Time to get the first in a series of blog posts out there. There are many, many wedding photographers out there - how do you know who is the right one for you? This post will pose to you a series of questions that should help you choose the photographer who will click with you and your day in just the right way.
Meet the photographer before booking
This one is the most important point. We will always try to meet up with our couples at least once before the wedding - often once before they book us, and again nearer the date of the wedding for a final catch-up. Of course, it's not always logistically possible to meet before booking due to distance, and in this case try to organise a Skype call or even just a phone call. While email is fairly necessary in making sure that everyone has a written copy of what's been covered, it's also very important that you have a proper chat and get to know each other - after all you will spend so much time with your photographers on the day that it's essential that you get along well! Our philosophy is that we want to work with people that we can picture ourselves being friends with, and it's a philosophy that has worked out well with us still in regular contact with many of our couples months/years after their wedding!
Ask to see a whole wedding
While having a search through a photographer's website, Facebook page, Instagram, and all other kinds of online presence will give you a good idea of their style, it's always a good idea to see an example of a full wedding that they've shot. For obvious reasons, the photos that get showcased online are the best ones, the "portfolio-worthy" shots - you want to make sure that you're happy with the entire package. We have a selection of weddings in private galleries that we can send potential clients who enquire about our services.
Ask about additional fees
Do the photographers charge for travel? Will they need you to cover accommodation costs? Are there additional costs for prints or albums? All of these are likely to depend on your wedding - distance being the key one for travel and accommodation fees. We only charge travel if the wedding is over 50 miles away from Cardiff - and will only ask for you to cover a hotel if it's not feasible to drive back that night. Make sure that these questions are answered and fees are agreed before booking.
Ask about the booking procedure
Most photographers will have a fairly similar procedure for securing your date, however it's always best to check. Our procedure is a standard one - we ask for a signed copy of our contract along with a booking fee which is 25% of the total cost of the package, with the remainder paid 30 days before the wedding date. This helps create a bond of trust between both the photographers and the couple, and guarantees that everything will run smoothly on the day. Make sure you have a read through the contract and email your photographers with any questions prior to signing - they will be happy to answer any queries !
Do they offer the extra services that you are looking for?
Do the photographers offer a photobooth for your guests? Do they offer an engagement and/or pre-wedding couples photoshoot? Can they provide a photographic guestbook for your guests to sign on the day? These will more often than not be optional extras, so be sure to enquire about how they work as well as how much they will cost. We have always found that our photobooth creates a load of enjoyment for guests, whether the couple wants to provide their own props (really great if you are planning a themed wedding!) or want to use our own ones. The resulting fun photos are always a hit for Facebook profile photos and the like, or make a great collage for the wall!
Engagement shoots are also a great idea. See it as a practise run for the big day - it will help you and your photographers get to know each other, as well as giving you some practise in front of the camera. It's natural to feel a little nervous about having a lens pointed at you for one of the biggest moments of your life, so see an engagement shoot as a warm-up session. We also offer a guestbook with the resulting photos for the big day itself, which guests can sign for you to have as a keepsake of the day.
Ask about printing rights
These will vary massively from photographer to photographer. Some photographers will only want you to order prints from them directly, in order to guarantee the highest quality of print that's not available on the high street. Some will give you full printing rights for you to use as you wish, which is perfect for convenient printing at your local photo lab. We offer both - with your finished photos you get printing rights, and we also offer a professional quality printing service. These prints can be ordered directly from a private online gallery for convenience, and you can send the link to your guests so that they can view all the photo and order some for themselves too.
Make sure their style matches what you want
Wedding photography styles vary. Do you want a traditional photographer who will focus on the formal photos? Do you want a fine art photographer who may give you far fewer photos but will concentrate on creating a work of art in each? Do you want a documentary style photographer who will create incredible candid shots of your guests? Do you want someone to capture the fun of the day? Do you want someone who will focus on beautiful portraits of you and your partner?
Of course, many photographers can cover many aspects of this, but looking at their portfolio will give you an idea of their strengths. Make sure you book someone who tells your story in the way you picture it.
Ask if they solely shoot weddings, or if they do other work as well
This one's an interesting one. Ask someone who shoots just weddings if that's the best route, and they'll tell you "absolutely". Ask someone who shoots other work as well if that's the best route, and they'll tell you "absolutely". We both shoot other work as well, so obviously our biased answer is that this is an advantage, but there are positives in both argument.
Our view is that by shooting other work, we bring to our weddings a mix of disciplines. For example, we met while shooting a very low-lit gig. Coming from a music and event photography background, we are great at handling situations with not much light (very useful for evening receptions!). Between us we also shoot portraits (great for giving couples posing advice), news (meaning we're used to having quick reflexes to get The Shot in candid situations), and events (parties and dances are great for refreshing our evening reception skills in the off-peak wedding season!).
Ask about their equipment
Sadly this shouldn't be necessary, as every professional providing such an important service should have the needed gear to ensure that everything runs smoothly. While it's worth noting that the equipment doesn't make the photographer, on such an important day nothing can be left to chance. Make sure that your photographers have spare camera bodies - and make sure that they shoot onto two memory cards simultaneously just in case the worst case scenario happens and one card corrupts, make sure that they have spare lenses, make sure that they back your photos up as soon as they get home. The fact that wedding photographers do this should be a given, but it's best to check for your own peace of mind!
Don't be afraid to ask your photographers any questions that come to mind - they are well aware of what an important decision this is and will be happy to answer any queries.
If you can think of any other important questions to ask or any other pre-booking tips, comment below!