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Choosing the right Photographer

Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life. Couples always tell me that they can't believe how quickly the day went by.

There is so much to take in, so many people to talk to. It's easy to forget things, or to miss something, or to feel that it's a bit of a blur afterwards! This is why couples are happy, not only to be reminded of the day by looking at their photographs, but to enjoy the details or events that they otherwise would have missed. Memories fade over time as well, but photographs keep those memories alive forever. As it is so often said- photographs are frozen moments in time which, as the years go by become more and more invaluable.

The problem now is that everybody seems to be a photographer (well nearly everybody!) You just need to scroll through a few Instagram pages to see that. You no longer need a degree or even experience- just a nice camera, a good eye, a good website and the gift of the gab. So, the obvious question is:

Do you even need a professional photographer? Even phone camera's are getting better and better by the day! It's getting easier and easier to take a good picture!

Well, for now, I would say yes, you definitely do need a professional!.

It's easy to take a good photograph in good lighting, but what if you are in a dark room? What if the sun is too bright behind you? What if the subjects are moving quickly? I have noticed a lot of inexperienced wedding photographers shying away from the drama- using a short lens- staying too far away from their subjects. This creates very wide framed shots. Even if you zoom into them in an edit, you will lose a lot of image quality. They may look ok on social media, but try enlarging them and you will see, that the quality just isn't there.

So, how can you choose a good photographer?

It isn't difficult if you are aware of some key points to look out for.

☑ Look at a wide range of websites first, compare them and choose your favourites. Don't choose by price yet, just look at what's out there, so that you have a good idea about what is good, what is bad and what is average. The cheapest (or the most expensive for that matter) is not necessarily the best! Photographers have their own style as well- see what catches your eye!

☑ Ask to see some complete weddings- this will give you a much better idea on the photographers experience and the quality of their images. It is easy for anybody nowadays (even a small child) to have 5 or 10 amazing photographs if they have a good camera and take 1000+ pictures, but, you will see by looking at a complete wedding just how good the photographer really is. Do they catch every moment? Are all the images well photographed? (even in difficult lighting conditions?) Are they well edited? Are they sharp? How many good quality images will you get for your money?

☑ Couples are often so mesmerised with the subject matter/ the wedding dress/ colours etc, that they don't notice if an image is flat (lacking contrast) or if it's not sharp. So, remember to have a critical eye- zoom in! Compare the images with other photographers photo's. Don't rush your decision.

☑ Now it's time to think about cost. If you prefer another photographer, but they are too expensive- tell them! Give them a chance to give you a discount if they want to. Do they offer a second photographer? In my experience, it is great to have another photographer to catch more angles and more of your day, BUT, it's not essential and a good photographer will be more than capable of covering the day on their own as well. If you have the budget for 2 operators and you are having a videographer as well, I would strongly advise you to choose 2 videographers and 1 photographer and not the other way around (or 2 and 2 of course if it is within your budget) Photographers are much more mobile and can flit from place to place quickly so as not to miss anything. A videographer can't do that so easily. They must man more than one video camera and they must concentrate on sound equipment as well. To do the job well, there really should be 2 of them.

☑ Meet the photographer- even better, meet 2 or 3! It's important that you get on and that you trust them. You will probably be nervous on the day and the photographer needs to support you and make you feel comfortable. You will also be able to gauge how well they know the structure of a wedding, to be sure that they will be in the right place at the right time!

So, lets imagine that you are due to meet a photographer. Here are some important things to ask:

1. What they will do if the wedding runs over time? Most weddings do and you don't want a big unexpected bill at the end or a photographer who leaves before some important photographs, just because it is their time to go.
2. How many images will you get? Will they be fully edited and high resolution images? How long will the photographer stay? What will they cover of the day?
3. Is there a contract? There should be! It means that the photographer is serious and committed to the job. Read it before you sign it, just to be sure of what you are signing!

My final advise to you once you have chosen your photographer

1. Remember to tell the photographer if there is anything unusual at the wedding, such as an extra dance, a show, fireworks. Are the speeches before the dinner? These are all things that the photographer needs to know in advance, or they might miss them!
2. Give the photographer a small shot list for groups- not the obvious, standard shots, such as bridesmaids, the usual family images etc- just ones that may not be obvious, but are important to you (Cousins, best friends, you and your Gran, work colleagues etc) otherwise, you may not remember to ask for them on the day! Remember not to choose too many combinations though- too many groups will take a long time and you want to be sure to have time for your couple shots when the lighting is right. Discuss your timings with your photographer to see how many group combinations you can fit comfortably into your schedule.
3. Last but not least! Feed and water your photographer or tell them if they need to bring something with them. It is a long day for them. My advice if you can, would be to feed them and provide them with a drink, even if you are on a tight budget and cant afford an extra meal/meals, you can ask the venue to provide something simple such as sandwiches. A fed and watered photographer is a happy one! It means that they won't disappear to the shops and will spend more time with you! You will also know that they have enough energy to go that extra mile for you if needed!

All that is left to say is, congratulations on your engagement! Here's to looking back at your beautiful photographs for years and years to come; which reminds me! Don't forget to backup your images!


Gemma Ashford BA Hons
Gemma has a BA Hons in Fine Arts with Photography from Canterbury Christ Church University. Gemma worked as a wedding photographer in Italy for 6 years working alongside some of the best Italian wedding photographers before starting her own photography and film business in the UK.
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