Your questions about wedding photography answered…….
Your wedding album will be a precious item that is kept and treasured long after your wedding day is over. It will convey the romance, emotion and humour of the occasion and is an important chronicle in your family’s history. Needless to say you will want to commission a highly qualified professional for the task. You only have one chance to get it right, so read on for all the information you need to help you select the best photographer for the most important day of your life.
Q…WHERE DO WE START ?
A…Establishing open communications with your photographer is important because your photographer is an important part of the day. In some cases he or she will be with you for a longer period than most of your guests. The best photographers do more than simply take photographs. They help with planning, timing and even with the fine details and on top of this they capture beautiful images. It is important to have a basic understanding of the industry and business practices before embarking on the search for a professional wedding photographer. The following information provides a behind-the-scenes understanding, and should be used as a guide to help you select your photographer.
Q…HOW MUCH SHOULD WE BUDGET FOR ?
A…When starting out it is difficult to know how much wedding photography costs, because photographers are not prone to advertising their prices. Some photographers will quote a starting price to include a budget priced album with more exclusive albums to be charged as an optional extra. Other photographers quote the full package price and use only top quality products. Every wedding is unique, as is every couple. Generally, the prices between different photographers reflect their qualifications, experience, skill and creative style. The quality of the overall product and the level of service will also vary with price and again generally like many services, you get what you pay for. So the more you are prepared to pay, the greater the quality of photography and professionalism.
Most qualified photographers will start at around £1500. Many will include up to 40 or 50 images and in most cases and if the photographer has done the job properly, this amount can be too low to tell the full story of your day. Of course this can depend upon the style of the photographer but a more realistic collection should contain at least 80-100 images. For the best albums containing a comprehensive coverage of the day you should expect to pay considerably more. A decision to employ a photographer based purely on price and not skill can end in heartbreak when you have very few quality images to choose form. You invest a lot of money on a wedding day and the photography is the one thing that you will have forever to bring back the wonderful memories of your wedding day! In years to come when you look through your wedding album it will be the quality of the photography you remember, not the cost.
Q…WHY DOES WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY COST THIS MUCH ?
A…Wedding photography costs have increased quite dramatically in the last 10 years and there are many factors to take into account for this increase. More demanding/ discerning couples is a key factor. Their desire to have the whole day recorded means that a photographer is now only able to cover one wedding per day as apposed to days gone by when three or four weddings could be covered. Many more photographs are included into even the starting packages and this has lead to larger more expensive albums and materials being used. The increase of digital capture has meant that all the post production work is now the responsibility of the photographer and this too has resulted in far higher labour costs. For your photographers the wedding day itself is the fun part of the process. The real work starts after the wedding day is over with many days or weeks of post production and album design to get through. It is important to remember that you are paying for the value of the photographer’s style, experience, qualifications, creativity and expertise, and not just for time, materials and overheads.
Q…HOW DO WE CHOOSE?
A…A referral from family or friends is a good starting point. You can also browse through magazines like County Brides. Bridal fayres are a great way to have a face to face meeting with wedding suppliers and also consider contacting one of the professional organizations for qualified photographers, making sure that you only ask for photographers who’s qualifications are linked directly to wedding photography, not pets, landscape or commercial etc. as wedding photography is a very specialised area. Your wedding venue can help in this area too, they may have a list of preferred photographers but remember to do your own research too because at some venues this list can be made up of suppliers who are recommended only because they pay a percentage of their earnings back to the venue and it may not always necessarily be due to the quality of their work.
Choose just two or three photographers who’s work you admire. Picking more can lead to real confusion. Many studios are now single operators meaning there is only one photographer or perhaps a husband and wife team. Some have more than one photographer and some are more high volume. If you go along to a studio insist on seeing only the work of the person who will be photographing your wedding day. You should ask to see complete wedding albums that not only show stunning photographs of the bride and groom but also the more traditional family groupings. It’s not uncommon for some couples to feel reluctant to have these more posed photographs taken but when it’s pointed out to them that the wedding might be one of only a few opportunities to have a photograph of all the family together it’s very important that you can see how the photographer handles it.
The best way to establish a photographers credentials is to meet with them. This can mean a certain amount of travelling because your favoured photographer could live outside of your locality. The best photographers are in demand all over the country and are prepared to travel so it’s definitely worth putting in a little effort to go and meet them. Many will be a happy to arrange evening appointments as the weekends are usually very busy with their wedding commitments.
Q…ALL PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE QUALIFIED AREN’T THEY?
A…No ! In this industry anyone can set themselves up as a wedding photographer. No qualifications are needed and in recent years a huge increase in the number of part time wedding photographers with no formal training or qualifications has made the choosing of a professional something of a minefield. For anyone with any knowledge of photography it’s very easy to distinguish between the work of a professional and someone with no training or experience, but for a bride and groom who know only that they want the best for their special day there is a little more research to be done.
Ask about their professional status and whether they hold any industry recognized qualifications or certificates . If awards are mentioned, have they been issued for single prints or for albums as a whole? It’s then for you to decide if you feel an award for a single print is as important as an award for a complete album. All reputable professional photographers will hold personal liability and professional indemnity insurance certificates in case of unforeseen circumstances. It’s a question well worth asking!
Q…WHY SHOULD I BOTHER EMPLOYING A PHOTOGRAPHER WHEN MY UNCLE HENRY HAS A GREAT CAMERA
A…Although a friend or family member may be a very good amateur photographer with the best of intensions it’s unlikely that they will have the experience, equipment or the knowledge that a professional does. Quality wedding photography does not just happen by chance. It is created by a specialist with a creative eye and a genuine love of the wedding photography business. You photographer will coordinate the flow of the day. He or she has to know all the types of shots that need to be taken, how to achieve this in variable weather conditions and sometimes under difficult time constraints. When you make a decision to dismiss the use of a professional photographer on financial grounds or in favour of a well meaning relative you have got to be happy to factor in a high risk of your wedding day photo’s being substandard.
Q…WHEN SHOULD I BOOK MY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER?
A…It is a good idea to book your wedding photographer almost as soon as you have booked your wedding date. The best photographers get booked up just as quickly as the best wedding venues. It is common to book 12 to 18 months (or longer) in advance. The wedding season really kicks in from May to October and Saturdays are highly sought after. Remember, It is worth booking well in advance to secure the services of the photographer you want. If you don’t it’s highly likely that someone else will.
Q…SHOULD WE SIGN A CONTRACT WITH OUR PHOTOGRAPHER?
A…Most definitely yes! This is your assurance that the photographer will honour their commitment to you and your commitment that the wedding will go ahead on the specified date. Once you have paid a deposit that date is then yours and the photographer is duty bound to turn away all future enquiries for the same date (sole operator only) The contract is a formal agreement for both parties which should contain no nasty surprises therefore there should be no reason not to sign. If there is anything that you are unsure about, don’t book !
Q…WHY DO WE HAVE TO PAY UP FRONT?
A…It is normal practice for your photographer to ask for a deposit, and the rest of the money before your actual wedding. The booking deposit can be up to 50% of the total cost. This can seem quite high but you should think of it as a payment to ensure you have the exclusive rights to your photographer for your chosen day and they are working for you from the moment your deposit is paid.
Payment in full is your photographers insurance. As mentioned earlier your photographer is turning work away for your wedding day long after you have booked.
If for example a couple decide not to go ahead with their marriage just 2 weeks before the date is set (which is not unheard of) the photographer has no chance of securing a replacement booking at such late notice.
Q…WHAT HAPPENS AFTER WE BOOK?
A…You should receive confirmation in the way of a receipt for your payment.
If there arise any circumstances that you think might affect the photography you should ensure that you offer the information before the wedding day.
Most professional photographers like to meet the couple during the final few days in the run up to the wedding day. It’s at this meeting that all the finer details can be discussed and if a pre-wedding photo shoot is included in the package this is the perfect time to do it. A skilled photographer will use this opportunity to get to know the couple on a much more personal level in the knowledge that after the meeting the couple will feel even more relaxed in front of the camera on the wedding day.
Q…ON THE BIG DAY HOW MUCH TIME SHOULD WE SET ASIDE FOR PHOTOGRAPHY?
A…All weddings are different and there are many things to take into account like the size of your bridal party and family, length of service, travel time and any locations that you are planning to use. Don’t be unrealistic. Consult with your photographer at a very early stage and expect to allow at least one and a half to two hours free photography time (excluding travelling) after the service.
Q…BUT WE HATE POSING FOR PHOTOGRAPHS!
A…A more relaxed, candid style of photography has become increasingly more popular in recent times and when captured skilfully the results are truly amazing !
However there is a misconception that a wedding can be successfully photographed totally candidly. Good lighting is the key to beautiful photography. If you are lucky enough to have bright sunny weather for your wedding day and your photographer doesn’t understand how to use light, your photographs could be very disappointing.
Before your wedding day starts, a good photographer will have already worked out in advance what situations the light will work best in and you should be happy to cooperate and allow yourself to be comfortably directed into those areas. Many photographs are captured spontaneously but a good number will also require you to be skilfully posed to make you look relaxed and to introduce a bit of the ‘WOW FACTOR’ into you album. It is almost impossible to have both the bride and groom and all of their family and bridal party come together in a candid situation and have them all look good at the same time. If you cooperate with your photographer this can become a possibility. That is the skill of a professional photographer and this is what you should look for. It is also what you are paying for.
Q…WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THE WEDDING?
A…The post production process differs with each photographer.
Some will hand over the proofs from the day and ask you to come back to them with a list of the photographs that you wish to have included into your album. This is the more traditional method. However, in recent years album design has become much more complex and some photographers like to offer a complete design service whilst at the same time offering the couple the opportunity to fine tune the choice before the album goes to print. This second method can cut out many hours of deliberating over which photographs to include. Your photographer does all the hard work for you and you still have final approval. During the wedding day the more creative photographers will be capturing images with one eye on exactly where they can sit in the album so to not allow them the creativity to see the job through to the design stage might take something away from the final product. Why employ a professional only to then have to do half the work yourself ?
Q…WHO KEEPS THE DIGITALFILES/NEGATIVES ?
A…Quality professionals take pride in the finished product and also know the value of their work in regard to after sales. Reprints have always made up a certain percentage of a professional wedding photographers income and many will refuse point blank to release the copyright. However times are changing and some photographers are now prepared to sell the license to print. Others are starting to incorporate the digital copyright into their package prices. This is a rather grey area at the moment whereby the customer emphasis has drifted towards having the copyright of all the wedding day images, whether they be good quality or bad over and above having a beautiful, creative wedding album. Be careful ! If having the digital negatives from your wedding day is a high priority make sure you choose a photographer who offers this service but can also deliver professional quality images and not just snapshots…..leave that to your guests.
Q…WHAT IF I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH MY PHOTOGRAPHER?
A…If you do encounter a problem try to discuss this calmly with the photographer or the studio. If you feel your problem has not been rectified, then put your concerns in writing. If you still can’t find a solution and your photographer is a member of a professional body such as the Master Photographers Association ( MPA / Full Time Professional Photographers) or the Society of Wedding & Portrait Photographers
( SWPP) you should contact them. They will in turn contact the photographer to try to iron out the problem by acting as a mediator and by viewing the work if you feel it is of a low quality. If the photographer does not hold membership of one of these bodies you still have the option of contacting the Citizens Advice Bureau or the Small Claims Court but by choosing a qualified professional wedding photographer you are unlikely to encounter any problems.
Article written by Lesley & Shaun Meredith
Lesley Meredith Photography