Tips on looking for the right wedding photographer for you

Welcome! And my biggest heartfelt congratulations if you’re on your wedding planning journey! It’s a lovely time, but it can be totally overwhelming so I hope this may give you some helpful ideas. 

I put this together to help couples who are researching possible wedding photographers and who maybe feeling overwhelmed by the choices. I do not want to sound like this is one sided and I’m definitely NOT putting anyone down – everyone started somewhere – including me. I’m offering a little bit of insight so couples can make more of an informed decision. Photographers seem to be an overly saturated market, some professional, some starting out, some amateur, some do weddings on the side. Often I’ll be tagged on facebook when someone asks for recommendations for a wedding photographer – that’s great – love being recommended, but then I go on to notice hundreds of other names who have also been tagged. Jeez – I’m not sure if that’s helpful at all! I’d say that was pretty overwhelming. Good luck looking through their insta’s, facebook and websites! You might be asking yourself why would I write something like this when I should just be promoting myself and telling everyone they should book me? Well that’s unrealistic. The way I see it, the people who book me, well it’s meant to be. If a couple choose another photographer over me – there’s a reason for it. Maybe that photographer was more within their budget, maybe they felt more of a connection to them as a person or they preferred their shooting or editing style – whatever the reason – I don’t mind. It’s the way it is. 

I think the first thing you need to ask yourself is what do you really value regarding your wedding, apart from the actual reason you’re there, to marry your love! Is it the venue, the flowers, the dress, the cars, the photography? If you’re not overly fussed on having all these details documented and photography isn’t high on your list – then save your cash. Do you look at the photography as being more like a ‘chore’ you have to do on your day? If yes, then why pay good money if you don’t want to put in the effort. It does not make sense to pay for something that you don’t value. Perhaps you really just want some photos of the ceremony and are happy for your guests to snap a few on their phones – your choice, don’t let anyone force you to pay money for something you don’t really care about because let me tell you – I wouldn’t want to shoot a wedding where the couple had no interest and no desire to get beautiful photos. It’s a two way street and requires a great photographer as well as an enthusiastic couple. No one said having a photographer at a wedding is compulsory. On the other hand if photography is high on your list – I hope you take away some tips to help narrow the search and remember it’s ok to ask questions!

Firstly, try and work out which style you like. What kind of images are more appealing to you?

Perhaps go off some recommendations and check out their work or do a google search. Maybe you met at an expo and loved what you saw. Keep in mind what you see on the internet is a low resolution image. An iPhone photo can look decent when viewing them on a screen and even better when the screen is 4.5 inches. Why am I saying this? Because it’s not really a clear indication of the gear the photographer is using – more on that later. However the image will give you a good understanding of their shooting and editing style. I’m going to touch on editing – this is a huge one. Year’s ago when it was film , the variance in each photo was due to colour cast, or the paper it was printed on, most of the control was how it was shot in camera, these days it varies because of the editing techniques used. Right now, photographers are more creative than ever and have their own editing styles which makes them more unique however some can still look quite similar to each other. You might be drawn to a particular photographer and not sure why. It’s not just their shooting, it’s how they’ve edited the image. Some are more dark and moody, some are light and airy (you could say I fall into this category), some others that I have heard the term ‘hipster’ be used,  which basically means the natural colours in the image are altered, more browns and orange tones dominate. Some turn blue skies white, and the greens can become black. I will reiterate – there is NO RIGHT OR WRONG! It’s an artistic expression and you have to find which one appeals to you. But you also have to consider that if you are choosing particular colours on your day, and the images don’t reflect this – you need to be ok with that. Here is an example below. The first is the RAW image – no editing – straight out of camera. The next one is using more brown tones and the last one is my edit. If a photographer has a particular style, lets say they are hipster – all your photos will need to be edited like this otherwise they are inconsistent and that would just be weird. Have a look at instagram’s, you can get a pretty good idea of the editing style.

These of course aren’t the only way to edit – it’s just to give you an idea of the variance in editing and trends but it sure goes to show how different the same image can look!

Once you have established what you prefer – I’d say make a list of possible photographers who’s work you like. Check out their blogs, look at many images from the one wedding if it’s available. Maybe ask the photographer to show you a link of one whole wedding. Look at how they shoot – is there a mixture of close up and wide angle? This might not seem important but it will give you a good idea of the equipment they use. For instance – when I shoot a ceremony outdoors and I have the luxury of space – I refuse to distract my couple as they are saying their vows. This is an important moment and if you have a great zoom there’s no need to be to up close and personal. Example below. 

Something else to consider….

Some photographers call themselves natural light photographers – totally fine. I work with the available light for I’d say 90% of the wedding day up until I get to the reception where I’m indoors and the available light is much less, especially as it gets dark. However, some photographers do not use artificial light at all no matter what the lighting scenario. For me, I’d be having an internal meltdown if I didn’t have access to artificial light. Let me explain. Learning flash can be hard – I am not one for measurements and ratio’s – I hated maths at school, however I do know how to adjust my camera and or flash settings to get a particular result. I often have to do some ‘test’ shots before I get my exposure correct and I’m not afraid to do that. Let me put it this way – if you wanted a particular shot and I’ll give you an example – sunsets. Lots of couples expect sunset shots if time and location permits. The below was shot with 2 flash’s..the one on my camera did not fire but it told the one that was on the tripod to fire. If your photographer does not use flash – you may be limited to a silhouette shot… again…. not being critical….. silhouettes are lovely….. just offering some education. You could definitely get away with being a natural light photographer only if you shot in situations where you had full control over the light. So for instance, if a photographer is a portrait photographer using only natural light, they are going to do their sessions where this is available – they may have a studio filled with natural light or they shoot at times where the sun is available. In my honest opinion, I think every wedding photographer should know how to use a flash. If a natural light photographer is shooting in a barn, or a room with timber walls and ceilings, lit by candles, this is very dark. The setting on the camera called the ISO has to be bumped up very high to make the camera sensor more sensitive to light. By bumping up the ISO at a high setting – this results in extremely grainy images and it is very unflattering to photograph people this way – think black hole eye sockets. However by using a good flash and some kind of a diffuser, the ISO is lower, you can obtain well lit exposures and a diffuser will soften the flash resulting in a more natural look. I think you could put this to experience. You could ask your photographer this question, however if you’re viewing their work and can see photos taken in a reception, you can generally tell. 

I once had a potential bride ask me a list of questions and one of them was ‘do I use flash’ – she seemed disappointed when I  said ‘yes I do when required’ – she didn’t book me. Maybe she had seen some awful flash images or maybe she did want super grainy images. 

Now get in contact with photographers, ask for their availability and by this time you will want to know how much they cost right? 

Most photographers have many avenues of getting in contact – contact forms on their websites, facebook pages, instagram, phone numbers. I know for me, responding to an enquiry as soon as I can is the utmost importance. We live in a world where we want information instantly – I’m one of those people!

Let’s talk prices – you may have contacted 3 photographers with similar styles and their prices all vary dramatically! Ahhh… is it your instinct to go with the cheapest? Unfortunately many people do this and one of the main reasons I miss the boat. The couple haven’t even met me, they’ve based my worth on someone else’s prices. When I started this business, my mission statement was to offer high quality photography at a reasonable cost. I’ve worked out my running business expenses and keep in mind this varies for everyone, and the amount I’m happy to work for per hour, however I’m aware that a lot of the time I do work for free and this is how it is with small business. I’ve also invested time and money in training.  There is a massive misconception that photographers charge way too much! This bothers us immensely or me anyway. Shooting the wedding is the quick part. If you break it down exactly how many hours go into one wedding – you would see our hourly wage is pretty standard. 

Now we’ve spoken a little on prices – let me tell you why they can vary so much and I guess this is where the full time professional wedding photographer as apposed to the hobbyist comes in. I’m going to start with gear. 

Even if you paid someone $1000 to take your wedding photos, you need to be ok with the fact that if something went wrong, there is a high risk of not receiving your photos. So lets say you hired someone who owned a decent camera and say 2 lenses. I think it’s safe to say if you’re paying $1000 – that photographer is simply not charging enough for their time and also would NOT be covering back up equipment, running costs such as websites, software subscriptions, business insurance, gear updates, paying tax, and honestly I could list so much more. I will say this – camera’s fail – I have 3 camera bodies that I take to every wedding. It’s ok to ask a potential photographer how many camera’s they take to your wedding. If it’s one and it fails – show’s over. Imagine that.  The same with lenses, they fail and they have on me at weddings. Back ups are essential. BUT EVERYONE HAS TO START SOMEWHERE! If you’re fully aware that this person is starting out – then go ahead! As I said at the beginning, we all started somewhere and we need the couples who aren’t expecting too much to give us a red hot go! 

Something to check when enquiring with photographers and don’t feel silly for asking – this is a REASONABLE question! 

Does their camera have dual card slots? For me – this is an absolute MUST!

Higher end cameras have dual card slots. What does this mean? It means that each image is recorded to two cards. Just like any electronic equipment, cards FAIL! They get damaged and they become ‘corrupt’. We have the ability to buy cards that are 512 GB! HUGE! We can now basically shoot a whole wedding on one card. Now what happens if that card fails or becomes corrupted? All your images are lost! By recording to two cards, there is a back up copy of the image. 

So if you value your photography – put in the effort – do a bit of research. Ask questions. So important. And when you do send an enquiry pay attention to the efficiency of their response. Did they take a week to get back to your initial enquiry? Or did they value your enquiry and respond quickly? Did they follow up? Are they well out of your budget? Tell them – maybe they can tailor something to suit you. If possible meet with them, this will make the decision sooo much easier and you can view albums in print. You must like each other. Did they put you at ease or did you feel their personality was not for you? Meeting is not always an option, that’s fine – maybe you love their work and have been following their photography career for years, chat on the phone, chat through messenger, text, whatever – photography is not just press a button – yes the knowledge of the technicals need to be there, but hey if I can’t make you smile or laugh – what are your photos going to look like??? You know what photographers really don’t like – is made to feel like just the hired help – we know we are there to do a job – but we also want to feel that we are a bit more than that to you. We want to feel like we’re your friends. 

So if you’ve gotten this far – you’ve done well! Thanks for reading. I could go on and on about this topic. So a recap. 

Work out your preferred photographic style

Ask questions – are they a full time pro photographer with back up gear, ask how many weddings they’ve shot. If you’re hiring someone starting out – still ask if they have a back up camera and more than one lens. Be aware that things do go wrong – even for professionals – it’s just a lower risk as they have more gear. It’s ok to hire someone who is starting out, just don’t have high expectations. 

All reputable businesses should be registered, have liability insurance and a set of terms and conditions. You have every right to ask this. You can also do an online ABN search. 

Connect! Meet them! Your photos are not going to look any good if you think your photographer is a total jerk but if you sincerely like and trust them – the results are genuine and beautiful.