Booking a Wedding Photographer

Like all other industries there is a huge area of choice when commissioning a wedding photographer. Large National companies with networks of part time staff, High street studios with several operators, right down to individual photographers working on their own.

It’s very easy to get carried away with the sales pitch. Some larger companies have professional sales people who never get behind a camera. It’s possible to be shown a portfolio of a companies work with images shot by a range of photographers, some good some not so good – how do you know which one you will get?

So the first point to remember is to find out who you are talking to, are they the photographer that will be doing my wedding? Is it all their own work they are showing you?

Having established who you are talking to, you need to establish that you are both talking about the same thing, you have ideas in your head of the sort of images you would prefer, perhaps romantic soft lit images or candid fly on the wall type images. You need to be able to illustrate your requirements to your photographer. Cutting out images you like prior to your meeting is helpful – photographers really understand the language of pictures!

Wedding, Lympne Castle, Kent

But a word of warning here. If the venue for your wedding is a high street church with little or no grounds and you intend to have a self-service buffet in the scout hall next door or your marquee is in your terraced houses back garden with the ropes in the neighbours lawns, with only 10 feet separating it from the kitchen window your photographer is going to struggle to get the 150 guests in front of the marquee shot. Reality can be a cruel mistress!

Also remember if you or your partner is uncomfortable in front of a camera it can show in the pictures, you must be comfortable with your photographer, he’s going to be quite close to you for a major part of your special day. There’s an old photographers adage “Pictures aren’t taken they are given.” So remember on the day you are the most beautiful person there and shine out in all those pictures.

Try to avoid situations of stress and tension, good planning for the day should make the whole thing run smoothly, but if it isn’t well that’s what you have a best man for  – to sort any little unforeseen hiccups.

So having selected a photographer that you trust and like you need to plan with him or her what images you want. Starting at the house most photographers will offer you the option of attending your place of preparation to take a few shots of the bride with her guardian/parents, who ever may be giving the bride away at the service. Alternatively they may be there to catch the bridesmaids with the bride, the alternatives are endless and vary as much as people do – give your photographer an idea of what you would like at this location. Then together work out how long the required images will need to be taken and make sure you are ready at the allotted time that you both decide would be suitable. Cut the time and either restrict your results or add rush and tension to the situation.

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A good photographer will have checked the time it takes to travel between venues, checked what is and what is not feasible at the church, some venues restrict confetti throwing, others have no flash photography during the service etc. you will now need to decide what images you want taken immediately you have finished the service or whether you want to move en masse to your reception where maybe the photo opportunities may be better.

This decision is dependent on so many factors from suitability of venues and quantity of guests or even the weather situation on the day. It is worth discussing a full back plan if the weather does try to ruin your day, what would your photographer attempt if that was the case?

Group shots of guests aren’t normally a bride’s first priority and many will ask for fly on the wall documentary style of imaging rather than the traditional organised set shots. As much as the documentary style is desirable it is still worth having a few group shots done. Firstly it means everyone who attended you wedding is photographed and it’s surprising 25 years on how important those forgotten faces and people you don’t see any more are. Reportage photography alone is prone to miss the quiet or timid people out.

A good photographer should be able to complete all group shots and a few bride and groom sets within 20-40 minutes depending on how complicated your family is! Second marriages and divorced in-laws need to be allowed for and the photographer needs a complete list of names of important family members along with the requested group shots.

Wedding, Oakwood House, Maidstone

Arriving at the reception you again have several variations possible. Do group shots first if they haven’t been organised at the service. Take more couple shots if you have beautiful settings. Making sure your guests are comfortable is of course a high priority but if you only have a limited time before a meal then time must be planned for to accommodate your requirements.

Note there I say your requirements – because at the end of the day any photographer worth his salt will attempt to provide the service you want, how ever little or large that might be.

  • So here’s a checklist of things to remember when commissioning a photographer:
  • Make sure you know who you are talking to, photographer or salesman.
  • Find someone you trust and who’s work you like.
  • Brief them in detail on your requirements – times, venues, people present, special images you want.
  • Make sure you have a back-up plan if the weather is against you – have you thought about what time it gets dark on the day of your wedding – waiting to do shots at a beautiful venue won’t work if it’s already dark when you get there.
  • Make sure you understand what you are getting for your money – assume nothing! What’s the cost of further prints, enlargements etc.

Wedding photography can be a nightmare or a dream for both the client and the supplier – with good communication there is no reason why it shouldn’t be the prior every time.