How to choose your wedding photographer

How important is great wedding photography to you? Your wedding day is a once in a life time experience that offers a fantastic opportunity for photographing friends and family, producing images that will wow and entertain not only you but also your children and grandchildren.  Speak to any bride and she’ll tell you that the day passed in a blur and when the champagne’s been drunk and the cake eaten your wedding photos are your lasting record to delight in.

Commissioning your wedding photographer is both an important and exciting step in planning your perfect wedding so as an experienced wedding photographer here’s my advice to ensure you get stunning pictures.

Where to start?

Most people will find their photographer through a recommendation or website and with so many websites to choose from, where do you start? Did you know you can read a lot between the lines of a wedding photographer's website? Do you like the design and operation? Do the people in the images look as if they’re enjoying being photographed? Most websites will feature a tightly edited selection of favourite best shots, so be sure to also view whole albums in person or complete online weddings to see how well the whole day has been captured. With a little bit of information and internet research, you can draw up a shortlist of photographers with which to meet and discuss your requirements.

Picture style

There are several genres of photographer to suit all tastes and budgets, the current trend (and my preferred style) being for documentary or photojournalistic photography – essentially one and the same thing (and sometimes even called reportage!!) This means several hundred natural and emotive pictures are taken, with a minimum of posing and intrusion on your day. This is not to say that a few relaxed and fun group pictures can’t be done if required – in this case choose a documentary photographer who is comfortable with handling people, is quick, efficient and enjoys the rapport with guests.

A more traditional and formal approach to photography is the other main option - useful if you want a photographer to control and orchestrate proceedings. Posing and looking to the camera is more the order of the day here. With the photographer in attendance for a much shorter duration of the day, prices are likely to be less than with the documentary approach, though of course there are more accomplished and therefore more costly photographers in both categories.

Since a photojournalistic photographer is likely to be with you from bridal preparations through to the evening dancing, be sure to choose someone whose company you enjoy!

Good chemistry

I often see photographs of weddings which may be technically perfect but seem to be lacking something; the pictures might look too posed or the smiles a little forced or tired. To get pictures full of genuine emotion and fun you need to have great chemistry with your photographer and enjoy working with them. After all, to get the right pictures for you, your wedding photographer will be with you at all the key moments throughout your day.

One idea to build a rapport with your photographer, gain confidence and discover just how easy it is to be photographed well is to organise a pre-wedding shoot.

Pre-Wedding photo shoot

This is a relaxed shoot of about an hour or so on location, some months before your wedding. There's no pressure - we can enjoy ourselves and also chat more about your wedding day. I like this approach as I get to see how couples work together, thus gaining an insightful edge for photographing them on the wedding day itself.

Film versus digital

A question I’m often asked – will I be shooting digitally? These days – yes, since I can then do any natural beauty re-touching, adjust tonal ranges for artistic effect, supply high resolution files on disc etc. It also makes it easy to publish a website gallery so friends and family can view your wedding pictures from anywhere in the world and even order and pay for prints online. I can also shoot as many photos as I want on the day without regard to film and processing costs. Of course, film is still a wonderful medium and if you like the image you’re looking at, it really doesn’t matter whether it was shot on film or digitally.

Location, location, location

It’s always worth talking to your photographer about how to plan your wedding photography to make the most of your chosen wedding venue. Some venues will be magnificent on a fine summer or spring day, whilst others come into their own on a moody winter’s day with log fires and intimate atmosphere. Consider also, should it rain, what possibilities are there for pictures if everyone stays indoors?

Rain or shine

It’s really not the end of the world if you don’t have the perfect summers day, you can have wonderful pictures on a rainy day too! If you’re happy and can laugh your way through adverse weather conditions, your guests will pick up on your vibe and follow suit. Plenty of award-winning images have been created in some of the delightful and unpredictable situations that can occur when nature has its way. Large windows for copious amounts of natural light, archways and beautiful interiors – all provide excellent and creative opportunities for photographs if it rains.

Album or picture CD?

A photographer can be something like a movie director in deciding how, what and when to shoot in order to create a great narrative. The way the picture layout is designed in an album can really make the story flow. A large full-page image followed by a collection of small images on the next, brings drama and energy to the viewing experience. Albums vary in style and quality to suit all tastes and budgets, though you may prefer the idea of having a CD of high resolution files so that you may make your own prints. This means you can make limitless quantities of prints at the best prices, but now quality control will be out of the hands of your photographer. Certainly discuss this alternative to an album with your photographer, though not all will offer the high resolution files as an option.

And finally...

Don’t forget to enjoy your wedding day to the full - after all the planning and preparation, this is your time to relax and celebrate your marriage. Not only will your pictures reflect this and the happiness of the day shine through in your photographs, but also and most importantly, you deserve it!

Article and images courtesy of Gary Swann Photography.

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