How should newly engaged couples go about finding their perfect photographer?
Ask friends who have been more than delighted with their choice of photographer, search wedding blogs and look on the web. All good photographers will have a portfolio of their work available on their website, so you can get a feel for their style in that way.
What are some things to look out for once you've narrowed down your search?
There are two key criteria – finding a photographer whose images you love and finding a photographer who you feel confident and at ease being around. In order to capture the day, a good photographer is going to be around and close throughout the day. You can’t get great wedding photographs by shooting with a long zoom lens 100 metres away. That isn’t to say that he or she is going to be intrusive; a good photographer will strike a balance of being where the action is whilst being nearly invisible. I love it when clients tell me that they soon forgot I was there whilst the images intimately capture the very heart of their day.
Should you try and meet up with a potential photographer before formally booking them? What questions should you be asking them?
One hundred percent. A photographer is a crucial part of your wedding day and you need to have a good feeling about them. The best way to do that is to meet them. Whilst recommendations and reviews are worth a lot, like anything else, the bottom line comes down to what you think. I think developing a relationship before the wedding day helps the process of capturing great photos – the photographer has an extra insight into the couple and the couple feel more relaxed because there is already a connection there.
It’s also good to see the quality of the albums they produce. Sometimes photographers have a couple of show-stopping shots on a website which can be very attractive, but you need all of their work to be of a high standard. In terms of asking questions – I think it is more about developing a relationship. Obviously there are essentials enquiries to make, such as price, how long will the photographer be at your wedding for and whether there are a limited number of images you will be given before being asked for more money. But it's most important to get a sense of trust, connection and confidence in their work.
In an ideal world, what criteria should your wedding photographer meet?
I would look for someone who is passionate about their work and someone whose images inspire and move you. Someone who you feel you can trust and be at ease with. I wouldn’t favour one over the over (personality or quality of work) but rather see both as essential.
Are there any red flags or up-selling tactics that could be warning signs?
It’s important to be crystal clear about what you will be getting and not make any assumptions. Lots of photographers are straightforward about their pricing but there are some who will try to add to their bill by limiting the number of images you can choose or charging extra for a disc of the images. I’m not saying those things are inherently wrong, but be clear of what exactly you are paying for and that it’s within your budget.
Is opting for a CD-only package of the wedding images a good way of saving money?
If saving on an album means you can afford a better photographer then arguably yes. However, some couples pay for good images but never get them printed – they only get as far as the PC or social media. There is still something about getting photographs printed that really does them true justice. In my opinion sharing your wedding story with friends and family in an album is still the best and most exciting way.
There are so many different styles of wedding photography out there, from natural and candid to formally arranged. How do you know which style is right for you?
Speaking very generally I think you can put the different styles of wedding photography into two categories: formal, which is sometimes known as traditional, and informal, which is often referred to as documentary style. It’s very much a personal preference but often couples want a bit of both. My experience with the couples that I photograph is that they love the documentary style – the idea of capturing their day as it unfolds. These are the shots they are excited to see: the ones that catch magic moments, emotions and mini stories within the bigger story of the day, which are sometimes unknown to the couple at the time. Having said that, often a couple will want a few group shots as per a more formal or traditional wedding photography style. A good photographer should be able to offer the group shots efficiently without stopping the flow of the day and without keeping people waiting around.
Why is it worth investing in a professional wedding photographer?
Everybody has a camera nowadays, so it's tempting to ask a friend or family member to do it for free. This is not a good way to save money – far from it. It takes great skill and experience to capture the many aspects of a wedding day in a meaningful and creative way. Even a talented friend or family member’s photography skills won’t necessarily transfer to great wedding shots as it’s very much a genre in its own right. What will hopefully be a magic day deserves to be documented and captured in the best possible way. Whilst the food, drink and dress are well worth investing in they have a very short life, whereas the photographs should last for a lifetime and beyond. The photographs are a powerful link back to the day and all that it represents. A good photographer will tell the story, capture moments and give you a gift of your day to look back upon.