It’s often said that your wedding photos are the most important aspect of the wedding, as they are the only thing you’ll be left with after the day itself (other than your wife, of course). This is one area you really should spend time and effort to get right.
Let’s get one thing straight – good quality wedding photos are expensive. Taking good photographs is a skill and you need to pay someone for that skill. You can get inexpensive quotes but generally these will be from photographers with a corresponding level of talent.
The first thing to do is to check out the websites of wedding photographers who cover your area. These websites will generally be slick, professional affairs.
You will notice that there are different styles of wedding photos. Some are formal and posed. Others are more informal, perhaps taken without the individuals even realising they were being photographed. This latter style is known as “reportage”.
Most photographers will take a blend of formal and informal shots, but each will have their own particular style. Draw up a shortlist of the photographers you like.
You can then get quotes. It’s really important here to compare like with like. Ask the photographer how long you’ll get them for. Four hours? Six hours?
Some couples like the photographer to cover the bride getting ready at her parents’ home, right through the ceremony and speeches to the first dance and throwing the bouquet at the end of the evening. This is expensive.
To save costs on your wedding photos you can have the photographer start when the bride arrives at the venue.
You can then have them stay for the ceremony only, or stay for some of the reception. A common choice is to have the photographer stay until the first dance, then disappear. But make sure you know what period of time you’re being quoted for.
Also make sure you know what end product is covered by the quote. Some photographers will offer a lowball price but you will only get thirty hard copy shots in an album as the end product. If you want more shots, it costs more money. If you want digital images, it costs more too.
The ideal end product for most couples is an unlimited number of wedding photos (i.e. as many good shots as the photographer takes) in high resolution digital format. If you have the hi res digital images, then hard copy prints, photobooks and the like can be ordered at very reasonable prices from specialist suppliers.
Check out the portfolio
If the quotes look reasonable then book an appointment with the photographer to look at their portfolio.
Make sure you see at least one full set of photos from one wedding. It’s easy to pull together fifty great shots from fifty weddings, but you’ll get a more accurate idea of the end product by seeing the photos from one wedding only.
It’s worth asking the photographer how they work. Many professional photographers will have a junior assistant who they bring along to the wedding. This is especially useful for “reportage” photos, as the second camera increases the chances of capturing those spontaneous special moments.
If you have chosen your venue you can ask if the photographer has shot there before. It’s useful if they have, as they will already have established some good backdrops and angles, worked out the lighting conditions, and so on. If they haven’t shot there before, a good photographer will generally carry out an advance visit.
Also, don’t forget to ask about shooting in black and white. One of the most common sources of disappointment with wedding photos is a higher than expected number of black and white shots. To an extent you need to trust your photographer’s judgement. Remember too that some shots are very difficult to pull off in colour (particularly in low light) but can be made to look better without colour. However, if you expect most of the shots to be in colour, make this clear.
You can also set out what you expect in other areas. Many modern weddings are monopolised by the photographer.
Immediately after the ceremony the bride and groom are taken away to spend an hour or more in a posed wedding photo shoot. There then follows perhaps a further hour of formal photos involving the couple and various guests.
If you don’t want to spend your wedding day this way – and most couples don’t – you need to be clear about your expectations. Weddings are about meeting your guests and enjoying yourself. Set a time limit for the formal photographs, and enforce it on the day.
Consider your formal shots
You will need to give the photographer a list of any formal shots you want. This doesn’t mean the obvious stuff – for example bride and groom coming down the aisle – they already know to take these. But if you want “group shots” the photographer will need a list. For example, “groom with groom’s parents”, “bride with bridesmaids”, and so on.
If you are looking to keep the time down then you should be able to get through the common wedding photo permutations in about a dozen shots. Give the list to your best man and ushers in advance and have them lining up the next group as each one is being photographed – your photographer will appreciate this.
One of the great advantages of modern weddings is that many of your guests will turn up with digital cameras, or take photos on their smartphones. This means you have a huge potential collection of spontaneous wedding photos. It’s a good idea to email your guests after the event to ask if they would be kind enough to send you their photos (on a CD or similar).
You can go one better by setting up a special account with a photo sharing website such as Flickr, and inviting your guests to upload their photographs directly. Be careful that the photo sharing site you choose does not reduce the resolution of the wedding photos during upload (for example, Flickr is fine, Facebook is not).