"I suppose it's a case of "If I knew then what I know now". My journey as a wedding photographer began with my very own wedding back in 2000. I've always been a keen photographer since getting my first camera at the age of 6. But wedding photography was a new concept and having only been to one wedding prior to our wedding, my wife to be and I were clueless. All we knew was we wanted the days events captured; guests arriving, the ceremony, the usual groups, people having fun and the finer details. In terms of looking for a photographer, well, we just went with the only photographer we knew in the local area. And that was our first mistake. We didn't research! Once we booked we didn't hear from or see our photographer until the day itself and despite telling him what we wanted we ended up standing for nearly an hour and a half having group shots done and come the album presentation 5 months later we realised that all that he had been captured was the groups. I cannot begin to describe how gut wrenching it is to realise that you have no lasting photographic account of the day other than what friends captured.
My friends, realising that I was a keen photographer and how disappointed I was with my wedding images then began asking me to capture their weddings. "Hey, I saw how heart broken you guys were with your wedding images. There is no way you would let anyone feel that way capturing a wedding" was the comment from one.
So, you need a photographer. Let's not pull any punches, there's so many out there from the pros like myself to the "weekend warriors" or "Uncle Bobs". Where do you begin?
Well, you HAVE to do your research. Look at the styles available. Do you want a classical look, contemporary or reportage to name but a few? As a photographer I like to sit down with couples who like to throw ideas my way. It's a two way process for me. I will give advice and suggestions but it's great to hear couples telling me what their ideas and vision for their big day is. It makes finding the right photographer slightly more tricky without knowing this. If you want the classic look you'll be less inclined to go for a photographer who specialises in lets say the vintage style.
Meet photographers. It's so much easier today to find photographers with wedding fayres and the internet for example at hand. Do you have to look at photographers in your local area? Not necessarily. For example although I'm based in the North East of England, I've shot weddings all over the UK, as far away as Oxfordshire and Kent. Most photographers will bite your hand off at the chance to sit down with a couple and chat about the wedding and talk them through their portfolio. As I always say, you wouldn't buy a dress without trying it on first! Find out how long they have been established, what training they undertake, whether they have the necessary insurances (a question that is often overlooked!), do they have qualifications, professional memberships or recognised quality standards such as Qwest and what their price is. You don't have to pay over the odds for a good wedding photographer but I'll give you a worrying example:
I was recently at a wedding fayre and met a couple who said they loved my work. I talked them through how I'd approach their wedding etc and then we came to pricing. In reply they said "We've met with a photographer recently who would offer us full day photography with two photographers, all the images on a disc giving us copyright, a framed 12x8inch image and a large photobook for £500". The alarm bells we ringing for me. Are they insured? How do they make a living? Do they pay tax? What is the quality going to be like? What is the customer service going to be like?
I'm not going to start talking about what you should pay as each couple is different and have their own budget. Some photographers like myself won't offer "off the shelf" packages and would rather create a collection specific to that individual couple. So again, check what is on offer. What will you get for your money (pre-wedding photoshoot, online portfolios etc)? But keep my example in mind.
But above all, do you like the photographer? I sounds so simple BUT you are trusting this individual to create a lasting record of your memories and emotions. Are they going to work with you to turn your dreams into reality. Will they make you feel special (cheesy I know!). I'll be honest with you, my wife and I did not connect with our photographer at all….not helped by the lack of contact from him despite us sending him correspondence with ideas from time to time. He was a complete stranger on the day. The couples I have shot for have all said I was like having a best friend capturing their wedding for them. They've all remained good friends and are now coming back to me to do baby and family portraits. For me, it's an indication that I've done my job and done it well.
It's not an easy job finding your wedding photographer. But we don't bite. We love speaking to couples and answering their questions. Above all we love capturing the raw emotion of the day and creating stunning imagery. It is the best job in the world! But take it from somebody who knows what that dreadful sinking feeling is like, do your research and preparation. You won't regret it! Now go and find that person who is going to create magical wedding images for you!"