When confronted with that never ending ‘to do’ list that comes with wedding planning, plumping for the easy option can seem like a tempting thing to do. However, you wouldn’t pick your wedding dress from some back street dress maker who has no quality dresses to display and only the cheapest material to hand, would you? You need to take just as much care when picking your wedding photographer.
As high tech cameras become more affordable, and the humble digital camera produces snaps that are a megapixel away from a masterpiece, more and more ‘part-time’ photographers are cropping up, who have taken a few shots at the weddings of friends, and now want to turn their attention to your big day. This might be fine, if they have a natural eye and they can show you the brilliant images they have taken. This is not fine if they can’t.
Here is a list of what you need to consider to make sure the wedding photographer you’re thinking of hiring is the real deal (and don’t hire them until you’ve checked these things!):
Does the photographer have a broad portfolio to show you? You should be concerned if they can only show you image after image of one wedding, or if they only have a couple of snaps of lots of different weddings. The first issue suggests they’ve only done limited photography work, whilst the second suggests they weren’t working in a professional capacity when they took those photos... or that those were the only good images they’d managed to take.
Does the photographer listen to and understand you? If you’ve explained at length how much you hate sepia-toned photos, and the next thing they do is plonk down a wedding album full sepia snaps, get out of there. They obviously aren’t listening, and who knows what you’d end up with on your wedding day if they can’t listen in a simple meeting.
Would you want them at your wedding? Consider if you like the person and would want them at your wedding. If they are late to meet you, scruffily dressed and chewing gum, think seriously about if you want them present at your wedding. If they’re softly spoken and seem shy, how will they commandeer a group of tipsy people into the perfect group snap? Similarly, if they seem loud, obnoxious or arrogant, avoid them, as a photographer should blend into the background.
Do they have a signature style? Many professionals have a particular way of arranging shots or manipulating images which is unique to them. If they don’t have any quirks, and just provide standard images, they may not be professional, or they might not know how to edit images.
Do you like the images they’re showing you? If the shots are blurry, poorly edited or badly lit, and have headless people or busy backgrounds, and you hate them, it’s likely you’re looking at an unprofessional photographer’s work.
Do they say they’re professional? Ask if this is their full time job — a plain and simple way to determine how professional they are. Also determine how long they’ve been in business, where they trained and how many weddings they have photographed. You ideally want someone who has been in business for more than a year, has snapped many weddings and has a qualification in photography. It is also a good sign if they continue to go on training courses to further improve their skills.
Are they willing to sign a contract? Most reputable photographers will provide their own contract — read it thoroughly — and have insurance. You should always have some form of a signed, written agreement and have wedding insurance yourself to cover your back should anything go wrong.
Is the photographer understanding of family dynamics? Someone who has photographed many weddings will understand — without asking questions — when you explain that your Aunt Doris cannot be near Uncle Ian under any circumstances. They will ask for (or be willing to accept) a list of shots you’d like, and of anything that should be avoided. It’s a good idea to appoint an usher or bridesmaid to point the photographer in the right direction on the day so you can be sure you’ll get photos of people you really want to capture.
How much are they charging? Anything too cheap should ring alarm bells. Compare lots of different offers to get an idea of the average price you should expect to pay. Prices will fluctuate depending on the day of the week and the season, as well as the package you opt for and the extras you include. Bear all that in mind, but be willing to spend on a photographer, as they are the ones that provide you with lasting memories of your special day.