By Gardner T Hamilton For The Knot Wedding Directory
I really don’t know how you guys do it !!
I have been a full time professional wedding photographer now for 31 years and from back in the day, when people came to the photographers studio to trudge through album after album in search for the perfect images for their day, until now when brides have to swim through literally thousands of Facebook posts swamping them with photographers and their packages offering this that and the next thing. In truth I admire people who do their research and find the perfect fit for them.
So how do you start?….Over the years I have seen so many wedding photographers and wedding photography companies come and go, along with trends they provide to ensnare couples to become clients….Let’s remember here, we are searching for a Photographer, a Professional, with experience and a proven track record of making people happy with the images of their special day….no amount of added albums, selfie mirrors and photo booth type gimmicks can fix bad wedding photos….so how do you start?…..by focusing on photographers only. Often if a professional wedding photographer has to up sell to gimmicks and add on’s then they often are not making their full time wage at what they claim to do as a profession. Often photographers make 300% profit on 1 wedding album which I find very unfair as they are usually not trained in the graphic art of layout and production. I have managed 31 years at just taking wedding photographs for clients. Additional services offered become a huge distraction to what they are being initially hired to do, be a wedding photographer.
Where to start…..well to be honest right here “The Internet” , probably the easiest and most convenient as its open 24/7 and you can search and research based on your availability.
So I always tell couples when they ask me or, if I am providing a talk at a wedding show that their biggest time saving filter during searching is ensuring you only are assessing photographers who have your date available, because falling in love and thinking you have found the one only to be told they are booked is very frustrating…
Budget. Next you need to know your budget as this will be the next process of elimination. You will need to whittle down to find who lands on your final list of potential photographer candidates. When it comes to budget I always recommend having a percentage of flexibility to ensure you don’t miss out on something you really love for the sake of £100 . Remember these photographs are a one off production, no second chances and they have to stand the test of time to become a family archive for future family generation…consider your wedding photography as more of an investment.
Style. Now it’s time to start searching a photographer from your shortlist by looking at their images. Check their own website, blog , google images and social media to see a wide and extensive range of what they are producing for previous clients. It is as important to know what you like of wedding photography as it is to know what you do not like in wedding photography and transmit this data to your chosen photographer. Be sure to understand the styles you like within the realms of candid relaxed wedding photography through to high art wedding portraiture images. Remember also your preferences with colour, black and white and sepia for example.
Once you have shortened your picking list with available, affordable and image compatible photographers, you should now try to establish their client history by reviewing their recommendations and reviews. If these are not available contact and ask for them…without these you are rolling dice.
Great job, you now have a list of available, affordable, image compatible, highly recommended photographers for your wedding so, what’s next?
Your next objective should be to clarify and understand clearly exactly what you get from each candidate with regards to delivery dates of final product, digital images, printed images, etc etc. All too often photographers over promise and under deliver on their timelines. Alongside this data you absolutely must get clear information on image copyright release to allow you to print your album when you are ready and share as you wish along with data on possibilities and eventualities such as a change of wedding date or a change of wedding venue or what happens if the photographer can’t make it on the day and refund terms and conditions. A huge one to ask is what are the contingency plans in place to ensure you don’t end up without a photographer at your wedding.
Finally you MUST, where possible, meet in person to ensure the chemistry is good. As wedding photographers we can often be the person spending the most time around the bride on a day where stress and emotions can run high and fast. You will need someone who can make you laugh and puts you at ease to ensure your wedding photography results are natural looking and your special day is enjoyable. Someone who understands family politics, bridal stress, wedding day dynamics and can be flexible enough to accommodate your days chronology and any on the day changes that may come along. I once heard a story of a photographer who was booked until 8pm but the wedding was running late so first dance and cake cut was going to be 8:30pm and she left….this to me is a wedding photographer with no passion for their work and without passion there will rarely be good photographs.
FIVE QUICK TIPS
1. Don’t wear anti-perspirant. Use only Deodorant. Anti-Perspirant blocks the sweat pores under your arms meaning the body then begins to look for other options to perspire through, usually the pores on the forehead, not good for make up or for photographs.
2. Drink Three litres of water per day for 3 days before your wedding day. Extra hydration ensures your hair style stays longer, your makeup lasts longer, your eyes stay clearer and you have a better tolerance to Prosecco….it’s a WIN WIN.
3. When placing the ring on your partners finger, hold the ring between your thumb and index finger and keep your hand under your partners hand. Put the ring on to a count of 1…..2…..3….4 seconds. This way you shall get the best photograph of your ring exchange at the exact moment with all the sentimental value attached. The staged photo of this in the park later has zero sentimental value.
4. If you are having an album made by your photographer or indeed doing it yourself or using a third party my advice is always take six months to select your photographs for that album. If you select them too soon after the wedding you shall usually select 1, too many and 2, images that don’t have the strongest message. After 6 months there will be a certain set of images that hit you and your partners right in the heart. These are the ones you put in your album, the ones that you can’t stop looking at and still let you feel the moment. I also recommend never more than 120 images in any one album, always quality over quantity.
5. Allow enough time in your photographers timeline on your day for them to be creative and see things through their interpretation of your day as it is this creativity that created the photographs that caught your attention in the first place.
I really hope this insight shall help to guide all future couples in the selection of their wedding photographer. It is always an honor, a privilege and a pleasure to be selected as a photographer for any couple. Every set of wedding images should be approached with the plan to use the photographs to be able to tell the story to someone’s family member who could not attend their wedding day, transmitting the joy, emotions and sentiment.
I love my job. Knowledge and experience is like love, it is of no use if we can’t share it.
Gardner T Hamilton
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