Selecting somebody for a very personal, and (hopefully) once in a lifetime job needn’t be stressful chore. By allowing time and by adequately preparing, you can make sure that you’ve done all that is reasonably within your power to make the right choice.
You only have one chance, just one day to make everything work, and it involves the photographer working with and getting the best out of a large number of potentially chaotic variables including the weather, the location / the venue, the guests, and of course you and your partner!
So what variables do you, the potential bride or groom need to deal with in advance, to make sure you can select a photographer who can comfortably rise to the challenge, delight you with their service, and provide you with lasting good feelings about and memories of the wedding experience?
Here’s a general checklist that you might want to use as a basis for the selection of your wedding photographer:
Initial Sweep and Selection
Wedding photographers will advertise locally, but if you can get a recommendation from a good friend or member of the family, then all the better. Websites can also provide a good way to view some of the photographer’s work, gather some useful information, and perhaps read some testimonials.
The main thing to remember is to try and set up a meeting where you can ask questions face to face, and see some good, recent examples of their work.
Good wedding photographers have a busy schedule so try and book them a long time in advance of the wedding date.
You will need to find out how long the wedding photographer intends to stay at the wedding and reception.
It’s also worth finding asking how long it will be after the wedding before the proofs will be available for you to look at.
When you meet your prospective photographer(s), you will get a good impression of whether you and your family will be able to get along with them, whether they are helpful and approachable, and whether you can have any kind of rapport with them – this will be important on your wedding day.
If possible, make sure the photographer is presentable and tidy.
If they have any references you can read, ask to see them.
A good wedding photographer should be able to anticipate and be immediately forthcoming about the main things you want to ask and know about the whole process – this will be sign of experience.
Find out whether the prospective photographer is a wedding specialist, how long they’ve been a wedding photographer and roughly how many weddings have they been the photographer for / how frequently . These points will give a good indication of whether you’re on the right track.
It’s also worth finding out whether they have experience of your particular wedding location and venues, and whether they can work well with any other parties who may be involved e.g. caterers or co-ordinators.
Style, Scope and Appearance
Choose a photographer who can shoot well in the style(s) that you would like e.g. traditional or reportage. Make sure they can produce a good selection of photos within the chosen style e.g. portraits, groups, formal, close up, mid distance, full length etc. If you require any effects e.g. sepia, make sure the photographer can accommodate your requests.
Find out if the prospective photographer is a member of a society / association e.g. the Guild of Wedding Photographers, if they have a professional qualification, any photographic awards or special recognition (particularly for wedding photography) – these are good signs. Also, find out what if any guarantee they can offer on their work.
Seek physical evidence to help back up any claims. Ultimately though, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Their photographs will speak a thousand words. Look a selection of their wedding photos. Make sure they can offer a selection from more than one wedding, and make sure you can see photos from a single wedding too i.e. make sure your chosen photographer can tell the ‘story’ of your day in pictures.
Check whether the people in the photos are smiling, look happy and relaxed. Make sure the people are very much in the foreground of the photos where they need to be.
Is there any? Does the photographer intend to use an assistant? What if somebody needs to cancel? What are the insurance arrangements if something goes wrong with the pictures? You may not want to think of these things but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
The Viewing & Choosing
Check what the arrangements are once the pictures have been taken. You are bound to want to view them soon after the wedding so check how will you be able to do this e.g. will they be on a website in an online gallery, will they be on contact sheets? How easily can the viewing and choosing be done? Will they help you to choose?
Pricing, Ordering and What You Actually Get
Find out exactly what you are getting – what is the ‘contract’ likely to cover? Agree on the package e.g. the number of photos and the album they’ll be presented in. Find out if there are any extra fees e.g. travel fees, overtime fees. Make sure you’re familiar with the payment policy, arrangement and timescales.
Find out the arrangements and prices for re-ordering, duplicate prints, albums, photos, enlargements etc.
Contact and meet more than one photographer if you can, and make sure you’re matching like with like when looking at the quotes.
It’s worth spending the time now being thorough and asking the right questions when it comes to finding the person to record the ‘story’ of your wedding day in the way you’d like to remember it. If your selection process is good enough to find someone with the right balance of personality, the ability to work with people, a caring attitude, experience and technical skill, you’ll be more able to relax and enjoy your day, safe in the knowledge that you’re happy memories will be beautifully represented and enhanced by your wedding photographs.