I was recently interviewed by an online wedding magazine, specifically to give some guidance from a professional photographer’s point of view about what to look for in wedding photography. It was fun, and the magazine liked it enough to publish it here.
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” Choosing the right Wedding Photographer for your big day is probably one of the most important decisions you will make during your wedding planning.
The photographs captured on your Wedding Day will inevitably become one of your most sentimental keepsakes over time, and so compromising on quality in order to save money needs to be taken seriously. But, with so many questions about Wedding Photography often going unanswered, how can you ensure you are on track to make the right decision?
We spoke to the talented Sandra Keddie from Sandra Keddie Photography in Glasgow, and asked her twelve questions which will help you in your search for a Professional Wedding Photographer.
Thanks to Sandra for providing us with some really insightful and useful answers for this article; I never knew so much work went into every booking, and it is clear that there are some really talented and professional photography services about who really do put the couples.”
1.) There are so many Wedding Photographers available; How do we narrow down and find one that suits us?
Do your research. Go through the wedding industry publications, both hard copy and online. Listen to your friends who have been married recently; did they have a good experience with their photographer? What did they like about their photography and what didn’t they like? Contact photographers compare quality, packages and pricing. Make sure that you see a full wedding day from your photographer and that they show you photographs shot indoor and outdoor, in sunshine and in the dark (especially if you are having a winter wedding). Try to think about what is important for you about your photographs: how do they fit into your day? Do you really want some stunning images that will end up as art on a wall, or do you want a photographic memory that will please you and family members or do you want a bit of both? To find a Wedding Photographer that suits you, you have to know what you want from your wedding photography.
Let me tell you about my approach, it is different to some other wedding photographers. To begin with, I shoot every wedding myself – you know when you book Sandra Keddie Photography you always get Sandra from start to finish! So ask your photographer; Are you booking the person you are talking to? Some photographers and agencies sub-contract to other photographers.
I also do my own retouching and album design. This, for me, is about delivering a personal service, creating a vision that comes from understanding the needs of a couple in combination with my expertise and experience. Different photographers work in different ways. This is mine – we meet, we chat about you, we agree on an approach, exchange ideas, you have a wonderful day and I photograph you, I process your images, enhancing and retouching where necessary and once you have chosen images for your album, I draft a design. Before finalising your design and sending it to the printers, we agree any changes you would like, then you approve it and we go to print. The outcome is a beautiful album that you have been part of the process of creating and that I feel is also true to me and my style. So ask your photographer; do they do their own album design and retouching, or is this outsourced?
My approach might not be for everyone. I believe I am quite flexible but I have a style and a perspective that I want to remain true to. I want to create at least one unique image a wedding; something different, something about the couple in front of the camera and my vision for them. Not everybody wants that, some people just want a record of their day, maybe with some formal family groups.
So, the short answer: agree with your partner what you both want from your photographs, consider your requirements (indoor photos, outdoor photos, daylight and/or evening photos) contact photographers for prices and budget accordingly, then try to find a photographer who matches style, quality and budget expectations.
The industry average budget for a photographer is 10% of the wedding cost.
2.) We have a friend who is currently doing a Photography course; should we just ask her to do our Wedding and save some money?
Remember, wedding photography is not only about photography, its so much more than that. Its about the experience of knowing how a wedding day works, its about organising people in an efficient and timely manner and managing a shot list, its about having the range of equipment and expertise to photograph in any weather and in any lighting conditions and its about having insurance against equipment failure.
I don’t know your friend, and I don’t know how good a photographer he or she is. Have they been working in the photography industry for quite some time, and have they gone to college to improve their technique and maybe get a qualification, or did they get a camera for a birthday and decide they wanted to do a course? That might sound like a flippant answer but while the technical skills of photography can be taught at college it does not necessarily make someone a good photographer. Equally, some of the best in the world have no college training. As an example, I like Brett Florens – the South African photographer who is now considered one of the best in the world – he has major commercial contracts (Quiksilver and Roxy are just two) and commands top dollar for wedding shoots. He started off as a police officer working in the forensic department – they literally said “who wants to be the photographer” and he stuck his hand up! Self taught and amazing, and now with over 20 years in the wedding industry. To the best of my knowledge he never went to photography college!
Seriously, should you save the money? And risk the images of your most special day that will last a lifetime? The truth is you probably will get some good images. Probably.
3.) How far in advance should we book our chosen Wedding Photographer? As far in advance as possible. Once you have a date and venue, start to think about your photographer. Very good photographers will be taking bookings at least a year and maybe two years in advance.
4.) What will happen once we call a Wedding Photographer; will they be all ‘salesy’?
Some will, yes. And if you are going to choose your photographer by price, rather than quality, play them off against each other, just like buying double glazing or whatever. But remember, you are then buying the cheapest product available. Is that how you picked your gown, your reception venue, your wedding rings? If you don’t want to be sold to this way, choose to filter by quality and style, rather than price. And if someone trys to get all “salesy” with you, you are entitled to be assertive and choose not to continue. All of this should be your choice, not a pressure sale. you should be comfortable with your chosen photographer; ideally they make you laugh, or at least they make you smile and relax. 5.) We like a particular style of photography, but we’re not sure what is called. How can we find out if a Wedding Photographer ‘does’ this style without sounding rude?
Just be natural, and don’t be afraid to ask, if someone tries to baffle you with … jargon, ask them to explain, if they make you feel uncomfortable, then maybe you don’t want them to photograph your wedding.
There are basically three types of photography for weddings: formal posed, informal posed, and reportage/photojournalistic. Reportage is that journalistic, mostly blank and white, candid, “oh wow you captured that moment” style of photography. For this your photography supplier needs a long lens, an understanding of how weddings work, patience and a least two photographers, to do it properly. Formal posed is self-explanatory, while informal posed tends to be that “we just want some of those really nice, relaxed, natural photographs”. Sorry, those were posed, but sympathetically, gently, by a photographer who listened to what the couple wanted.
6.) Why is Wedding Photography so expensive? It is only a days work, isn’t it?
Only a Days work? Ok, lets work out the real time; I meet with you to discuss your requirements at least once, normally twice (say 2 hours each time), I consider your ideas, add some of my own, and we collaborate to get the best outcome for your day. Once we agree; I shoot your wedding (6-10 or maybe even 12hours), I employ an assistant/2nd shooter who attends as well (6-8 hours). I sort your images (2-3 hours), removing images with eyes closed or bad expressions etc; I then process your images, enhancing colour, lifting shadows and relaxing highlights (another 2-3 hours); I go through all your final images subtly retouching where necessary (another 3-6 hours); After you have chosen your album images, I design an album from your choice of images (8-16 hours); I upload the album to my supplier then I deliver the final product to you once printed (this is my pleasure); we laugh, we cry, we have a glass of wine, you leave with the most beautiful collection of memories.
Only a days work? More like 4-7 days for a quality product.
And now what else adds to the cost? First, and maybe most important, I am a full-time photographer, this is what I do. It is not a hobby, something I pick up at the weekend or in the evening. I own a wide range of professional quality equipment, with spares of everything, that are insured and regularly serviced and I budget for regular replacements. I have an annual budget to attend training courses to maintain my skills and update my approach and I submit myself to scrutiny from professional bodies which charge me a membership fee – this also means that if I break my leg the day before your wedding I can request that another available professional member can shoot on my behalf. As a professional I pay for professional indemnity insurance which actually includes that if something drastic happens on your wedding day and you have to re-shoot your entire wedding, the policy will pay out and enable me to do so. I also own substantial computer equipment so that I can store and back up your images – copies are available for 5 years.
Lastly, the cost of printing and binding a good quality wedding album is also quite a substantial cost with each wedding, and is quite often the single biggest variable in the package.
After due consideration, is professional wedding photography that expensive?
7.) We have heard of cheaper Wedding Photography options, such as ‘Shoot & Burn’. Why shouldn’t we just go for that then?
This is about an informed choice. I am not going to tell you not to go for a “shoot and burn” package, in the same way that I am not going to tell you not to get your friend with the good camera to take your photographs, or to go for the part-time photographer trying to break into the industry who has a weekday job, no insurance, no qualifications and no spare kit. What I will say is, “shoot & burn” is exactly what it is; images provided to you exactly as shot, no colour correction, no lighting adjustments, no straightening, with good and bad expressions included, no subtle retouching, and no copies archived. Don’t expect anything more.
If you want all the post shoot processing and reliability that goes with a good quality photographer and a dearer package then think about choosing a professional photographer with a portfolio and style that matches your expectations.
8.) We’re really nervous about appearing on camera, and hate having our photograph taken; will our Wedding Photographer be able to help with this and maybe suggest some ideas to help the jitters?
If you have followed my advice above, you will have met and booked a photographer that you are comfortable with, so on the day, you should feel at ease. However, I always recommend a pre-wedding shoot, this means that you get a chance to get to know me (or your chosen photographer) better, we talk about natural poses that look good in camera, and you get a chance to tell me what you are comfortable with. It is your wedding day, as a photographer I promise you I will listen to you. I will be sympathetic and mindful of your needs and wishes. And I would respectfully suggest that any photographer who does not adopt that approach and attitude is not worthy of your business.
9.) Will our Wedding Photographer be able to just “airbrush” or “Photoshop” any photographs we are not happy with?
Not all photographers provide this service (certainly not in “Shoot and Burn” packages) and some charge additionally for this. Back to what I said earlier: your relationship with your photographer involves communication, discussion, agreement. When meeting with your photographer, you should really ask them this question. As part of my package, I provide subtle retouching and effects to make sure that the enhancements give your photographs a “wow factor” but I still want you and your friends to recognise you. If you want your body or face shape changed, this retouching is usually charged in addition. If there is an exit sign in an image, it is a reasonable request to ask me to remove this if it is an image that is being enlarged or going into an album, if I haven’t already done so.
10.) We are not technical at all, and really don’t understand many of the terms our Wedding Photographer uses. Should we just agree with everything they suggest?
No. No. NO. NO! NO!! Seriously, … NO!!! Even if you go in for major heart surgery you have to give informed consent. Which means that if you don’t understand you are allowed to ask questions. And if you don’t understand the answers you are allowed to ask more questions. Personally, if people are hiding behind jargon and technical stuff, I would wonder why they are hiding!!
11.) What basics should we expect for our money in our Wedding Photography package?
I don’t want this to be a comedy answer, but it does depend on the package agreed between you and the photographer. However, remember that you may need to pay a bit more for a quality and style that you are looking for.
How long do you want your photographer for – coverage goes from getting ready all the way through to last dance/fireworks. Or just guests arriving to cutting of the cake before the speeches. Maybe you want a pre-wedding shoot, something that I think should be included as part of a package. But there is a growing trend for a day after shoot, like a cherish or trash the dress shoot.
Agree a list of family photos, remember its the only time everyone will be together in their Sunday best!
Then you have to decide on whether you want just digital images – disc, USB – or an album. Please, please, please choose an album. Photographs last, we know that. they are timeless, and those who come after us will wonder at the images found in suitcase in the loft. In a hundred years time what are they going to do with a disc?
But, the least you should expect; At least 1 pre-wedding meeting with your photographer, a signed contract agreeing the terms, the coverage and family photos you agreed, to a professional standard, in the specified style, capable of at least minor manipulation to create a pleasing image, delivered in the agreed format. You should expect someone who is prepared to listen to your wants, needs, concerns, respond in a reasonable manner and deliver a product which is pleasing to the eye.
12.) Our Wedding Photographer isn’t listening to our ideas or what we want. What should we do?
If your wedding photographer is not prepared to listen to your ideas, don’t book them as your photographer. There is a need for a dialogue, an understanding of what you are getting and how much it will cost. If you are not comfortable about both of those things, do not sign a contract. If you are really unhappy, break the contract, but be prepared to lose your booking fee. This is why you should not rush in to a “lowest price, I will match that price if you sign today” deal. This stuff is important. It needs to be properly spoken through, understood and agreed. If your wedding photographer isn’t listening to you, in my opinion they are a BAD wedding photographer and not worthy of you business. Please refer to questions 1 through 11, before signing a contract.
- A very special offer for Christmas from Sandra Keddie Photography (sandrakeddiephotography.wordpress.com)