Wedding photography wisdom: advice from a pro photographer
Wisdom: the quality of having experience, knowledge and good judgment
Getting married? Tips on getting the photography you want.
Choosing a wedding photographer can be a nightmare these days - everyone seems to offer it as a service and if you've never really considered hiring a photographer before, it can be daunting. If you want inexpensive, there is nothing wrong with that (there are a surprising amount of 'cheap wedding deals' out there) but I believe its a case of you get what you pay for, so do allocate a suitable budget. For people that really value quality in their wedding photos, they are spend time searching for the qualities they want in a photographer.
If you want someone good, it means sifting through pages and pages of the web sorting out the wheat from the chaff (and there some "chaff" out there.) When I got married it was no easier even though I knew what I wanted, had a budget and had been working as a wedding photographer for a decade. It made me realise how valuable some words of advice would be aimed at couples looking for a photographer that suited them. As a working wedding photographer, I thought I'd share a few tips and guide you through the process. So here it is, my 2 pence worth:
Do your homework.
There are alot of people out there offering wedding photography which makes it better, and worse, for consumers looking for the right one. Its more competitive and there are more stylistic options available to you then ever before, but the sheer volume of "pros" to search through can make it a long and arduous process. You and your partner should start with a discussion about what you think you like ahead of the search. This does take time and shouldn't be rushed, so when you are ready - get the kettle on and get searching.
Write a shortlist.
Narrow down your search to an agreed shortlist of 2 photographers each. Get in touch with each one via e-mail, check availability and prices. When they get back to you (which should hopefully only be a day or two) you should have some important details to compare and discuss. If you need more names on the shortlist, send out a few more e-mails. If you need less, its normally not too difficult to start the cull. Be brutal.
Book someone decent.
I don't know how people manage to hire someone that isn't really a photographer to shoot their wedding, but I'm forever hearing stories about just that. There is a big difference between using a camera and being a photographer, in the same way owning a yacht doesn't make me a sailor. One best man I spoke with recently is still waiting for his wedding photos 2 years on... unbelievable! Don't be pressured into use a 'friend of the family' or someone cheaper unless you're absolutely comfortable with their results. Its like rolling the dice and hoping for a double six when you might actually get two ones. Yikes!
How to choose.
This is difficult, but it can also be one of the fun parts. Choosing the right person together is a fun thing to do with your fiancé/fiancée. Most decent photographers will welcome you in to come and have a look because not only do they want to do it, they realise how hard it is to choose and would demand the same if the tables were turned. Pick someone who already takes photos you like and try to imagine yourself in those photos. Read their testimonials, study their photography, get quotes then sit down together and work out which way you decide together. Ask if they are a full time photographer and look at what other work they do.
Meet your photographer.
It sounds obvious but its amazing how many people don't. Its a good opportunity to discuss your plans for the day, ask important questions and more importantly, see some more work. Its quite normal to ask for a meeting before making your mind up who you want to use and the process will really get you both tuned in to the task at hand. Trust your gut and go with your instinct!
Think about an engagement shoot.
This is anther exciting thing to do with your partner and is a good way of testing out how you guys and your photographer get along. If you think you want to do an engagement shoot you can use it as an opportunity to test out your first choice of photographer. The images from that shoot not only commemorate a really lovely and important time in your life, but can be used for announcement cards and invites to the big day.
Create a family photo list.
Modern families are complex and there is no escaping that. These days there are no rules with regards to what set family shots you must get (some people get none at all) but its important thinking about the dynamics of your two families and where you guys want to draw the line. The longer this list is, the longer the photography will take and the more impact it will have on the rest of the day. Best thing to do is to keep it short, or separate the list into two groups that can be done at different times of the day. I think its always worth getting some, just don't go bonkers, especially if you are hoping your photographer will be taking lots of natural shots. Use specific names such as 'Aunt Flo and Uncle Barry', not just 'brides aunt and uncle'
Create a schedule for the day.
This is something you'll have to do at some stage anyway. When you have a draft version of whats happening when for the day, share it with your photographer (along with the family photo list) so he/she can determine how best to fit photo duties around the schedule. If there are some unrealistic timings on there, we'll spot them and let you know.
Ask for help.
Friends and family want to help. Delegating jobs to them makes them feel more involved and it takes the pressure off you and the bridal party. Subtle but firm people management really helps keep things moving - particularly with group shots (more so than ever when people have started drinking) so its good to have a few extra helpers cued up. I ask each couple to nominate 2 'runners' - one from each side of the family who between them, know everyone on the list. They can help out greatly by fetching people for the next shot whilst I'm shooting the current one on the list. It keeps things smooth, speedy and has much less of impact on the social aspect of the day.
Ask your bridesmaid, or whoever is giving you away, to crack a joke or stop and get you to take a deep breath before taking those all important steps down the aisle.
Your best man will probably be doing all this anyway, but just in case - make sure he understands that part of his job is to bring the best out of you that day.
Assign a wingman (or better still, a wingwoman.)
If there was a problem and your photographer needed to speak with someone quickly - who would it be? In my experience bridesmaids are nearly always best at this as they won't compromise. Us men have our uses but in all honesty, I think women are more reliable at a wedding and always recommend that if you need a second in command, you ask a bridesmaid to do it (one who can get the most of the best man and ushers too.)
Don't forget to smile.
Its a MASSIVE day and the moment has come, you're terrified and excited all at the same time- and it really shows on your face. We all do it but if there is ever a time to look confident, glamorous and happy, its walking down the aisle - you need to own that moment.
This isn't essential, but one idea I really like is the bride and groom taking 5 minutes for a comfort break right after the ceremony. Its not only a chance to gather yourselves, stare into each others eyes and enjoy a moment together, but a chance for a glass of water and a calm down.
The weather at weddings usually suits either the women or the men, rarely both. If its cold the men in shirts and suits are more comfortable than the women. If its hot, the women are generally likely more comfortable than the the men who are overheating. Whatever happens on the day, its worth planning for some kind of temperature control (even if its opening up a few flaps in the marquee or having some heaters on standby.) If people feel cold, they will look cold in the photo. If people are sweaty and red-faced I can't Photoshop that out too easily.
Feed you photographer.
Its something to consider anyway. Weddings are long days and as a photographer work starts shortly after you arrive at a venue, often mid-morning. From then on, its on your feet until guests eat later in the day - usually late afternoon/early evening. 8-10 hours of high concentration work is demanding and will tire even experienced professionals a bit. If your wedding photography matters to you, you need to help your photographer keep his/her energy levels up till its time to leave somewhere around 8-10pm, its a good idea to provide them with a meal and place to sit whilst everyone else is eating. This can be done anywhere and most caterers will ask if its something you want to do anyway. Its best done whilst everyone else is eating (because no-one wants to see photos of themselves and their guest eating.) You don't have to do it, but we're very grateful for a sandwich and 10 minutes to rest our feet.
.."of all the things you pay for at your wedding only the rings and photos last forever so they were worth splashing out on. We’re so glad we did."
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