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Lessons in Wedding Planning: finding a photographer

09 Jun 2016

Finding your wedding photographer is no mean feat, as bride-to-be Jessica Phillipson has come to realise. Here's her third instalment of 'Lessons in Wedding Planning'...

Hi brides-to-be!

Memories. Don’t worry, I’m not about to burst in to that song from the Cats musical – I’m talking about memories of your wedding and how they are recorded. For most people, this is by a wedding photographer.

Tom and I are lucky enough to have a friend who is a wedding photographer. We agonised over whether to ask him to photograph our day, but eventually decided we didn’t want to put him in a position where he felt he couldn’t say no, or that we’d only invited him to get a cut price photographer. Also, his poor wife would have been left rather lonely as he was busy snapping away!

Instead, we picked his brains and came up with a list of what to look for from someone in the know:

1. Decide on your style. There are more wedding photography options than ever before, whether you want traditional line-ups of key people, highly stylised fashion magazine-style photo shoots, or reportage shots capturing natural moments. It’s important you get someone who shares your vision.

2. “No decent wedding photographer will walk through the door for less than £1,000.” That’s a direct quote from our friend, and it seems to hold true. That is just how much they cost, and if you’re paying less, there’s probably a reason.

3. Pick someone who limits the amount of weddings they photograph each year. You want unique images that represent you, not photographs by someone clearly going through the motions.

4. Ask technical questions – it’s the ‘boring’ bit of looking through lovely images, but you need to ask. How many images will you actually get? Will they all be edited? What rights do you have to them? What rights does the photographer have?

With these pointers in mind, we turned to Google. Make sure you assess websites with a critical eye – photographers are artists who are supposed to have a good eye for detail and composition, so if their website looks bad, then their skills may be questionable too. It’s also important to figure out how long they stay; some photographers work from bridal prep until the first dance only, so consider how many hours you’re actually getting on the day for their fee.

After looking at various styles, we decided we wanted a reportage style photographer; someone who would capture the genuine, unguarded moments and not have us standing around with increasingly weary smiles on our faces as line-ups of various friends and relatives were created. We also wanted someone to tell the story of our whole day – which meant staying beyond the first dance.

Then we got meeting them! It is so important to meet your potential photographer in person – you are essentially inviting a complete stranger to your wedding (usually a no-no; see my blog on creating a guest list), so you need to make sure you’re comfortable with them.

I was surprised at first, but it seems to be the norm for photographers to come to your house to meet you (many suggested this). That poor first photographer got a bit of a grilling – hey, I’d never done this before. I had a list of questions written down that I fired at them and, as I’d done so much research on their website, I often found myself completing their answers for them! Creepy. But they were extremely laid back, smiley and seemed to have a genuine passion for being a part of something so special.

I was much more chilled next time, starting my questions with: “So I noticed on your website...” thus avoiding creepy stalkerish behaviour. This photographer was also extremely chilled. Too chilled. No smiles, no bubbly personality as promised on their website, and an uncomfortable insistence on discovering who else we were meeting.

Our last meeting was a disaster. We had arranged to meet at a hotel near their house, quite a way for us to travel. We arrived and waited for 10 minutes in the lobby. No sign. We checked the bar. No sign. We sat for another 10 minutes, starting to feel self conscious as staff and guests walked past and stared at this curious couple loitering in the lobby. After 20 minutes had passed, I called them. They had forgotten. This is about the worst first impression you can make, but as we had gone all that way and we liked their photos, we stayed and met them. And I’m glad we did. They gave us valuable food for thought and helped make our decision.

However, our meeting with this photographer ended as awkwardly as it has started, with them going in for a kiss and me going for a handshake, we somehow ended up embracing. I could not have this person at our wedding – we were too awkward.

The first photographer we met turned out to be ‘the one.’ After we had made our decision, I discovered they had also shot one of my bridesmaids’ big sister’s wedding – I took this as a sign of a decision well made.

Choose a wedding photographer - check!

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