So you have visited the various wedding blogs, read all the wedding magazines and are ready to make the decision on who you are going to choose to photograph your wedding. This is easy, right? All you have to do is visit a few websites or maybe go to a few wedding fayres, find someone whose photographs you like and if they are in your budget contact them and arrange to book. Seems like a simple enough process. But how do you know what you see is what you get? Is it really that simple?
We are going to share a few tips to help you find the wedding photographers that are right for you and your wedding. There are many ways to find someone to photograph your wedding and there is a huge amount of wedding photographers in Northern Ireland, and it can be difficult to choose between them.
SETTING YOUR BUDGET
If you read the wedding magazines and blog’s you will often see statements like:
- Your wedding photographer must cost a minimum of £XXXX
- You should budget 15% of your wedding budget for photography
- Blah, blah, blah….
Ignore this, it is your wedding not theirs, you should decide how much you spend on your wedding photography based on how important it is to you. Only you should make that decision. Setting a budget is important though as there is no point spending time looking at photographers who have a starting price of £2000 if you have a maximum budget of £1500 for photography and an album.
WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER ONLINE REVIEWS
In our opinion the best source of online reviews when you are trying to find a wedding photographer is Google’s own review system. Facebook as an alternative is largely flawed with many fake reviews and businesses can easily purchase fake reviews for Facebook. Google have very stringent guidelines that they work too when it comes to reviews and if a review looks suspicious at all they will remove it.
CHOOSING A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER BASED ON STYLE OF WORK
When you start to look for a wedding photographer you are going to come across a range of “buzzwords” used by photographers to define the style of how they work. Some of the most commonly used one’s are:
- Traditional – A traditional wedding photographer doesn’t capture candid moments. They usually concentrate on the key moments of the day, group shots and usually stick to the same set list of photographs for every wedding. This style involves a great deal of intervention from the photographer and a significant amount of time spent on the formal setup of each photograph.
- Contemporary – This style of wedding photography is inspired by editorial fashion photography. Although the photographer will set up a lot of the shots they will usually be less rigid than the traditional wedding photography style. Images are generally heavily edited in Photoshop.
- Reportage/Documentary – This is a more natural style of photography with the focus being on capturing your wedding in an unobtrusive way and producing more natural looking photographs that document your wedding day.
- Fine Art – The goal of fine art wedding photography is to render a work of art. The photographer will be heavily involved in setting up photographs taken. True fine art photography can be beautiful but very abstract. This is one of the most commonly misused “buzzwords” used by photographers to describe how they work at the moment.
In reality in most cases these “buzzwords” mean absolutely nothing. There isn’t that many photographers that work to one set style. The reason these “buzzwords” are used is mainly down to branding and how they want their brand to be perceived by prospective clients. These words are also used as significant keywords for Google search, which for a wedding photographer is extremely important in terms of marketing. For example, if you search “fine art wedding photographer Northern Ireland” on google it will return over 800,00 results. We had a quick look through the first 5 pages on Google before we got bored and none of the photographers listed, work to a set fine art style. However as this is an often searched for term photographers will describe themselves as being a fine art photographer even when they are not so that they show up on Google for this search term. The same applies for all of the buzzwords used. Most wedding photographers will use a mixture of styles.
Using ourselves as an example we mainly shoot in a documentary or reportage style we try and keep posed photographs to a minimum as we feel that style fits best with how we like to work and we also feel it’s a more relaxing and enjoyable experience for our clients. However, we do still shoot some loosely posed and set up photographs like when we are photographing the bridal party after the ceremony. When you are choosing your wedding photographer based on a style of work it is vital that you actually look at the work rather than relying on the description of their style provided by the photographer as the description and the reality can often be very different.
WHY DO SOME PHOTOGRAPHERS DISPLAY THEIR PRICES AND OTHERS DON'T?
There are many reasons for this, we are members of many online photography communities and this is a subject often discussed by photographers, especially wedding photographers. While it may ruffle a few feathers with some of our colleagues we are going to be very upfront and honest here and explain some of the reasons why. We decided to display our prices on our website as it seemed an easy choice for us, it saves us from getting a stream of emails and phone calls everyday asking only about prices, although we still get quite a few. The reason for this is that most wedding photographers decide not to make prices easily available or only quote prices starting from, couples getting married are used to having to contact photographers for a quote. Some of the reasons for this are:
- Competition - Wedding photographers do not want other wedding photographers to know how much they charge as they are concerned that they will use this information to undercut their prices.
- The Venue matters! - Not displaying prices means that you can offer flexible prices. As an example a couple contacts a photographer to ask for prices. The photographer asks them where they are getting married and it’s a locally well known, premium venue that the photographer would like to work at. Couples are more likely to book a photographer who has already worked at the venue they have chosen. Photographers will always want to book weddings at high end venues as they will then be more likely to book weddings for those venue’s again. This gives the photographer the opportunity to offer a more competitive than normal price to secure the booking.
- The Date matters! - A couple contacts a photographer to ask about prices as they are not available on their website. Based on the date and how much other work the photographer has booked in he or she may offer a more competitive than normal price to secure the booking. The reverse is also true, the date falls on an extremely busy period this means the photographer can quote a more expensive price than normal as they do not necessarily need the booking. If the couple books at the more expensive than normal price great, if not it doesn’t matter they have already booked a lot of work for that month.
- Under counter offers and promotions – This is a sales tactic used by wedding photographers. A couple contacts them requesting a quotation. The photographer replies with a set list of prices but includes at the bottom of their price list a special promotional discount or an offer of some kind that is only available if you book before the end of that month or before a specific date. In reality the discounted rate was always the real price, but it adds a little pressure on the couple to book immediately.
- Portfolio building – Some wedding photographers are very busy. They will always book out every available date and this means that they can be very selective of which weddings they book and the prices they charge. As they are so busy they will check out prospective couples online before providing them with a quote. If it is an attractive couple they will offer their normal prices, if in their eyes the couple is not attractive or is getting married at a wedding venue they don’t want to associate themselves with they will provide a more expensive quote as they won’t want to use the images in their portfolio.
BEWARE THE FAUXTOGRAPHER
Fauxtographer is a term that was originally coined in America and is used to describe a photographer who doesn’t know what they are doing but portrays themselves as a professional or an expert when that isn’t the case. There are guys out there advertising themselves as wedding photographers who have never photographed a wedding other than as a guest. There are guys out there advertising themselves as a photographer who don’t know how to use even basic camera equipment and photograph everything in auto modes and hope for the best. It is harder than you might think to avoid these guys and girls. Most couples when booking a photographer for their wedding don’t know much about photography. They will base their choice on price and maybe a few images the photographer has chosen to show them. It used to be the case that it was easier to split the good from the bad. The fauxtographer’s didn’t have Facebook business pages or websites and it was obvious that photography was a part time pursuit for them but not anymore, now they do have websites and they do have Facebook pages with thousands of likes and reviews. Some important things to look for:
- Website – It’s fairly easy now to set up a basic website for not much cost. Companies like Wix offer a basic template based website for very little money that can be up in running as a fully functional website in under 30 minutes and looks reasonably professional. Having a website is no longer an indicator of how good, bad or indifferent your photographer is. The content on the site though is. Don’t just have a quick scan through images, look at them closely. Do all the images seem to be from one or two weddings? If so avoid, we have seen this locally ourselves recently. Someone advertising as a wedding photographer and claiming years of experience but only displaying images from one wedding. A close look at the images indicates that they were taken by a guest at the wedding rather than the photographer. In most of the images the couple and bridal party where not looking directly at the camera it was obvious that they were taken by either a wedding guest or someone working as an assistant to the real photographer.
- Facebook Business Page – There are literally thousands of Facebook business pages advertising wedding photography services in Northern Ireland. These should never be taken as any sort of indicator as to how many weddings a photographer has photographed or the quality of their work. They are simply too easily faked. You can purchase 10,000 likes for a Facebook business page online for £20. Reviews for business pages can also be purchased in the same way. It is a fairly common occurrence for guys just starting out to download images from other photographer’s websites and use them on their own websites and Facebook pages pretending that it is their own work. Before you make a decision on booking a photographer make sure you view several real weddings so that you can get a real idea of the type of work they produce.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER BEFORE YOU BOOK WITH THEM
- Do you have liability insurance and can I see a copy of your insurance documentation?
- Can you talk me through how you work during a normal wedding day?
- Do you have an online portfolio I can view that shows images taken throughout a wedding day?
- What packages do you offer and can they be personalised to our needs?
- Can we discuss in detail what we will be provided with after you have photographed our wedding?
- How long after the wedding will it be until we receive our Digital Images/Album?
- How much is your deposit and when does the balance need to be paid?
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF AFTER YOU HAVE SPOKEN WITH A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
- Do you feel a connection with the photographer as well as their photographs?
- Are you happy with the way the photographer communicates with you?
- Has the photographer listened to any concerns you may have had and answered all of your questions?
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Is price an indicator of the quality of work produced by a wedding photographer?
This is a difficult question to answer. In most cases yes more expensive will mean better as with most things you pay for what you get, but there are always exceptions to the rule. Running a wedding photography business legitimately has high costs. Like any other business a wedding photographer has overheads that must be paid. Income tax, national insurance, equipment, advertising, liability insurance, equipment insurance etc. it all adds up and those costs need to be covered. So if you see a photographer advertising wedding photography at a very cheap price there has to be a reason why. In some instances, they may be cutting costs somewhere, like operating without insurance or using inferior equipment. The reason the guys at the very top of their game can be so expensive is not always just down to providing better photography, but is also due to their level of experience, they have been there, done it and got the t-shirt and can cope with any situation that might happen at a wedding. Also on the flip side of the coin there are photographers out there with little skill level who are excellent at marketing their business via wedding fayres etc. and can book 50-60 weddings a year at high prices, but produce low quality images and deliver poor service. There are also guys out there offering really low prices because they are just starting out or because they only do photography part time and use their real job to subsidise their wedding business but can produce good work and offer a high level of service. So while yes price can be an indicator all of the other factors should be looked at as well. Do you like the photographer’s images? Are you happy that they can repeat the same level of work at your wedding? Are they someone you can easily get along with? Do you trust them to deliver what they say they will after your wedding?
When should I book our wedding photographer?
As soon as possible, like any of your wedding vendor’s dates can sometimes be booked a long time in advance. Don’t leave it too late to confirm a booking with your photographer just in case you miss out. We regularly get contacted by couples who are interested in booking with us and don’t hear from them again for some time. Then out of the blue they get in touch a few weeks or a month later but unfortunately in between times we have already booked the date with another couple.
Do all wedding photographers use real wedding photographs for advertising?
We only use images from real weddings, but not everyone does. Many wedding photographers use images from fake styled wedding shoots with models. Many also use images taken at workshops under instruction and in very controlled conditions. These can provide a wow factor but it can be difficult for them to replicate that same level of work at a real wedding. There is a big difference having all day to set up a couple of shots with a team of hair stylists, make-up artists etc. always at hand and having maybe 45 minutes for portraits with a bride and groom after their wedding ceremony. When looking at a photographers work on their website the best option is to ignore all of the images on the front page of the website and instead visit their blog and look for images from real weddings which show a complete range of photographs from a typical wedding day. If their blog posts from a real wedding only show a few images be dubious and request a full set of images from a wedding from them.
Should I ask to see a sample album?
Yes, absolutely. A sample album will at the very least allow you to view what you will get if you book a package that includes an album. However, always ask if the photographs in the sample album are their own and if the album was designed by them. Many album manufacturers supply free or heavily discounted sample albums for photographers to use to show potential clients and some of these use stock images rather than the photographer's own. Don’t only base your decision on if their work is a good fit for you from the images from a sample album.
Should I ask to meet the photographer before the wedding?
In our opinion yes. While arranging a wedding can be difficult and time consuming your wedding photographer is likely to be the only one of your wedding vendors that you are going to spend all day with. In an ideal world you want this to be someone that you are going to find it easy to get along with and enjoy spending your day with. It is going to be more difficult to be sure of this if you have not met them before the day of the wedding.
Do all wedding photographers provide the same thing in terms of product after the wedding?
A lot depends on which package option you choose when you book your photographer and is something you should discuss with them in detail. Using ourselves as an example we provide every client with a full resolution copy of all of the edited photographs. Some photographers only provide low resolution photographs not suitable for printing or photographs which are heavily watermarked. Depending on the photographer you may only be able to buy prints from them and copies of digital images which don’t have a watermark may involve additional cost. Always confirm what you will receive after your wedding, before you confirm your booking.
Please feel free to ask any further questions we haven't covered using the comments section below and we will do our best to answer them.