Our essential guide to choosing your wedding photographer in 2023
There might be 50K* wedding photographers in the UK… so how do you choose the best one for YOU?
With a thousand places to search online, a new social platform for every generation, up to 50K websites and a ‘recommended’ list at every venue, where should you even start? How will you refine your search? What should you even be looking for?
Don’t worry – with expert advice on choosing your wedding photographer from Hannah Hall Photography, we’ve got you covered.
How to find the right wedding photographer for you
First of all, give yourselves TIME.
Don’t rush into a decision and choose the first wedding photographer whose images you fall in love with. (Because, that will happen more than once.) Set aside time to look, and do it together. Think of what you both want from a photographer. Group shots? Photos of you laughing together? Golden hour portraits? Amazing pictures of your guests having their best day ever? Snaps of your pooch in his wedding finery? Photos of the spectacular floral archways you’ve booked or the calligraphy details you’re making?
“if you hate having your photos taken then someone with an unposed, candid approach may be your bag, but someone who shoots that way may not want to give over too much time to shooting a lot of formal group photographs.” ~ Hannah Hall Photography
Take time to understand the different approaches to wedding photography, because this is super important. There are documentary wedding photographers, fine art wedding photographers, standard / traditional wedding photographers, even fashion / editorial style wedding photographers. And there are those who are detail-focused, while others are all about people, emotion and moments.
Between the two of you, choose which of these styles will suit you best!
As you begin to look at wedding photographers’ portfolios, also look at their editing style. Are the images vibrant, fun and colourful? Or light and airy? Or dramatic, vintage, arty… There are so many styles to choose from. This is why you shouldn’t rush into any decisions! (But keep reading – because once you’ve found a photographer you love, it’ll be time to move FAST!)
Where to look for your perfect wedding photographer
- Instagram is currently a fabulous places to start looking for wedding photographers. Facebook is great too, and Google. But don’t forget to look offline as well!
- Most wedding venues will have a recommended list of photographers – DO check if it’s a paid list though. (If the photographers have to pay to be included, it’s likely there will be other great photographers in the area who’ve chosen not to pay for the privilege as well.)
- Ask for photographer reviews and recommendations from friends and colleagues.
- Visit wedding showcases and fairs where you can meet photographers in person.
- If you don’t find an amazing photographer in your local area, shop further afield. Most will happily travel further than you’d think.
What to ask your wedding photographer
Between the two of you, make a shortlist of photographers you really, really like. Then meet them – in person if possible, but at least for a video chat or phone call.
Ask about their experience. How long have they been photographing weddings? How many have they shot? How many do they do a year?
Someone who’s been a photographer for years might be amazing in their field, but a wedding is a unique challenge for any photographer. Not only do they need to be ready for the key moments in your wedding day (an Indian or Jewish wedding being very different from a humanist ceremony, for example), but they need to be alert for spontaneous moments and rapid changes in lighting conditions – this is where real wedding experience is invaluable.
Hannah says, “Your friend might “have a nice camera” but does it perform in low light and do they know how to use it to the extremes of its capabilities if needs be? Of course every wedding photographer started somewhere, but it’s just important you know what you’re getting. I always send two full galleries of images to clients at the point of enquiry as I think it’s important they see what a whole day of photography looks like, not just the best of my work in my portfolio and on my social media pages.”
Check they’re insured and have back up plans!
Never skip these questions. Every wedding photographer MUST have insurance – and they’d be crazy not to. They need to have professional indemnity and public liability insurance. A good photographer will also have their kit insured, because a good photographer will have several expensive cameras, lenses and all the accessories that go with them.
I know a wedding photographer whose camera was run over at a wedding. It was under a bench and he took his eyes off it for a second… but that was all it took for a guest to reverse their car into the bench and take out his camera.
It’s worth thinking through some worst case scenarios and asking your photographer any questions you can think of. Quote your wedding nightmares if needs be, and remember the Covid pandemic…!
“In the event of illness I’d employ a second photographer at my own cost who I trusted to take over if I really had to leave. If I really couldn’t make it I’d send a trusted photographer in my place and would edit the photographs afterwards but I’d have to be on my death bed for that to happen. I shoot on two camera bodies and always have a spare with me too. Both cameras shoot to two memory cards just in case a card fails and I back up my images in three different places when I get home. Super safe!” ~ Hannah Hall Photography
Have a proper chat with your wedding photographer before you book them. For a lot of couples, this is the most important thing of all.
You’ll be spending a lot of time with your wedding photographer, and on the biggest day of your lives. So you need to know they’re a good person, they’re nice to be around, and you feel at ease with them.
For me, this means having a relaxed meet up with them. Go for a beer in your favourite local, or a coffee in your fave vegan cafe. If you’re all comfortable, that’s a great start!
Be yourselves. Don’t dress up like it’s a formal business meeting. Take your lists of questions by all means. See if you feel ok asking them, or if it’s awkward. Most photographers are people-people and will respond in a nice human way to your questions, and reassure you. Be nice, obviously!
And if you have kids, and they’ll be there on the wedding day, take them along! Similarly if your dogs will be at your wedding, they can come to your meeting with your photographer! A photographer who your toddler thinks is fun, or who your dog is instantly besties with, is a sure sign of a winner!
In a nutshell, personality is everything. Choose a wedding photographer you both think is ace, and fun, and who you’ll be very happy to spend your day with!
(It’s a good tip to read the About page on their website even before you meet. They can be a brilliant insight into who photographers really are!)
“I’m fascinated by the connection between people and I’m a bit of a chatter box. I’m also a terrible dancer but you’ll find it hard to get me and my cameras off the dance floor, for which I make no apology.” ~ Hannah Hall Photography
Copyright, RAW files, intellectual property and sharing
Wedding Facebook groups and forums occasionally bring up the question of image rights. Ask your photographer to explain who owns your images, and what this means. Photographers can explain this better than anyone, so ask!
The key things to take away are –
- You’ll be given your amazing photos
- Whatever you want to do with them – if it’s normal, it’ll be fine! (Like, don’t sell them to people or anything weird. But do put them on your instagram. It’s NICE if you always tag your photographer in the caption, and if you do, you’re a GOOD PERSON.)
- If you don’t want your photographer to share them on their instagram or use them for marketing, let them know.
- You don’t want the RAW files. You want the beautiful images your photographer has taken and edited for you. If you’re not a photographer, you won’t understand what a RAW file is. If you are a photographer, you already know better than to ask for them!
- Your photographer will always own the copyright and intellectual property rights to their images. Don’t worry about this – it’s normal and will be explained in your contract.
Why is wedding photography expensive?
Good wedding photography is worth every penny, and I’d always recommend you get the best you can afford.
You’re paying for:
- the hours spent at your wedding
- editing time – which is HUGE
- the clear communication and emails to make arrangements
- travel time
- and a hundred other things which go into your wedding photographer’s business –
- good quality equipment (camera bodies, backups)
- learning and experience
- just existing as a professional wedding photographer! Having a website, social presence, local connections and reputation…
Booking your wedding photographer
Even before you meet with your wedding photographer, let them know the dates you’re looking at for your wedding.
You’ll need to confirm with your venue first of course, and with the church or registrar if you’re having one**, but once you’ve nailed down a date, BOOK FAST!!
Wedding photographers often get booked up two years in advance. Whatever you do, don’t find your perfect person then procrastinate. When you know, you know – so don’t miss out!
If your dream wedding photographer is booked on your date though, it’s always worth asking for their recommendation. Wedding photographers are generally the most wonderful people, and they’ll absolutely help if they can!
With huge thanks to Hannah Hall Photography for the inspiration for this blog, and for sharing her wedding images with us! Check out more advice from Hannah here – https://hannahhallphotography.co.uk/choosing-your-wedding-photographer/
*source: https://www.quora.com/How-many-wedding-photographers-are-in-the-UK (I’m not saying this is true!)
**consider an independent or Humanist celebrant as well. If your heart is set on a wedding date and there are no registrars available, you can always have your official (legal, religious) marriage beforehand, and book a celebrant for your wedding.