Your wedding is probably the most important day of your life and you want your photographs to reflect that. For that reason, my advice is to hire a professional photographer to capture your day as it unfolds.
A professional photographer will have had years of experience and not necessarily only in Wedding photography. They will have received training in the art of wedding photography and spent years honing their skills and developing (pun intended) their own unique style. More importantly, they'll be able to work quickly, often under pressure and have people skills. Try prising guests from the bar for that all important group shot and you'll see what I mean.
You might think you'll save a few hundred pounds by asking a friend or a friend of a friend who just happens to own a camera. Will they have the necessary skills to capture your day to the same level of quality as a professional and will they be able to work quickly and under pressure. Wedding photography can be very stressful and if not approached correctly then the results could be disasterous as you only get one chance to get it right. Just like life itself, there is no rewind button.
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an ameteur." (Red Adair - Professional Oil Well Firefighter.)
I often hear, "You should only pick your wedding photographer if they use a particular brand of camera/lens and use full format." - Usually Canon or Nikon. Let's dispel one myth straight away, there is no such thing as full format! There's full frame, medium format, crop format and micro four thirds format.
Full frame is equivalent to the 35mm film format, medium format historically refers to the 120 size film format that was used in the Hasselblad V System cameras. In digital photography, medium format refers either to cameras adapted from medium format film models or to cameras making use of sensors larger than that of a 35mm film format.
Crop format usually refers to a smaller sensor than full frame and usually has a crop factor of x1.5 in the case of Sony, Nikon and Fuji crop sensor cameras and x1.3 or x1.6 crop in the case of Canon crop sensor cameras. So the lenses used are 1.3, 1.5 and 1.6 times the focal length in use. For example a 70-200mm lens on a Canon 1.3 crop body would equate to 91-260mm.
In March 2014, I was introduced to the Micro four thirds mirrorless system which was developed jointly by Olympus and Panasonic and are the only two companies that make the system. The advantage is all their lenses are compatible across the two brands.
Micro four thirds is x2 crop factor, effectively doubling the focal length of micro four third lenses - see below for more explanation. Panasonic cameras and lenses are branded as Lumix.
In the case of some lenses, they're branded as Lumix Leica, as the two companies are in partnership with certain lenses.
Leica lenses are synonymous with superb quality and very sharp images. Having said that, all the lenses I use are capable of producing high quality images, which at the end of the day is what you're paying for.
This system is smaller and lighter than the Canon kit I was using at the time but with equally good image quality especially when using professional lenses from Panasonic, Olympus and Sigma.
I dipped my toe into the micro four thirds system but kept my Canon kit at the same time. However, in November 2016, I finally took the plunge and now exclusively use that system and for my professional work, I use the following kit:
Three Lumix G9 cameras with any of the following lenses: Leica 12mm, Lumix 12-35mm, Leica 25mm, Leica 42.5mm and a Lumix 35-100mm- 35mm (think of film days) equivalent of 24mm, 24-70mm, 50mm, 85mm and 70-200mm respectively. All have a wide aperture, capable of throwing the background out of focus to make the subject stand out.
The 35-100mm lens is perfect for if I'm stuck at the back of the venue as I can get close without "getting in yer face" so to speak.
The 12mm and 12-35mm lenses are perfect for small to large group shots and for taking in the whole of the venue at the 12mm end of the 12-35. The 12mm is perfect for taking in the whole of the dance floor for the first dance, an excellent low light lens.
The 42.5mm lens is the ultimate head and shoulder portrait lens which gives beautiful bokeh - this is a Japanese word meaning out of focus. The background will be beautifully out of focus and the main subject will be pin sharp, making you really pop out of the background.
The 12mm and 42.5mm lenses are known as prime lenses which are sharper than their zoom counterparts but I can still zoom, only with my feet.
Then I have a Panasonic Leica 100-400mm lens with a 35mm equivalent of 200-800mm and I could literally stand across the road in the car park with this lens attached to one of my G9's and still get a shot of you signing the register!
The G9 camera bodies are dust, splash and freeze proof down to -10. The 12mm, 12-35mm, 35-100mm and 100-400mm lenses are all weather sealed.
So if you're having a winter wedding, you can be safe in the knowledge that my cameras/lenses will keep going when your friend or friend of a friend with the entry level/cheap camera/lens will be running for cover.
My G9 cameras have dual memory card slots and I always save to both cards and I also have numerous high capacity memory cards, batteries and three flashguns, although I tend to prefer natural light as flash can spoil the ambient light and the ambience. However, I will use the flashguns during the evening reception and usually off camera using a remote trigger to give more pleasing light than on camera flash.
I also have a Lumix GX9 camera with a Lumix 14-140mm lens, 35mm equivalent of 28-280mm. If I absolutely had to, I could use this combination to shoot an entire wedding. This kit is usually reserved for my personal/street work and is always in my car as a backup for my wedding kit.
As you can see, every eventuality is covered with my extensive camera kit and this is something to consider when hiring an amateur photographer to shoot the most important day of your life. Will they have this amount of backup? You only get one chance to photograph a wedding so why leave it to chance by hiring an amateur?
If my images have a "blurry background" this is done entirely for artistic reasons such as the image of the bride and flower shot and the groom in the mirror. This is one of the benefits of having a lens with a fast aperture.
The same goes if I cut heads off, this is done on purpose to emphasise a particular detail such as the bouquet shot below.
I offer the services of a second photographer as an extra backup and to cover your wedding from different perspectives, something your friend or friend of a friend wouldn't even consider.
With the wedding market literally flooded with so called "wedding photographers" I have seen so many disappointed couples whose photographer hasn't lived up to their expectations and had their day ruined by receiving poor quality images or has simply taken the couples money and not turned up on the day! I had exactly that scenario and stepped in to rescue their day with half an hour's notice!
Not everyone who owns a camera is always a photographer, especially a wedding photographer. It's OK having the equipment but knowing to use it is a different matter and crucially can ruin your day.
Photography is all about light and how to use it to good effect, especially artificial light (flash) and knowing how and when to use it. A flashgun can make or break an image, too much and it will be over exposed, too little and it will under exposed. Get it right and you have the perfect shot. Photographers who use professional software can usually rescue an over or under exposed image - but not always! The detail has to be there in the first place.
Anyone can point a camera and press the button but not everyone can get the composition right and that includes posing your subject and getting the light right.
More and more wedding venues are asking to see a photographer's insurance certificate and without one, are not allowed to photograph there - imagine a couples day ruined because of a simple thing like insurance. The photographer wouldn't have a leg to stand on and could be sued and no insurance means they won't have the means to compensate the couple.
So please, when booking your photographer, always ask if they're insured and if in doubt, ask to see proof. It's also a good idea to take out wedding insurance for that reason alone and for peace of mind. I'm covered by Public Liabilty and Professional Indemnity Insurance and any second photographer I use will either have their own or will be covered under mine.
A professional photographer would've spent a lot of time and money on training, professional camera equipment, marketing and advertising etc., and they will have insurance.
The saying goes (and this relates equally to wedding photography) "If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is."
To get a decent professional wedding photographer, you won't get much change out of £1,000.00 for a full day with images on a USB. Album packages will cost more and the average cost of wedding photography in the UK in 2017 was £1,480.00.
I had the pleasure of photographing the wedding of Sandra & Eryl Owen (San & Ez), on the 29/6/18 at the Kinmel & Kinspa in Abergele, North Wales. What a lovely couple and I captured some really lovely images ably assisted by my second shooter, Chris Jackson of "Captivating Images" who hopefully will be my permanent second shooter for future weddings. I've updated my galleries with some of the images from the wedding. What a wonderful location too.
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 two cameras and one of my four lenses are weather sealed 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.
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.
All emergency service personnel (Police, Fire and Ambulance) will automatically get 15% off any of my wedding collections irrespective of any ongoing offers or promotions. This is an ongoing offer.
Wedding photographers have received a lot of bad press recently, some of it justified, especially where the photographer took 96 images of the bridesmaids and only 11 of the groom! Plus the one where the photographer left a fire extinguisher in the shots when it would have been easy to remove it. In some of the incidents, it begs the question, how much did the couple pay for their photographer.
I will always ask you to provide a list of your "must have" images and will use either the best man or chief bridesmaid/matron of honour to go through the list to make sure that everyone on the list is included in the final photographs. After all, if you are paying a lot of money, you don't just want photographs of the bridesmaids or fire extiguishers!
I recommend you don't choose your wedding photographer based on price alone or whether or not they use a particular brand of camera/lens and always ask to see samples of their work beforehand and insist on seeing their last full wedding. A professional photographer will always be happy to show you a full wedding and even just a few samples.
Of course, equipment can fail and for that reason, I carry backup equipment to cover any eventuality but in the case of total photographic failure beyond my control, you will always get a full refund or an opportunity for a re shoot if possible at no extra charge.
Wedding photography prices vary greatly from a few hundred pounds to £1,000.00's depending on what you require.
Is the photographer just starting out and getting a portfolio together? Are they a friend or friend of a friend who just happens to own a camera? Think you'll save money because a friend is taking your photographs? Think again! Someone charging just a few £100.00 for a whole day with an album because they're "just getting a portfolio" together probably doesn't have insurance and certainly won't produce high quality images. Most wedding venues now insist on the Photographer having insurance. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Before choosing a photographer based on price alone, please consider the following:
Are they using professional equipment and not entry level kit? I only use professional equipment and using entry level kit will ultimately affect the quality of the images especially if used in low light such as the evening reception and this can result in grainy images also known as "noise" which can significantly degrade an image. Don't choose your photographer based on the fact that they use a particular brand of camera or lens such as Nikon or Canon - see here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=a06OiVpa9-A
Do they have back up equipment? I always carry two cameras and lenses plus the offer of a second photographer so every eventuality is covered. I also have three on camera flashguns, two of which can also be used off camera for more effective lighting, ten large capacity memory cards and numerous batteries for my cameras and flashguns. Would your "friend" or "friend of a friend" have this backup? Nothing worse than an equipment fail mid shoot and no back up! The very thought fills me with dread. My two cameras are dustproof, splash proof and freeze proof down to minus 10! Three of my lenses are also weather sealed. So when your friend or friend of a friend with the cheap camera is running for cover when it's raining or snowing, I can carry on shooting.
Do they edit their images using professional software? I always shoot in a format known as RAW which is like a digital negative and work from that using Lightroom and Photoshop from Adobe. All cameras will process Jpegs in camera and that's not always a good thing - some will say that large Jpegs are just as good as RAW. I wholeheartedly disagree, RAW files are not processed in camera so do not lose any information such as shadows/highlights etc. People paying a lot of money will expect high quality images.
Has the photographer had training in the art of Wedding Photography? I've received training from The Guild of Photographers - the photographers trade body with over 2,000 members with access to professional training, not just in Wedding Photography.
Do they have Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance? I have, plus any second photographer I use will either have their own insurance or be covered under mine as I also have Employer Liability cover.
Are they a member of a recognised Professional body such as the Guild, SWPP (Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers) or MPA? (Master Photographer's Association.)
Do you like their particular style of photography and just as important, can you get on with them? They could be with you for up to 12 hours on your special day after all.
These are just a few points of many as to why you shouldn't choose your wedding photographer based on price alone. The average price for wedding photography in the UK for 2017 was £1,480.00. See here: www.yourperfectweddingphotographer.co.uk/article/real-cost-wedding-photography/ and here are five reasons why you should hire a professional photographer:
Also, consider this quote from Red Adair who was famous for fighting oil well fires: "If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."