Weddings don't just happen. There's a lot of pre planning beforehand, usually several months before the big day. Although having said that, I have done a wedding with just half an hour's notice and literally had to wing it! The photographer on that day just didn't turn up, didn't phone, e mail, or even send a carrier pigeon!
Luckily, the bride's brother in law had my number in his phone and I stepped up to the plate so to speak - I always keep my cameras ready and batteries fully charged up. This story brings me to my first tip:
Something that may seem unimportant but please make sure you have wedding insurance - something I always recommend but don't insist on. The above couple had wedding insurance fortunately and successfully claimed their money back from the original photographer. I can provide you with a wedding insurance enquiry form and no I don't work for the company or benefit from any premium you might take out.
Is the photographer insured? No self respecting photographer will work without insurance and I have Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance plus employer liability for any second photographer that I use. In fact, the majority of venues now insist on the photographer being insured and ask for a copy of their certificate. So the first question to ask the photographer before "How much do you charge?" should be "Are you insured?"
Unless your friend or friend of a friend who's doing it as a favour to save you money is in business as a photographer, then chances are they won't have insurance. They could then be refused access to the venue and your day is ruined as you won't have any photographs to remember it by. This is not me scaremongering or fishing for business, it's a cold hard fact. The unexpected could happen and the photographer concerened could end up with a huge legal bill and so could you.
Does the venue have insurance - silly question? You might think so but ask anyway, you just never know.
I have whole blog entries on why you shouldn't choose your photographer based on price alone or on the equipment they use so won't bore you by repeating them here.
To make your day run smoother and to allow you to spend more time with your guests, you'll be asked to provide a list of "must have" photographs. This makes my job easier and (usually) ensures that everyone who needs to be in a particular image is. I can't be held responsible for people not being available or refusing though. Try and limit the number of group shots to no more than 10, again to allow you to spend more time with your guests. I'll always take candid shots and oblige requests from guests for photographs during the day.
Another tip is to have an unplugged wedding - this means that guests will be asked beforehand to put their phones, cameras and tablets away during the ceremony. This is so I can get clear shots of you walking down the aisle and walking out again and that all important exchanging rings and first kiss shot, especially if I'm restricted to the back of the church/ceremony room which isn't unheard of as some celebrants - usually in a church wedding, restrict the movement of photographers.
I have known a photographer who only got the back of the bride's auntie's head as she was in the bride's face filming her walking in on her mobile phone - doesn't make for good images and you only get one chance to get that shot. But at the end of the day, it's your choice.
Always try and make sure there's enough time for photographs after the ceremony and before you sit down to eat. Nothing worse than rushed photographs ending with disappointing images
You can be sure though that I won't leave until I'm sure you have all the shots you require and more. So maybe it's better to go for an all day collection rather than just a few hours to ensure your special day is captured in its entirety.
Always have a plan X! I always have a plan X! Plan X is for that unforseen eventuality that might hit without warning. You'll be basking in the lovely sunshine when suddenly, the heavens open completely unexpectedly even though the forecast was for wall to wall sunshine. Always try and plan where you'll have your photographs taken indoors if the worst happens and it does rain or even if it's a winter wedding and it's blowing a hooley outside.
My three cameras are weather sealed and my lenses are all dust and splash proof so I can carry on shooting in the wet/ freezing cold but sadly I've found that most wedding guests, brides etc., aren't as willing to brave inclement weather. Can't think why!
In these days of austerity, people are always looking to save money and this is especially true when it comes to planning a big event such as a Wedding. So I've put together a list of money saving tips from around the web which may help you save a few pounds on yours. But please remember, if you try and save money on your wedding photography by asking a friend or friend of a friend, you just might live to regret it - see my blog page on the real cost of wedding photography.
1) Get married on a weekday or a Sunday, venues tend to charge less for weekday/Sunday weddings. I'm only available for Saturday and Sunday weddings at the moment but do have some availability for weekday weddings during certain times of the year, typically the week between Christmas and New Year, Easter week, the last week of July and the first week of August. There may be discounts available for mid week weddings during these times - please ask.
2) If you use a professional to make your wedding cake, tell them it's for a birthday because when you say it's for a wedding, the price goes up. Alternatively, ask a friend who has the experience of making cakes.
3) Make your own wedding favours, when I got married, we got some netting and ribbon from a local haberdashery shop, cut it into squares and filled them with sugared almonds and tied a bow around them, the options are only limited to your imagination.
4) Buy or make your own place name cards, you'll save a fortune.
5) Have your wedding and reception at the same venue - unless you absolutely want to get married in church.
6) Take your time planning the whole thing - for example, having a longer engagement gives you time to pay for things earlier before the price goes up. I typically increase my prices in April and usually in line with inflation.
7) Get married out of season. Venues tend to charge less at off peak times.
8) Find a venue that allows you to use your own DJ/entertainment/venue dresser etc.
9) Go for the buffet option rather than a 3 course meal. A friend of mine had his reception at a local venue and served up bacon baps - with a vegetarian option of course and it went down a storm with the guests. Or why not have afternoon tea instead, salmon and cucumber sandwiches, mmmm!
One couple I know who were on a really tight budget asked the guests to pay for their own meals. That wedding was put together within a couple of months as the bride was pregnant and wanted to get married before the baby was born so she would have the same surname as the baby and the guests fully understood and obliged.
10) Use sparkling wine instead of champagne for the toast - personally I prefer sparkling wine and can't stand the taste of champagne.
11) Consider doing your own flowers or ask a friend who is crafty enough, buy your flowers wholesale and make your own button holes and bouquet, they don't necessarily have to match and it makes your wedding that little bit different.
12) If you want to buy your flowers, go for paper or silk ones, at least they won't wilt and die if it's too hot.
13) Get items second hand - "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" certainly rings true and you'll save a fortune. Some brides I know have used the likes of Ebay to buy wedding things from, dresses, suits, table decorations etc.
14) If your wedding is in the summer, instead of wearing a "wedding dress", just go for the casual look, go for summer dresses for the bride and bridesmaids - I photographed such a wedding and it was so laid back and informal, even the groom was casual - see the first image below.
15) If friends and family offer to help, let them - take them up on their offers in exchange for wedding gifts.
These are just a few tips but there are lots more out there. But please, please remember that photography prices may seem high but there's a reason for that. It's not just about turning up on the day, pressing a button and delivering your images.
Your friend or friend of a friend will probably hand you a basic USB with images straight out of the camera without any editing and you could end up with images you'll be disappointed with - see the second image below.
A professional photographer will have years of experience, I've been photographing weddings professionally since 2008 and for 20 years before that just learning the trade whilst holding down a full time job so have lots of experience. They will have spent a lot of time and money on training courses, honing their skills. They will make sure that the lighting is right and where necessary, light the scene with a professional flashgun which could be off camera to give more flattering light to enhance the final image.
They will usually shoot in RAW (think of a RAW file as a digital negative) and will spend the next 2-3 weeks after the wedding editing the images with professional software to ensure high quality photographs. This is standard industry practice plus the photographer may also have 2 or 3 other weddings to edit as well, not just yours. The photographer will never give you the RAW files so don't ask, you won't be able to view them without the correct software anyway.
People do move, they will blink and the photographer will go through every image, deleting those that don't make the final cut to make sure they tell the story of the day from getting ready right up to the first dance. They may take over 1000 images on the day but you may only end up with 800 final ones on your USB.
For many wedding photographers, it's a full time job, usually self employed and they will have other outlays, insurance, updating kit, making sure they can pay the mortgage, rent, bills, holiday pay, sick pay etc.
Most photographers will only shoot one or two weddings a week so have to make sure they have enough to meet their day to day living costs, pay their own national insurance and tax including any VAT where appropriate.
As much as I hate having to say this, needs must:
To secure your wedding date a non refundable booking fee of 25% of the total needs to be paid. This is deducted from the final balance.
As choosing your photographer is a massive choice, I do hold your date for 7 days after your consultation/upon receiving your booking form to give you a chance to talk it over etc.
After 7 days, if the booking fee hasn't been paid, the date will be made available to others.