a scrapbook maker, a reader of paper books or someone who likes art on your walls? All these are clues that you may really appreciate an album. If you spend most of your time on social media, texts and screens then maybe you can do without an album. The thing people often don't think about is future generations. Albums never get thrown away or lost. Hard drives break and digital images get mislaid or can't be opened. John Lewis no longer sell DVD players and most computers no longer read the CD's which I first supplied digital images to clients on when I started wedding photography. The digital files get lots of views and shares for the first 7-14 days after your wedding, but albums endure, often coming out at anniversaries and certainly generating interest for future generations who find them in the loft!   And wouldn't it be nice to share the wedding story with future generations? Kids ask to look at albums again and again .. they love to see everyone looking amazing and celebrating a big event and boy will they quiz you all about the day.....when the page boy upturned the petals, your first hug with your friends from Australia or your Dad's tear as he walked into the church with you.

what personality traits make a good wedding photographer?

Personable, approachable and friendly are  important qualities in your photographer. The things that are not so obvious are consistency and storytelling. Can your photographer consistently produce a couple of hundred lovely images form every wedding they shoot? Do the images tell a story of the day as you turn the pages of your album. A story with a beginning middle and end and consistently strong images to illustrate all of the chapters in-between (venue, getting ready, groomsmen, first look , ceremony, couple phots, group photos ,dance floor). Instead of judging by looking at the best 10 or so images on their website homepage ,it's essential to ask your photographer about some full weddings. She should be able to send you links so you can look through 2 or 3 weddings with consistency and storytelling in your mind.              

do you want a businessperson or an artist to photograph your wedding?

 Obviously you want someone with both these skills, but actually that can be a challenge to find amongst the many available photographers. Remember that it is often the good business people who come to your attention as they are good at marketing (think great stationery, easy to use website, Facebook Ads that were targeted to your feed). These people are often excellent at Sales too and can be quite persuasive. They are often fully booked but that does not make them a great artist. The benefit of dealing with good business people is that they often communicate well, being available on the phone and by email and they usually deliver images on time.  You might have to seek out the greatest artists and they may not always be as expensive as their talents should dictate, but if you are looking for a real artist with a specific style, it is so worth searching hard -there are some real talents out there! 

how private are you as a wedding couple?

Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are just a few of the social channels where there is a good chance that your photographer will post images. Then there are websites, magazines and wedding blogs. Good photographers have large followings and this means your images are likely to be seen by a lot of people, often more people than just your friends. Any photographer needs to be able to showcase their images in order to be able to promote their business and to gain new clients, after all its likely that you found your photographer by looking at images on the web. The key thing here is to discuss which forms of exposure you are happy with and clearly state any you are not before signing on the dotted line of a contract. Most photographers are very flexible, if this is mentioned before signing a contract.

what do you want in your wedding photography package?

A typical package might include full day coverage from getting ready to first dance ( 9 hours) and 350 high res fully processed colour corrected images. Beware people who offer many or all of the images from the day: 1200 unprocessed images is too many from a medium sized wedding with one photographer. You should never feel you are getting a better deal by booking a photographer who provides lots and lots of images : anyone can take lots of photos. Very few people can take good photos! 200-400 carefully chosen, beautifully processed images where the colour and skin look spot on are worth far more than 1200 poorly processed, mediocre images that don't tell a cohesive story or focus on the key parts of your day. 

If you are on a budget and you are uncertain about whether to buy an album: I would always spend money on getting a good photographer who takes quality images.  Albums can always be printed at a later date, when you have more available funds. 

exactly how much should I spend on a wedding photographer?

I always suggest that spending 5% of the total budget on wedding photography is a good starting point and this equates to around about £1600 in 2020/21. And, yes , I would definitely spend more than you spend on the dress! Simply because the photos are what remain and they are what will continue to remind you of one of the best days of your life: the wine , the dress and the flowers do not endure like the photos . Your family, your friends  and your offspring will love looking at photos of you carefree and happy on the best day of your life.  

The key thing before you approach a photographer  is to know the time you want the photographer to attend your wedding. Most will have a different rate for a 6 hour wedding to a 12 hour wedding( the exception being those who are fully booked for a year or more ahead, who tend to have a flat rate). Shortlist photographers who align roughly with your budget and then book on aesthetic preferences, NOT who will offer the best package  deal of album/lots of digital files/prints/keepsakes.

Most photographers have a little flexibility in their pricing if they get on with you, but beware photographer who's offer seems to good to be true ! You always get what you pay for : experience, consistency and the ability to make some beautiful photos on a dark winter day in the rain.

I really hope that these questions help you in the quest to find someone right for you. I'd love to hear your thoughts below, or any other questions that you found useful to book the right wedding photographer. Please leave your comments below or share if you found the blog helpful....

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