How To Choose A Wedding Photographer
© Ashton Lamont Professional Wedding Photographer and Videographer
Photo: Bride and her father walk towards her outdoor wedding ceremony at the Elvetham Hotel Hartley Wintney Hampshire
Long after you have returned from you dream honeymoon you will appreciate the homework you did to ensure that your wedding day memories are kept vivid with gorgeous professional photography.
Unfortunately the UK industry is completely unregulated and there have never been greater numbers of amateurs, hobbyists, wannabes, part-timers, and out and out chancers masquerading as "professional photographers".
This checklist was compiled by members of a private online community of professional wedding photographers based chiefly in the United Kingdom and the United States. It includes the questions most frequently posed by prospective clients. Its not in order of importance and not necessarily reflective of your own priorities. But it should help you to remember to check the points that matter to you.
Check These Points With Care:
Experience: How long have you been in business. How many weddings have you personally shot as the main photographer. Do you belong to any trade organizations and why.
Sample photographs: Were these shot by you. Be very specific in your questioning. Several studio and franchise businesses supply their photographers with idealised sample photos featuring professional models. Some wedding album manufacturers supply similarly "setup" photos. Some photographers buy photos from picture agencies with which to promote their business. Some even steal photos from others websites. Insist you see examples of complete wedding days - not just "greatest hits" compilations. Were the photos taken whilst the photographer assisted as a “second shooter” under the direction of a more experienced professional.
Equipment: Do you use professional grade i.e. reliable equipment. Do you have full backup equipment. What extra off-camera lighting do you use - usually essential for interior shooting of portraits and group photos.
Preparation: Do you visit the ceremony/reception location before the wedding day. Do you go to rehearsals.
Execution: What is your “style” of photography n.b. is it all candid / reportage or can I have lots of posed photos if I wish. What parts of the day do you cover and for how long (e.g. bride preparing at home, arrival at the wedding venue, the ceremony, formal group and individual shots, bride and groom at local beauty spot, reception, speeches, evening dancing and entertainment). Will you be the person taking the photos. Do you have assistants, and are they experienced photographers or simply helping out (normal reality). How many photos do you take – and how many photos do I receive. Will you accept suggestions for certain poses and shots. When can we take the formal photographs e.g. before/after the ceremony. Will you go off site to shoot requests. What if I need extra time on the wedding day. What happens if it rains. Do you restrict guests taking photos. What do you wear. Do you require a meal.
Costs and payment: What are your fees, when are they due, and what do they include. How much is the deposit (called the "retainer" in this industry). What payment methods do you offer for the package and for reprints. Refund policy on retainers and deposits. Does it cost extra for album design or is that included. How much are extra prints and reprints. Do you offer off-season or weekday or short-notice discounts. If I don't want something in the package do I get a discount. What do you charge to travel. Are there any extra fees (either on top of listed package prices or that come up after the wedding). Can I pay you after the wedding. Do you sell the high-resolution digital files. My parents want to pay for part of the photography – how is this done as the contract is with me.
Afterwards: Do you offer a website gallery and online proofing. How soon after my wedding does the gallery go online. For how long does the gallery stay online. Do you do proofs in print. What albums do you offer and how long do I have to choose my album and reprints. Can I design my own album layout. How long does my album take to produce. Do you offer parents albums. For how long do you keep the digital files. How do I receive my digital files. Do you offer a DVD slideshow to play on my TV
Video: Do you offer actual video (n.b. not photo slideshows sometimes incorrectly called videos). What do I receive.
Sundry: For how long can you keep a provisional date open. Do you offer engagement portraits. What happens if the photographer gets ill. My reception site requires that all wedding vendors carry their own insurance. Do you have insurance and what type of policy is it n.b. it should be a Public Liability and Professional Indemnity policy. If disaster should strike what is your policy on re-shooting.
And Be Aware:
Recommendations from venues: Many venues recommend photographers on the basis that large fees are paid by the photographers to the venues either directly indirectly. Some staff even insist on cash or benefits in kind such as gift vouchers! That is why they are so keen to recommend vendors to you. You may wish to treat recommendations with caution as they are unlikely to have anything what so ever to do with competence in photography.
Website presence: Sophisticated "professional photography" websites can be purchased for just a few £, providing an illusion of competence and experience. Some are even free! Popular sources of the very many inexpensive website templates include Zenfolio, ProPhoto and Theme Forest. The "photographer" may even go on to populate their site with images purchased from agencies, stolen from other photographers, or obtained from shooting a handful of weddings for friends. All so that the "photographer" appears more experienced or competent than is the case. If your photographer cannot show you dozens of great complete weddings you may not wish to be their guinea pig on your wedding day!
"Award Winning" & "Qualified": There are several thousand "awards" made each year in the UK, many classes of which have less than a handful of entrants. Qualifications other than from some universities and colleges are completely unregulated and have more in common with camera clubs than with rigorous academic and practical achievement. Caveat emptor - buyer beware - do your research.
In the UK there are three trade organisations catering to wedding and social photographers:
The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (SWPP)
The Master Photographers Association (MPA)
The British Institute of Professional Photography (BIPP)
You may wish to visit each website and make your own assessment as to the difficulty of achieving their qualifications and their relevance to your requirements.
Videography: Most UK videographers are hobbyists inexperienced in shooting weddings. If you plan to have video you should exercise the same care as when researching your stills photographer. Ideally choose one of the Ashton Lamont combined photography and video plans!
All content on this site is the copyright of Peter Riding of Ashton Lamont. Do not steal. I have a very particular set of skills I have acquired over a long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. Do not steal now, and that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you do steal, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you. (With appreciation to Bryan in "Taken").