Most people only book a wedding photographer once, maximum two or three times! Certainly, not enough times to be an expert! I honestly think that picking a wedding photographer is one of the hardest parts of planning a wedding, possibly because the photos are the longest lasting memories.
The number one thing that you need to consider is the style of images that your photographer provides. I am always amazed by how many people book a wedding photographer without checking out their images. If you don't like their style of photos and the way that they process the images now, there is no reason you will like it when they provide your images. And after doing all of that work, the photographer is unlikely to change them!
So, first of all, check out their website - any good photographer will have a proper website with a portfolio. You should look them up on social media, but even with social media and portfolios, you are probably only getting the best images from thousands of shots. Ask to see a full wedding - can the photographer produce great photos all day?
If you are the person that has the main photographer with you for the getting ready photographs, you will probably spend more time on the day with the photographer than with anyone else! You need to make sure you are happy to have them around you, and that means that you need to know their personality. Is there style straight laced, relaxed, bubbly, calm... and are they compatible with you?
For example, I have a professional but very relaxed style. I try to be there to help the happy couple in every way, including giving them an excuse to get away from everyone, carry a spare pare of flats or having the phones and makeup during the ceremony! In fact, I tend to get on with the couples and the guests that very often I get asked for selfies! And there I was thinking that being a photographer got me out of having my photo taken...
So, you can see, making sure you get to know your photographer is important. Having calls and meetings with them helps, but I always recommend that you go for an engagement photoshoot. I offer them for free as part of my wedding packages because they make such a difference to the relationship between the couple and the photographer.
It means when I turn up for the getting ready shots you haven't got a complete stranger turning up, and you know I can make you feel comfortable in front of the camera. But if its an optional extra with the photographer you go for, definitely pay the extra £200 if you can afford it.
Knowing you can rely on a photographer is important. What have other people's experiences been with them? Check them out on their social media and their website - have they got plenty of reviews from happy customers? Do you know someone who would recommend them? If they are a good photographer with great photos and have been around long enough, you should be able to see fairly quickly that people have responded well to them.
In an ideal world, if all three of the above points are covered, then the cost shouldn’t matter - you have found your photographer! However, this is the real world and money is a factor. When building your budgets, you should expect to pay between 5 and 15% of your total wedding cost if you want a good photographer. In fact, I beg you to not go cheap - bad wedding photos is one of the biggest regrets that I hear about.
If you are wondering why a proper wedding photographer is in the region of £1k-£5k, its because they will likely turn up with £10k worth of gear, have high marketing costs, back-ups for your photos, expensive websites for things such as providing wedding galleries, etc. To give you an example, if you only pay £400 pounds for photography, that would not pay for the cost of all of the memory cards that I bring with me to a wedding!
I do understand though, that some people have lower budgets for wedding photography. If your budget is about £800 or less, you are not looking at a well established, experienced wedding photographer. That’s not to say you can’t get a good deal, but it is extremely risky as you are in the region where every person with a camera is calling themselves a wedding photographer. If your budget is below this, ask an expensive photographer if they mind recommending someone who is up and coming. Their standards will be high, and their goal should be that you get a great experience. If you are in the Hampshire/Dorset/Wiltshire areas, I have plenty of photographers that I know that don't have loads of wedding experience but I know will do a great job. But of course, you are always running a risk.
I got asked on the day of writing this if they really needed to book now for a wedding next year. The answer is YES! If you find someone you like, find out what you have to do to secure them and get it done. With any supplier, but especially wedding photographers, it's difficult to find the right supplier, and so you need to make sure your name is in their diary!
Different photographers work in different ways, so ask what you need to do to get pencilled in, and what you need to do to get fully booked. For example, I ask for 50% deposit to guarantee a booking, but if you confirm and sign contracts, if you need time to pay the deposit I will write you in with an understanding of timescales. But all you need to do is confirm that you want to book me, prior to deposits and contracts, for me to pencil you in - and I will never book a couple on your date without consulting you first!
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I hope that this is useful - there is a lot more advice around this subject that I will be talking about in the future, but these are the core most important points. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me - I am not a salesy person and happy just to offer advice.