How to choose your wedding photographer – an insightful and unique article by Liam Smith
Words & images by Liam Smith Photography
Photography is subjective – what I like, you may not. This presents you, my dear reader, with a choice to make: what do I like, and can I afford it?
What is important to remember at all times is the true significance of photography and the photograph. It preserves our lives and our memories in a way that nothing else can.
I wrote my dissertation on the importance of photography and found through thorough analysis of historical photographs and cinema, that photographs actually possess the power to effectively overwrite our own memories. When we attempt to recall a moment, our minds can recall a photograph as a stimulus rather than the actual lived memory. Consider that for a moment, and you’re more likely to remember the photograph of the event, rather than your own memory of the event you witnessed. With that in mind, photography is elevated to a status few thought possible, which adds a whole new dimension to the question, how important are my wedding photographs?
As a wedding photographer myself of course my opinions will be slightly skewed in favour of spending more money on a quality photographer, but as is the case with the majority of things in life, you get what you pay for.
Wedding photography is incredibly difficult, it requires a skill set which is totally unique from most other photographic disciplines which even have great variations within themselves.
The crux of most wedding decisions comes down to cost: what can my money get me? This can be particularly difficult to assess and admit to, but as any responsible person would advise, be honest with yourself and only spend what you can afford.
So here ladies, gentlemen, friends, comrades is my advice on choosing a wedding photographer.
Pinterest is your best friend.
I have no idea how anyone managed to plan anything before Pinterest was invented, I have even heard it posited that those who organised their wedding in pre-pinterest times should be given another crack at it for free. Create a board and get researching. If you Google ‘wedding photographer’ you should be shown everyone in your local area (go geo tags!). Go through their sites and pin all of the photos that you like the best, don’t put too much thought into it at this stage, we’ll refine later. Next I suggest you search ‘wedding photography + your venue’ and have a look at who’s shot there before and also to borrow any good ideas for photographs or decorations that previous couples have had. Next you’re going to want to raid the blogs, go all out on wedding blogs, trawl through the archives pinning as you go and collect as many images that you think fit into your style. Check out the Real Weddings category here to get started.
Big tip – Google isn’t always right.
Google is a company, it’s not a public service. Just because a site ranks at the top of search results doesn’t always mean it is the best response or best example. Admittedly it’s a good indicator but not the final word. If you’re top of Google for a search term you will receive more clicks and more likely have more customers, and thus be able to charge more. Don’t hesitate to scroll all the way through pages one and two, you might stumble upon a gem.
You’ve been pinning, right?
So you’ve trawled the archives of every blog, found all the local photographers and have thousands of pins – good work. Now we need to asses. Scrolling through your board, what are the most common themes?
Photographers typically categorise themselves thusly:
Documentary/Photojournalism – capturing candid moments as they happen.
Fine Art – soft lighting, pastel colours, often shot on film.
Editorial/Fashion – dramatic lighting, heavily posed.
Is your board full of fleeting moments, off the cuff gestures and spontaneous laughter? You need a documentary photographer. Are your pages filled with shallow depth of field close ups, lots of pastel colours and dreamy blurry backgrounds? You’re probably wanting a fine art photographer.
Now you have your style, you can narrow down your search for your photographer. Googling becomes easier as you can add ‘your chosen style + wedding photographer’ and see what you get.
What does it really cost?
The range is huge and there are so many variables, but you should be expecting to pay anywhere between £1000-£1500 for a good quality photographer. Albums, prints, engagement shoots etc. will of course cost more, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide if they’re important or not. I would advise that you forego any additional items such as albums etc. if it means compromising on the hours of coverage you receive. If the photographer captures the entire day, at least you know you have the photographs in the bag, one can always save up for an album at a later date.
Always trawl the blog archives
The vast majority of photographers are utilising blogs on their websites to showcase their latest work and keep subscribers up to date. The blog will be able to tell you everything you need to know about a photographer’s work. When putting together a portfolio only shots that are deemed to be the best are going to be selected, this is true of any company. The advantage with a photographer’s blog is that it showcases many photographs from a single day, giving you a much greater insight into what all day coverage actually looks like. A top quality photographer will be able to tell the story of your day through their images, capturing emotive imagery to a consistently high standard.
Get to know your photographer
One piece of advice that I give to all potential clients when we first meet is to consider how I will fit into their day and and to be completely blunt about whether they like me or not. This might sound strange at first, but in reality it is quite wise to consider. The photographer will be with you for the vast majority of the day and within a few feet of you as you’re married. If they’re tasked with capturing you at your most emotionally vulnerable, then you must trust them implicitly. If you feel at ease in their company, their portfolio is impressive and they’re within budget then you’ve found your photographer.
– – –
London and Milton Keynes-based Liam Smith Photography is “old school with a twist, definitely digital with a love of the darkroom“. His work is all about creating something beautiful, crafting portraits and capturing the narrative of your day. Liam combines both fine art and documentary to produce something that is unique, just like you.