Choosing a Wedding Photographer – top questions to ask – 2019 update
Here’s my list of the top things you need to consider when you’re choosing your Wedding Photographer. Yes, I know some of them might be obvious, but it might help to have them all listed in one place. You will also notice that cost is not number one ! Yes, of course it’s important, but there are other things to consider as well. This list will give you a good idea of where to start.
One really important thing – the “Best Wedding Photographer” for you will not be the same as for everyone else – I’ve tried to cover the differences which make this the case.
In my own case, most of these questions are answered on my website and on my Frequently Asked Questions page. The rest are covered when we meet for a general chat about your wedding.
1) Is the photographer available for the date and location of your Wedding
Obvious, I know- but popular dates and photographers often get booked up early. Some photographers will also be reluctant to travel to certain locations – especially if it would make it difficult for them to return the same day. Best advice is to look for your photographer once the ceremony location and venue are booked. The busiest times of the year are May to September and also December. Busiest days are Friday & Saturday. This also applies to the wedding venues – so get in early to confirm your dates.
2) Is the photographer in your price range (see below for more discussion on price)
There are photographers at all price levels from ‘free’ to ‘expensive’. Always make sure you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. It’s very difficult to make exact comparisons, as the package details will vary from person to person. See number (5) for some of the things which may or may not be included. Also check what other costs or expenses might be charged e.g. travel (mileage), accommodation, meal (often provided for all day photography).
Many photographers can justify high charges by their talent and experience. Others may try to charge the high fees and not deliver. If your photographer is ‘free’, or cheaper than most, ask yourself, and them, why ? Some photographers use cheap or free photography as a legitimate way of building up experience and getting established. However, you will still have to satisfy yourself that they can deliver what you want from your very important day. You (and they) only get one chance to get it right.
3) Do you get on with the photographer
Very important. Ideally both of you should meet the photographer before signing any contract to ensure you’re all on the same wavelength. If you don’t get on well during this meeting – imagine what it might be like on the day of your wedding. Not every photographer will be right for every couple – even if they’re extremely good and talented photographers.
You should be able to rely on your intuition here. You may also be able to get opinions from other people who have used them – either from someone you know, or via one of the many online wedding websites. This is one of the biggest single factors which will ensure you are happy with the end result.
4) What style of photographs does the photographer take
Some people prefer having just a few formal posed photographs – others like the more traditional approach. The current preference seems to be for more informal and ‘documentary’ (or ‘photojournalistic’) photographs, with a minimum of formal photographs also included.
Make sure you discuss with the photographer what photographs you want from the day. You can make a list of photographs you particularly would like, but try and keep it as short as possible.
You can get a good idea of my style by looking through my Wedding Photo Gallery which covers a typical wedding day.
Another useful guide is to ask them how they approach the different parts of the day I.E. “Getting Ready”, Ceremony, Reception, Posed vs Informal photos.
5) What do you get for your money
This is where many of the major price differences arise. The following are the many elements which could be included in the cost :
- Photographers time (and skill)
- Proof photographs (and how many – but this may vary widely depending on the day)
- Album (which one, how many pages, how many photographs, who chooses the photographs)
- Album copies (smaller sized version of the main album – often known as ‘parent books’)
- Copy of images on CD/DVD/USB Drive (low/high resolution)
- Enlargements of images
- Website for sharing/proofing/downloading images
- Special image processing (‘airbrushing’, special effects, Black & White)
- Secure image backup for a number of years
- Cost for any extras (e.g. extra images, extra album pages, extra album copies, longer time of coverage)
6) What experience does your photographer have
Ask to see samples of previous work, ideally of a complete wedding as well as samples from other weddings. These will often be available to view online.
Why is this important ? Unfortunately, some photographers attempt to boost their portfolios by using images from ‘Styled Shoots’ using models (and a minority have even been known to use other people’s photos – presenting them as theirs). Styled shoots and shoots using models are great for inspiration and practice – but they are often of a very different standard to what a photographer can produce on the day. Make sure you view some ‘real-life’ weddings, album designs and albums.
Viewing a complete wedding, rather than a selection of ‘greatest hits’ from multiple weddings will give you a better idea of what to expect.
7) What back-up equipment does your photographer have
All professional photographers should have backup equipment available on the day of your wedding. Equipment does fail, so it is essential to have, for example, a second camera, flash etc. As a minimum, I believe at least two cameras are essential (I usually have 3 with me).
8 ) What training or experience do they have
Formal qualifications are not essential, but a good photographer will always be learning new skills and keeping up to date with modern trends. Personal work (i.e. non-wedding) can also feed back to wedding photography, and lead to better images.
9) Membership of professional bodies/associations
Once again, not essential, or a guarantee that the photographer will be right for you. However, membership of appropriate professional bodies can give you extra confidence in your photographer. Many of them have various qualification levels which can only be achieved by presenting work of a certain standard.
10) Familiar with the wedding locations
If the photographer has sample photographs from previous events at your chosen locations, then that can help in two ways :
(a) You will have a better idea of what to expect as the final result
(b) The photographer will be able to concentrate more on you, as they will be familiar with the location
If it is a new location for that photographer, many will make a quick ‘recce’ trip, or arrive a bit earlier on the day to have a good look around, and choose good locations for the photographs. However, most experienced photographers will be able to quickly adapt to any location – even if they’ve never worked there before.
If they haven’t shot a wedding there before, you could instead ask if they have shot a wedding in a similar location, in similar conditions (e.g. Winter, Summer etc).
11) Unable to attend your wedding
Ask what will happen if your photographer becomes sick, or is otherwise unable to photograph your wedding ? Most established professionals will have a network of trusted colleagues ready to step in if they cannot go ahead for unforeseen reasons. Make sure this is discussed well in advance.
This is becoming more important as many venues and all publicly owned locations (e.g. parks) require that the photographer have appropriate insurance. All professional photographers should have public liability and (usually) personal indemnity insurance.
All professional photographers should provide a written contract (and a receipt for any payments made). The contract should set out exactly what is being provided, the charges and any Terms and Conditions. The aim is clarity – so that everyone clearly understands what the situation is.