It almost goes without saying that your wedding is an incredibly important event. For most people this is a once in a lifetime occasion, usually planned over many months, if not years. You will want every contributor to this fantastic day to be the complete professional. No one would trust an amateur to design the wedding dress or to supply the catering, so why would you put your memories of this incredible day in the hands of someone without a proven record?
The principal players in this affair extend far beyond just the Bride and Groom – to include two sets of parents, (soon to be in-laws!) Various siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and extended family – often traveling from a great distance. Friends come next, usually lots and lots of them. Add to this mix the professional players, the victors, registrars, wedding planners, florists, entertainers, caterers, … the lists is as long as your budget will allow. Still want to do it? OK, good, then you really must read on …
Every year there seems to be at least one newspaper report detailing the dismal failure of a wedding photographer to produce even the bare minimum of a satisfactory photographic service; out of focus, blurred, poorly composed images leading to court cases, embarrassment and worst of all the tragedy of having treasured memories of such a happy day ruined.
Why does this happen? Sadly it occurs more since since the advent of digital technology. Anybody can now buy a superb automatic camera for very little money. Add to this a laptop and a website and you have everything that's needed to set yourself up as a wedding photographer (apart from the skill that is). So how can you avoid these charlatans? The simple answer is 'research'. Put as much effort into choosing your wedding photographer as you do choosing your dress or venue.
Where do you look? Well, you could start with a web search, but beyond a flashy website, how do you know what you're getting? The website should be appreciated more as an introduction to someone's work, not as a way to choose your photographer. Quality Bridal magazine adverts are at least an indication that you are dealing with a professional (one with a marketing budget), but quite simply point you towards a website again.
A much better starting point is a recommendation, not only will you be able to see the photographer's work in some detail (for example in a friend's album) but you'll also learn about how they behaved from the first contact to the last. It's not good if the photographer took great photos but then did not deliver for months and months afterwards or suddenly produced an invoice of multiple hidden charges.
If you can not find a suitable referral (or even if you can) then a real time saver is to visit a local wedding show. Here you will find an array of local wedding suppliers – including photographers – with their best work on display for you to see. You'll be able to talk with them, question them, make direct comparisons between them and see if there's someone with what you're 'click'. That's really very important. You will be spending a lot of time, and some fairly intimate moments, with your photographer so you want to make sure that you like their company!
There's a whole range of questions that you can ask a wedding photographer to reassure yourself that they know their job – I deal with these in a separate article “Essential Questions for Your Wedding Photographer” – but before you do you must ask yourself a few questions too. What is your budget (and do you want it to include an album)? What style of photography do you want (many photographers specialize in one particular style)? How long do you want the photographer to attend (bride preparation until the party is usually 10 – 12 hours)? Knowing these few key points will help speed up the choosing process immeasurably and means that you can spend more time with your beloved – which is obviously what it's all about.