A Wedding Photographer’s Guide to Choosing a Wedding Photographer

For some time now, I’ve had a suspicion that all is not well in the Wedding Photography industry. I’m a wedding photographer and I know all the tricks of “the business”. I’ve also been on the other side of the business helping friends and family choose a photographer for their wedding (I prefer to party at my friend’s weddings!)

So, with some suspicions, I surveyed a lot of married people and was astonished to find that 71 % of people said they were not happy with their wedding photographer. This was much higher than I was expecting. Furthermore, an astonishing 85% of respondents said they should have hired a better photographer and would do so if they had their time again.

Read that again, 85% of people were so disappointed in their photos they believe they should have hired a better photographer.

Clearly, something is not right in our industry.

I think there are a number of issues, I think its partly bad photographers, partly good photographers not handling expectations well, and partly couples who aren’t, and have no reason to be, experts at understanding this industry.

So here’s a little guide, by a wedding photographer, on how to choose the right wedding photographer. Note there are a million other things to consider but these are what I think are the essentials, if you get these right you will be less likely to be disappointed.

1. Style

Style is in many respects the easy thing to get right. You’ve looked online, read magazines, started a Pinterest account so you now know that you either want a photojournalist style, an editorial style, a retro style. Most photographers will have one style that they stick with so choosing a photographer who shoots the style you want is as simple as looking at the style they normally shoot in.

2. Quality

The second, and in many ways most important, decision you need to make is about the quality of photographer you want. I’m not talking about style here (documentary, photojournalism etc), or cost, I’m talking about the quality of the photographer. How many great photos do they take across the whole day.

Here’s an attempt to capture the range of possible photographers for your wedding:

# 1. Uncle Tom. He’s always loved taking ‘snaps’.
# 2. Jane’s cousin Pete. He’s a keen amateur who might have even studied photography once.
# 3. A “professional wedding photographer”, found online.
# 4. A “professional wedding photographer”, found online.

Wait, aren’t #3 and #4 the same? No, no, and no! I’d say 50-80% of “professional wedding photographers” are nothing more than con-men and women who think buying an expensive camera makes them professional. Buying a scalpel does not make you a surgeon. Becoming a #4 professional wedding photographer takes years of dedication to photography. It takes commitment and passion and a constant desire to improve your art.

So how can you tell the difference between #3 and #4 professionals?

#3 will bambooz you with a flashy website full of good images from different weddings, they may have slideshows set to music, they will be slick. They will offer you champagne and expensive brochures.

#4 will bambooz you with a flashy website full of great images from weddings, they may have slideshows set to music, they will be slick. They will offer you champagne and expensive brochures.

Notice the difference? There’s a key difference there. #3 will show you images from different weddings. #4 will show you images (especially if you ask) from ONE wedding. That’s the key difference. A #4 photographer should be able to get good or great quality images across the whole day, not just one of two good images for the entire day.

At Mr & Mrs Wedding Photography our website is designed to showcase three individual weddings, one from a beach, one in a church, and another a destination wedding. We hope this gives our potential clients a feel for the quality across the entire day that they can expect to receive.

So, my #1 tip in choosing the right photographer for your wedding is insist on seeing images from one wedding. That will give you a feel for how many good quality images you are likely to see after your wedding.

Which leads me to expectations.

3. Expectations

The first thing to know is that photographers, even true professionals with years of experience, are not superhuman, they will not get award-winning, magazine quality images of every single aspect of your day from 8am until midnight. It just doesn’t happen. If you are expecting stunning images from sunrise to sunrise, you will be disappointed.

Most #4 photographers will give you consistently good images across the entire day and this is what you should be aiming for. There should definitely be some great images in there, the sort you will be proud to hang up on your wall.

I know of two immensely expensive US based wedding photographers. Both are at the top of their game, are in huge demand, and both charge over US$25,000 for their basic packages. I’ve seen a full set of images from a single wedding and I can guarantee you, if you paid that much money and expected every single image to be a prize-winning image, you would be really disappointed. Some images are truly magnificent, most are really good, a large number are just ‘snaps’.

If you end up with 5-10 magnificent images, 30-90 or so really good photos, and the rest nice snaps, then you should be happy.

4. Cheap

Cheap is always cheap. Repeat after me: cheap is always cheap. If you pick a photographer because they are cheap you can expect the quality of your images to plummet. This might be all you can afford/budget for but don’t expect miracles and don’t expect to be anything but disappointed (particularly if you hope to share the images with your kids and grandkids some day).

Do keep in mind though that your wedding is a once in a lifetime event (usually) and it might seem like a good idea to skimp on photography but really after the day is finished, apart from memories, all you have left is the photos. Imagine your grandchildren sitting down to look at your wedding album and seeing cheap photos. Is that worth it?

5. A recommendation from a friend

If you’ve seen you’re friends wedding photos (all of them) and like them then this might be a good way to go. However keep in mind a few things. 1) Did you see all the photos? 2) How long ago did your friend get married (has the photographer aged in energy or style) 3) Ask your friend what the worst thing about the experience with that photographer was – if they suggest irrelevant things like they didn’t like the package the images came in, then that’s probably fine, if the photographer missed a key photo, that’s not fine.

Don’t take a recommendation as proof that the photographer is everything you want for your wedding, refer back to points 1-4.

Conclusion…

Take these points as a starting point. There is way to find the right photographer for your wedding and I hope this helps in some way.

Are Expensive Wedding Photographers Better Than Inexpensive Wedding Photographers?

Some brides and grooms out there pay excessive amounts for wedding photographers. There is nothing wrong with this if you know exactly the photographer you want and you fall in love with their work. It also helps if you can afford it. The question is however, is a more expensive wedding photographer a better photographer? Is an inexpensive and more affordable photographer just not as qualified? Well I know of one photographer that actually charges over $50,000 to shoot an 8 hour wedding. He sold the photos from the wedding at ridiculous prices to. Let’s just say a wallet sized photo was $60.00. And guess what? The bride & groom and their family ordered tons of pictures at those bloated prices? Do you know what the photographer paid for the photo?

Let us just say he made out like a bandit. Wow. So basically if that photographer shot only 2 weddings a year that would be a pretty nice income for most people. Many photographers have figured this out and created their wedding photography package prices to be high priced and bloated. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this but if you are wondering if these people that paid so much for their wedding photography got better photography coverage at their wedding because they could afford more, you are mistaken. So why did all these people pay so much money for their wedding photography? Were the photos better quality?

Were they on diamond covered photo paper? Did he have a special camera? No, no and no. This “high-end” photographer actually once worked at a regular priced photography studio. He left that studio confident that he could get a high price for his work and began marketing himself in more affluent areas with very classy looking, artsy ads. That was it. He only needed one or two weddings a year to make a good living but what he did do was change his perceived value. Perceived value when it comes to anything is a funny thing. Was his photography so amazing? He was really good as are many photographers but he also wasn’t any better than the art student that came in with photos he took from his cousins wedding. He definitely in my opinion was not worth 50k.

He shot weddings in the same nice attire that all the other photographers shot in, he had the same photography equipment as most of them… so what it comes down to is how he marketed himself and what his perceived value was. Word of mouth among the affluent about this “high-end” photographer allowed him to do very well in his business but behind the scenes, he was laughing all the way to the bank. A good photographer is a good photographer. You can change his/her perceived value around with a twist of marketing and words. The thing is, many photographers are not always great business people. If they were, they would open up their own studios and charge whatever they like. In fact, often inexpensive photographers can be true artists.

They prefer to focus more on their passion of photography & shooting weddings rather than being businessmen & women. This I believe shows in their work. So basically what it boils down to is this; Decide what you are willing to spend on your wedding photography, visit only the studios that are in your wedding budget and then look at a sample wedding of the photographers work. This is the most important part. You have to like the style that you see in the photographers sample work. Look for testimonials and make sure that they promise you a backup photographer if something goes wrong. If you like what you see and the price is right then you can be assured that you are making the correct decision.

How to Pick the Right Wedding Photographer

Picking the right wedding photographer is a three step process:

1. Connect with the photographers work. Are you moved and captivated by the images or do they look like every other photographer you have looked at? Look at many sites and check the photographers blog to see current images in addition to just the best pictures on the website. Look for consistency by viewing many images from each wedding. Also look for pictures that have real emotional and romantic moments as they will mean more to you than a picture of yourself smiling at the camera.

2. Meet or talk with the photographer. They will be around you more than anyone else on such an important day. Go with your gut instinct on whether you feel they can be trusted with the emotions you will show. You must be comfortable and excited to have them cover your wedding. Try to see their work in print. Do their images look as nice as on the computer screen? Are you impressed with their sample albums of complete weddings?

3. Budget. Yes money matters but keep in mind the more distinctive the work, the more of an investment is required. Photography is the only purchase for your wedding that is forever, and will also increase in value to you over the years. Try not to settle, there is only one chance on this day and your images will be priceless in the future. Any amount spent today is a bargain for the enjoyment you will have for the rest of your life and future family members. If you have a very tight budget try not to focus so much on products. You have the rest of your life to get a nice album. Great images are a smarter first step.

Take care and I hope you have an incredible wedding!