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How to choose your wedding photographer – part 2

This is part two of five. Here’s part one.

One thing you certainly want to find in a wedding photographer is professionalism. To be sure they won’t let you down since there’s no chance to re-do the wedding if it goes wrong. And to have a good experience in the run up to the day. I sometimes hear from my customers that one of their other suppliers is hard to reach, doesn’t answer their questions, etc. You don’t need that!

Since we’re talking about professionalism, it’s worth asking a photographer if they actually are a professional. By which I mean – do they do this for a living? It’s not a guarantee of good service, and plenty of part time photographers will do a wonderful job for you. But generally speaking, assuming they want to, it will be easier to make this their full time job if they’re serving their customers well, getting recommendations and building regular relationships with venues. No judgement either way, but do ask the question so you know what you’re getting.

A good website is a sign (but again not a guarantee) of professionalism. It takes time to answer all the questions, put together a beautiful portfolio, publish an organised price list and make it all look good and consistent. A disorganised freebie site with no prices but just “contact me for a quote” makes me think they haven’t put the time in. And www.joebloggs.com is a lot better than www.joebloggs.freewebsites.com/whatever. It’s really not that hard to make a good website if you’re doing this for a living.

For goodness sake make contact with all the photographers you’re considering and ask questions. Don’t just read the website and put them on your shortlist. See how quickly they get back to you and whether they answer your questions properly. Obviously you want a friendly and helpful reply that feels like they’re genuinely pleased to hear from you. I mean they should be, right?! This is before they’ve even got your booking.

When you meet a photographer, try to get a sense of whether they can answer your questions easily. If they do this all the time, chances are you won’t be asking them anything new. Ask about backup equipment, insurance and paying their taxes. This is fairly uninspiring stuff, but the way they answer lets you know who you’re dealing with.

People sometimes ask me what happens on the day if I am ill. It’s a good question, but another one which no one’s ever asked me would be: “Could you tell me about any of the things you do to be prepared and reliable? Whatever comes to mind – doesn’t need to be everything.” Wow, I could answer that question all day. I print OS maps in case my two satnavs and two phones fail. I bought the UK’s most reliable car and service it twice a year. I carry cold weather gear and snow chains in winter. I’ve jump started limos and given first aid to wedding guests. I shoot to multiple memory cards and back everything up. This stuff is so easy to reel off it’s even fun so don’t be afraid to ask. Again, it’s not just the answer itself but how easily they answer that tells you a lot.

It’s like choosing a restaurant to eat in. You can’t see the kitchens, so you can only go by how clean the windows are, how nice the menus look, how friendly the staff are, etc. You can’t be sure what it’s like to work with a photographer until you’ve done it. But by doing detective work, plenty of googling and asking questions you can get a good idea.

This is part two of five on how to choose your wedding photographer. Please do ask if you’d like me to add anything to it. Part three is about experience.

Bride's bouquet

How to choose your wedding photographer – part 1

Here are my thoughts on how to choose your wedding photographer. This advice applies whatever your budget and location – even if I can’t help you myself, I want you to find a photographer you’ll love and feel confident with. Having been a professional wedding photographer for over 15 years, I know the concerns customers have and the questions they should ask but don’t.

Choosing your wedding photographer is an important decision that will have a big effect on your enjoyment of the wedding and your memories afterwards. You may find it hard to judge the portfolios you see. (As Kate and I discovered when we got married even if you’re a photographer yourself it’s still hard to choose.) You may worry that you don’t know what to look for and the right questions to ask.

First important lesson: Price is not always a good guide for quality! There are inexperienced rising stars who will be charging much more next year, and old hands who think they’re worth more than they really are. Some photographers like to charge low prices and get way too many bookings, while some hold out for a higher price and photograph far fewer weddings each year. These two photographers could be exactly as good as each other. It’s completely up to each to decide what they think they’re worth. So there really is no substitute for carefully deciding for yourself how good a photographer is, and whether you think their price is acceptable to you. I want to help you make a better decision if you don’t yet know what to look for.

I reckon you have three main goals. You want a professional who will not let you down. You want beautiful wedding photos you will love. And you want to enjoy the process of making them too. Let’s talk about five areas over this series of blog posts: artistry, professionalism, experience, technical, and personality. I’ve listed them in very roughly the order you might find yourself considering them, but they’re all important.

First let’s talk about artistry. The first thing you’ll do before you ever pick up the phone is look at a photographer’s work online and decide whether you like it. No point going any further if you don’t. Nobody agrees on art so in the end yours is the only opinion that matters. But if you want a few pointers to get you thinking and looking a little harder, read on. Anyway, you can’t see what your wedding photos will look like because they don’t exist yet. So you’re always thinking about what a particular photographer might be able to create for you based on what you’ve seen of their work.

Look at a photo in their portfolio for longer than you normally would. Ignore the faces and specific details for a second (I know you’re always looking to see what colour bridesmaid dresses people choose!) and think about how the picture is composed. Is it just taken from head height, straight forwards, faces bang in the middle of the frame? Or has the photographer gotten themselves up high or down low, have they moved around to include things that frame the subject or draw your attention in? None of these things are all good or bad on their own, but when you look through a photographer’s portfolio it’s nice to see a range included. Is there a choice of wide angle shots that show things in the context of the wedding venue, or only close ups?

Think about the lighting in the photos. This is so important in photography. Frankly, it’s the whole game. So it’s hard to give you a fast guide of what to look for. But is the light on the faces (especially pretty ladies) soft and lovely, or doing something interesting like lighting up the hair from behind or coming in sideways from a beautiful bay window? Or is it just people squinting into the sun with dark circles under their eyes? Bright summer sunlight can be really hard to handle.

Look at the expressions. Are people genuinely smiling, laughing, drying a tear or admiring the bride? Getting these real moments takes a good personal relationship with the couple and a friendly nature with the guests (more on that later) as well as equipment, speed and experience to capture the moments.

One more thing to mention is image processing and filters. It’s amazing the difference editing makes to the finished image. Compare a few photographers and you will see strong or muted colours, high or low contrast, ‘vintage’ looking tints, and all sorts of questionable creative choices. It’s a personal preference, but here’s my opinion. I don’t want to ‘dress up’ the photos too much, especially not to try and hide any quality issues. (You can make a good photo great in photoshop, but you can’t make a bad photo good.) I prefer colours that are vibrant and full of life, but true to the original. Why would you want your photos to look like they were taken a hundred years ago? Your wedding is beautiful enough already. And I like black and whites looking punchy and exciting to draw attention to the expressions, emotions and movement.

I like photos to be timeless. Fashions in photography styles come and go, but in twenty years time I want someone to look at them and feel like they were there. We’re not putting on a show here, but celebrating your marriage and relationship in true, authentic style. There’s a lot to be said for really classic, beautiful composition which simply lets the beauty of your wedding, your families and your emotions show.

This is part one of five on how to choose your wedding photographer. If you have questions I haven’t answered please do ask. I’d love to add to these posts to make them as useful as possible. The next part is about professionalism.

bride and groom in the library

Nick & Rebecca’s Wedding at Prestwold Hall

A few photos from Nick and Rebecca’s beautiful wedding at Prestwold Hall near Loughborough last year. It was a gorgeous day and such a joy to work with a sweet couple and their families. I love shooting with Kate when we get the chance as we exchange ideas and have a lot of fun with the happy couple.

It doesn’t get much better than Prestwold Hall, with beautiful interiors, gardens and it’s own church to get married in. Nick and Rebecca were also kind enough to be our first couple to perfect our highlights video on, which is now a really popular option with couples booking us.

wedding dress hanging uprings on the order of servicea wedding at Prestwold Hallbride and groom at prestwold hallPrestwold Hall wedding receptionbride and groom in the gardensindoor photosthe conservatory, orangeryfirst dance

Groom’s Wedding Checklist

Tall, handsome, kind to small animals… Not THAT list! This is a checklist of things for grooms to do and bring for the wedding. No matter how great we wonderful men are, we still get stressed in the run up to the big day. It’s nothing to do with cold feet. We want everything to go perfectly for our lady and we’re worried we forgot to book the vicar’s limousine. I’m joking bro. That’s not even a thing.

What’s the opposite of stressed? Lists! I use lists for things I want to do the right way every time. I don’t worry about whether I’ve got enough memory cards, charged all the different kinds of batteries, checked the weather, filled the car, polished the shoes, etc. I just go through my list of 114 things which starts the night before the wedding and walk out the door laughing. Don’t worry, yours isn’t that long.

Obviously your mileage will vary so this will be a starting point for you. Think carefully through your morning, day and going-away, noting everything you will need down to socks and cufflinks. Then list everything you need to do so you’ll have these things ready. Literally think it through – if you arrive in your car and leave in the Rolls, you’ll need to transfer your suitcase to another car that’s going to the reception (the Rolls isn’t at the church yet).

The day before or earlier:

Think about transport – You’ll leave the church in the limo, so have your best man drive you there. If the bridesmaids arrived in the bride’s car, someone else needs to take them and their many bags to the reception. Do you need to pre-drop your car at the hotel to drive your wife home the morning after the wedding? Check they’ve all got petrol.

Send your bride a card and gift – Send it with a messenger, not royal mail. It’s an unusual and nervous night and morning for her without you. Remind her you can’t wait to marry her and say something personal. Don’t over-plan the detail on surprises though. She’ll be really busy in the morning.

Charge your phone – Just for emergencies. Selfie emergencies.

Review the plan – Make a note of local taxis and suppliers numbers, including the photographer. Photographers are extremely resourceful and prepared people that can do amazing things for you in an emergency. Review the timetable for the day. Take charge a little. Check up on the band yourself and don’t keep asking your wife questions about what’s next. She’ll love it.

Relax about the speech – Honestly, yours is the easiest. You’re going to be fine. Just thank people and say how beautiful the bride looks and how proud you are. What do Winston Churchill, Seth Godin and Nelson Mandela have in common? They speak slowly.

Check your clothes – Iron the shirt, polish the shoes. Check you’ve got cufflinks, the full suit, silk hankie (just for show), special socks and pants. Check you know how to tie the tie/cravat, else you’re in for a lovely evening of youtube videos and swearing at the mirror.

Set your alarms – Obvs.

Pack your first night bag – Assuming you’re not going from the reception to the airport but you’re staying somewhere for a night first, get the bag packed now.

The morning of the wedding:

Groom-ing – Get up and groomed plenty early. Sometimes it takes a couple of goes to get the hair right or catch the bits you missed shaving. No point rushing it at the end.

Eat some breakfast – The reception dinner is fairly late in the day. You might even need to squeeze a sneaky sandwich in the limo or a snickers in your pocket. All your guests will. Better?

Brush your teeth – After breakfast and coffee. There’s a lo-hot of hugging and kissing going on today.

Have a quick snifter – If you like but do not, I repeat do NOT overdo it. You will be unpopular for the rest of your life. Registrars are officious types who might not even marry you if you’re drunk. And that’s the kind of reputation that stays with a man.

To pack and take with you: (or check if you packed it earlier)

Rings – Eyes on the rings, not the boxes. If the BM has them, say you just need to check something. Oh good, we did get the round kind. I thought so.
Speech – Two copies to be safe. I don’t think it looks nice reading it off your phone. Print it out.
Buttonholes – Take with you to the church so the seatbelt doesn’t crush them and some nice female will enjoy pinning it on you, even if you don’t need help. By the way it goes on your left (the side with the button hole!) Traditionally woman are the opposite.
Stealthy wet wipes and deodorant – Man those suits get HOT in the summer.
Fabric hankerchief, not tissues – Do you have any idea how superb you will look if when your bride sheds a little tear, and you produce a nice hankie from your pocket for her? While we’re on the subject, give her your jacket if it’s cold. Don’t ask, she’ll say no. Just put it on her shoulders, being very careful to keep the veil outside it. Hearts will melt and everyone you know will tell everyone they know that you are “one hell of a guy”.
Several big umbrellas – Don’t have to be fancy white ones. If it’s raining, no one will give a damn what colour they are.
Snickers, water, paracetamol, hayfever pills as required
Night away bag

Once you’re all set, step out confidently and enjoy yourself. Smile, shake people’s hands and be proud. Don’t sweat the details, leave that to us. Straighten your cuffs like James Bond and don’t forget to tell your bride how stunning she looks when you see her.

Andy & Sally’s Harry Potter Themed Wedding

I’m a bit of a Harry Potter fan myself, so when Andy and Sally told me they were planning a Harry Potter themed wedding for last June I was pretty excited to take their photographs. Sulgrave manor was the perfect setting and I loved the way the couple and their guests threw themselves into the spirit of it. So fun to have something a little different.

Andy and Sally had added all kinds of cool touches and references to the myth and legend of hogwarts throughout their day, so for those of us who know what to look for it was really fun. Sally obviously had plenty of time to get ready, as you can see from the first photo. There were wizard hats to throw instead of confetti, a falconry display for owls, a (possibly magical but definitely bouncy) castle and the most awesome themed wedding reception room with house colours, flying hogwarts letters, and a sorting hat to help get you on the right table. They also hired a superb magician who amazed the guests.

After dinner we headed outside for a few creatively lit photos, and then enjoyed a fun first dance and evening celebration.

If you’re thinking of a themed wedding yourself I’d say absolutely go for it. So many couples say they want something a little different, but in the course of planning revert to things that are fairly similar to everyone else. If you have a dream or a passion you want to celebrate and have a bit of fun that’s got to be the best plan. Always.

time turnerwedding dressSulgrave manor weddingwedding ringsa wedding at sulgrave manorsally and bridesmaidsgroom waits for bridewedding ceremonyjust marriedharry potter themed weddingfalconry at weddingbride and groom at Sulgrave Manorbride and groomsulgrave manornewlywedswedding at sulgrave manorwedding bouncy castlehogwarts style wedding receptionsorting hat seating planhogwarts wedding invitationsharry potter wedding cakemagician trickswizard robesfirst dance

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