For some time now, I've had a suspicion that all is not well in the Wedding Photography industry. I'm a wedding photographer and I know all the tricks of "the business". I've also been on the other side of the business helping friends and family choose a photographer for their wedding (I prefer to party at my friend's weddings!)
So, with some suspicions, I surveyed a lot of married people and was astonished to find that 71 % of people said they were not happy with their wedding photographer. This was much higher than I was expecting. Furthermore, an astonishing 85% of respondents said they should have hired a better photographer and would do so if they had their time again.
Read that again, 85% of people were so disappointed in their photos they believe they should have hired a better photographer.
Clearly, something is not right in our industry.
I think there are a number of issues, I think its partly bad photographers, partly good photographers not handling expectations well, and partly couples who aren't, and have no reason to be, experts at understanding this industry.
So here's a little guide, by a wedding photographer, on how to choose the right wedding photographer. Note there are a million other things to consider but these are what I think are the essentials, if you get these right you will be less likely to be disappointed.
Style is in many respects the easy thing to get right. You've looked online, read magazines, started a Pinterest account so you now know that you either want a photojournalist style, an editorial style, a retro style. Most photographers will have one style that they stick with so choosing a photographer who shoots the style you want is as simple as looking at the style they normally shoot in.
The second, and in many ways most important, decision you need to make is about the quality of photographer you want. I'm not talking about style here (documentary, photojournalism etc), or cost, I'm talking about the quality of the photographer. How many great photos do they take across the whole day.
Here's an attempt to capture the range of possible photographers for your wedding:
# 1. Uncle Tom. He's always loved taking 'snaps'.
# 2. Jane's cousin Pete. He's a keen amateur who might have even studied photography once.
# 3. A "professional wedding photographer", found online.
# 4. A "professional wedding photographer", found online.
Wait, aren't #3 and #4 the same? No, no, and no! I'd say 50-80% of "professional wedding photographers" are nothing more than con-men and women who think buying an expensive camera makes them professional. Buying a scalpel does not make you a surgeon. Becoming a #4 professional wedding photographer takes years of dedication to photography. It takes commitment and passion and a constant desire to improve your art.
So how can you tell the difference between #3 and #4 professionals?
#3 will bambooz you with a flashy website full of good images from different weddings, they may have slideshows set to music, they will be slick. They will offer you champagne and expensive brochures.
#4 will bambooz you with a flashy website full of great images from weddings, they may have slideshows set to music, they will be slick. They will offer you champagne and expensive brochures.
Notice the difference? There's a key difference there. #3 will show you images from different weddings. #4 will show you images (especially if you ask) from ONE wedding. That's the key difference. A #4 photographer should be able to get good or great quality images across the whole day, not just one of two good images for the entire day.
At Mr & Mrs Wedding Photography our website is designed to showcase three individual weddings, one from a beach, one in a church, and another a destination wedding. We hope this gives our potential clients a feel for the quality across the entire day that they can expect to receive.
So, my #1 tip in choosing the right photographer for your wedding is insist on seeing images from one wedding. That will give you a feel for how many good quality images you are likely to see after your wedding.
Which leads me to expectations.
The first thing to know is that photographers, even true professionals with years of experience, are not superhuman, they will not get award-winning, magazine quality images of every single aspect of your day from 8am until midnight. It just doesn't happen. If you are expecting stunning images from sunrise to sunrise, you will be disappointed.
Most #4 photographers will give you consistently good images across the entire day and this is what you should be aiming for. There should definitely be some great images in there, the sort you will be proud to hang up on your wall.
I know of two immensely expensive US based wedding photographers. Both are at the top of their game, are in huge demand, and both charge over US$25,000 for their basic packages. I've seen a full set of images from a single wedding and I can guarantee you, if you paid that much money and expected every single image to be a prize-winning image, you would be really disappointed. Some images are truly magnificent, most are really good, a large number are just 'snaps'.
If you end up with 5-10 magnificent images, 30-90 or so really good photos, and the rest nice snaps, then you should be happy.
Cheap is always cheap. Repeat after me: cheap is always cheap. If you pick a photographer because they are cheap you can expect the quality of your images to plummet. This might be all you can afford/budget for but don't expect miracles and don't expect to be anything but disappointed (particularly if you hope to share the images with your kids and grandkids some day).
Do keep in mind though that your wedding is a once in a lifetime event (usually) and it might seem like a good idea to skimp on photography but really after the day is finished, apart from memories, all you have left is the photos. Imagine your grandchildren sitting down to look at your wedding album and seeing cheap photos. Is that worth it?
5. A recommendation from a friend
If you've seen you're friends wedding photos (all of them) and like them then this might be a good way to go. However keep in mind a few things. 1) Did you see all the photos? 2) How long ago did your friend get married (has the photographer aged in energy or style) 3) Ask your friend what the worst thing about the experience with that photographer was - if they suggest irrelevant things like they didn't like the package the images came in, then that's probably fine, if the photographer missed a key photo, that's not fine.
Don't take a recommendation as proof that the photographer is everything you want for your wedding, refer back to points 1-4.
Take these points as a starting point. There is way to find the right photographer for your wedding and I hope this helps in some way.
I'm really happy to answer any questions directly, so email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below
Written by Nicholas Purcell