All photos in this post from our engagement shoot by Charlotte Marie Photography, reproduced with kind permission
As a blogger and amateur photographer, photographs are really important to me as a way to capture special moments in my life. Getting married is one of the biggest and most exciting things that will ever happen to me, and I want to make sure that it is captured perfectly. But when the time comes to choose your wedding photographer, where do you even start?
I have tracked down the most amazing photographer who I am completely confident will immortalise our wedding day in exactly the way I would like, meaning on the day I can relax completely knowing that our memories are being caught on film (well, a memory card!) as we are making them. I’d never really thought about the name ‘memory card’ until I wrote that – how apt!
Other than a brand new husband and another shiny ring on my finger, the photos of our marriage are the only element of the day that lasts forever, so for me this decision was much more important than the caterer or florist (though we have chosen amazing people for both and I know they will be a big part in making the wedding day special too) and I wanted to make sure I got it right.
In order to help others’ make this tough decision, here are my top 5 tips on how to choose your wedding photographer.
How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer
1. Set your budget first
Wedding photography varies in price wildly, from £3-400 to £3-4,000 or even more, depending on the length of time you want the photographer and the number of people shooting, and of course, crucially, the experience/ability of the photographer. There is no point in researching photographers, finding one whose images you love, only to find that disappointingly there is no way you can afford them. So set your budget first. This is something that depends on you as a couple, your overall budget, and how important photographs are to you. We didn’t want to spend huge amounts on our wedding, but for me, the most important part of the budget was the photographer. I didn’t want to get the cheapest we could find, only to spend years being disappointed with photographs which weren’t as good as ones I could take myself, and which I could enjoy looking through forever. So sit down together, discuss this, and set a ballpark figure for your photographer. You then have a price point to help you shortlist your photographer.
2. Decide what photography style you like
There are (broadly speaking) three styles of wedding photography:
Portraiture – Where the photographer takes a lot of posed shots of the couple, the couple with the family, group shots, etc. The focus is on photographs of people on the day, rather than of proceedings themselves, though they will of course take photos during your vows etc as well, but these will be quite classic. This style of photography will probably most closely echo your parents’ wedding photo album.
Documentary – Where the photographer captures the day as they see it – little moments, snippets of the day, casual shots of people enjoying the celebrations. They will also take some posed family shots if you request them of course (and I imagine most people ask for one or two), but the focus is on immortalising the essence of the day in pictures.
Edgy/Creative – Where the photographer looks at your day through creative eyes and puts a rather individual spin on things. It might be strange angles, interesting techniques, bold colours or contrasts, anything a bit different. You will see straight away from looking at a photographers’ work if they fall into this category, and I think you either love it or loathe it, so you should know instinctively if this is for you or not.
Make sure you and your partner agree on the style you like (or if they don’t give two hoots, pick your favourite!), and then keep this in mind when researching photographers. If all the shots on their website are posed groups and you like reportage style photography, they are probably not for you.
3. Find local photographers and look at their work
This sounds really obvious but it isn’t necessarily that easy. Google of course is a starting point, then I also looked on Instagram (using #somersetweddingphotographer), and on Facebook. I also posted on Facebook asking for recommendations from local friends of photographers they had used. All this got me a list of about 20 photographers to look at. First of all, I went to their website, which is a great way of seeing what kind of photography they do. Bear in mind that their website will showcase what they think is their best work, so if the photos on the website aren’t up to the standard you would like, that’s an easy way to cross them off the list. I was slightly amazed at how many grainy, out of focus shots made it onto some photographers portfolios! It is also helpful to look at a full album of one wedding if they have one – it will give you an idea of the final product you will get from start to finish. Once you’ve narrowed it down through the websites, then stalk them a little on social media – see what kind of customer feedback they have, look at their latest albums on their Facebook page. This helped me narrow my list a little further.
Of course, some photographers will be upfront about their prices on their website, which I found very helpful. It will enable you to know straight away if they are a possibility for you or not. Others you need to email an inquiry for pricing. It is best to be honest about your budget in this initial email to avoid wasting any time. Be sure you know what is included in the package – some photographers will offer a second person, some will offer coverage of the whole day, others will limit it to a certain number of hours, some include albums and digital files in their quote, others do not, check how many photos you will receive and whether they will edited in postproduction. Make sure that you outline exactly what you are expecting for that amount of money in your emails, and be sure to read any contract carefully.
4. Arrange to meet your photographer
This is really important. This person will be up close and personal with you on your big day, maybe even there as you step into your dress, right there in the corner of your eye as you say your vows, and in front of you as you listen to your Dad’s speech. It is crucial that you like them, feel comfortable with them, and feel that they understand what you want out of your photos. This can be done over the phone, but nothing really substitutes for meeting in person and getting to know your photographer a bit, and maybe even have them take a couple of shots of you. Which leads me to my most important point…
5. Do an engagement shoot with your chosen photographer
This was absolutely the best thing we did. I was sceptical at first about why we needed engagement pics, but it seemed the trendy thing to do, and I thought it would be nice to capture us together on a normal day, not in wedding gear, so we decided to book one. It enabled us to meet our photographer Charlotte Marie in person, have a good chat about our plans for the day, and the kind of photos we wanted, and then it enabled Charlotte to see how we react in front of the camera, to get to know us a bit as a couple, and to see how we looked through the lens. Most photographers offer a discounted engagement shoot if they are doing your wedding, mainly for this reason, and I highly recommend you take advantage of it. It is a good insurance policy too – if the worst happens and your photos come back and you don’t like them, it gives you a chance to discuss further with your photographer, or if they really aren’t to your liking, find a new one in advance of the big day. Happily, our engagement shoot was the reverse – it made me even more sure that Charlotte was the photographer for us!
I hope that you found this post helpful to choose your own wedding photographer, and that you enjoyed the peek into our engagement shoot together, at a local hamstone quarry turned park in south Somerset called Ham Hill. I love the views from up there, it’s where we always go to walk the dogs or for a casual Sunday pub lunch, and you can even see my parents’ house in the distance, so it was the perfect place for us. It even enabled us to get the dogs involved!