Choosing Your Wedding Photographer - 20 Hints and Tips

For anyone choosing to get married one of the most important decisions they have to make when planning their special day is their choice of wedding photographer. For some photography is essential for others it's seen as an intrusion and unnecessary expense.

With advent of the affordable high quality digital single lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) just about anyone can call themselves a professional photographer; they don't need training or experience, just a website, business cards and a pile of impressive looking camera equipment.

As most people do not have any experience of working with photographers or buying photography services the task of finding a wedding photographer can be somewhat daunting. You can ask a friend, look in the local free newspaper or search the Internet.

20 things you should be looking for or asking when choosing your wedding photographer:

  1. Ask friends, work collegues and family for recommendations.
  2. How many weddings has the person photographed and how long have they been photographing weddings for payment?
  3. What training has the person received or have they worked with another photographer as an assistant or second photographer?
  4. Is the person a qualified member of a professional organisation such as the BIPP (British Institute of Professional Photography, GoP (Guild of Photographers), MPA (Master Photographers Association), SWPP (Society of Wedding & Portrait Photographers), NPS (National Photographic Society) and is the qualification for wedding photography or a non-related subject? A degree in photography does not mean the person is a fit wedding photographer, just that they have studied for and met the criteria of that degree.
  5. Does the person carry both Public Liability and Professional Indemnity insurances? If they employ a second photographer or assistant, by law they must have Employers Liability insurance.
  6. Are they familiar with the health and safety requirements of the venue(s) where they will be working?
  7. Do they have back up equipment?
  8. Do they have their own transport?
  9. Many photographers claiming to be "professional" actually only photograph the odd wedding here and there to get some extra money. No law against that, but how committed will they be to delivering quality products and service? When photography has to pay your mortgage and put food on the table, your whole focus is on making your clients happy, which will not be the case when photographing weddings is nothing more than a hobby and your day job pays the mortgage. 
  10. Do they advertise their address? If they do not or only offer a PO Box number, ask where they live before booking? If something should go wrong, how do you contact them after the event?
  11. Do they have a comprehensive booking form with clearly laid out terms and conditions and contact information?
  12. Is the person you are speaking to the person who will photograph your wedding day? If not, ask to meet the photographer and see examples of their work before making a booking or entering into a contract.
  13. Are the images you have seen original images created by the photographer of real weddings? Some photographers will work with models to create a wedding portfolio or attend one of the many portfolio builder workshops available to novices.
  14. Ask to see images from a whole wedding or preferably weddings. Photographers will show you what they consider their best images, which may not be those you would like to see.
  15. Some photographers will tell you that they only work by available light as flash or supplementary lighting will spoil they atmosphere of your wedding. In all probability that person has no experience of working with other light sources, so what are they going to do when they get into a situation where there is little or no available light. Used correctly, some of the best and most creative images from a wedding can be created with flash.
  16. Many photographers advertise themselves as photo-reportage or fly on the wall photographers. Some photographers are brilliant at this style as they trained and worked as photo-journalists or for newspapers, some are just naturals. Others will merely be snappers who do not have an eye for an image and will only give you a collection of random images of questionable quality.
  17. You get what you pay for, well most of the time. In majority of cases if you have a friend or relative with a DSLR camera and ask them to photograph your wedding to save money they may say yes, but you have none of the comeback when something goes wrong. The photographer needs to have professional detachment in order to get the best images. 
  18. Ask what they will do in the event that they are unable to photograph your wedding? Can they provide a named photographer of equal or better ability to take their place?
  19. Do they only provide a DVD of unprocessed images straight from the camera? If so, it is doubtful if they have any post-production or image processing skills.
  20. Don't believe that it can be fixed in Photoshop. Image retouching and manipulation is a skill that has to be learnt over many years. There are no quick fixes. People new to photography do not realise this. Much of the time images need to be created with post-production or Photoshop in mind. Photoshop is merely another tool in a photographers tool box. Some will use it to better effect than others.

Ian Pack is a photographer, with over 25 years experience in the photography and media industries. He was featured in PhotoPlus magazine in May 2011 as their expert wedding photographer. During his career Ian has photographed in excess of 600 weddings.

© Copyright 2011 Ian Pack
Reproduction in whole or part without permission of the author strictly prohibited.


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