How to pick YOUR wedding photographer
by a Yorkshire Wedding Photographer
A reet grand Yorkshire assessment of what’s what.
Let’s start where it hurts:
Obviously we all have budgets and reckless spending is not a healthy approach to anything. The average price of a wedding photographer in Yorkshire (for 2017) was £1,242. That may shock you or it may not. Some people charge less, some people considerably more.
There’s a tremendous difference in price scales out there. Price increases for a number of reasons, be they experience, skill, notoriety (branding), costing, or time. For the most part price increases because photographers offer an experience; this is different from price or service. You might be receiving services, e.g. albums, prints, time, photos; but you want those services to be wrapped within the EXPERIENCE that a particular photographer brings. This is unique, as photographers we are individuals and as such we all approach your wedding day in different ways; we are looking for different moments, we’re all drawn to particular emotional cues.
Each photographer has their own personality and will interact with you differently. Different photographers will want you to feel differently on your wedding.
It is the EXPERIENCE of having THAT photographer at YOUR wedding as opposed to anybody else that you should prioritise.
So try and see a photographer as an individual, who provides an experience rather than a service or a price. That way you’re paying for an experience that cannot be replicated by anyone else because it is entirely unique to your wedding.
Photographers will have different price points. If you find a photographer you like but can’t afford their top package maybe go for less hours, or see if a service can be removed in order to bring the price down.
There’s no general rule that expensive equals good. But your wedding photographs, albums, and prints will become heirlooms that you will want to pass on. Therefore, wedding photography is important.
Keep in mind that albums, prints and other important heirlooms can be purchased after your wedding day as most photographers will keep your digital files for at least a year after your wedding. So there’s no pressure to make all the decisions before your wedding.
Each photographer is an individual. And as such, each will have their own style. Some will consider themselves to be an artist creating beautiful and memorable commissioned work; others will see the camera as just another extension of their business; and between those extremes a whole spectrum of photographers exist. Neither is particularly right or wrong, but how they view themselves as a photographer can shape their style.
And there are so many different styles out there! This is made even worse (you could say better) by the digital age. Each digital image is a RAW file, ostensibly a blank slate of information with which the photographer can manipulate (almost endlessly) in post-production. For example, take this image here:
Above is the RAW file – the image straight out of camera. Now this doesn’t mean the scene looked (or felt) like this at the time of shooting. A RAW file is a flat image designed to be edited. It’s a blank canvas, if you will. When seeing this image I immediately thought of dark skies and a striking Black and White image. You can see that image below. The edit hasn’t added anything that wasn’t there, it’s simply enhanced the image and brought it closer to what I envisioned.
With the image below, I wanted a 35mm film feeling during the getting ready shots. This is perhaps more to do with the actual shooting, but it also applies to editing. The original image below is a beautiful traditional portrait.
But by going in tighter and allowing some aspects to remain unseen, the photo becomes more dreamlike and filmic. The grain also becomes more prevalent giving the image an even more romantic look.
And then there is film which ‘bakes-in’ a particular colour profile and style. The warmth and depth of the colour comes from the film stock chosen, here it’s Kodak Portra 400. Film has a specific look that will influence the rest of the editing style. And, therefore, by shooting film it gives me my style.
These photographs have been edited in a way as to reflect photographers’ artistic styles. But, as you can see, the latitude of style is diverse and there is no objective criteria for which style works better or worse. We might all have our own subjective opinions on what we like or don’t like. And that’s where your personal aesthetic is important.
The key, therefore, for you as a couple is to find a photographer who’s artistic style reflects your own. Again, this is another good reason for thinking of your photographer as an experience/individual rather than a service.
You want to experience a style that suits you.
And this is so important to think about because, as you can see, how the final digital photograph turns out is now entirely dependent on how the photographer edits it because cameras no longer have film in them that directs the look and tone of an image (but we’ll return to the F word later).
So a photographer is an individual with a unique style, and you should try as much as possible (within your budget) to correlate your style as a couple with that of the photographer.
To help you get a better impression of a photographer’s full style make sure you go to their blog or meet them in person and look through full weddings. Website pages can be full of marketing imagery from real weddings and from editorial shoots, hopefully all these images will represent what the photographer’s artistic style is and what they hope to give you (all things being equal). However, even though beautiful marketing photographs on a homepage might hook you in, you want to make sure that the majority of the photographs that you receive will also correlate to the style that you want.
Sometimes there can be a disconnect between the beautiful images on a website and a full wedding gallery given to couples. There is nothing necessarily wrong with this but I want you to go into it with your eyes open. Remember, not every wedding can have a sun setting over a mountain range in the Lake District or a full moon illuminating a silhouetted couple.
Always look through multiple real wedding sample albums.
This brings us onto another important factor in choosing a wedding photographer: HOW they shoot. Let me show you some examples:
FILM / POSED / REPORTAGE / A MIXTURE OF POSED + REPORTAGE
I can’t tell you how many couples when I ask them what they want say: natural photographs without too much posing. Posing seems to be the dreaded word, at least with the majority of my couples or potential couples. In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with posing – we all do it; as soon as we know we’re being watched we at least put our ‘game-face’ on. There are, however, a range of different conceptions (and mis-conceptions) about posing in wedding photography. And not all posing has to be unnatural.
You might find an ultra traditional wedding photographer who views your wedding as an opportunity to group people together, face them to the camera, and capture a photograph. You might also find a photographer who’s a complete fly-on-the-wall, who will never ask your guests to look at the camera or rearrange people. Depending on what style your photographer primarily shoots in will determine what your photos look like. BUT it will also determine what your wedding day is like for you and your guests.
So, let’s break down the terms:
If a photographer is a reportage wedding photographer, they will never alter the scene in which they find themselves…Like, EVER! They will simply ‘report’ on or ‘document’ what happens at your wedding. There are very few wedding photographers that are 100% reportage. But make sure you understand what that means: if you want a lot of posed ‘formal’ photographs, perhaps of family members, a 100% reportage photographer is completely wrong for your style. This is because formal photographs require the photographer to place and pose the guests around you, something which their style does not let them do. If you book a photographer because you love their candid style perhaps it’s not best to then hand that candid photographer 3 pages of formal photographs to take during your wedding.
As I said, most photographers that use words like reportage/documentary/candid do not hold to a 100% all of the time rule. Most use these terms to express a stylistic choice, that they prefer candid shots of your guests at the wedding instead of posed shots where your quests look and smile at the camera. But don’t take that for granted: ask the photographer during your consultation.
The pros of this style: there’s an emphasis on the natural story of your day. It works best with a full day of photography as this maximises the potential storytelling.
This type of photographer will group people together in a location that has the best light/background and create a photograph from scratch. Normally these are the traditional wedding photographs where couples/guests are looking directly at the camera. This type of photographer is also more likely to use flash, either on-camera, or by setting up off-camera lights. This is important to consider because perhaps you’ve picked a venue specifically for the atmosphere and ambiance of the place; perhaps you’ve filled the entire room to be lit by candle light. In this situation, a photographer who uses extensive flash might not capture the feeling you’ve created in the room – the flash might over power the ambient light.
That being said, if your photographer is skilled at using flash and you talk to them before about how you want the photographs to reflect that mood, then your photographer could skilfully place and power the light accordingly; so as not to blow out the ambient light but to just give you, the couple, a touch more light. Again, this shows the importance of talking to your photographer openly.
What to expect: being posed and positioned so as to create a beautiful photograph. This could be during bridal prep with your bridesmaids; after the ceremony with formal family photographs; with the bride and groom together; your guests during cocktail hour.
The pros: beautiful clean photographs of yourself and your guests. Really good for those wanting a more editorial / high fashion vibe.
– Somewhere in between the two
You’ll find most photographers somewhere in the middle. Posing is not a four letter word and shouldn’t be treated as such – there are levels to posing. For example, below are eight photographs that have been ‘posed’. They have been manipulated by the photographer (me). But only in as much as the photographer asking the couples to be together, or to do something they might have done naturally anyway. It’s the reaction and the feeling behind the interaction that is then captured. The pose is used to allow the couples to express their personality together.
It’s not the pose, therefore, that’s being photographed; but your personalities. And in this middle group, mainly the posing is reserved for the quiet moments of the happy couple together.
The pros of this: primarily a documentary style that captures the story of your day but with a few beautifully staged moments of the couple together; focusing on the personality and interaction of the couple in love over the aesthetic beauty of the pose itself.
What about photographers that still shoot film? Why might photographers still choose to shoot on film in the digital age; and why might a couple want a photographer to capture their wedding on film?
Above are a collection of film images. They are all shot on medium format film. Back before digital photography this was the go-to format for professional photographers (outside of journalism and sports). It is still unrivalled digitally to this day in terms of quality (although that is slowly beginning to change with the introduction of new more affordable medium format digital cameras).
Film has a particular aesthetic. Quite often the term Fine Art is applied to shooting film at weddings. There certainly is a level of proficiency needed to shoot a wedding on film. Film has limitations, a photographer needs to know what they are doing. It takes skill to shoot film. You cannot shoot thousands of images and just keep the very best. You need to know what you’re doing before you take the photo.
But film provides something unique in our digital age: a physical negative. When the photographer presses the shutter button to take a photograph at your wedding, the actual light that was there burns into the negative. The photograph captures a moment in time physically. There’s a romance to that idea. Your wedding is physically present in your photographs.
Due to film stocks having different looks there is no longer an endless possibility of editing styles. Film photographers know which film stocks they prefer and they know exactly how to manipulate that film in order to get the look they want. This means that the EDITING STYLE of the photographer, discussed earlier, is set in stone. Your photographs will look a certain way, and they couldn’t look any other way.
Film also affect the SHOOTING STYLE of the photographer. Film is slower. You may end up with less photographs over all. But you’ll probably have more interaction with your photographer because it won’t feel as hectic and fast. This, in turn, will also change how your wedding feels.
The pros of this approach: your photographs are unique, they have a distinctive style, and there’s a romance to having the light present at your wedding permanently etched into your wedding photographs.
The negatives: it’s going to be more expensive. Film costs money and it needs to be developed and scanned. There is potentially more latitude to go wrong. Film photography is chemistry and sometimes chemistry goes wrong.
However, there are plenty of photographers (even in Yorkshire) who can shoot both film and digital at your wedding. That way you get the beauty of film when it’s appropriate and the security and speed of digital.
As always, if it’s something that’s important to you then just ask your photographer during the consultation.
But don’t take anything for granted; if you know what you want tell your photographer. And they’ll either say that fits into their style or it doesn’t. Either approach is fine. Not every photographer is going to be right for you.
Let’s talk about Packages. I’d always suggest you view packages as a guideline; they’re there to show you what you could get for particular prices. If you like a photographer and their work but don’t think any of their packages suit your wedding that’s fine; just tell them how much you love their work, tell them your budget and can they create something for you. Photographers will happily build bespoke packages for couples who really want them to photograph their wedding.
Packages can also be used as upscaling techniques. There to make certain price points look more attractive. Again, the importance of meeting your photographer and speaking with them will negate this. You’ll be able to tell whether you have a connection with them or whether you feel they’re simply trying to sell you something.
There are, however, somethings that might be worth mentioning from a photographer’s point of view.
– even if you don’t think you want your photograph taking early when you’re getting ready, for photographers who market themselves as storytellers this is a big part of the story. The more the photographer can see, the more they can present and tell. We have the end result in mind. Even if it’s only one or two photographs of make-up and having the dress on for the first time will make a big difference to the cohesion of your wedding day story. Also, remember who doesn’t get to share this experience with you and might want to see how their bride looks the morning of their wedding: the person you’re marrying!
– albums don’t have to cost the world but they are beautiful additions to your story. There’s nothing quite like the moment when we hand over your album for the first time: it feels like we are literally giving you your story. However, albums can be expensive. Normally Fine Art albums are limited to around 60 photographs initially, about 15 spreads (double-pages). This is quite limiting given a photographer normally hands-over around 400 photographs for a full day. Each extra spread will increase the cost. Therefore, you’ll want to talk this through carefully with your photographer.
– you might also want to consider letting your photographer choose the photographs for the album. This is particularly useful for storytellers who have become adept at telling a wedding story in their albums. It’ll be the first time you’ve ever done anything like that but not for your photographer. At the very least try and arrange a consultation to go through photographs that you want in the album.
– costing doesn’t just include the timing on the day. Packages will also reflect the days of editing and album creations that come with photographing a full day. And I do mean days of editing.
– prints are well worth having. This is especially true because photographers will know where to get beautiful prints made and what paper type will work best. Often they’ve worked with their printing lab for years and have built up a working relationship.
Perhaps the culmination of everything and an absolute key to picking your wedding photographer. You’re going to be spending a lot of time over the course of your wedding with your photographer and how they approaches your day can have a huge impact on how you enjoy your day.
We’ve all heard stories about the over-baring photographer who made people feel uncomfortable or ruined the day by making themselves the centre of attention. I’ve even witnessed a photographer shout at the bridal party to hurry up because the beautiful light was fading. The photograph appeared more important than the bridal party’s experience. It didn’t go down very well!
It’s completely up to you concerning what type of personality you’d like at your wedding. There are exceptional photographers who make everything a party atmosphere and create beautiful rock n roll type imagery; there are those who don’t say a word and document the most special candid moments; and there are those who will run your wedding like a well oiled military machine.
It doesn’t matter what type of personality you choose as long as it’s right for you and your wedding.
Book a consultation so you can meet and go through their work, talk to them, have a conversation; can you imagine them being at your wedding? Would you want them to be there with your guests? Their personality will show through the images – we all put ourselves into the photographs we take – so make sure you can see yourself in there too.
If in doubt, ask.
And the very best of luck with your wedding!