When it comes to planning your big day, choosing a wedding photographer is almost as important as deciding on a dress. After all, what’s the use of looking lovely if there’s no one there to capture the moment? Finding someone to photograph your wedding takes time and research, but find the right one and you’ll be rewarded with photos that you love – photos fit for a wedding photo book!
Decide on a style
Your first big decision is to choose which style of wedding photography you prefer – whether that’s traditional, posed photos (like your parents’ wedding album), or more contemporary, documentary-style photography, with lots of candid shots. Once you know what you want your pictures to look like, it will be easier to find the right person to take them. There are countless sub-styles and variants out there, but the three main styles of wedding photography are:
Traditional: Classic and formal, similar to what you might find in your parents’ wedding album. Consisting mainly of carefully posed portraits of the couple, as well as group shots of the wedding party, family etc. A traditional wedding photographer will pose most shots and will usually shoot from a set list of photographs.
Photojournalistic/ documentary: A more contemporary introduction to wedding photography, with a focus on capturing candid, spontaneous moments. Expect your photographer to spend more time recording events rather than staging them. This style of photography is more focused on capturing the natural moments and mood of the wedding, rather than traditional portraits.
Creative: The most recent style to hit popularity within the wedding photographer industry. Creative wedding photography is inspired by editorial fashion photography, with the goal of creating high impact, visually arresting images. Shots are posed or set up, as with traditional wedding photography, but the photographer might use unusual poses, action shots and strong or unusual lighting.
Many photographers can provide a range to suit your needs, for example your photojournalistic photographer will likely be willing to take a planned traditional-style photograph or two. But you should keep your preferences in mind when you begin your search and select a photographer whose strengths align with your tastes.
Do your research
Your first consideration in finding the right photographer is likely to be distance. There’s no sense falling in love with a photographer’s portfolio only to find out they live a 10 hour drive away! (Unless you’re so smitten with their style that you’re willing to cover their travel and accommodation costs on top of their fee, of course.) Most professional photographers have the area they commute to clearly stated on their websites, making Googling and asking for recommendations from friends a great place to start. Similarly, if you’re planning on getting married abroad, it’s wise to search specifically for photographers that specialise in destination weddings.
Create a shortlist of photographers to contact. Most have blogs and websites featuring examples of their work, and if they’re on social media, check Facebook and Twitter to see what kind of feedback they’ve received.
Meet in person
You’ll be spending your whole wedding day with your photographer, so it’s important that you get along. Arrange to meet informally before you make a booking to see if you click and to make sure you feel comfortable with them.
Weddings can be stressful, so it’s also worth discussing how you envisage them fitting into your day. Will you need a photographer with a strong personality who can direct your large family into a classic group shot? Or do you need a photographer who can blend in and get those great photojournalistic shots of camera-shy relatives? These are all considerations that have more to do with your photographer’s personality than their technical skills.
You should leave your meeting feeling excited, confident and assured. Your photographer is the one person you trust to record your special day and give you memories to look back on for years to come, so you need to have faith in them. If they seemed reluctant to meet some of your requests, then it might be better to meet with someone else. You don’t want to be directing them on the day; you want to leave the photography entirely in their hands and trust they’ll deliver.
Visit your venue together
If possible, take your photographer along to your wedding venue so you can point out your favourite spots and discuss potential photos you’d like them to capture. They’ll be able to explain what’s feasible and are also likely to have plenty of creative ideas you hadn’t considered.
This is also a great time to discuss contingency plans. You might have your heart set on some romantic shots by the lake, but what if it rains? Your photographer can help you plan alternative locations… or show you how to pose with an umbrella!
Plan important shots
Even if you’re opting for candid, documentary-style photography, there are probably still some must-have shots you don’t want your photographer to miss. Your photographer probably already assumes you’ll want them to catch the first dance and cutting the cake, but if you have other specific requests, let them know in advance what you have in mind.
This also applies to details relevant to your family situation that will impact the photographs. For example, divorced parents who would rather be photographed separately or with their own partners, or perhaps an elderly grandparent who needs to remain sitting for group shots.
Ask about image rights
Although you’ll be paying for your photography, most contracts stipulate that the photographer owns the rights to all photos taken on your big day. This means you may have to buy the rights to the images if you want to print them or turn them into a photo book. Check with your photographer beforehand to ensure you know exactly what you can and can’t do with your photos.
The paperwork is important
In a similar vein to the last point, get your agreement in writing! A professional photographer should have a contract in place for you to sign, which will outline exactly what you should receive from them and how much it will cost. This is to protect both you and your photographer, so always ensure you read it and are happy before you sign.
Don’t forget your “other” photographers
From Uncle Bob with all his gear, or your sister with her iPhone, your photographer won’t be the only person planning to document your special day.
This can be both a positive and a negative… on the one hand, hurrah for more photographs! It can be a great opportunity to capture intimate shots from every single point of view. On the other hand, you don’t want your beautiful official wedding photographs ruined by lots of faces covered by smartphones. Many pro wedding photographers have horror stories of over-enthusiastic family members with a camera trying to take over their shot, stepping into the aisle right in front of the bride and groom, or confusing wedding guests into looking at the wrong photographer.
There are multiple ways to navigate this. You might want to have an “unplugged” wedding ceremony, eliminating the problem altogether. No cameras, no smartphones, no video recording devices; just your guests being in the moment with you, without distractions.
Alternatively, speak to your photographer about permitting a few minutes after important shots to allow your unofficial photographers a chance to capture the moment. Make it clear to your guests that they must allow your photographer to take their shot first (these are the ones you’re paying for, after all!) but giving a few minutes to capture cutting the cake and the wedding party outside the church or registry office is usually enough to appease your snap-happy guests.
Please note that your photographer might not be allow this when it comes to their own posed portraits and creative shots. Posing people, framing, finding the right lighting and angles are all part of your photographer’s creative process and unique skillset. Having an amateur photographer jump in and “steal” the shot is extremely bad manners.
And trust your photographer!
Most importantly of all, trust your photographer! You’ve found a talented person whose style you love, and they’re just as invested in getting beautiful photographs out of your special day as you are. If they inspire confidence, step back and let them do their thing! Give them the space and creative freedom to capture the best parts of your day through their unique lens, and you’ll be rewarded with stunning photos to enjoy for years to come.