Are you newly engaged and starting to plan your wedding day? This is for you!
For a lot of you, wedding planning is a whole new experience. You don't really have a clue what you're doing and at times, it can feel pretty overwhelming. Well the good news is there's a whole load of resources out there to help you on your planning journey but to make it EVEN easier, here's a top tips guide for how to find the right photographer for YOU.
1. Time is of the essence
You should be booking your photographer as soon as you've secured your venue. So roughly 12-18 months before your wedding date. This may seem pretty early but trust me photographer's book up quickly, especially for what we call, prime dates. These are usually weekend's in the summer and autumn months. If you're opting for a mid-week wedding, it's much more likely you'll have more choice but never leave it too long. Most photographer's set a cut off point for a set number of weddings per year, so even if you have chosen an off-peak date, if you leave it too long they may have hit their wedding limit for that year.
What you can do is whilst you're looking at venues, start pulling together a list of photographer's you like, then once your date is confirmed, fire out those enquiry submissions as soon as you can. I literally did it the day I booked my venue!
2. Consider what styles you like
A huge part of what sets photographer's apart is their editing style. This is the tone, colours and composition they use when editing an image. Please also be aware, a
a photographer will never change their style to suit a couple's personal choices. That would be a little bit like asking a baker to cook you a curry! It's just not done. ;)
If you're not sure what 'styles' are, start by heading over to Pinterest. Pin any wedding photos you like onto a board and start looking through them as a collective, you'll start to notice there are similarities between the photos you like. These could be 'bright and airy' images, 'editorial', 'dark and moody', 'rich and colourful' or perhaps more unedited and true to life. Next up, you'll want to look at the style of portraits you like. Are they pretty traditional stand and smile photos where the couple are stood face on looking to camera? Are the images much more documentary style (i.e. couples chatting to guests or walking around)? Are the images more romantic, with the couple kissing or leaning in close to each other? These portraits styles are all distinctive to the photographer, as well as their editing style.
Once you know what editing style you like, and what posing style you like, now it's time to get hunting for a photographer who's perfect for you and has the style you're after.
3. Do I need to shop local?
Most photographer's will travel for weddings, so never feel limited to just your region. Most tend to set a limit of 100 miles (or 2 hours travel) for a wedding day. It's worth doing a quick Google between where your wedding venue is, and where the photographer is based to see how far away they are. If you are further than 100 miles, it's likely your photographer will charge accommodation (nothing fancy, probably the cost of a Premiere Inn) and the additional mileage it takes to get to you.
A wedding day tends to be 10 hours of work for a photographer, and 2-4 hours of travelling on top of that to get to and from your venue. That's a long day. So if your venue is further than 100 miles, it's likely they won't get home until the early hours of the morning before having to then back up all your images. That's pretty intense and kinda dangerous to travel that distance at night when you're very tired. Hence why a lot of photographer's charge accommodation for weddings further away so they can safely drive home the following day and back up your images ready for sneak peeks at the hotel.
If you can't afford to pay the additional mileage and accommodation, you can choose to find a photographer who lives closer to your venue. Just be sure you aren't compromising on quality. Never pick a photographer just because they're closer, you have to completely adore their work and who they are too.
4. Budgeting for a photographer
Your wedding photos will be the only thing you get to keep from your wedding day. The food will be eaten, the flowers will dry and the guests will head home. This is why photographer's should be such a high priority on your list when it comes to budget. I spent more on my photographer than any other supplier, I actually cut back on a lot of my floral and entertainment budget so I could have the one I wanted. Why? Because I knew having a good photographer would mean I'd have my wedding captured in a beautiful way and I totally trusted them because I loved every photo they'd shared on their portfolio.
The key advice I give all my prospective couples, is to never select a photographer just because they're cheap. Look at their portfolio, would you be happy to be posed in the way they've posed others, would you happily display their images all over your wall? Do their photos make you go 'wow' I want my photos to look like that? That should be your FIRST consideration when looking through photographer's, THEN you consider pricing.
I completely understand every wedding has a budget though, and some photographer's may be well outside of yours, but do make sure you pick a photographer who's work speaks to you and your tastes. Those photos will be your prized possessions and be passed down to future generations, you don't get a redo so choose wisely.
5. It's personal
When choosing a photographer, you need to consider 3 things above all else. Their style, their level of service and their personality. Those are the non-negotiables, those are the things you need to get right. This is why I always suggest couples book a Zoom call with photographer's they're interested in before they book. This person will be spending more time with you on your wedding day than your partner will. They will be up close and personal with your friends and family on one of the biggest days of your life. If you don't feel totally comfortable with them, if you can't have a laugh and chat about anything and everything, that's what you'll remember.
"Oh the photos were good but the photographer was a bit wierd ..."
Every time you look at your wedding photos, you'll remember the person who took them and how they made you feel. If the chemistry isn't there, it will taint your photos. So get to know the photographer's you like the look of, I really recommend stalking them on Instagram stories too, it's a great way to see more of their personality and what they get up to.
6. Level of service
For most couples, they want their wedding planning to be an experience. That ultimately comes down to the relationships they build with their suppliers. You're going to be chatting to these people for potentially 2 years, so you want to know they're on their A game. That they are invested in you and want to work with you to create the dream wedding. This all starts from enquiry.
Some red flags might be:
- They take ages to respond to your enquiry (this is when they should be putting their best foot forward)
- They don't seem very organised (a photographer needs to be constantly working to a schedule on your wedding day, making sure they're in the right place at the right time, you need someone who's on the ball)
- They're not getting to know you (have they taken the time to properly read your enquiry and your wishes and questions)
- Do they have the right tools in place (a well oiled booking system, do they have a back-up plan for if something goes wrong, are they offering guides and advice)
Then of course, there's all the nice bits. Especially if you're paying top dollar for your wedding photographer, you are correct to expect a high level of service. Are they checking in with you? How are they preparing you for your wedding day and getting the most out of your photographer? All these little things help make the experience a great one.
7. Read the reviews, look at the comments
Reviews should be your first point of call when looking at photographers. A lot of us have 'reviews' highlights on Instagram with screenshotted feedback from couples, or you can also look on Google at their reviews, just type in the Photographer's brand name. These are real life comments from real couples who have worked with that photographer. Learn about their experiences with them and how they made the couple's feel. Also look at the comments left on Photographer's images online, what are people saying about them? It's so lovely when you can see that Photographer has made a community, when you can see old couple's of theirs still engaging with their content. That's true relationship.
8. Do they give you the feels?
Ultimately once you know you like a photographer's style it really does come down to how they make you feel. This is where the meet and greet Zoom call comes in. This call is really about getting to know each other, seeing if the chemistry is there and if the goals and wishes of both parties align. It's also a great chance for the photographer to go through any questions you have or any insecurities you may surrounding photography and putting your mind at rest.
I'm a firm believer in gut instinct. You'll either come off that call going 'they're the one!' or you'll be a bit unsure. It certainly feels that way from the photographer's perspective aswell! Photography is a hugely personal thing, no two couples are ever the same and it really does come down to your personal taste and chemistry.
You've got this!
The more you can tell the photographer about you in their enquiry form, the better. This helps them to understand a bit more about you and if, on first impressions, you'd be a perfect fit. So never hold back on giving as much information as possible, ask all the questions so you can talk through them on Zoom. The more you put into this process, the more you'll get out of it.