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.