So your other half has popped the question, you have set a date and perhaps you have even selected and booked a venue. Having got this far your next big decision is likely to be choosing someone to record your big day for you (either in photos or video or maybe both!)
Quite often this will be the first, and perhaps only time many people employ the services of a professional photographer so how can you ensure that you select wisely for what is one of the biggest days of your life?
Hopefully the tips below will help you to ask the rightquestions and avoid any issues, so here goes.
1. What's your style..
The first thing to think about before you start your search is what style of photography you want from your photographer, every photographers style is different but you need to decide if you want a soft dreamy vintage feel to your images or a more punchy fashion look? Do you want a photographer who excels at the formal and posed images or one who has a more relaxed, reportage style?
This is the time to get online and look at photographers portfolios, see what you like and try and start a shortlist of photographers who fit the style you would like. Once you have this you can start to narrow your search down.
2. Packages and Budgets..
Once you have a short list of possible photographers then the work really begins! Every photographer will offer different packages each with different options and it can be a mine field trying to ensure that you get what you want.
This decision has to be guided by your requirements, do you want an album or prints? Or would you prefer to have your images on a disc? How much of your day do you need photographing? These are the key decisions thatwill affect the package you choose and the price you pay.
As with so many areas of life if the price seems too good to be true then it probably is, affordable digital SLR cameras have attracted alot of part time photographers to the wedding market, many of whom are very talented photographers (a lot of full time photographers had to start parttime). However it is worth considering that if your photographer is only part time, will they have time to plan and prepare before your big day, will they have time to edit your images afterwards? If you are in any doubt ask for guaranteed image delivery timescales from your photographer.
3. Location, Location, Location..
It is worth considering if any of the photographers you have found have photographed your venue(s) before. Many churches and registrars have very specific requirements with regards to photography and booking someone who has already worked to those requirements can be an advantage.
However it worth considering that a fresh pair of eyes and new ideas can be just as beneficial, especially if you do not want your photographs to be the same as every other couple who choose that venue! If your photographer shows excitement at working at a new venue then they will share your excitement about the venue you have chosen!
4. Meet face to face..
It is important to meet a short list of possible photographers face to face, this give you a chance to see if their personality and demeanour is compatible with yours. If you get along with your photographerthen you will enjoy having them around during your special day.
This is also a great chance to see some album and print samples, be on the look out for strange colour tones in printed images, this is a sure sign that the photographer does not employ proper colour correction in their editing. Also have a good look at the quality of the Albums being offered and make sure these look like they will last a lifetime
5. Group photos..
Wedding Blogs and Magazines are always full of beautiful images from "Real Weddings". These usually feature lot of photos of the bride and groom and lot of pictures of the table decorations, flower arrangements and other details. While these shots are very popular my experience is that most people still pick a high percentage of traditional group photos for their print and album images.
Therefore it is vital that you give some thought to the group photos that you would like, and where you would like them taking. It is also a good idea to discuss group photos with your photographer, ensure that you have enough time to get all the group photos that you might want as they can often be more time consuming that you would expect! As a rule of thumb you should probably allow around 15 mins for every 4-5 group photos that you wouldlike.
6. Copyright and image usage..
If you are going to want a disc of your images then the issue of copyright is going to come up sooner or later. This is a very complex area and one that causes an awful lot of discussion within the photographic community and amongst prospective customers.
I am lucky enough to live with a qualified Law Student (mygirlfriend and second shooter Sophie) who advises me on these things. Her advice, and the approach that we have adopted is to sign an Image Usage Rights agreement.
If a photographer tell you that they will give you copyright to the images then technically they can't use those images for their portfolio without YOUR approval, with a Usage Rights agreement the photographer retains copyright to the images (should OK magazine publish them without permission for example) but you as the end user will be granted the right to print/share/upload your images (depending on the agreement terms). This is much more flexible and protects both parties far more effectively.
7. After the Wedding..
At the time of booking this might seem like the last thing to think about but it is important to find out what happens after the wedding is over. How will the photographer present you with your images, how long will they take to be presented to you. Will you get an online gallery or a one-to-one viewing? Will your guests be able to see the images online and order their own prints or would you prefer to share the images yourselves?
If you are ordering an Album (or thinking of ordering one later) it is also important to know how long you will have to wait for this to be produced and what input you will have into the layout and design, again this could be face to face meetings or exchanging of online proofs. Just ensure that you are happy about these arrangements.
Any wedding photographer should have insurance. This should cover both Public Liability (in case one of your guests trips over a camera bag) but most importantly Professional Indemnity. This means that should something terrible happen to your photos (memory card corruption, memory card stolen, etc) your photographer will be covered for the cost of re-shooting the lost images.
If this involves re-hiring suits, re-booking the venue, re-hiring the wedding car, etc the costs can soon mount up so it is really important to make sure that this is part of the cover your photographer provides. You might also want to consider taking out your own wedding insurance too as your photographers policy is unlikely to cover the cost of your time to attend any re-shoot or any travel costs that might incur
Related to the topic above - nobody wants to be messing about having to make expensive and time consuming Insurance claims so find out what backups your photographer takes during and after the wedding. These days most professional cameras will allow simultaneous recording of images to 2 memory cards in-camera which can protect against memory card corruption and if stored separately after the wedding the risk from theft.
What is also important is what backups your photographer takes once the images are transferred from the memory cards. Do they maintain multiple copies to protect the images against a computer failure? How long will they retain a copy of your images in case you require additional editing of them in the future?
One of the best ways to make sure that the overall service that you can expect is up to standard is to ask for References from your photographer. If they can provide contact details for brides that they have worked with recently (last 6 months) then you can find out first hand what they where like on the big day and after.
If you have read this far then thanks for sticking with it! I hope that you found the tips interesting and that they have helped you to ask the right questions of whoever you choose to have as your wedding photographer. If you would like to ask us these questions with a view to booking us for your wedding then please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise all the best for your big day!