There are so, so many wedding photographers out there it's difficult to even know where to start. If you put a post on Facebook you'll have 100 replies within an hour. You don't even need to mention a date or location, you'll still be swamped with replies.
Before you start looking be honest with yourselves and each other, how much does the photography matter to you? If you're genuinely a bit "meh" about photography then the following really isn't going to help you. There's nothing wrong with wanting nothing more few decent snaps of the day, we're all different, it's your wedding and your choice is the right one for you.
If, however, the photography is something you're keen to get right there's a few boxes that need to be ticked; style, quality, personality, service, and budget. Let's dig down into each so you'll have a better idea of what to look for.
Common approaches to shooting style are traditional, natural, documentary, fine art and often a mixture of these. The traditional approach really comes from the days of shooting film and sticks rigidly to a list of shots and is often preferred by couples who really just want photos as a formal record of the day.
Natural is currently top of the sales pitches and you'll see "natural, relaxed, unposed" used a lot in adverts and social media posts. This approach largely stems from couples who tell their photographer one or both of them doesn't like being photographed and a photographer who doesn't know how to pose. So be wary of that "unposed" pitch, a photographer still needs to direct a couple to produce a result that shows the couple's real emotions. Otherwise the couple are back to feeling lost and awkward, the very thing they wanted to avoid.
Documentary or photojournalism is when the photographer becomes a fly on the wall, they never direct or suggest, they simple observe and your photos will reflect how they saw your day unfold. Perfect for couples who just want to enjoy the day with their friends and family not worrying about group photos, pausing the flow and excitement of the day.
Fine art is just about the opposite of documentary, you're handing the photographer a lot more control over staging photos, you'll be posed very precisely and often will involve extra lighting, assistants, and it will require a good deal more of your time on the day.
Editing style is also something to consider. Look at colours, are they bright or muted, have the images been edited to look soft and grainy, do you think the editing choice is for aesthetics or a trend? Will it look aged in 20 years time?
Consistency is a good metric to judge quality by when you're viewing a photographer's portfolio. The photographer has complete control over each image, they choose the camera settings, the composition and when to push the button. Afterwards they also decide which shots to keep and which don't make the grade. Exposure, is the subject correctly lit? Has the shot being framed well, has the dress been cut off, is there a tree growing out of someone's head? Is it in focus? What about the colours, particularly with indoor shots where the colour of the light source can vary a great deal. If you see shots that have obvious errors then that's a big red flag - if a photographer is choosing those images to represent their work you have to question if they actually take any pride in what they're doing.
Even more important than the technical aspects, do you feel the photos are telling you a story? "There are always two people in every photograph" is a quote from landscape photographer Ansel Adams and of course he's talking about the photographer and the viewer. A photo should be telling the viewer not only what the photographer saw at the moment but also how they felt. If you aren't having an emotional response to the photos then either the photographer's view isn't aligned with yours, the photographer is still searching for their own viewpoint or, perhaps your own view is that photography is more of a record than a story (and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that) in which case a traditional style photographer is likely to be a better choice for you.
At a recent wedding fair one vendor was very vocal in telling couples how humbled he was to have won "best of" in his category for the country in the international wedding awards. Sounds great right? The truth, however, tells a very different story. The award wasn't based on his work, there wasn't a panel of expert judges. The award was bought from a company that exists simply to "sell" awards and the winners have just paid to enter, paid for their certificate and shiny trophy. It's very easy to check the validity of an award, just ask the vendor to provide details of the award.
Your photographer has to be someone you feel comfortable and relaxed around, someone you can trust. Always meet them in person or over a video chat before booking and at least once more before your wedding. If they offer a pre-shoot/engagement shoot service give it some serious consideration as it will give you a clear idea of how they work and what you can expect from them on the day.
Photos are just part of the reason you should choose your photographer, you also need one that provides exceptional client service and goes above and beyond to create a seamless and enjoyable journey for you and your partner.
Your photographer will take the time to listen to your vision, preferences, and expectations, ensuring that they understand your unique style and desires for your wedding photos. Approachable, responsive, and readily available to answer your questions, provide guidance, and address any concerns you may have in a timely manner. This level of attentiveness fosters a sense of trust and rapport, making you feel confident that your photography needs are in capable hands.
They arrive prepared and well-equipped, putting your mind at ease and allowing you to focus on enjoying your celebration. During the event, they are unobtrusive yet attentive, capturing candid and emotional moments without disrupting the flow of the day.
On the other hand, a photographer who neglects client service can lead to frustration and disappointment. Poor communication, late responses, and a lack of engagement can leave you feeling uncertain and unsupported in the lead-up to your wedding. Fortunately reviews are always a good place to find out how other couples felt about the service they received.
While it's important to consider the financial aspect of wedding planning, prioritizing cost over quality can lead to regrettable outcomes and missed opportunities to capture the essence of a wedding day.
An experienced and skilled photographer brings an artistic eye, technical expertise, and the ability to capture the genuine emotions and intimate moments that make your wedding unique. Cutting corners on photography might mean compromising on these crucial aspects, resulting in generic or uninspiring images that fail to reflect the true spirit of your event.
Ultimately, your wedding photographer should be chosen based on their portfolio, style, reputation, and compatibility with your vision. While it's essential to remain mindful of your budget, prioritizing quality and expertise will ensure that you receive photographs that truly encapsulate the love, joy, and unique moments that make your wedding a once-in-a-lifetime experience.