How to choose your ideal wedding photographer: the essential 2018 wedding photography guide for brides and grooms!

By Cardiff, South Wales based wedding photographer Taz Rahman

Best Wedding photography in Cardiff, South Wales

Several years ago I was asked to write about wedding photography by a Welsh trade magazine. This 2018 article is an updated and more elaborate version of what I first wrote in 2013.

Wedding photography today is all about telling a story. All the laughter and emotions get captured side by side to the more traditional elements from the day to create a tapestry that will be the wedding story. Today's most accomplished wedding photographer is also the most accomplished storyteller. But, there are several ways of narrating a story and finding out a little more about how your story is being told should make it easier for any bride and groom to decide upon the perfect wedding photographer for them.

Based on my experience in the wedding industry and talking to brides and grooms, I can safely say that choosing the right wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions you will be making about your wedding day. This is because it is through those wedding photos and the wedding album that your special day lives on. Taking the time to choose the best photographer who matches your unique needs and effective communication with that person is essential for creating the memories that you would look back upon over a lifetime. Your day will be beautiful and you get to decide who will tell your beautiful love-story, surely this is an exciting proposition!

 

In this article, I am going to be talking about the following:

  • Why choose a professional wedding photographer

  • 3 different styles of wedding photography

  • Your basic expectations of a professional wedding photographer

  • How much to budget for your wedding photography needs

  • One photographer or a team of photographers?

  • How many photos should you expect?

  • A few questions to ask your wedding photographer

Why should you hire a professional Wedding Photographer? It is important to stress that when I am taking about wedding photography I am talking about professional wedding photographers. You might have a friend or family member who has a nice camera and is constantly posting photos on Facebook and Instagram of beautiful sunsets or flowers, which has made you wonder if it is worth requesting that wedding guest to do your wedding photography.

Can they tell a story with their photos? Wedding photography isn't just about being there and clicking away at everything that moves. Storytelling wedding photography is about knowing what to capture and how to capture it under all lighting and weather conditions. This is where experience is essential and a seasoned professional will deliver an amazing set of images regardless of the conditions. The best memories from the best day of your life is worth cherishing, so find the best professional photographer whose style of wedding photography blows you away and of course, who is within your budget. You won't regret it.

'There are different styles of wedding photography?', I hear you ask!

Now that you have decided to budget for a professional wedding photographer, let's look at the three main styles of wedding photography. Why are these styles important? Well, finding out a little more about the styles and thinking about which style best compliments your personality as a couple and the theme of your day makes it easier to decide upon the perfect photographer.

 

There are three main styles of wedding photography are:

  • Documentary, Reportage

  • Traditional, Formal, Classic

  • Editorial, Contemporary, Fashion

While there are photographers who strictly follow one style or another, some fine art photographers readily combine elements from these three main styles to create their own unique style of wedding photography. A confident and accomplished photographer working in any of these styles should be able to create wonderful photos, but each style is totally unique.

Documentary/Reportage Wedding Photography: This style of wedding photography has a naturally relaxed feel about it. It involves the photographer closely following the bride and groom, and the events of the day like a fly on the wall, taking the photos as things happen without the need for any posing. Documentary photographers tend to be totally unobtrusive and shy away from offeing directions or posing groups of people, which can lead to fantastic unrehearsed expressions being captured. As a style this has become very popular as brides increasingly look for candid shots that capture raw moments. 

Most photographers who had taken up wedding photography since digital photography replaced film cameras prefer the documentary approach. This is because, in its purest form, reportage photography requires little interaction during the wedding day and the process of capturing all that is happening feels very natural. From a photographer's perspective, this style is a great leveller because rather than telling people what they need to do, you just capture what is already happening. So it is even possible even for a shy and socially awkward photographer to specialise in this type of photography. So if there has to be any criticism of this style, it would be that there is a preference for keeping the traditional group shots involving the family and guests to a bare minimum. The overall natural feel of the shots also favour photographers who love working with natural light and may even totally avoid using flash or artificial lighting.

Traditional/Formal Wedding Photography: This is the style of photography that used to be seen in almost all family wedding albums before the era of digital photography. A slightly more advanced approach to this style remains popular in many countries and cultures, and aspects of it continues to be the dominant style at traditional Asian weddings. Generally, there are lots of formally posed group shots and even the casual shots may require some direction or intervention from the photographer. Rather than the natural and relaxed storytelling in reportage photography, the traditional photographer often works with a strict brief or list of shots that have to be captured.

Formal photography in this style inevitably stifles natural creativity, however, the photographer is still required to be in command of every important part of the day to get the all important shots. So this classic style of photography may not be suitable for those photographers who may lack the confidence to command group situations or comfortable in directing people. Equally,  the bride and groom who are looking for unposed documentary style of photography and a relaxed, not very demanding or bossy photographer is unlikely to find anything redeeming about the traditional style of photography however brilliant the photos are! But, the disciplined approach to photography and the confidence to get the right shot by telling groups of people what to do can have major advantages in very large weddings. Also, for shorter weddings where only the registry ceremony is being photographed, the traditional approach to capturing all the necessary shots can make the formal styled photographer an asset.  
 

Editorial/Contemporary Wedding Photography: In a world where we have the tools readily available through social media for individual self-expression, increasingly, there are those wedding photographers who seek inspiration from fashion, art and other creative fields to create unique styles that combine elements of different genres of photography. Fashion photography and its specific editorial look can be a very strong influence in this style of wedding photography. This is because fashion photography needs a visual impact through dramatic posing, lighting and specific editing skills that are essential to create breathtaking looks. In Editorial wedding photography, these techniques can be used to create dramatic looks, which are increasingly popular with many couples who demand something a little different. Essentially, this style allows the bride and groom to be more adventurous and create statement looks. 

All styles of wedding photography requires editing, but where Reportage is about depicting the mood of the day as it unfolds, the Editorial style is more about the photographer relying on their technical ability to depict the wedding day in a dramatic signature style. As this style may involve the photographer having to stage a situation or direct a couple or group to some extent. So a couple who is looking for a fly on the wall approach from their wedding photographer may not enjoy the actual process of Editorial wedding photography so much.

A final word about wedding photography styles! I have talked about the three individual styles with reference to the process of photography involved, especially, how much a photographer is likely to direct the action. The reality of a market saturated with professional wedding photographers and not very many unique signature looks is that the great majority of wedding photographers may have a preference for a particular style, but still be very accommodating about how bossy you want them to be on the day! So please don't be afraid to broach this subject because the most professional of professionals can take ahything on their stride.

What should you expect from an established professional Wedding Photographer? Ideally, you should expect the following

 

  • a website containing numerous wedding photos and wedding blogs

  • a professional attitude: excellent communication before, during and after the wedding,

  • delivering on promises made such as delivery of images on time

  • insured for public liability and indemnity

  • contingency plan for change of weather on the day or other emergencies

  • affiliation with high quality album suppliers who only deal with professional photographers

How much to budget for Wedding Photography: Now that you know about the different styles of wedding photography and have probably decided upon the style of photos you want from your special day, the next important part is to budget for your wedding photography. An obvious question might be, is the photographer with the most expensive wedding package the best?

The answer is no. Wedding photography package prices depend on a number of factors. This includes the geographical location of the photographer, so a photographer living in London is likely to have much higher overheads and being able to attract a higher price than someone living in Wales. The ability to market, technical accomplishments, and the style of photography can all be determining factors in the rates offered by different photographers working in the same style.

 

How much are you expected to budget for a full day's wedding photography coverage, by a single professional photographer where coverage is usually from bridal prep to first dance? Please note that the following is only a sugested guide and there are inevitably regional variations and how well a photographer is marketed, also having more than one photographer in he team would usually increase the total cost by £150 - £250:

  • Inexperienced photographer with no distinctive style -  £300 - £600

  • Experienced, but with no distinctive style, so moderate budget rates  - £600 - £800

  • Experienced and charging an industry standard rates - £800 - £999

  • Technically accomplished with a distinctive style - £1000 - £1500

  • Technically accomplished, well marketed and a distinctive style - £1500 - £2000

  • As above and based in a higher priced location such as London & the South - £1500 - £2500

  • Working for a luxury clientele - £2500+

  • Experienced Asian wedding photographer, coverage apanning multiple days - £1500 - 4000 

 

One photographer, two photographer, three photographer... does it make a difference to the final set of wedding photos? Sometimes, there are advantages to having more than one photographer at a wedding as it is impossible for one person to be in two places. So if groom prep is just as important as bridal prep and both are taking place at the same time, it is useful to have two photographers. Some wedding photograpghers may even use assistants or work as a duo. However, in practical terms, in my opinion, apart from the bride and groom getting ready concurrently, it makes no difference whatsoever for the rest of the ceremony. An accomplished storytelling photographer is a also master curator. The final edited images will be the same however many are in a team and a great many photographers might employ a lighting assistant as well. 

Leave it for your chosen photographer to decide and trust them to deliver! My personal recommendation for the bride and groom is to look at a photographer's work and if you happen to love what you are seeing, ask them what they would need given the itinerary of  the day and your budget to deliver the kind of photos you are seeing.       

Questions to your Wedding Photographer: Sometimes, a couple and the wedding photographer are just natural fits and all that is needed after the phone conversation or meeting is to confirm the date and settle the deposit. Where the following information is not available on the photographer's website, here are some typical questions that you could ask a prospective wedding photographer:

  • How would you describe your style

  • What is included in the wedding photography package

  • Which parts or how much of the day do you cover

  • How long does it take to receive the edited photos

  • Are you insured for public liability

  • Can I see a full wedding gallery

  • Do you have a backup plan

 

The selection process for the right wedding photographer whose style and quality of photos you absolutely adore is probably just a little easier now that you know a little more about the different types of wedding photography? I hope so. While this article is based on my personal experiences and opinions as a wedding photographer, I have tried my best to write it in a way that offers a general impression of the art of wedding photography and what to expect from your chosen wedding photographer rather than promoting my own work.

I am Taz from 'Weddings by Taz', a fine art wedding photographer based in Cardiff, South Wales. I love photographing weddings in my unique floral style throughout the UK. If you have any questions for me about your wedding photography plans or looking for advice on choosing the right wedding photographer for you, please feel free to get in touch.