There’s nothing quite like the hustle and bustle of a wedding morning! There’s a heady mix of excitement and nervous tension as the wedding party prepares for the momentous day ahead – everyone you cherish is there with you. Your Mum, bridesmaids, Best man / men, best friends, siblings – they’re all sharing in your excitement. The makeup artist arrives, and then the hairdresser – the flowers are delivered, and the excitement and anticipation builds.
For me, it’s one of the best parts of the day, and here’s why.
1. Get used to the camera
If you’ve had an engagement session with me then you’ll know what to expect, but if you haven’t – bridal prep is a fantastic way to see how I work. Of course, you’ll be too busy getting ready to notice what I’m doing, but it’s a brilliant opportunity for us to get to know each other a little better, and for you to see how laid back and non-shouty I am!
I find that people are generally self conscious for the first ten minutes following my arrival, but after that? You won’t even notice I’m there, and you’ll wonder why you ever felt awkward in front of the camera.
Of course, wedding days are emotionally charged events, and getting ready is packed full of them. The excitement of your bridesmaids. The tears of your bridal party when you step into your dress for the first time, and the look on your father’s face when he sees you for a first look. These are all really important, emotionally charged events that are all too easy to forget.
3. It’s all in the details
For me, weddings are all about moments – the first kiss, the first dance, the way you look at your other half during the ceremony…but let’s not forget your beautiful dress, shoes, and jewellery that may have been passed down from generation to generation. These are all important elements of your day, and bridal prep is an ideal time to photograph these things in a creative way that just won’t be possible later in the day.
4. Telling a story
Finally, your wedding isn’t just about walking down the aisle, or the speeches, or the first dance…getting ready photos are an important part of the day for the reasons outlined above, and as such should be photographed to complete your wedding day story.
Hints & Tips!
If you’d like getting ready photos, plan your timeline accordingly. I like to allow a good two hours to capture everything I need – this gives me time to say hello to everyone, photograph hair, makeup and details, and then leave in good time for the ceremony
Also, if you and your partner would both like getting ready photos, you may need a second photographer depending on location and timings
Speaking about location – how large is the room you’ll be getting ready in? If it’s a small hotel room and there are 15 bridesmaids getting ready with you, then a rethink may be needed.
Make sure clutter is kept to a minimum. Of course, once the Prosecco starts to flow you won’t particularly care, but if you don’t want Jaffa Cake boxes or crisp packets in your photos, make sure they’re deposited of accordingly before I arrive…!
Let’s face it, weddings are expensive affairs. From the venue, flowers, makeup artist, cake, dress, shoes, buttonholes, details, food, drink…it all adds up very very quickly.
To add insult to injury, wedding photography is perceived to be yet another dent in the wedding budget, when all us photographers are doing is pressing a button (how dare you!) 😉
So I’d like to dispel a few myths, and explain why wedding photography can be a sizable investment (and is worth every penny!)
The whole process of booking clients, photographing weddings and processing photos takes a lot of time. It may look like we’re only spending 8-12 hours working at your wedding, but that’s just the beginning. To explain it more clearly, here’s a list of tasks the average wedding photographer undertakes for each wedding:
Marketing my business to attract couples (ongoing)
Meeting the couple (2 hours) or speaking on the phone (15 – 30 minutes)
Photographing the wedding (8-12 hours)
Downloading, backing up, culling and editing the photos (between 12 – 36 hours)
Designing and ordering the album (2 – 4 hours)
Ordering USB box and prints (30 minutes)
Popping to the Post Office to send the album / USB box (between 30 minutes and 1.5 hours, depending on the queue!)
A wedding is a dynamic, constantly changing event, and the best photographers don’t just capture what’s happening; they use their creative eye to elevate a simple moment into something much more beautiful. They observe the light, and ensure you and your guests are captured in the most flattering way possible. They pay heed to (and sometimes break) the rules of composition. They’re always on the lookout for great light, reflections, shapes, lines, shadows and highlights.
Anyone can capture a photograph, but it takes years of watching and learning the craft of photography to take a photograph that captures the imagination. Not just once, but throughout the entire duration of your wedding day.
I’m not going to lie – weddings can be stressful affairs. They don’t always run on time. A key member of the wedding party will disappear (usually at the bar) during the group photos. Emotions will run high (usually from spending too much time at the bar). As a wedding photographer, not only do I have to capture all the amazing moments in a creative way, I also have to manage around 100 people at various times during the day.
Every single moment at every single wedding only occurs once. That means that if I miss the photo of you walking down the aisle, that moment has gone forever. If I miss the first kiss, I can’t ask you to recreate it (well I can, but I’m sure you’ll tell me where to go). Over the years I’ve learned to love the melting-pot pressure of weddings, and I thrive under those conditions.
Speaking about pressure, I have a confession. I’m actually quite shy and introverted, so spending a large amount of time being sociable with a group of people I barely know can be extremely tiring. Don’t get me wrong – I love meeting people, photographing them and having a laugh with them, but I’m happier once all the photos are in the bag and I’m back home with a drink in my hand.
When it comes to weddings, what would I consider as “must-haves”? Well, after much deliberation, here’s my answer:
A couple who love each other and want to spend the rest of their lives together
A building / gazebo / pavilion / arbour / some sort of structure to get married under (this applies if you’re getting married in England or Wales)
Someone who can legally marry said couple
Er, that’s it!
Notice I didn’t mention a huge dress? Or a massive bouquet of flowers? Or a ring you can see your reflection in? Or a Michelin star three course meal? Or…a photographer?? (gasp!)
As much as I’d like to consider what I do essential, let’s face it, it isn’t. Breathing is essential. As is eating. Drinking too. Having warmth and shelter is also recommended, along with some sort of social network (no, I’m not talking about Facebook, duh).
Wedding photography, as desirable as it is, is a luxury. You don’t need wedding photographs to get married. You’ll have your memories of the day, after all?
A luxury is defined as something you really want but don’t actually need. I really want an Aston Martin so I can visit friends and family in style. I don’t need one, and my twelve year old Astra will have to do for now.
My point is this – good wedding photography is a luxury. Knowing you’ll receive beautiful photos of your wedding, no matter what the weather conditions are on the day, is a luxury. And it’s a luxury I believe is very much worth paying for.
Solving a problem
My brother has worked in car sales for a while now, and something he said a few years back resonated deeply with me. He said, “Sales isn’t tricking somebody into buying something. It’s finding out what their problem is and then solving it.”
That’s always been my approach to my wedding photography business. For example, one problem a lot of couples have is they detest having their photo taken (as do most people, myself included). To solve that problem, I reassure them by showing them photos of other couples who also thought they hated having their photo taken, but were absolutely thrilled with their wedding photos.
Or I mention how I like to have an engagement / pre-wedding session with some couples, which helps them relax in front of the camera before the big day.
Or I talk about how most couples forget I’m even at their wedding, because I’m very discreet and merge into the background. This means people can relax and be themselves, which results in brilliant photos.
Gear is expensive
Of all the reasons I’ve talked about here, this is possibly (in my eyes) the least valid. Why? Because you shouldn’t have to foot the bill to compensate for my spending habits.
To photograph a wedding successfully, you obviously need to know what you’re doing. You also need equipment that’s up to the task of what you’re trying to achieve. The equipment I use, for example, isn’t brand new. It’s not the latest kit. It certainly isn’t top of the range. However, it’s professional quality, I know how to use it with my eyes closed and I can capture some brilliant photos with it.
I could upgrade to Hasselblad or Phase one cameras for £50k+ each, and then increase my prices tenfold. Would the photos be ten times better? Of course they wouldn’t!
Professional gear is essential, for a myriad of reasons – resolution, low light capability, durability…I could go on, and that’s another subject for another time. However, even though all this kit needs to be paid for, I don’t believe my clients should cough up for my gear choices.
Possibly the most important reason of all. I’ve no idea who originally uttered the following, but this quote perhaps sums up the thrust of this article best of all:
Photos are the only part of your wedding that INCREASE in value over time
A while ago I was looking through some of my Mum and Dad’s wedding photos, and it struck me how many people in those photos are no longer with us. My Dad’s parents. My Mum’s parents. My Dad’s sister-in-law and brother, who sadly passed away recently. These very special people have been preserved in time by the wedding photographer.
Time for another guest post, this time from Matt @ Matt Roper Films!
More and more of my clients these days ask for videographer recommendations, and I’ve worked with some extremely talented people over the past few years. Of course, you just can’t beat the still image, but I can see the appeal of video I suppose 😉
(I’m joking, before I start receiving sackfuls of hate mail from irate videographers!)
I recently worked on a wedding assisting Sian from SJC Photography, and Matt was the videographer. I thought it would be nice to ask him for his top three tips in choosing a wedding videographer, and these were his responses.
Take it away Matt!
1) What are your top 3 tips for anyone choosing a videographer?
i) Watch examples
Choose someone with the style and flow that connects with you. I’ve been told my examples have made prospective brides cry, which is why they booked me.
ii) Don’t leave booking a videographer until the last minute
Why? Because you’ll end up paying a lot more! We all have aspirations to earn a decent living, and as we get better with experience our prices naturally rise £1-200 per year. So book as early as possible, you could save £3-500 by booking 2 years in advance.
iii) Don’t worry about finding a local videographer
We’re all happy to travel!
2) What’s the biggest mistake people make when choosing their videographer?
Not sure I can answer that, but I’ll try!
When it comes to wedding videography, the biggest mistake couples make is not prioritising it as high as photography for example.
It’s a given that if your planning your wedding, you will 100% book a venue, buy a dress and book a professional photographer, but video is still considered a nice to have.
But, it’s also widely known that the thing couples regret most about their wedding is not having a video to relive their day.
3) What’s the best or most unique thing about your service?
I think the best thing about my service is the way I work:
I’m really easy to work with.
I’m responsive to messages.
When it comes to the shoot I try to build a working relationship with the photographers and become a team to ensure both the pictures and video are the best they can be.
I also blend into the background to capture those candid moments that couples miss…
I’m also told I’m a good story teller which comes across in the final edit. ?
Some really helpful tips from Matt there, and here’s where you can find out more about him and his work:
It’s video time! I know engagement (or pre-wedding) sessions / shoots aren’t for everyone, but here I explain what they are and why you really need one before your big day!
Also, if you scroll down you’ll see I’ve added some of my favourite photos from recent engagement sessions. For those of you who can’t be bothered to watch the video in its entirety (shame on you), I’ve kindly transcribed it for you below. I know, I’m good to you aren’t I? 😉
Hi folks! I’m Dan from Dan Biggins Photography and today I’m going to talk to you about why you need to have an engagement photography session.
So, first of all you’re probably asking yourself, “What is an engagement photography session?” Well, it’s basically where we meet up in a location of your choice and we take photos of you to celebrate your engagement. That is it really! That’s how simple it is. It can be any location of your choice:- it could be in a park; it could be on the beach; it could be up a tree! It could be down the aisle in Tesco’s. I mean whatever you want we could take photos, and it’s basically a chance to celebrate you as a couple, celebrate your impending marriage and you could share the photos with family and friends on Facebook, Instagram and MySpace if you want to.
(Is that still a thing – MySpace?)
So there are five reasons I think why you should have an engagement photography session before your wedding day, and the first one is:
1. It helps you relax in front of the camera
So I’ll be honest with you – having your photograph taken…it’s a bit weird. I mean, it is a bit weird basically. That’s why I tend to sort of work behind the camera instead of this side, because this feels a bit weird at the moment, me talking to you into a lens. It’s just a bit weird. So I fully appreciate how strange it is having your photo taken. Most people don’t like having their photo taken which makes my job a little bit more challenging! Occasionally I meet people who are just gorgeous and they model for a living and they quite like having their photograph taken because that’s their job, but 99% of the time people just don’t like it. I don’t like it, so it’s my job to make you look amazing which hopefully I do.
So after the session pretty much every single couple has said to me how much they enjoyed it, and that it’s made them look forward to the wedding even more. So by the time I turn up at the wedding they’re not thinking, “Who’s that weirdo following me around with a camera?!” They know exactly what to expect and you’ll know exactly what to expect, meaning you can relax and enjoy your day even more with your loved ones. Result!
Onto point two, which is kind of tied into point one, and that is:
2. It helps us get to know each other a little bit better
So obviously your wedding day will be…let’s say it’s from getting ready in the morning…let’s say 10, 11 o’clock. Say your ceremony’s at 1, it’ll go through to sort of 10-11 o’clock. So realistically I’m going to be with you for about 12 hours…I’m going to be following you around for 12 hours. There’s a lovely thought, isn’t it…
So, I’m gonna be there all day, so really it’s good that we get to know each other as much as possible. You get to see how I work as well, so you’ll see I’m pretty laid back. I don’t shout at people people generally…no, I don’t shout at people…generally…and yeah, so again, by the time I turn up at your wedding you’ll say, “Oh, it’s Dan, it’s that photo bloke innit!” and everyone’s happy and you can relax once again and enjoy your day.
Which brings us onto point 3, which is:
3. It helps you celebrate your engagement even more
So obviously when you get engaged you tell all your family and friends. Everyone’s really excited and then it’s kind of…gone, and then you start planning the wedding, and then people start asking you, “What size of rose would you like?”, and, “How many flavours do you want in the middle tier of your cake?” Stuff like that. So having a photo session just allows you to kind of milk a little bit more, and just keep the excitement going a little bit longer really. You can again like I say share photos with your family and friends, whack it up on Facebook and everyone can go, “God you’re so lovely you make me so jealous!”, and yeah, you can kind of extend the excitement of your engagement for as long as humanly possible. And why not?! It’s something that most of us do hopefully once in their life, so yeah, bloody well celebrate it I say!
Onto point four which is:
4. It helps build trust in me and the final product that you’ll receive
So obviously you’ll have a good idea about what my work is like from my website and my social media channels, but you won’t exactly know what to expect as far as you’re concerned. You know, what your photos will look like. So after you receive the engagement photos…again, every couple I’ve ever photographed has been absolutely thrilled with their engagement photos, and then it will give you a really good idea of what to expect after your wedding, which hopefully increases your trust in me, which allows us to relax even more on your wedding day, which means that we’re both happy campers basically!
And onto my fifth and final point, and that is:
5. Your engagement photos are useful
So what do I mean by that? I mean that, for example, you could use your engagement photos for Save the Date cards. I know I did an engagement session…it’s a couple of years ago now in Hyde Park, and the couple used one of the photos for their Save the Date cards which they sent out to family and friends, which was a really nice thing; and everyone receives the card and says, “What a lovely photo!”, and everyone’s happy basically.
Again, you can print those photos out and you can put them up in your living room. You could print a poster and whack it up on the side of a bus shelter. You do whatever you like basically but yeah, the bottom line is that your photos can be used for lots of lovely things.
So that kind of wraps that up really. I hope it’s been useful – I hope it answer some questions about engagement sessions, and I hope that if we should meet and I say, “Hey, let’s have an engagement session!”, don’t throw heavy objects at me please. Just sort of…if you don’t want one, just sort of go, “Yeah Dan, that’s lovely, thanks!” But hopefully it should be something that gets you excited for all the reasons I have just stated.
Okay, my name’s Dan and thank you for watching and listening, and please visit my website at www.danbiggins.com. And I hope to hear from you soon! Okay, take care, buh-bye.
Or, “How To Find The Wedding Photographer Of Your Dreams”
Blimey, hiring any sort of professional is a minefield, isn’t it? Let’s say your car breaks down – how many of us (a) know exactly what’s wrong with the car, and (b) who to ask regarding how to fix it? Also, how do you know what questions to ask, to ensure you’ll receive good value for money and a repaired automobile?
Like I said, it’s a minefield…
Hiring a wedding photographer is no different – it’s a sizeable investment for our service, so it’s good to know exactly what it is we do, and exactly what you’ll receive for your aforementioned investment.
1) Why should I hire you above other wedding photographers in Kent, and what can I expect once I hire you?
The best way to answer this question is to look at my highlights reel (as I like to call it) as well as full weddings from start to finish, and if my style of photography is what you’re looking for we can schedule a time to meet up. There’s no obligation at this point – simply a chance to pop the kettle on and interrogate me regarding all facets of the service I offer. I’m happy to meet up a number of times if it means your mind is at rest regarding your investment.
Meeting up is really important! I need to find out as much information as possible about you – how you met, what happened with the proposal (was it heart-melting or toe-curlingly embarrassing?), how you love to spend your free time, what you’re looking forward to most about your wedding, and so on and so forth. I need to find out what floats your boat, because your wedding day is about YOU, not me!
Also, I need to make sure we’ll be a good fit – for example, you might think that my sense of humour is…erm…an acquired taste, shall we say (which is ridiculous, because I’m BLOODY HILARIOUS). On your wedding day I’ll be with you for around 8+ hours, so we really need to make sure we’ll get on beforehand 🙂
Once you decide to work with me, you can expect:
As mentioned above, lots of pre-wedding meetings or calls! I want to be sure that you’re totally comfortable with the service I offer. Also, I need to know timings / exactly what’s happening during the day and when, to ensure I capture all the important aspects of the day (and more)
You won’t even know I’m there – I prefer to blend into the background and photograph events as they unfold. Most clients often say that they forget I was actually at the wedding, which is exactly what I’m aiming for!
Continued support and contact – let’s say you decide to order another wedding album for a family member a year after your wedding…no problemo!
2) Can you guarantee my wedding photographs will be absolutely amazing?
Yes I can! That’s why I have a 100% money-back guarantee – if you’re not absolutely and ridiculously thrilled with the service and photographs I provide, I’ll refund you in full. No questions asked.
Have any of my couples ever taken me up on this? No, they haven’t. Do you know why not? Because all of them have been absolutely and ridiculously thrilled with the service I gave them!
3) Why is wedding photography so expensive?
This is a question I hear a lot, and it’s a valid one. After all, most people think that wedding photography is an easy gig, and only involves pressing a button for a few hours.
Ah, if it only it were that simple. Here’s a brief overview of what’s involved:
At least two meetings (often more) to discuss timings, desired photos etc
Extensive photography coverage, lasting at at least 6 hours (and often longer). Only one break during the day for food, but on my feet taking photographs for the rest of the day
Taking beautifully composed and lit photographs using years of learning and experience. As good as digital cameras are, they still can’t find great light, compose photos or capture key emotional moments without human intervention
Editing and polishing around 400+ final images that capture the essence of your day
Designing a wedding album, ensuring the photos flow naturally and tell the story of the day
4) Do you have lots of satisfied clients and glowing testimonials?
I certainly do, and I pride myself on it. If you navigate through my site you’ll see lots of lovely quotes from happy clients on each page, and this is perhaps my favourite testimonial of all, from Holly & Rich:
“We think that having your wedding photos taken by Dan is like seeing your wedding day through the eyes of a friend.”
Do excuse me, I seem to have something in my eye *sniff*
5) What’s “Shoot and Burn” photography, and why don’t you offer it?
Shoot and burn is the process of capturing a wedding and burning all the images to a CD / DVD without any processing. It doesn’t involve correcting any funky colours (green people from sun bouncing off grass onto their faces for example), removing distracting elements (fire alarms / extinguishers anyone?), and definitely doesn’t involve designing or creating a luxury photo album that you’ll treasure for the rest of your days.
6) Do I need a second photographer?
Well, technically you don’t need one, but think of all the moments that it’s impossible for one person to photograph. Let’s say I’m photographing a tight shot of your first kiss – it’s a beautiful, tender moment, but I’m not seeing how your guests are reacting. That’s the assistant photographer’s job. He or she is also taking wide shots showing off the magnificence of the church.
7) Do I need a pre-wedding / engagement session?
Once again, you don’t need one, but I thoroughly recommend you arrange and take part in one. Firstly, you’ll see how I work and just how hilarious I am (see above), and secondly, you’ll have the chance to become used to someone pointing a camera at you for hours on end (which is a bit weird I’ll admit, hence why I’m this side of the camera). You can read more about why you need an engagement session here.
8) Will you view the church / reception venue before the wedding?
Of course! I like to visit a month or two before to take some test images, so I have a good idea of what sort of lighting conditions to expect. It’s also a good chance for me to form a mental image of where you’ll be during the ceremony, and where I need to be to make sure I capture everything! Finally, it’s nice to say hello to people working at the church or venue, so they’ll be able to put a face to a name on the day itself.
A little while ago I wrote an extremely handy guide to choosing your wedding supplier, containing interviews with some of the most talented people in the industry. One of the interviews was with Enfield cake designer Katybakey, and if you didn’t download the PDF you can do so at the bottom of this article.
So if you’re looking for a wedding cake, here are sage words of advice from Katy herself…
1) What are your top 3 tips for anyone choosing a cake?
Think about the size of the cake in relation to the size of the venue, not just how many people you want to feed.
Give your cake designer as much information regarding the rest of your wedding as possible so that they can match in the cake and pick up on the little details.
Think about how much cake you actually need, how much other food is there in terms of puddings and sweets. This can also help when thinking about flavours.
2) What are the two biggest mistakes people make when choosing their wedding cake?
Not wanting to tell the cake designer what their budget is. There are many different ways of decorating a cake, different techniques that achieve a similar visual result can vary massively in cost. If your designer knows what your budget is they can help you create the cake you will love at the right price. Rather than just receiving a quote that is out of your budget and you thinking you will have to change your mind completely. The more information we have the more we can help you.
Thinking they have to come up with the design themselves. I find some brides assume that I just make the cake, that they have to pick one they have seen already so that I can then replicate it. This is not the case, in fact cake designers prefer not to make someone else’s design. The best cake is going to be one that has been designed for you, around your wedding and includes all the elements personal to you.
3) What’s the best or most unique thing about your service?
Although I make wedding cakes I also can do carved and character cakes. This means I can add in any unusual requests I might have from brides. I really can make you anything for your special day.
4) Any final thoughts…?
Make sure you research the previous work of your cake designer; if their cakes don’t look good in a photo then they aren’t going to get any better in real life. Someone will always put out their best work for you to see, so make sure you are happy they have enough examples to the quality you are happy with.
Vary the flavours of the tiers – your favourite might be coffee, but not everyone will like it.
And don’t leave the cake until the last minute, most cake designers are booked up in advance, and designing a cake does take time.
“It’s a bit stressful isn’t it? You know, photographing weddings? After all, you only have one chance to get it right, and it’s one of the most important days of people’s lives? Why put yourself though it?” – Everyone I Ever Meet
I’ll never forget the first wedding I ever photographed. An old school friend reached out and wondered if I’d photograph his wedding, because he’d heard I was a keen photographer and he liked my photos. Of course I would! I mean, how hard could it be (despite the fact that up until that point I’d only photographed architecture and landscapes, and hadn’t photographed people. Or wedding ceremonies in dark churches. Or a bride walking down the aisle. Or the first dance. Etc). It was, without doubt, the most stressful thing I’d ever done in my life, but it triggered a desire and need deep within me that I’ve been following to this day.
So why do I photograph weddings?
1) I feel I make a difference
Photographing a wedding day is an enormous privilege. These are exceptionally special moments that will never be repeated, and it’s my job to ensure that these moments are captured for all eternity. I’m effectively the bride and groom’s backup eyes, as I’ll see and photograph things that they’ll miss, because they’ll be busy mingling, catching up with loved ones and having the time of their lives. I love visiting couples after the wedding and presenting them with their photos, and watching their eyes light up or fill up with tears of joy (and quite often both). To bring that level of happiness into people’s lives is a thing of wonder.
2) It allows me to be creative
I’ve always loved to create, ever since I was young. I remember spending hours as a kid drawing superheroes such as Iron Man, Spiderman and Superman. I’ve always loved music and have been playing the guitar and writing songs for longer than I care to remember. Photography affords me the same level of creativity – in essence it boils down to pressing a button on the camera, but on a much deeper level it involves composition, using existing light or creating my own, photographing with different lenses / utilising depth of field for maximum effect, recognising and capturing emotion and so on.
3) I meet new people and make new friends
Wedding photography is an incredibly social activity. You get to meet lots of couples, and you’re given an insight into their hopes, fears and desires. You get to meet their friends, family and loved ones. At the wedding itself you’re effectively a guest, (albeit one with a very important job to do!) and you laugh and cry with everyone who’s there. Some of the couples I’ve met have become good friends, and that’s something you can’t put a price on.
4) I share in people’s happiness
What other event or occasion do you know where everyone is deliriously happy for the entire day? Where everyone has assembled for one reason, and that’s to celebrate the love of two people? There have been occasions where I’ve arrived at a wedding not feeling one hundred percent (a bad night’s sleep thinking about the day ahead, or maybe the weather has just made a turn for the worse), but by the time I’m capturing photos I find that I’m beaming from ear to ear.
5) I love playing with tech
Yes, I’m a sad geek. Not only do I love meeting people, sharing in their happiness, indulging my creative streak and feel I’m making a difference, I also love cameras and computers. Which means that I experience almost as much joy editing and processing a wedding as I do photographing it. Yes, I really need to get out more…
Ah, the joys of planning a wedding…if you’re in the throes of organising your big day, you’ve probably realised by now just how complicated even the simplest wedding can be when it comes to choosing and booking suppliers. Fear not, for I’m here to help you choose the most important person of the day – your wedding photographer!*
Back in November 2016 I married my gorgeous wife Bea, and while we were planning our wedding we decided to keep everything as simple as possible. However, the path to a magical wedding doesn’t always run smoothly as they say, especially when we spent days deliberating what size and shade of orange the roses should be in Bea’s bouquet and on the cake. I mean, an orange rose is an orange rose, right? Apparently not…
You’ll have to make a similar decision when choosing your wedding photographer. I mean, let’s not beat around the bush here – there are lots of us about, and there are lots of supremely talented photographers out there too. So how will you know who’s the right one for you? Well, simply follow these tips and you’ll book your dream wedding photographer in no time at all!
1) Meet them first!
I know plenty of couples who never meet their photographer before booking them, and that’s fine. I also know plenty of photographers who never meet the couple they’re photographing until the wedding either. That’s okay too – whatever works for you. However, think about it. You’re going to be spending all day with this camera-wielding stranger, so what happens if you meet them on the morning of your wedding and you find out you don’t actually like them? Maybe they’re too brash for your tastes? Too quiet? Perhaps their inappropriate jokes are upsetting various members of your family? It could be that you don’t like they way they carry out their work?
I can’t recommend enough meeting your photographer first, especially if it’s over a coffee and a slice of delicious cake (make mine carrot, please). That way you’ll soon find out if you “click” (pun intended) with them. Also, taking part in a pre-wedding session is also a good idea. You may initially baulk at the suggestion, but it’ll give you an insight into how your photographer will go about his or her work on your wedding day.
2) Ask to see a whole wedding from start to finish
When it comes to wedding photography websites, most photographers will only display their very best work. That’s understandable – we want to market and promote ourselves in the very best way imaginable, so we’ll select the cream of the crop from each wedding we photograph to display on our sites. Also, no-one (except the bride and groom themselves) won’t be too keen on trawling through hundreds of photos when visiting the photographer’s site (can you imagine your data usage bill? Shudder…)
To give yourself a better idea of what a photographer is capable of, ask to see a gallery of a wedding from start to finish. That way, you’ll see a full range of getting-ready photos, detail photos such as the dress, buttonholes, cufflinks, rings etc, the ceremony in all its glory as well as the reception. You’re investing a decent amount of money, so you need to be confident that your photographer is adept in all the situations a wedding day throws at them. Speaking of investment…
3) Don’t base your decision solely on price
“Well, you would say that!” I hear you cry. Well, hear me out…it’s very tempting to dismiss a photographer as soon as you hear or see how much they’re charging, but I’d implore you to think carefully about exactly what you’re looking for. For example, a couple of years ago my wife and I bought a house, and we had a checklist of things we definitely wanted the house to include, and some things we weren’t that bothered about. As we’d previously lived in London, I really wasn’t fussed about having a garden, but after viewing a few properties we found the house we loved. And guess what? Yes, it had a garden. And yes, it cost a little more than we’d planned on spending. But it didn’t matter, because we still love the house as much as we did the day we bought it, so spending a little extra was definitely worth it.
That’s why number 1 above is so important – always meet your photographer before the big day if you can, because you’ll have a clearer picture of what he or she offers, which will result in you receiving the photographs of your dreams!
*I’m joking, of course. Actually, you and your spouse are the most important people of the day. Your photographer comes in third 🙂
When I meet couples for the first time and woo them with my charm, sparkling wit and repartee (hey, I don’t like to boast), they occasionally ask me, “Dan, will you give us the RAW files from the wedding?”, to which my reply is (in the nicest way possible), “No! Who on earth do you think you are?! It’s almost as if you’re paying me to photograph your wedding….oh…”
In all seriousness, I’m one of those photographers who doesn’t give RAW files away to my couples. First of all, let’s answer the obvious question for those who don’t know…
What are RAW files?
Simply put, they’re digital negatives. RAW files are the exact representation of what the camera “sees”, or rather what the camera sensor sees. It’s a bit like an unprocessed film before you take it to Boots (ah, those were the days…) To put it another way, consumer cameras (point and shoots, smartphones etc) shoot in a file format called JPEG (which I’m sure you’ve heard of), and as a rule point they process this JPEG before you see it on screen or download it, applying contrast, saturation, sharpness etc.
So why won’t I give you RAW files?
1) They’re enormous
Okay, this excuse is becoming less valid as digital storage becomes cheaper by the year, but it’s still a consideration. My camera outputs RAW files at just over 20mb in size, whereas a processed JPEG weights in at around 6mb (give or take the odd megabyte here and there). If you really want a photographer to give you RAW files, make sure you have plenty of storage space.
2) Signature style
When I return home from a wedding, the first thing I do is upload all the RAW files to my computer to back them up. I’ll then open Lightroom and start processing them.
So what does this involve?
Basically I’ll tweak the file in a number of ways, using my creative vision to produce a visually pleasing photo in my own creative style. This may involve bumping the shadows up a bit, adding contrast, saturating or desaturating the image, sharpening, taming the highlights a little…it all depends on the original photograph, but I edit all RAW files in a similar fashion to produce a consistently pleasing result.
In a way it’s a bit like your favourite music producer working on a record. For example, my Dad loves ELO and Jeff Lynne. When you hear a record produced by Jeff (such as ELO or Travelling Wilburys) it’s been produced in his signature style, and you can hear it’s been produced by him.
It’s the same with my photographs; I develop and process them in my own signature style. You may love them (hopefully) or you may not, but it all ties in with my brand, how I wish to present my work and the service I offer all my clients.
Take a photographer such as Anton Corbijn. Okay, he shoots with film which is slightly different, but can you honestly say his work is an accurate visual representation of the band / artist he photographed, and is exactly what he saw at the time with his own eyes?
Going back to the music analogy, a band would never release an album of “raw” sound files that haven’t been mixed or mastered in some way. When you listen to a commercial CD, each guitar / vocal / bass part has had some sort of processing applied, whether it’s reverb (to create a sense of space), compression (to make it consistently louder) or panned left or right (so it sits comfortably in the mix). Why should photographs be any different?
3) The camera sometimes lies
Modern digital cameras are incredible, let’s face it. However, my eyes are far more advanced than the best camera in the world, and can see details, shadows, light and form far better than a camera ever will. Various research has been done on how much detail the human eye can see, but it’s estimated to be around 576 megapixels. Compare that with the iPhone 7 that records visual images at 8 megapixels.
Some photographers argue that “a RAW file is an accurate representation of a subject or scene”. I’d argue that it isn’t, as a camera can’t “see” anywhere near as much detail as my eyes can. When I process a photograph I’m not only enhancing the image, I’m pushing it closer to what I originally saw through the viewfinder (in my own creative style, as mentioned above).
However, who’s to say my eyes are seeing the scene correctly? When I process a RAW file, I’m doing so partly from memory. It may be hours or even days since I captured the original photograph, so can my memory of that particular scene be relied upon? When I view a sunset for example, who’s to say I’m seeing the exact same colour and textures as you?
Weddings are emotional events and take a heck of a lot of planning, so knowledge is power – the more you’re aware of potential pitfalls when it comes to hiring a photographer, the more you’ll know what to look out for, ensuring you receive the very best photographs of your wedding day!
Mistake 1: Not getting to know your photographer first
When you hire a wedding photographer, it’s a little bit like hiring an extra guest to your wedding. Although the difference is this guest will be taking photographs, as well as talking to and getting along with all your friends and family, staying professional and capturing images with a smile on his or her face. That’s why it’s important to meet your photographer first, or at least have a lengthy conversation on the phone with them. You need to know if you’ll like them important events of the day, as well as not upsetting Auntie Mabel immediately before the ceremony.
Mistake 2: Choosing a photographer solely on price
Let’s face it; in life you tend to get what you pay for. Take luxury cars for example. Would you expect to take a few thousand pounds down to your local Aston Martin dealer and return home with a brand new DB7? Or would you expect to pop in to your local Apple store to purchase a laptop, and leave with plenty of change from £500?
Of course you wouldn’t!
The same applies to wedding photography. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to hire the most expensive wedding photographer out there (if you do, he’s called Jerry Ghionis, he’s Australian, he’s unbelievable and his prices start at around £10,000. Just thought I’d get that out the way first.)
Cheap wedding photography normally means low quality (not always, but you tend to get what you pay for.) Creative people tend to charge what they think they’re worth. Someone who charges £250 to photograph a wedding is basically saying, “I’m not confident in my abilities or the quality of my work, so that’s why I’m charging very little for all day coverage and a disc of images.” When you hire a wedding photographer, you’re not only paying for their time. You’re paying for their expertise, gained from photographing multiple weddings. You’re paying for their creative eye. You’re paying for the beautiful images they create. You’re paying for memories that will last a lifetime.
Mistake 3: Relying on a friend or family member who has a “nice camera”
Technology is amazing, isn’t it? Just think, ten years ago smartphones didn’t exist. Now everyone takes great photos on them and shares their efforts all across the Internet. Also, “entry-level” cameras are now way more advanced and cheaper than they’ve ever been, and to top it off “Auto” modes on these cameras are extremely intelligent and enable most people to take decent photographs. But are you happy to settle for “decent” on your wedding day?
You probably know someone who owns one of those swanky DSLR cameras. You know, the ones with the interchangeable lenses. Great pieces of kit, and as I said above, fabulous technology. But do they know how to really use it? Would they be able to take a sharp photograph in a dark church without a flash, without the resulting photo looking blurred? Can they capture a photo of your first dance by (a) using flash and (b) not making you look like you’ve wandered into a nuclear explosion? Ultimately, can you trust them to capture all these important moments…and more? Are you willing to take that risk..?
Mistake 4: Not being specific enough about the photos you want
I always ask clients when I meet them if there are any specific photos that they’d like. Some of them are so excited they simply say, “Oh, just take beautiful photographs through the day Dan, I trust you to capture everything!” Which is lovely, but not particularly helpful. Of course, I’ll photograph you getting ready. I’ll photograph the rings. I’ll photograph you looking amazing as you walk down the aisle. I’ll photograph the putting on of the rings. I’ll photograph the first kiss and the first dance, and more. However, believe it or not, I’m not a mind reader 🙂
If Auntie Mabel is flying across from Australia and it’s the first time in 23 years that you’ve seen her, and she’s not very well, and it’s vital that I take a photograph of her with you and your niece who’s just graduated…then please tell me!
Mistake 5: Prioritising products over the photography
Most wedding photographers offer various products as part of their collections, as I do. For example, I offer a folio containing a USB drive and prints, and a luxury handmade, leather bound album (which is utterly gorgeous. When you see it you’ll want one, believe me.) However, don’t lose sight of why you’re hiring a photographer in the first place! It’s the quality of their work. It’s the ability to capture images that you’ll treasure for the rest of your life. Not the products that they offer – you can source those long after your wedding is over, but you can’t replace mediocre photographs from that day.
Mistake 6: Thinking that because a photographer has expensive gear, they’re bound to take fantastic photographs
It really is no guarantee. I could buy a top of the range Aga, and believe me, you probably wouldn’t want to eat what I could create with it.
This anecdote sums it up best: When the author Jack London had his portrait taken by the noted San Francisco photographer Arnold Genthe, London began the encounter with effusive praise for the photographic art of his friend and fellow bohemian, Genthe: “You must have a wonderful camera…it must be the best camera in the world …you must show me your camera!” Genthe then used his standard studio camera to make what has since become a classic picture of Jack London. When the sitting was finished, Genthe could not contain himself: “I have read your books, Jack, and I think they are important works of art. You must have a wonderful typewriter.”
Mistake 7: Not considering an assistant photographer
Planning is everything when it comes to wedding photography. I’ll always try and meet the client and nail down timings – what time they’re arriving, when guests are due to arrive, when the cutting of the cake and first dance are due to occur, and so on and so forth. This means I can plan where I’ll be, at what time, and what photographs I’ll be taking when I’m there. However, I don’t have eyes in the back of my head (more’s the pity), and they haven’t yet invented a camera with a lens on the front and the back (well, there’s always my smartphone, but I don’t think you’d want me to photograph your wedding using that..!)
I always try and recommend my couples pays a little extra for an assistant photographer. This means you’ll obviously have two pairs of skilled eyes watching proceedings unfold – while I’m photographing the first kiss, my assistant is capturing the beaming smiles and tears of joy amongst your wedding guests. While I’m capturing the bride and groom walking down the aisle towards me, my assistant is capturing the reactions of your guests, the confetti throwing and so on. While I’m capturing a close-up of the cake cutting, my assistant is taking a wide photograph of everyone in the room.
Mistake 8: Leaving all the decisions to the photographer
As mentioned above in point 4, there are a number of “must-have” photos that I’ll always capture, although I recommend my clients to provide as much input as possible when it comes to their photographs. I’ll recommend poses and locations for your photos, but let me know what images you’d like. Set up a Pinterest board with wedding photos you love and share it with me (just bear in mind that if you pin photos from a beach wedding in Belize and you’re getting married in Bromley, you may be disappointed. Be realistic.)
Trust in my expertise, certainly, and the more ideas you can provide me with the better.
Mistake 9: Insisting on trendy photos
Around ten years ago “selective colouring” was all the rage – you know, a black and white photograph of a bride holding a bouquet, but the bouquet is in colour (it’s been selectively coloured in Photoshop). A couple of years ago it was vintage – desaturated / washed out photos of trendy couples holding Rolleiflex cameras. The problem with photographing in a style that’s currently trendy? It dates. Badly. In ten years time your photos will look “of a time” and definitely not timeless. After all, brown corduroy flares were hip at one point in history (so I keep telling myself as I once owned a pair. Anyway, moving on..!)
Mistake 10: Not realising just how important your wedding photos are (and will be in the future)
This is a summary of all the points above. Make sure you hire someone you can trust to capture beautiful wedding photos. Put quality above price. How do their photos make you feel? How does the photographer make you feel when you meet them? Your wedding only lasts a day, and memories fade over time, but your photographs should remind you of your wedding day for the rest of your life.