Once your big day has come and gone, your wedding photos become one of your most precious keepsakes. You’ll be able to relive the amazing moments for the rest of your life as you flick through the pages of your wedding album – not to mention show your kids the day Mummy and Daddy got hitched!
For these reasons, choosing the right photographer is extremely important. This is not the time to cut corners. Have a professional, experienced wedding photographer take your once-in-a-lifetime pictures.
With that in mind, your first priority should be finding a photographer who will complement your sense of style as well as your photographic needs. You should also feel comfortable with this person. After all, you’ll be sharing many of your private moments as well as the highlights of your wedding day with them.
Visit "Like Your Photographer" for more on this.
- Selecting a Photographer
- Questions to Ask When Choosing a Photographer
- Costs Involved
- The Contract
- Fun Ideas
Selecting a Photographer
Wedding photographers have varied styles and different ways of operating. Most will view your event as a series of staged photo opportunities and follow a specific checklist of photos. The benefit of using a “shot list” is that you can assume you will get every picture you request. However, rigidity is the downside of this style of photography. Subjects will always be aware of the camera, so “say-cheese smiles” will be abundant. If using a checklist is not your style, search for photographers who approach weddings with the eye of a photojournalist. They will shoot events as they happen instead of trying to pose participants. This style will certainly produce more natural pictures, but the risk is that you may miss out on some “traditional” photos. Many couples try to find a photographer who can blend the two techniques and capture the best of both.
Note the following when evaluating a photographer’s work:
- Style. Does the work exhibit a range of styles? Can you see your wedding being photographed in the same way?
- Clarity. Are details clearly defined? Is the focus crisp?
- Color. Do skin tones appear natural? Do the colors have depth?
- Black and white. Is the contrast strong? Do the photos evoke an emotional response?
- Composition. Are the images balanced and well cropped? Do the photos make good use of space and shadow?
- Underexposure. Are details lost in dark or shadowed areas?
- Overexposure. Pay special attention to photos featuring wedding gowns or cakes. Can you distinguish details in the lighter areas?
Questions to Ask When Choosing a Photographer
Are you the person who will be photographing the wedding?
Don’t assume that the photographer you’re speaking with will be the person who shoots your wedding. Insist on meeting the actual photographer and have them show you examples of their work. You’ll also need to have the exact name of the photographer in the contract. If you don’t, a studio might send any available photographer whose work perhaps isn’t as good as the person you met with.
How long have you been photographing weddings?
An inexperienced but talented wedding photographer can still shoot dazzling photos. But beware, they may also make serious errors in judgment. You might save some money, but are you comfortable with the risk?
How many of your pictures are posed and how many are candids (spontaneous)?
The answer will give you an indication of the photographer’s predominant style and philosophy. Look closely at their portfolio.
Are you familiar with my wedding and reception sites?
Photographers should be aware of any restrictions or special lighting requirements. If they are not, they should be willing to visit the site ahead of time. And be sure to check with your wedding officiant or the management of your sites to determine if there are any special restrictions on photography. If there are, make sure your photographer knows about them.
Can you give me a price range for an event of this size?
Determine if this person will work within your budget. Of course, if you like them enough you may just decide to increase your budget in order to hire them.
How many photos will be taken?
The more images you have to choose from, the better your final album is likely to be. During the average wedding and reception, photographers usually take anywhere from 150 to 300 photos. The number varies according to the size of the wedding and the length of the reception. Most photography sessions begin one to two hours before the ceremony and continue through to the end of the reception.
Do you release printing rights?
There’s often some confusion between printing rights and copyright. No photographer will give up copyright as they want to retain control of their work, but many are happy to provide the printing rights, which means that couples are free to print their own images and share them online – as long as it’s solely for personal use. Some photographers, however, refuse printing rights (one reason being financial, another because they don’t want the quality of their prints to be compromised). Check with your photographer what their policy is.
Do you carry back-up equipment?
A good photographer should always have back-up equipment on-site. You can’t stop the ceremony while the photographer gets a new camera.
When can I expect final delivery?
Depending on how busy your photographer is, you could be waiting months! Go ahead and ask how long it will take to get your proofs… your bridal portrait… your finished albums. You may want to factor delivery time into your selection process.
When do I make the deposit and pay off the balance?
It’s important to get a breakdown of all costs – in writing – ahead of time. You need to know what is owed and what additional charges and restrictions there might be. Be aware that most deposits are non-refundable and that there may be additional charges for any overtime work.
When do you shoot portraits?
Many traditional photographers like to shoot wedding portraits before the ceremony. This allows plenty of time for posing, but will also mean that the bride and groom will see each other before the ceremony – and some believe this is bad luck. Another option is to shoot all portraits except the ones with the bride and groom together prior to the ceremony. Poses including the couple can be taken afterwards.
Do you shoot in black and white or in color?
Some people prefer a retro look using all black and white photography. Others feel that nothing but living color will do. Many couples choose to have some of both. Be sure to discuss these options with your photographer.
Do you offer all photo finishes?
The photo finish will affect the overall feel of the finished picture. The most popular finishes are glossy, matte and luster.
Package deals usually include a set number of prints placed in an album. Get a complete listing of the photographer’s package rates as well as any “a la carte” prices. Photography will be a major part of your wedding budget. Many couples spend from 10-20% on their photos. How much you spend will depend on your photographer’s rates and the level of services you will need. Basic packages usually start around $1,000, but can easily run much higher. You’re paying for the photographer’s time, printing of your pictures and the finished album.
A bridal portrait is a formal portrait of the bride in her wedding gown. These portraits are usually taken at an indoor studio or on location several weeks before the wedding. An engagement portrait is a less formal picture of the happy couple. This portrait is often used to announce your engagement in the local paper. Portrait expenses will include a sitting fee and the selected number of prints made. Sitting fees usually start around $50. Fees will vary depending on the area, your photographer’s rates and the print size you choose. Expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $500, or more, for your formal portraits. For other photo sessions you might be interested in, visit "Photo Sessions Explained".
The number of albums you purchase (as well as their quality) will determine much of your photography budget. Most photographers offer a wide selection of albums including top lines such as Art Leather, Leather Craftsman and Capri. Be sure to specify the exact type and brand of albums you want in your contract. Many experts say you can expect to spend as much as $2,500, but you could easily double or even triple that amount with multiple orders. You could also pay considerably less, depending on what you choose. Couples often purchase “parents’ albums” that they give each set of parents as a gift. They usually contain about 20 photos that have been carefully selected to represent each family.
Photographs that are posed will make up a large proportion of your wedding album. It’s a good idea to give the photographer a “shot list” so you can be confident that they are capturing everything you want captured.
The candids are usually taken at the wedding and reception and are assembled into the main album. They may also be used to assemble gift albums for parents and wedding party members. Gift albums are often considered “extras” and will not be covered by many package deals. As always, get all prices and additional fees in writing.
A good contract serves as your guarantee that you will receive the service, products and prices that you’ve been promised. There is no such thing as a standard contract. So be prepared to read yours carefully. And don’t be afraid to ask questions! If anything goes wrong, this will be your only recourse legally. Make sure the contract covers everything that you and the photographer have agreed on, and that you feel comfortable before signing it.
All photography contracts should include:
- Time and date of the wedding/photo shoots. Some photos of the couple are often taken before the ceremony. Here’s why.
- Estimated hours of work and any provisions for overtime
- Estimated cost of processing
- Payment schedule
- Contingency clause to cover emergencies such as a sick photographer or equipment failure
- Estimated cost of future reprints
- Special requests and fees
- Minimum number of proofs and their delivery date
- Number, sizes and prices of portraits
- Number and sizes of additional prints
- Type and number of albums
- Guarantees and liabilities
- Name(s) of any assistants
- Photographer’s name, contact information and signature
Remember the days when you used to cram your friends into a photo booth and everyone made the most ridiculous faces they could? Well, many couples are recreating those fun, silly times at their wedding – sometimes with added props such as fake mustaches, huge glasses and crazy wigs. If you can’t afford to rent a photo booth, you could always create one using a backdrop of patterned fabric or a curtain and a camera set up so that your guests can take timed photos.
Set up a couch/area where guests can be photographed with a Polaroid camera waiting on a nearby table. You’ll probably find that as the night wears on and more alcohol is consumed, you’ll have people lining up to be snapped!
Leave a disposable camera on each table so that guests can capture spontaneous moments in their “pocket” of the wedding. It’ll be super fun discovering the shenanigans everyone got up to when you print out the pictures.
Leave a few blank CDs on each table so that guests can take them home, burn the photos they took on their own digital cameras and send them to the couple. Personalize the CDs with a sticker/photo/the bride and groom’s initials at your will.
For an off-the-wall idea, visit: