Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Hiring a photographer

I’ve already done a spiel on hiring ‘Uncle John’ for your wedding photography. Today I’m going to add a little about my style, and how style should inform your decision as much as price considerations.

So you’re sitting there thinking, I have £15,000 to spend on my wedding. It sounds like a heck of a lot of money – it is, but by the time you put everything together you’d be surprised. It’s actually really easy to spend a lot more, so you may need to go get yourself a stiff drink at this point! How much do I spend on peripheral things like chair covers, photographer, cake and so on?

This is where you need to take a step back and ask what the value against each of those items is. If you look at chair covers for instance, while the devil is in the detail and you may need to provide these to make the overall ambience of the room appealing, you do need to ask yourself how much you want to spend, in comparison to how much use you’ll get out of them, and who will remember them.

Now of course I’m going to sell the photography bit, but it really is important – after you have put your dress away, after the cake is eaten, the drink drunk, what do you have left? Well hopefully a whole lot of joyful memories and a partner for life, but if your memory is like mine (or your big day was also a big party), you’ll have forgotten half of the day. The only thing (apart from a video if you have one, and I really do rate these when done properly) you will have to show your kids, or just reminisce over, will be your photographs. I can authoritatively say that you need to get yourself a good photographer. My wife and I got married before the days of wedding fairs and before many photographers even had websites (I sound so old!), and we chose someone from a phonebook – suffice to say we really didn’t do our research.

GROOMS LISTEN UP! Even if you could care less about photographs, don’t risk putting yourself in my position; hiring a photographer who wasn’t anything like the best you can afford. You will pay dearly, as your wife will remind you every other day that your photos are rubbish – I know because that is what happened to me!

So let’s assume I have convinced you to go for the best you can afford. How do you decide on what is the best? Well, forget looking at price lists. Look at every website you can find, or go to fairs. And see whose wedding photographs make you go  - “that’s what I want to look like!” (and I don’t mean scouring for dress ideas girls!). Make a list of the photographers that you like who are in your area or prepared to travel to you. Then and only then check the price lists. Some will not advertise their prices – they are generally but not always aimed at the higher end of the market, where people don’t make their main choice on price. Others provide everything for £299 and advertise on a lamp-post.  I advertise my prices online – I don’t believe in aiming cheap, but I do provide great value for money and this can be seen by anyone who is interested.

I also make sure that my packages can be made bespoke to your needs – you are the paying customer after all. If a photographer is not prepared to take your specific requirements into account it is because the requests are not in keeping with their style, or they are not flexible – either way they are probably not the photographer for you. For instance, I often get asked if I do selective colouring (making most of the image black and white and keeping certain elements colour). The answer 99% of the time is no, because I personally think it looks naff, except on rare, very rare occasions. So if you asked me I would say probably not, and you would know to go elsewhere.

You may ask what elements of style to look out for. Here’s a few tips:
-          “haven’t I seen this photo elsewhere?” If you have seen it replicated by other photographers, e.g. the groom and best men all jumping in the air, chances are you probably won’t have a very individual album
-          Black and white and colour – does the photographer provide these both . Do colour image stand out because of their colour? Do black and white images make good use of contrast or do they look more ‘grey’?
-          Looking a little different – are there quirky photos that look a little unconventional – a good indicator as to whether your photographer will make your album unique
-          Natural and relaxed. Everyone now claims to do this. I think an excellent indicator of whether your photographer is good at this if the photograph of a ‘group’ photo is relaxed and natural. It shows the photographer can work with people in a situation which does not lend itself to natural, and still carry it off.
-          ‘Trends’ – at the moment everything is ‘vintage’ style – I actually love this style, really love it ( I mean that old fashioned polaroid look). However I hate when everyone does it all the time, there are so many ways to do a photograph, it would be like doing selective colouring or black and white on everything. If you want this that’s cool, especially if your whole day has been laid out in a vintage theme. But keep an eye out for a photographer who can apply good judgement to their image. Once everyone does it all the time it becomes a trend, and will date terribly. You won’t get trends with me, just my style.
-          Look out for a sense of design – the best photographs in the world can be spoilt or undersold if in a poor quality layout or album. Properly mounted and presented images can make you feel emotional when looking back at them, poorly presented ones just leave you feeling flat.

You can make up your own mind as to whether my photography style fits yours against these criteria, if it doesn’t, hopefully it has helped to narrow things down a little for you.

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