Let’s be clear about one thing, Weddings are expensive and they can be a logistical nightmare which are hampered even more by money or to be more precise, the lack of it. Facebook wedding groups are awash with posts about the wedding photographer charging £1000-£1500 and being too expensive. Being one myself I get that, I really do, but I fully understand why paying that much (if your budget allows) can reap its rewards over paying for cheap wedding photography or more importantly “your friend with a Canon”.
A little background
Photography as a whole is an art and like all forms of art it is subjective. Where the wedding photographer differs from most other photographers is that it is more in demand generally and is accepted that when you get married, you would normally hire a wedding photographer to create a set of images that will be displayed in a wedding album of choice and not really care too much about the art form itself, though that is understandable.
With the digital age, came the digital slr (single lens reflex) and just like their older film brothers came a host of features to enable the wedding photographer the opportunity to produce beautiful images that told a beautiful story of a wedding.
The problem with DSLR’s is that it enabled practically anyone to pick one up and start taking images in auto mode and overnight become “a wedding photographer” without understanding any of the technical elements of photography, let alone wedding photography too. There is a host of technical elements and practical elements in photography that always keeps you learning – I didn’t even touch upon lighting either which is equally important to understand.
What you need to know about your wedding photography
What I want to do is give brides an opportunity to understand what specific things to ask of a wedding photographer and help them to understand why wedding photography is important and why you need it, after all, those special moments of a wedding should only happen once in a lifetime (I say should with the best intentions I promise).
How much to budget for a wedding photographer?
Money, as they say is king and this is no more apparant than when planning a wedding. For some fortunate brides this might not be such a big hurdle, but for most it will be what their entire day will be governed by and crucially how much they have left for their wedding photography.
- The first thing you need to ask yourself, is “what budget do I have to spend on a wedding photographer?” Well generally speaking it could be suggested to put aside 10% of your actual whole budget, but there is no hard and fast rule to this. Some will rightly put a bigger emphasis on their wedding photography and others will simply see it as another item that needs to be checked off their list as relatively cheaply as possible.
- Wedding photography prices have a broad spectrum and you can safely assume it leaves a lot of folk rightly confused. Some will charge a mere £400 or less for an 8hr coverage, others will charge £600 and then there will be others that will charge £1000/£1500 upwards. I know if I need a plumber and he charges me a day rate, then his labour charge will be about £150-£200 as a educated guess, so there isn’t that much confusion in the price, so why such discrepancies with wedding photographers prices (more on that later). If your wedding budget is £6000, then as a guide I would be looking to pay £600 using my 10% rule, but you may be different on what you deem an appropriate fee.
Ultimately when it comes to your wedding & money, you have to decide what is best for your back pocket.
It’s a ripoff…Wedding photgraphers earn how much?
I hear this so often and to the general person, I accept with good reason that it sounds like an awful lot of money for a day’s work. As with a lot of things there is more to it than that…..Much more. I would love to turn up at a wedding, fire off 500 images, walk away, put them on a nice usb and say thanks very much. I guess most would too?
The bottom line is that it is far more involved than that, as my poor wife would attest to.
Let me walk you through a real world example of what it’s like to be a wedding photographer and just one client.
- The potential bride drops me a message via email or my facebook business page with an initial enquiry. We proceed to exchange messages until we get to the point where they would like to book my services. I explain that I only accept a deposit when they have agreed to my terms and conditions (which every photographer should have). If they are reasonably local, I will arrange a convenient time to meet them for a coffee and informal chat.
- When I meet with a potential bride, it normally starts off as a 30 minute session, but normally extends to about 2 hours (though that could be in part my fault, as I do tend to chat….a lot). If I can’t meet face to face then normally skype or a telephone conversation has to suffice, but this is at the client’s discretion.
- Once the client is happy and have the contract signed and save the date paid for, I can relax for a few months.
- Nearer to the wedding, I take the necessary option of contacting the bride to be, to see if anything has changed & normally scout their wedding location if it’s new to me.
- On the day of the wedding I spend 10 hours actual photography time taking up to about 800 images. Sometimes that means moving location as the bride often has bridal prep done at home.
- After the wedding I then spend approx 20-25hrs working on post processing and final re-touching of images
This is a broad over view of an average wedding that I undertake and can be more involved if I have to stay away. Would I change it? No, I love it, but there are quite a few folk who generally dismiss wedding photography as a one day thing.
So we have roughly about 50 actual working hours covering one wedding. If your wedding photography costs £600, then that equates to about 12ph….Which leads me onto the next part nicely.
I remember hearing that wedding photography is 80% business and 20% photography & it is very true. I spend more of my free time doing “business” related things, than my actual photography. With all that business work comes the associated cost of it all.
A wedding photographer will need to spend at least £6000 (this can rise upwards towards £10000) on equipment, then there is the marketing side of the business - website, promotional material, wedding fairs, etc. Then you need to run a vehicle, so fuel and general running costs and then you have to make sure you have money left for your insurance and last but not least your 20% for the good old coffers of the inland revenue.
In summary you are racing against the clock as a wedding photographer to avoid making losses or you are cutting corners and that is one big question you, as the client needs to clarify. I have seen countless photographers charge less than £400 for their services, they are the wedding photographers that are more likely to be cutting corners somewhere.
This is a situation that can really have a negative impact on your wedding day. Therefore it is up to you to do your due diligence and be sure you ask the questions that determine the quality of the wedding photographer you are likely to get. If I took an unbiased view of what I know now, then I would always make sure that the wedding photographer is high up on my budget to spend on list. We are either worth our weight in gold or we are worth our worth our weight in something less desirable.
So tell me, what do I need to know then?
It’s hard to convince someone of something they don’t truly believe in (I tried convincing my 12 yr old son that father Christmas is real….Kids look away now…He is, I promise).
I sometimes find myself asking brides what is it you want from your photography, what do you want me to achieve for you? I often get a muted response. This come as no surprise to me, as we was asked the same questions when myself and my wife got married and our answer was “erm, nice pictures please”. They didn’t turn out that way, but that’s a story for another day. I didn’t really care to be honest, but now I sit on the other side of the fence, my eyes are wide open.
When you are looking for your wedding photographer, look with your eyes open and use a checklist and ask the questions. None of us should be introverts, we want to help and it’s our business to help with a smile.
- Make sure you are happy with the prospective photographer’s portfolio. His/her work will demonstrate what you can expect from them.
- Are they insured? By this I mean do they have public liability and indemnity insurance. There are a lot of venues that will insist on seeing public liability insurance. What if your wedding day photography is ruined due to a photographer’s mistake? You can’t re-run it, but your out of pocket, so someone is at fault (it is rare so don’t get too hung up on this).
- If their fees are too low, then two sayings come to mind “if its too good to be true then it probably is” and “you get what you pay for”. This isn’t strictly true, mind and there are some genuine low cost options that are very good, so be extra diligent in your search.
- Ask what equipment they use. Generally speaking most good photographers will carry back-ups and have at least two full frame camera bodies, a range of lenses that cover various focal ranges, various ways of ensuring your crucial images are backed up, not just once but three times. Basically their equipment list should be as fail proof as can be.
- Meet them. Always insist on meeting your photographer where possible. It helps to understand if their personality will be a fit for you and your partner. I cannot stress this enough. If I don’t click with a bride to be, then I tend to lose that connection. For me weddings are an emotional event and I truly feel part of the emotion. It’s what gives me that the desire to take images that evoke emotion. The same is equally as important for you, the bride and groom. You want the wedding photographer to be passionate about what he/she does. Without the passion, makes you question their commitment. I priortise my love for photography and weddings over financial gain, though the very nature of a business demands that money play a role too, so that is secondary - If I ensure that i’m passionate about what I do and my skills in the industry are there, then the finaicial side of it takes care of itself. Make sure the wedding photographer feels the love for your day too and you click as well.
- Sign a contract. You don’t supply it, they do. Insist on one being in place. If a photographer ever tells you that they don’t have them….Walk away.
- Ask them about their lighting techniques, ie do they use flash or natural light. If it’s the latter, question them on how they would get shot’s in a low light reception hall or church (where most don’t allow flash). A good photographer will be able to work in any lighting conditions. Fact.
- If your budget allows, consider going further up the quality chain. I have been doing this for 2 years now and my prices are where they are, because that’s what I think I’m worth. Have I spent a small fortune on my equipment? Yes. Do I have all the necessary paperwork? Yes. Would I expect you to pay me £1000 - £1500 per wedding? No. In wedding photography Paying more gets you better quality….Most of the time.
- To feed or not to feed? I hear this question pop up a lot and it’s one of those questions that is split with two very different answers. There are some wedding photographers that say “Hey look i’m here all day, so in my contract it says you should feed me” this doesn’t sit right with me. Wedding venues charge anything from £60 upwards to feed just one person for the wedding breakfast and the wedding photographer wants in on some of that too? Then there are some that say “I wouldn’t mind being fed if you are offereing?” this is a little more subtle to the expectancy that they are asking to be fed. Now me, i’m in the camp that says no, don’t feed me. If i got fed at every wedding it would make my job harder carrying all that extra weight around - If you tell me you want to feed me then thats fine, but honestly I much prefer to snack on a delicous sandwich that my wife prepared for me and take detail shots of your rings and other bits, whilst you all eat - It’s really upto you to decide and not the wedding photographer to stipulate in his/her T’s&C’s in my opinion.
These are just some of the common questions that need to be asked. There are loads and it can be quite tiresome trying to nail down the wedding photographer of choice. I could easily write bullet point after bullet point, but that would be tedious for you guy’s to read - so for now I will leave a link below to more information on what to expect from the wedding photographer you may want to hire.
Suits you Sir…..Or Madam
This last bit of the post is all about style & choosing the right friend, I mean uncle, I really mean photographer to do the job that you want. Style is a choice that only you can make, as is the latter.
Believe it or not there are a few styles of wedding photography you can choose from, just like your wedding dress, it comes down to personal taste. I will explain the different styles for those that are unaware in a moment, but for now I want to talk about that friend or Uncle Bob and for all those friends that say we can do it on our Iphones…EEK!!
It’s unfair to label all friends with Dslr cameras as “inadequate fools stuck in auto mode” and I won’t resort to name calling ;).
With that said, there is an inherent problem with entrusting your friend or Uncle Bob with your wedding photography.
- They are guests at your wedding; no doubt they will have other friends that they know or relatives that will be there also. They won’t in most cases appreciate the opportunity to walk around for 10 hours capturing your day without having a sneaky pint or a few Pimms. There are too many distractions for them to be totally committed to your wedding photography. A photographer friend of mine recently told me that a potential wedding he nearly had, was entrusted to a friend to save a few pounds (well a fair bit more actually) and this friend very dutifully spent most of the day sitting down with his family and most of the shots, ironically were of his family and not the bride and groom. Needlessly to say the groom (who’s friend it was, was a bit upset….There might have been expletives, so I will comment no further). Story’s like this garner a fair amount of sympathy from me, but to a point. Honestly it’s not a wise move to enlist the help of a friend to capture a day that they are part of. If budget is that tight and it’s the best you can muster, then fine but don’t spend that money on a lovely chocolate fountain (although tempting) if you want to look back on your memories.
- Iphones and other smart phones are brilliant, they really are. You will not find me putting them down for what they achieve in such small spaces. They have their place that’s for sure, but when it comes to wedding photography their place should be in your pocket. Sure they are good for snaps, but is it wise for a phone that has such a small sensor to be given the task for taking your pictures of your first dance? I’m sure that guests will get plenty of snap shots of your big day, though I would hesistate at using them for anything more serious. Thankfully there are not too many stories I have heard where wedding photgraphy has been shot solely on one.
What sort of style do you want?
You may have heard terms banded about such as reportage (also known as documentary or photo journalistic) as a means to describe a style of wedding photography? You may also have heard about other styles like traditional or contemporary wedding photography also?
Needless to say certain photographers have a preference and will only shoot in these styles. Some are masters at it and know pretty much all there is to know about their particular style. I don’t sit in any particular camp…Yet, but I am a lover of reportage. Being able to take emotional pictures of someone, whilst at the same time being a “stealthy Ninja” is quite a task. If I get a review saying “we hardly noticed the photographer”, then that is a job well done!
Traditional is as the name implies – Formal images including pre-determined poses and group shots. Not a lot of effort goes into these types of images and they don’t tend to be full of natural emotion. Most of the time your photographer will spend setting up various shots, which have been pre-arranged with the bride and groom and will have a lot of intervention from the photographer which can make images feel forced.
There are quite a few variations of styles that work for wedding photography and you would be wise to research them and decide on what style best suits you. Below is a link that goes into more detail about the different styles.
If you need a more indepth guide to planning your wedding then head over to ROCK MY WEDDING. These guy’s know their onions when it comes to planning your day – http://www.rockmywedding.co.uk/
Thankyou for reading the wedding photographer post
So there you have it. It may not be every detail about the wedding photographer, but I do hope for any potential brides that this blog post about the wedding photographer has in some part at least given you an insight to what to look for when choosing your wedding photographer.
If you have any comments or questions then please feel free to drop a comment or two below 🙂