Choosing your perfect wedding photographer can be a daunting prospect! There are lots of articles out there from the big wedding websites telling you how to choose a wedding photographer. Things like ‘make sure they have insurance’ is a good idea – but anyone established in the industry will probably mention in their FAQs that they have this. It’s just standard. Statements like ‘if they don’t offer group photos then they’re not professionals’ or ‘you should get at least 1000’ photos are less helpful. They suggest that there is only one style and type of photographer out there and that is far from the case. Hitched, Bridebook, etc even provide a helpful checklist of questions to ask and I have sat through several Zoom calls of people asking me these and me politely answering. I know where this list is from, I know they think they’re doing the right thing in asking these and I’m more than happy to answer, but I think there are better ways to find a wedding photographer that is perfect for you.
I got married young, way back in 2007. At the time of writing, that makes my marriage 15 years old! At the time, I had not yet picked up a camera and I didn’t know the first thing about wedding photography, other than we should have a wedding photographer. I’m just putting it out there early on that I am definitely not slating our photographer – far from it. Our photos are the perfect tick box list of ‘essential wedding photographs’ that any traditional photographer from the 1980s would have produced. He was lovely, experienced and on the budget. We saw his work and we booked him based on it. We didn’t know there were any other options out there other than photographs that would match our parents’ wedding photographs on the mantelpiece. We didn’t understand that not all photographers are the same and that this lovely man was probably not the best fit for us. What we weren’t seeing is what I tell my clients they need to see when they look at my work if they want to book – exciting, interesting, real, raw and creative wedding photographs. If I could change that decision I absolutely would. I don’t love any of my wedding photographs. I think this makes it even more special for me when my clients tell me how much they love theirs.
So here is my advice to you, from someone who hates their wedding photographs and as a wedding photographer, my checklist of things to look for and go through before you sign on the dotted line. Above all though: BE OBSESSED WITH THE WORK OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER YOU CHOOSE.
If you go on Google, or Instagram, or even Pinterest, you will be able to find thousands upon thousands of wedding photographs to look through. It’s a lot. I suggest starting by having a scroll through to get an idea of the styles you like (more on that below) and what you really don’t. You can then start to narrow that down. Below are some things to consider:
Traditional: When I say traditional, I mean photographers who approach a wedding in the same way my wedding photographer did – a checklist of images that are ‘must-haves’, with a focus on posed and group photographs. These would probably include photographs that your parents and grandparents had at their weddings – a photo with the car, signing the register, many combinations of group photographs, lots of portraits smiling at the camera. You will probably see similar images from every wedding in their portfolio. With this sort of photographer you can definitely know what to expect.
Editorial: This an elegant, staged style of photography similar to what you might see in a vogue type magazine. There is a big focus on staged portraits, but in these you will look like a movie star. This sort of photography looks high end and will make your wedding look it too!
Documentary: This style of photographer will photograph the day exactly as it unfolds without giving you any direction or providing any staging. (Think photo-documentary type images from either the press or the photography greats like Ansel Adams.) They will be looking for all the little and big moments and photographing them in a creative way. You can’t expect any photographs to be taken in a certain way – this is pretty much the most unique form of wedding photography you can find. Pure documentary photographers will not offer portraits or group photographs.
Storytelling: This is what I class my style as. I am about 80% documentary style but I do also offer group photographs and creative portraits. I find this is a nice balance between editorial and documentary styles. You can find out more about storytelling wedding photography here.
Natural: Just as it says really! The colours and tones will be pretty much as they were on the day.
Light and Airy: This style refers to photographers who, both in the way they shoot and edit, create images that are brighter than real life and use light to flood the images. My images are definitely influenced by this style, but there are photographers out there who are much brighter!
Warm and Moody: If you love those brown, dark tones of film cameras, then this is the style for you. These photographs will have more orange skin tones and lean towards more shadowy images.
My work is all about capturing the natural moments of the day as they happen. My clients often feed back how much they love all the little stories I’ve captured within the big story of the day. It’s not about the traditional images for me, but about telling the honest truth of the day in a beautiful and creative way. My photographs have a slight film tone to them and I like images that are on the brighter side of natural because they make me feel happy.
Make a shortlist
Now you have an idea of the different styles, try having a look on Instagram or Pinterest at examples and see what you might like best. You can use phrases like ‘storytelling wedding photographer’ and search in Google or Instagram to find wedding photographers who might be perfect for you. Make a short list, follow them on Instagram, and think: Who is that you keep coming back to?
Many photographers don’t include their full price list on their website (I do though!). They do usually have a ‘starting from’ price though, which should help give you an idea of what you’re looking at. The average cost of a wedding photographer in the UK is around £1600. If this is too much for you, you could look at hiring someone for fewer hours than a full day shoot. This is probably a better investment than spending the same money on someone whose work you don’t love as much, but who will be there all day. You can find all the different packages I offer here.
Have a little stalk
Now you have a shortlist of photographers that are roughly in budget, you really need to choose your absolute favourites. Have a look at their FAQs and make sure they mention that they are insured, that they have back-up equipment and just generally seem a good, professional and conscientious person. Also have a look at their Google reviews and Instagram comments to get an idea of how other couples have found working with them.
Depending on how much time you want to dedicate to this, you could contact a few photographers to chat with, or just contact your favourite. You’ve done the groundwork and you can be confident. Make sure you mention how much you love their work, what you’re looking for and some details about yourselves and the day. If they’re booked up on your wedding day, they might even offer some suggestions of people with a similar style for you to have a look at. Of course you could always contact others on your shortlist too.
Have a chat
This is quite a personal one and pre-pandemic I found most people wanted to meet for a coffee and a chat. However, now we are all a lot more used to communicating and getting to know people online. So either enjoy email ping-pong getting to know your chosen photographer or ask for a Zoom call (I know, we all hate video calls, but they can be useful!). A quick chat will be enough to make sure you can trust this person and will enjoy their company on your wedding day.
Book Your Perfect Wedding Photographer
So, you’ve been through the steps above and found the one for you. Now it’s time to book – exciting! You should at this point be provided with a contract or terms and conditions. Make sure you are happy with everything and get that perfect photographer booked in. That’s it, you’re done! Tick off that box and have a brew.