Finding the right wedding photographer for you

During these tough financial times many couples looking to get married are working out was of keeping the cost of their wedding down and I have seen an increase in blogs and magazines suggesting using family or a friend who is handy with a camera to take photos of the wedding day.  Here I will provide some of the pros and cons of using a professional wedding photographer compared to an amateur or even a pro photographer but does not specialise in weddings.  Also if you are looking for a low cost option then searching for a photographer who is wanting to take on weddings and is offering free wedding photography to kick start their career.  To find these newbies I will list a couple of sites where you will find these new photographers.

Everyone has a budget in mind and depending how you value getting amazing images of your wedding day then you should use this as a guide depending on what you are looking for.  Like every other service there are varying scales.  Everyone is capable of taking a picture we all do it, so what are you paying for ?.  Its a bit like finding a restaurant, some people are happy to eat fast food, some like a nice country pub and then some eat in five start Michelin restaurants.   Wedding photography packages are very much the same, you get what you pay for.  If you are shopping on price you will find plenty of a cheap wedding photographers.  If you want a beautifully presented album with amazing images fit for a magazine cover then you will pay more.

Typical rates for wedding photographers
£200 to £500 amateur, / hobby photographer
£500 to £1000 Part time or new start-up wedding photographer
£1000 to £2000 Full time Pro wedding photographers
£2000 to £5000 High end Pro wedding photographers

Getting the shots
Pro wedding photographers are well versed at getting the shots you want for the album and will take command of the group shots and get them done as efficient as possible.  We also know the venues  and how they work so we can be in the right place at the right time.  Above all one of the hidden codes to being a Pro wedding photography is we try and keep the whole day on schedule so this run smoothly.

Non Pro wedding photographers will find the group shots very challenging and stressful so be patient with your friend who is trying to capture your wedding and be accommodating to give them some time to get all the shots.  An inexperienced wedding photographer will miss some shots as there is so much going on.  Until a photographer has completed a whole wedding from taking the pictures through post production to creating an album a couple of times then they will not be in tune with what is needed.

When paying a premium rate for a wedding photographer you know they have received the training and developed their skills over many years.  For myself I studied part-time HND photography for 3 years before taking on a project for financial gain and it took another 6 years before I shot my first wedding.  Even with my training and experience I am still attending training sessions and the last one was with Julie Boggio, the UKs leading wedding photographer plus every year attending the Society of Portrait and Wedding Photographers SWPP conference to keep up to date with current trends and techniques.

This goes without saying but all my equipment is professional grade yet I have seen wedding photographers using high end amateur cameras and lenses.  The trade off with non professional equipment is not being able to capture high quality bright colourful images in low light plus you need the speed to capture those defining moments that happened in a split second.  And as always I carry three of everything should a technical issue arise.

An area often overlooked is calibration of equipment, I calibrate my camera to my computer which is them setup to use the same profile for our printers to ensure exact colour matching.  A very important process especially when many wedding have a colour theme these days.

Post production
This is where skills really stand apart.  A Pro wedding photographer will capture all images in RAW format.  This is say they are unprocessed files.  Like with the old days of film it is the time between capturing the image on film and taking to the photo lab for processing.  Your instant cameras capture JPG files which means the camera has worked out all the light and colour levels for you, compressed the image and creates a JPG.  With RAW files a photographer does all the processing on a computer to maximise the image and set the correct level and tone.

How I work is I import images from my camera using Photo Mechanics to sort and rate images.  Using Capture One to set the light levels and colour correction plus any cropping.  Once this is done I process the images in Capture One and create jpeg files.  With the set of jpeg images this is where the real retouching starts in photoshop to remove any distracting items in the background, remove skin blemishes on the close-ups.  With all the images now looking clean and bright I use OnOne photo effects to add that special touch.  This whole process can take a day or more to complete.

If using a non pro wedding photographer but want to find one that will create great images ask them what their workflow is for processing images.  For me this is a work in progress area of my business and continually assess new products as they come to market and always research new trends and techniques.

Album Design
Album Design is an art in itself and if your photographer has had little experience this area then it will be major hurdle for them.  Firstly to find a supplier they like and are in tune with the printing process of the printers to ensure there is quality control all they way.  Fortunately my partner Heike has many years of experience in publishing and marketing for major brands that I leave it to her to lovingly create the layout for our albums.

Peace of mind
As a full time photographer public liability insurance is very important should something unfortunate happen and provide you with added coverage.  Also I keep 3 copies of the images. Once  images are imported from the camera I create a back of the RAW files on CD.  The processed jpg files are created on a separate hard drive and then once finished the files are hosted on our on-line image store.

From start to finish a full day wedding coverage can take up to 40 hours to complete with travel time, 8 hours coverage, uploading and backup of images, processing, retouching, album design and shipping.  So if you are paying £500 for your photographer with an album, they are either working for well below minimum wage or they will not put the time in for post production.

As mentioned above, places to search for those new photographers looking to offer low cost wedding coverage please visit these sites.

So my advise when looking for a wedding photographer is to shop around and always meet face to face and view some sample albums which should be a complete album of one past wedding and not just the best images of all the weddings to get a feel for the style and quality.  If you are shopping on price then try the links above and be up front with your budget as you will probably get a lot of replies but not be able to afford them and will save you time finding the photographers in your price range.

I hope you have found this article useful and always happy to give advice if you are struggling to find a photographer right for you.


About Mark Dolman
Mark Dolman is a wedding photographer in Buckinghamshire for natural journalistic wedding photographing in London, Watford, High Wycombe, Slough, Windsor, Marlow, St Albans, Iver, Rickmansworth, Amersham, Chesham, Aylesbury, Berkamstead, Hemal Hempsted, Herfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire