WHAT’S IN THE GUIDE?
5 Questions To Ask Your Wedding Photographer
Choosing a wedding photographer is an important decision and it’s not always easy to find someone who is the right fit for you as a couple. This is my list of 5 questions to ask your wedding photographer before you say “I do”. Personally, I feel it’s always worth having a call, meeting or Skype with any photographer you are considering. I feel it’s the best way to get a feel for the person’s approach to their work and clients. Here are some of the questions I would ask if I was looking to hire a wedding photographer for a family member.
Some photographers prefer to work discretely in the background and shoot candid shots. Others play a much more direct role in the course of the day. In truth, most wedding photographers will need to adopt different styles during a wedding. Trying to get family group shots with wholly ‘in the moment’ shots is unlikely to get the right result. Alternately, candid photography captures some wonderful moments during the reception and speeches where a more unobtrusive style is preferable. Ask anyone you are considering hiring what their approach is and see if it appeals to your priorities as a couple. My guide in the next section below outlines the most common wedding photography styles and how to choose which one is right for you.
Being able to see a photographer’s work on previous weddings is a good indication of how much experience they have. You should be able to see a wide range of consistent images in their website portfolio and on their social media pages. Take a look at reviews that have been posted by real clients on Facebook or their Google Business listing. It’s good to know if they’ve worked at the venue before or if they have any knowledge of the location. Ask whether wedding photography is a full-time job, a sideline or a hobby for your photographer.
Many photographers will offer a variety of different wedding packages. These will all land at different price points and include various options. If you know you don’t want the full works, ask your photographer if they will personalise a quote for you. These packages will often include various options for receiving your photos – through an online gallery or included in an album. It is very hard to compare one package to one provided by another photographer. Typically, you will be wanting to know how many hours of coverage are included and in what format they will be delivered to you. This includes whether the images are watermarked or not and whether the images are standard size or full-size high-resolution images. Printing and usage rights in relation to copyright is another thing to check on. I would suggest you read through the details carefully so you know what you’re getting back. Anything you want beyond what you sign up for will understandably be at an extra cost which you may, or may not, have budgeted for. Everything should be provided in a written quote with a contract so it is clear what is being provided as part of the service.
All wedding photographers should have public liability insurance to cover the costs if something goes wrong. A photographer who causes damages to people or property in the course of their work may be liable for the costs. Without public liability insurance, the damages will come from their own pocket. It’s a risk most people can’t afford. Many venues these days will insist on knowing all suppliers operating on site have this kind of insurance in place. Personally, I would avoid any wedding photographer who cannot provide an up to date insurance certificate.
5) BACK UP PLAN?
You don’t need a full technical breakdown of what equipment your photographer uses but you do need to know that they are prepared and equipped as a professional. However, an important part of the answer that I would want to hear is that they bring backup equipment – which means at least 2 professional-grade cameras with 2 card slots each, spare lenses, lighting and more – just in case something goes wrong. From my own experience, I would not consider hiring any wedding photographer who did not have the above equipment as a minimum. The risk of damaging a single camera or corrupting a memory card would mean that your whole wedding could be lost. It isn’t worth the risk and I think this would be my single ‘deal breaker’ if the photographer could not meet this requirement. In addition, it’s worth asking what the photographer would do if they were ill or unable to cover the wedding for whatever reason. It can’t be possible to plan for every eventuality but it’s worth knowing your photographer is able to anticipate potential issues. A 2nd photographer is a good way to provide an extra level of security – and many photographers offer this as an option for wedding photography.
How to choose a wedding photography style
There is a wide range of approaches adopted by photographers at weddings. It can be hard to know where to start if you are looking to choose a photographer for your wedding. As a result, I’ve put together my list of the 5 most popular wedding photography styles to help couples decide which is right for them.
The traditional approach to wedding photography includes a mix of posed/set piece photos alongside some candids. These set photos include important elements of the day – the bride and her mother in their dresses, the bride and groom signing the register, the family group photos etc. This classic approach follows a pattern which ensures a balanced range of images from throughout the day. The colours of the images shot in this style remain faithful to the original ones and are not changed through the editing process.
This style is also known as documentary, photojournalistic or reportage style. It means that the photographer will capture all the moments as they happen without posing (perhaps with the exception of some family group photos). The couple and their guests won’t be asked to ‘say cheese’ and the photographer will use their images to record what has happened throughout the day. Documentary photographers favour black & white photos which reflect the background of this type of photography in newsprint and media (although colour is also used).
This style is inspired by magazines, catwalk and fashion photography in general. This may involve a lot of posed and styled shots to create a certain look both for the couple as well as the bridal party. The colours in the edited photos are likely to have been noticeably altered to create a super stylised look – whether this is de-saturating the images or using dramatic vibrant colours. This approach will suit couples who love to be in front of the camera and who are prepared to take the time to work with the photographer to create the right images.
A portrait based style in wedding photography focuses on posed images with an emphasis on lighting and composition. These images can be quite dramatic or colourful however the focus is always on the couple, bridal party or guests as subjects. Portrait photographers will mix in candid shots as well through the day of course but the signature portrait images are the most notable feature. The photographer is likely to use one or more camera flashes to create these dramatic effects. The end result is ‘hero’ or ‘wow’ portrait images that might show the couple outside the venue, a sunset etc.
5) FINE ART
Fine Art is a hard term to define and it is used by a number of different photographers to describe their work. Fine Art Wedding Photography is often associated with light and airy images which are romantic, delicate and highly stylised. Fine Art can encompass both purely candid or posed images. The idea of this type of wedding photography is that these photos can be seen as a piece of art in their own right. As with other styles, the photographer is likely to mix in a range of posed and candid photos. The use of natural light and editing of the images by the photographer will determine the final look of these fine art images.
In summary, there is a wide range of wedding photography styles. In reality, many photographers use different styles throughout the day to achieve their approach. The best way to decide on which style you prefer is to take a look at their portfolio and look at how they describe themselves. Once you have made a shortlist it’s a good idea to have a chat with some of the ones you like. I find it’s the best way to see if there is a fit with you as a couple and the photographer.
A timeline for a typical full day wedding
This is a timeline for the typical wedding coverage over a full day with a 2pm ceremony time. Everyone’s wedding is different and these times are approximate. It shows you my approach to a wedding day and how the photography would typically fit with your schedule.
At the start of the day, I arrive early to get set up, speak to the venue organisers and take some photos of the venue. These photos set the scene for the day and the setting of your wedding.
Bride & Groom Preparations
If you’re getting ready at the same venue as the ceremony I will normally start coverage about 2 hours beforehand. This is a great time to capture candid moments with the bride and her bridesmaids or the groom with the groomsmen.
Your guests will start to arrive and will often greet the Groom who may already be waiting at the ceremony location. This time is also a chance for the photographer to speak to the registrar or official to introduce themselves and discuss the approach for the ceremony.
If your getting ready location is different to the ceremony location then you will probably arrive in a wedding car. This is a good opportunity for classic photos of the arrival of the bride.
The ceremony has a number of specific parts which the photographer will capture. The entry procession, vows, reading, exchange of the rings, first kiss, signing of the register and the exit procession are all key moments in the ceremony.
After the ceremony has just finished is an ideal time to do the family group photos. I recommend a small number of these ‘formal’ photos which act as a record of your guests on the day.
Drinks & Canapes
A chance to relax and speak to your guests after the ceremony as a newly married couple.
Whilst the majority of my photos are ‘in the moment’, it’s good to set aside some time for some classic couple portraits. These are normally done in the grounds of the reception venue for a natural feel and to capture the setting fully.
After your guests have taken their seats for the wedding breakfast, you are typically ‘announced’. Whilst you have your wedding breakfast I normally take some time to edit up preview photos to display at the evening reception.
After your guests have taken their seats for the wedding breakfast, you are typically ‘announced’. Whilst you have your wedding breakfast I take some time to edit up preview photos, charge batteries and have a break.
After the wedding breakfast is a nice time to take a break whilst the venue prepare for the evening reception. This may be turning round the room or setting up the band or DJ. It’s an ideal part of the day for the couple to take some time out with a walk outside and some fresh air. This is a chance to capture some end of day portraits.
Cutting the Cake
It is tradition to get a photo of the couple cutting their wedding cake. After the formal photo there is a chance for guests to take photos as well. It is common for the cutting of the cake to go straight into the first dance.
A chance to take the classic shot of your first dance as a married couple. This is also a good opportunity for photos of your guests getting the party started and letting their hair down a bit.
How to have great group shots
This is a typical list of group photographs that I shoot at weddings. This is normally done shortly after the ceremony and before the wedding breakfast.
- Couple with the extended Family
- Couple with the Bridal Party
- Couple with Best Man + Groomsmen
- Couple with Maid of Honour + Bridesmaids
- Couple with all Parents
- Couple with one set of Parents
- Couple with the other set of Parents
Each shot can take 2-3 minutes to set up so you should allow 20 minutes for this. For this reason I recommend this list or a similar number of shots – i.e. 10 group shots as an absolute maximum. In my experience, guests and the wedding party lose interest if they are kept away from the reception for more than 30 minutes. This comes through in the expressions on the photographs which defeats the purpose of marking the celebration in this way!
Should you have an unplugged wedding?
I will be honest. I love technology and I love the fact that you can capture images and video anytime in just about any place. It is just something that has become part of our day to day lives and is everywhere! This includes situations where it might be fantastic as well as times when it might be less desirable. As smartphone usage has increased it has also become commonplace in concerts, events and also weddings. There are some benefits of course. Just about anyone can take a photo of the couple walking down the aisle and other parts of the ceremony. Everyone is happy yes?
Well maybe. The downside of weddings with many of the guests using smartphones is distractions and getting in the way of the official images. This has led to the trend for ‘unplugged’ weddings. This means guests putting their phones, cameras and GoPros down to watch the ceremony and allow the professional photographer to capture the images of the wedding for the couple and the guests.
Unplugged weddings are often mandated by the officiant – a vicar or registrar might say no smartphones are allowed in the ceremony at all. This makes the situation very straightforward but at other times the etiquette on when or when not to use a smartphone, tablet or camera to take your own images is less than clear. The easiest and clearest way is for the couple to decide what they want in advance. This makes things clear from the start and allows the photographer, event manager, registrar and others to provide a clear direction to guests on their use of their own devices to take photos. I am biased obviously and there is no ‘right answer’. As with everything on your wedding day you have to do what is best for you as a couple. However, I would ask you to consider the following points about whether you.
IS AN UNPLUGGED WEDDING RIGHT FOR YOU?
Many of the advancements made in technology over the last 10 years have greatly affected society and how people live their lives. It is not uncommon to see cell phones in the hands of all ages and during all occasions. However, the convenience and enjoyment that comes with owning a smartphone also comes with a price: decreased attention span, addictive behaviour, and many missed special moments. The trend of “unplugged weddings” began as most trends do — with celebrities. While some have simply wanted additional privacy, others have sold exclusive wedding photos to popular tabloids and other publications. Even if you aren’t planning on making a large profit off of your professional wedding photographs, it is still a good idea to consider having an unplugged wedding.
One of the main complaints of most wedding photographers is the challenge of snapping those perfect shots amid a crowd of amateur photographers/smartphone owners. If the usage of your guests’ cell phones is not somehow kept in check, you may be disappointed to find one too many photos of the back of dear old Uncle Bob’s head. In addition to limiting your photographer’s angles, you also run the risk of having pictures ruined by additional camera flashes in the background. Unless you like the idea of being swarmed by a dozen well-wishing picture-takers, let your professional wedding photographer be solely responsible for capturing your special day.
NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF MOBILES AT WEDDINGS
Your wedding day is special. Not only are you pledging lifelong love to your significant other, but you’ve likely put a lot of effort, planning, and money into making the big day perfect. The purpose of inviting guests is not to give them material for their Facebook timeline, but to share that special moment with those closest to you. Moderating smart-phone use at your wedding will create a greater sense of intimacy and ensures that your guests are with you in the moment. The presence of cell phones also increases the risk of sensitive information being leaked on social media. For example, how horrible would it be if the groom-to-be were to see your wedding dress before the ceremony because a well-meaning bridesmaid shared a picture online?
HOW TO LIMIT MOBILE USAGE
It is important to be considerate toward your guests. While some couples opt to completely ban phones from both the wedding and reception, there are many other ways to politely moderate the situation. Emergencies may come up and your guests will be much more comfortable knowing their phones are accessible. Consider requesting that no photos be taken throughout the day and that all phones remain silenced. Possible solutions include having the officiator make an announcement before the ceremony, posting signs, or including a brief note in your invitations. If you plan to take a more extreme approach and confiscate cell phones, be sure to advise your guests well ahead of time. There are numerous reasons to exclude handheld technology from your wedding. Don’t be afraid to ask your guests to put their phones away; they will typically understand and be cooperative. Also, be sure to coordinate with your wedding photographer and develop a plan to share those professional photos with all your loved ones.
How To Choose A Wedding Album
A wedding album is an ideal way to display and protect your photographs for years to come. Albums come in all shapes and sizes and most wedding photographers offer couples the option to buy an album. This can be either as a standalone purchase or sometimes bundled into the wedding package.
WHAT IS A WEDDING ALBUM?
This seems like a dumb question… but bear with me!
Modern wedding albums have come on a long way and are now mainly digitally printed. This means the images are embedded in the paper itself. This creates a luxurious finish and rich, longlasting colours. An alternative is a matted album where the printed image is held in a mount on each page.
There are many album manufacturers used by wedding photographers. These include Graphistudio, NPhoto, Folio, QTAlbums, Loxley and more. The quality and price of wedding albums vary of course but these are all well established professional printers who will provide a quality product.
WHEN IS A WEDDING ALBUM, NOT A WEDDING ALBUM?
The following features exist in what I would consider to be a ‘real’ wedding album
- High-quality digital printing
- Hardcover with a fabric/textile outer
- Longlasting ‘archival’ ink to reduce fading
- Extra heavyweight rigid pages (800g paper for instance)
- Professional binding
However, some photographers advertise a wedding album in a package which turns out to be a coffee table book. These books have printed, cardboard covers and thin pages (like a book or magazine). These books are not long-lasting and are easily damaged compared to a real wedding album. They cost the photographer a lot less to produce than a ‘real’ wedding album. That might be what you are wanting and it may fit better with your budget but my advice is to check what kind of album is being included in your package before you commit to booking your photographer.
Albums come in many sizes from a very small 6×6″/15x15cm up to an extra-large 18×12″ (and larger with some printers). A typical album size would be a 10×10″/25x25cm album or perhaps a larger 12×12″/30x30cm version. Albums can be square or rectangular (portrait or landscape). Square albums have become popular in recent years and are seen by some as a more contemporary format.
The number of pages in your album should be made clear in the package you are buying. Albums can start with 20 pages which equates to 10 double-page spreads and can go up to 100 pages depending on the album manufacturer and type. In my experience, 30-50 pages is a typical range. This is important if you buy a package which a smaller number of pages and want to increase at a later date. My recommendation is to have 2-3 images for each page. That means a 30-page album would accommodate 60-90 images in total as a guide.
Depending on how your photographer works, the choice of images might be solely yours or with guidance from the professional. I would say that certain images are more suitable for albums and make for a better flow through the album. The idea, for me at least, is to tell the story of the day by choosing particular moments and shots. Often less is more and it is worth having a minimal number of impactful images than to try to cram too many onto each page. The online gallery is the best places for displaying all images (which will be hundreds when finally edited).
A presentation box is a good idea to have to protect the album. These are often bundled in with the album package or can be purchased as an optional extra. As with all books/paper-based products, it is advisable to keep albums away from sources of moisture to avoid damage/mildew etc. If you look after your wedding album, it should be something that will be a record of your family history for generations to come.
Many wedding albums can be personalised – with a photo on the cover, embossing, laser etching as well as multiple cover materials and colours. If you have a specific colour scheme for your wedding or would like to include a particular message inside the album it’s worth asking your photographer about what the options could be.
As well as the main album, it is normally an option to purchase smaller duplicate ‘parent’ albums. These are identical to the primary album but in a smaller size – typically a 6×6″ or 8×8″ size for instance. These can be an ideal gift for parents, grandparents or other family members.
In summary, whilst digital images are great there is something about seeing wedding photos in print. I just think they look more special. The wedding album is a beautiful way to display the images and tell the story of your special day. A wedding album is also a physical way to protect and preserve your images for years to come. I always love putting together albums and seeing the reaction from couples when they see their album for the first time.
How To Understand Wedding Photography Pricing
I’ve put it together this part of the guide to help couples find the best wedding photographer them on their special day – written from my perspective as a professional wedding photographer.
FIRST OF ALL
The first thing to say is that there is no standard pricing structure in wedding photography. Every photographer will have their own approach and there is rarely a true ‘like for like’. This can make it very hard to compare packages or sometimes even to understand what certain terms mean. Of course, you need to be clear on the service you are being provided with – especially because you don’t want any misunderstandings or surprise costs arising after the wedding. My recommendation would be to concentrate on the things that you really value when trying to compare one photographer to another (e.g. whether you will get unwatermarked images or whether there is a quality album included).
PRICES VS. PACKAGES
Most wedding photographers have a number of pricing options – often referred to as ‘packages’ or ‘collections’. These bundle up coverage and services for your wedding. Some photographers will break out individual prices which allows you to build up your own package. Whilst others may provide a small number of set options for you to choose from. There is no hard and fast rule and the photographer will be able to answer any questions about their individual approach.
Some of the most popular packaged services are:
- Online Gallery
- Digital Images
- Print Release
- Same Day Previews
- 2nd Photographer
- Pre-wedding shoot
- Signing frames
- Drone photography
How much coverage you need will depend on what you want from your wedding photographer. It’s common these days for photographers to cover from the bridal preparations through to the first dance. Some photographers will set a specific duration they will cover whilst others may say it is ‘all day’. It’s worth checking what is in your package. For example, if you have a 2pm ceremony then the photographer might start coverage of the bridal prep 2 hours before. If your first dance is at 8pm then that would mean you’d need 9 hours coverage. If you have an earlier ceremony or something planned for later in the evening (e.g. fireworks) then you may need 11-12 hours coverage.
Check whether the images are just for viewing or if they can be downloaded from the gallery. If so, it’s worth knowing whether the photographer is providing standard images (sometimes called social media images or web images which could be 900 pixels wide) or high-resolution images (which I would say should be at least 3,840 pixels wide and 300 DPI).
Wedding albums are a beautiful way to display and protect your images for years to come. It is worth checking whether the album is a bound album with rigid pages or a hardback ‘coffee table’ book with thin pages. This a whole topic in its own right so I’ve written an album guide too as a future email tip.
Wedding photographers will typically ask for a deposit to secure the booking date. The amount varies and can be expressed as a fixed amount (e.g. £200) or as a % of the package price (e.g. 25%). This varies significantly depending on the photographer you are working with.
The majority of wedding photographers require payment in advance of the wedding. This can be a week, a month or 3 months before and is something that is agreed as part of the contract. Some photographers may give you the option of paying the balance in instalments too if that is preferable.
Every wedding photographer should be able to provide you with a written contract. Often these are delivered online for you to view and sign but sometimes these can be on paper and sent through the post. The contract should cover the following key items:
- The address and contact details of the photographer
- The services that are being provided in detail (e.g. duration)
- Whether digital files are being shared
- Whether the images are watermarked and/or high resolution
- The position on copyright/printing
- The deposit and details of a cooling-off period
- The refund/cancellation policy
- Details of what happens if the photographer is ill/unable to attend
- Any extra charges for coverage/prints etc
From my perspective, if a photographer cannot provide you with a detailed written contract this would raise an important question as to their professionalism and approach. In summary, choose a wedding photographer with that’s right for you and your budget can be a challenge. A professional should be able to provide a clear pricing structure and written contract which shows the services they will be providing for you.