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Choosing Your Perfect Wedding Photographer?

Well, help is on hand

So many of my wedding photography enquiries open with something along the lines of “we’re new to this, know little about photography and have no idea where to start when choosing a wedding photographer.”  This page is intended to help in starting to narrow down that tricky and important search

Introduction

As someone who grappled with the same issue ahead of my own wedding day I can truly empathise. With the wedding photography market saturated with people offering a wedding photography service, and with very few barriers to entering that market, it’s easy to see why engaged couples struggle to know where to begin when making such an important decision. It’s a cliché, but a wedding is a one-off event, one of the most significant in a person’s life, and the photographs are likely to become the enduring memory of that day and will increase in sentimental value with the passing of time. Booking a wedding photographer who can be relied upon to fit in with a couples’ vision for their day, cope with the one-off and highly dynamic nature of a wedding day and deliver images that will be treasured is often one of the first tasks undertaken by couples. In most cases, choice of photographer is second only to the date and venue selection and in some cases I’ve experienced, even before those are chosen.

The aim of this page, that I’ve chosen to call ‘how to choose your perfect Norfolk Wedding Photographer’ (equally applicable to anyone researching wedding photographers of course!), is to provide engaged couples with a resource that will hopefully help them quickly narrow their search and find the right photographer for them. That is of course not necessarily me and this is not intended to be a page about me. While I’ll touch upon how I work and what I offer as I go (so that this can also act as a sort of FAQ page) importantly, not every photographer is suited to every couple and I am no different. While there is undoubtedly a photographer out there for everyone, it’s vital that couples book the photographer who not only has a portfolio that catches their eye but who they can feel completely comfortable with, trust and enjoy working with. Images that resonate with a couple is a great starting point but it is just that, a starting point, and really only the first filter as the search is narrowed.

Factors Considered Below
Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Price

Finding the right photographer within your budget

Image Quality and Portfolio

Quality of photographer and depth of portfolio

Shooting Style

What style of photography are you seeking?

Editing Style

Choosing an editing style

The Photographer

Are they the right person to spend my wedding day with?

Referrals

The pros and cons of referrals

Reviews

The importance of doing the research

Do they need to have shot at your venue?

A common question easily answered

Equipment

Important questions to ask

Image Security

Will your images be safely stored?

Insurance

Should be universal but isn't

Number of photographers

Understanding whether you need/want a second or third photographer

Albums

Something you may ultimately want, but does the photographer do them?

Digital Downloads

Questions definitely worth asking

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Price

Finding the right photographer within your budget

A little more about my pricing can be found under the link below.  For full pricing, please do get in touch

I’m going to get this out of the way first because, understandably, most couples have a finite budget and will have an amount in their minds which they would like to allocate to photography.  From experience, couples are often surprised by the amount that wedding photography costs. The average amount spent by couples on a wedding photographer in the UK in 2018 was £1560.  A link to the full 2018 report into wedding photography in the UK is here.

I’m not going to dwell on this point as there is an excellent resource already written by Your Perfect Wedding Photographer that helps explain the costs of wedding photography and why it’s perhaps more expensive than expected.

Although there are undoubtedly some exceptions, if a photographer seems very affordable it will usually be because they are starting out and lacking experience (a risk in itself of course), have not invested a great deal in their business (in terms of training or equipment) or they’re just not very skilled or in-demand. My advice is that although a photographer must be within the budget of the couple, decisions should not be made based solely on price.  If a photographer that is loved and trusted falls just beyond a given budget, it is potentially worth considering the allocation of the whole wedding budget and the relative importance and longevity of the photographic record of the day.  If you’d like to read more on this subject, an outstanding article which might prove hugely useful and informative can be found here.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Image Quality and Portfolio

Quality of photographer and depth of portfolio

While there are dozens of featured weddings on my blog, my own wedding portfolio can be found under the link below

A photographer’s images are going to be the first thing that most couples will view when starting their search for a wedding photographer.  Most photographers will have a portfolio, possibly a blog and usually a social media presence on Facebook and particularly Instagram.  What is worth bearing in mind is that the images in portfolios and social media will be the very best ‘hero’ images that the photographer has captured across a variety of wedding days and may therefore not be completely indicative of the quality that you can expect from your own wedding.

In order to ensure that the quality, consistency and creativity extends beyond the hero images and is sustained across a full wedding day from preparations to the party, it is important to ask to see full wedding day images.  These can be on a blog, if sufficient numbers of images have been shared (be wary if there are just half a dozen images from an entire day), or you should ask to see a full delivered gallery.  You may even be able to ask a friend for a view of their full gallery if you know someone who had their wedding shot by the photographer.  This approach will quickly uncover any deficiencies and, if the photographer refuses to or makes excuses not to share a full gallery or 2, I would walk away.

When analyzing a portfolio, it is worth looking at how the photographer handles bad weather and low light.  Dark venues and rainy days can be encountered year-round in the UK and you should ideally seek a photographer who has the experience, technique and equipment to handle whatever your day may throw at him in terms of photographic challenges.  Have a good look for images taken in low-light and rain and ask to see images where the photographer has had to create their own light, usually using flash. Surprisingly, many ‘professional’ photographers are not confident in their use of flash.  This is fine if they are up front about that but, if you are marrying in winter or in a dark venue such as a barn, it’s an important skill to possess. If a photographer advertises as a ‘natural light photographer’, unless you can guarantee good natural light across your whole wedding day, I’d be very wary of making a booking.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Shooting Style

What style of photographer are you seeking?

While shooting style can be hard to define, I discuss my own philosophy for capturing weddings under the link below

In the days of film, wedding photographers had a limited number of photographs that they could take and their equipment demanded largely static, set-up images as a result.  Wedding photographers usually attended the ceremony and part of the reception and often took control to ensure that key moments were staged and that usually a long list of formal group photographs were completed.  Some photographers from that era have made the transition to digital photography and operate in a similar manner to this day.  This is at the most formal and ‘traditional’ end of the spectrum of wedding photography and may or may not be to your taste.  At the other end of the spectrum are ‘pure documentary’ wedding photographers who will remain silent all day and will simply observe and document from the margins.  In between these formal and pure documentary approaches lie most of today’s wedding photographers.  It is worth considering what you’d like from your photographer and looking closely at their photographs to see whether they work as they say.

Personally, I like to let the day flow as much as possible and to take a documentary approach where I can.  This means that I can capture as many genuine story-telling moments as possible with real emotions on display.  I do however shoot an agreed list of important formal group photographs if requested and will take some control to create some beautiful portraits.  That said, my style is predominantly informal, candid and relaxed and even my portraits are intended to feel as ‘real’ and candid as possible.  Ascertaining how you envisage your photographer being on the day and discussing this with prospective photographers is important and will ensure that you don’t get a nasty surprise on the day.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Editing Style

Choosing an editing style

This is quite possibly something that only photographers really worry about but I think it’s an absolutely fundamental part of the decision-making process for couples.  In the days of Instagram filters and ‘trendy’ presets, a key differentiator between photographers is the look of their images.  Poor editing can ruin a beautiful image taken in great light. Indeed, editing is one on the hardest parts of a wedding photographer’s workflow and certainly the most time-consuming. With the changing and often mixed lighting of a wedding day, it’s often extremely hard achieving consistency in ‘White Balance’ and natural skin tones and it’s one of the most under-valued skills that a professional photographer may or may not possess.

As you review a full wedding day and analyse portfolios, look closely at how ‘orange’ or ‘red’ skin tones are and how natural the colours appear in the photographs. A current trend is to de-saturate green to the point where it becomes grey and to apply pre-sets that significantly alter the colour palette across the day.  While this can add to the mood and ‘feel’ of an image, such presets will undoubtedly date – think avocado bathroom suites and you’ll get the idea! Such use of presets will also mean that your carefully selected colours for flowers, dresses, suits and ties etc will not be accurately represented in your photographs.

From a personal perspective, I try to edit images in an honest way and work on improving contrast, sharpness and colour-correction in order to deliver consistency across a full set of images in all light.  My aim is to deliver a stunning final edit that enhances the story of the day without detracting from it.  My edit is warm, vibrant, sharp and clean.  There’s no danger of someone saying my wedding photographs were edited in 2019 because the edit is clean and, most importantly, ‘timeless’.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

The Photographer

Are they the right person to spend my wedding day with?

If you REALLY want to know a little more about me, there’s a link below!

You will likely spend a lot of time in the company of your wedding photographer, particularly on a full-day booking.  In order for the photography element of the day to work for you, particularly where the style is largely candid and honest, it’s absolutely vital that you get along well and feel completely at ease in their company.  Anything less will show in the photographs and potentially undermine your enjoyment of your wedding day.  If you haven’t seen the photographer working at a previous wedding or got a rock-solid recommendation from someone who has, it’s well worth meeting the photographer in person.  When chatting, see if you can imagine that person joining you on the morning of your wedding, putting you at ease, getting along with your family and friends of all ages. Selecting a photographer who you can picture mingling effortlessly with you and your guests will go a long way towards gaining a set of images that will tell the story of your day from the ‘inside’.   And it’s this feel to the images that you’ll no doubt want.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Referrals

The pros and cons of referrals

I’m hugely grateful to be recommended by some of the finest venues in the region including Hales Hall Barn, Holkham Hall, West Lexham Manor, Elms Barn, Chaucer Barn, Oxnead Hall, Voewood and The Reading Room amongst others (none are paid referrals!) My own list of recommended wedding vendors is under the link below

Over time my own bookings have increasingly come from referrals rather than simply search engines or social media.  In my experience, referrals are the very best bookings, particularly when they come from other couples who have booked me and loved the way I worked as well as their images. Like-minded friends enquiring based on a trusted recommendation so often lead to the very best match, it’s a great place to start when embarking on your search for your perfect wedding photographer.

Wedding venues and other wedding ‘suppliers’ also often recommend photographers, but these should be viewed with a degree of caution.  Many venues will offer referrals for a percentage of the photographers’ fee if they successfully book based on that venue’s referral.  In my eyes, these referrals are based more on financial gain and are a business decision; the venue is choosing who to recommend based on the willingness of the photographer to pay rather than on the quality of the photographer or how they are to work with.  Other venues provide couples with a recommended supplier list that has no financial incentive and is based solely on the venue’s opinion of that photographer.  Such recommendations hold much more weight as they’re genuine and much more likely to be based on factors that are in tune with the vision of the couple – ie service, quality and a desire to work with them again.  When considering referrals, it’s worth investigating the basis for that referral and weighting it accordingly.

Finally, I’m privileged to be close and trusted friends with a number of outstanding local wedding photographers who share the same ethos as me and who work in a very similar way.  Perhaps surprisingly, we share referrals on a daily basis and I’m always pleased to be able to recommend someone that I know will do an incredible job when either I’m not able to fulfil an enquiry or if I’m perhaps out of a budget.  If you are reading this and struggling to find a photographer who you can trust, please do get in touch, I’d be very pleased to help.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Reviews

The importance of doing the research

The first of 2 pages of reviews can be found under the link below

Sadly I do know of wedding photographers who have simply not turned up to wedding days, made excuses for being late, lost or not delivered any images and failed to pay photographers who’ve had to cover for them at the last minute.  Wedding photography is a completely unregulated industry and I would encourage couples to be diligent in researching who they are booking.  A great starting point is the simple research many of us do when shopping or looking for somewhere to eat out or go on holiday.  I know I use Amazon reviews and Trip Advisor before handing over my money.  Good legitimate businesses should have plenty of happy clients who are keen to share their experiences.  Some will have Facebook Business Pages with reviews, others may be on Google or indeed on the photographer’s website.  It’s certainly worth tracking these down and checking for their legitimacy.

Even when you’ve done your research, it’s still worth meeting the photographer in person to get a feel for who they are, whether you trust them enough to ultimately hand a significant sum of money to and of course shoulder the responsibility of documenting one of the most important days of your life.  Legitimate wedding photographers should also require you to sign a contract that is there for the benefit and protection of you both. A photographer who isn’t bothered about having a contract with you needs to be considered carefully I would suggest.  You will also almost certainly be required to pay a deposit on booking and a final payment before your wedding day.  Again, to be safe, it’s worth paying on a credit card where you’ll at least have some protection should the worst happen and the photographer fail to deliver the contracted service.

I hold my consultations at my home office for a number of reasons.  Most importantly, I think it’s reassuring to meet someone at their home as it gives you a feel for who they are and allows you to see where they work, where they’ll prepare for your wedding day and where your images will be safely stored and edited.  In my experience, it’s more reassuring than meeting a stranger in a pub or restaurant and then signing a contract and committing to spending possibly thousands of pounds and trusting them with your wedding photographs. Meeting in my home office also allows me to answer any and every question that comes up during a consultation. Having ready access to every wedding photograph I’ve ever taken, I’m able to show examples of all my work in all conditions and across a plethora of venues at all times of year.   I’m also able to demonstrate how I edit as well as show people the photography equipment that I’ve invested in.

Finally, by meeting at my home, I find that it also starts to build that all important rapport and friendship that goes a huge way towards feeling relaxed around your photographer on the wedding day.  This is a really important factor in the overall success of the wedding photographs in my experience.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Do they need to have shot at your venue?

A common question easily answered

I’ve been asked this quite often and the answer is a short one, ‘no’.

I shoot at many new venues each year and my images don’t suffer as a result.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Working repeatedly at the same venue is likely to stifle creativity with photographers returning to the same ‘safe’ and possibly clichéd location and set-up.  Approaching new venues with a fresh set of eyes is in my experience often to the benefit of the final set of images.  It is however worth asking whether a photographer will conduct some form of ‘recce’ of an unfamiliar venue.  I always visit new venues in advance in order to make sure that I know where I’m going on the day, to check for wet-weather options for group photographs and portraits and to see where the light is likely to fall at various stages of the day.  I consider this an important part of my preparation for the day and part and parcel of being a professional photographer.

In short, don’t worry if a photographer hasn’t shot at your venue before, do worry if they don’t bother doing a ‘recce’ ahead of the day.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Equipment

Important questions to ask

If you’d like to know more about the equipment that I use, here’s a link to an interview that I was privileged to give for Shotkit, the camera gear of the ‘World’s Best Photographers’

First of all, expensive high-end photography equipment won’t guarantee great photographs.  The photographer is more important than the tool.  But, a professional photographer who is charging for their services should be using robust equipment that will deliver optimum image quality, beyond that which you would expect from guests, in low-light and in all weather.  They should also have back-up equipment with them that will guarantee uninterrupted coverage of your day should something fail or become damaged.  While you may not wish to dig too deep into a photographer’s camera bag, because you may have little interest or knowledge in this area, it would be worth asking how many cameras and lenses they take to a wedding and whether they can carry on working seamlessly if a camera fails or a lens is dropped.

If you are marrying in winter or in a very dark venue, the quality of the photographer’s equipment will be of greater significance and have a greater impact on image quality in very low light.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Image Security

Will your treasured images be safely stored?

I’ve touched on this above but it is worth checking a photographer’s plans for safely storing your images.  Your photographer should be using a camera with dual memory card slots so that your images are backed-up from the point of shutter press.  This is an easy question to ask.  Once back in the office, your photographer should have a robust plan to ensure that there is no risk of your images being lost.

My own routine is to back-up the images from my memory cards as soon as I arrive home. This back-up involves the images all being stored on 2 separate external hard-drives.  Within 24 hours, these images will also have been uploaded to a secure ‘cloud’ storage facility which in turn has its own back-up arrangements. So, within 24 hours of a wedding, there are 5 copies of your wedding photographs.  Once I’m certain that I have 2 copies at home and one in cloud storage, I’m then able to re-use memory cards.  Once edited, all edited images will also be stored in a couples’ online gallery and will become a further secure back-up.  Images will also be delivered via USB to couples and they are of course free to make as many back-ups as they wish.  Loss of wedding photographs is the stuff of nightmares for a conscientious professional wedding photographer so any questions you raise on this subject should be easily answered.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Insurance

Should be, but isn't always universal

A working professional wedding photographer should have Public Liability and Indemnity Cover.  Again, this is an easy question to ask.  If they don’t, I’d walk away at that point because it’s likely that your wedding venue will demand it, even if you are not concerned.

I’m currently insured by Aaduki Multimedia Insurance and who specialise in insurance for professional photographers.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Number of Photographers

Understanding whether you want or need more than one photographer

While I’ll discuss this briefly here, I’ve written a more comprehensive answer to this question which can be found under the link below

Some photographers will work with an assistant or second photographer/shooter. There are pros and cons to this way of working and there is absolutely no right or wrong.  I did write an article on this subject some years ago and this can be found on my blog here.

Personally I’ve found that working alone works best for me. I’m the sort of photographer who likes to work discretely so that I can go unnoticed where possible and capture the ebb and flow of the day naturally.  The more photographers there are walking around, the less chance of going unnoticed and the greater chance that the wedding day starts to feel like a paparazzi photo-shoot and that is absolutely the last thing that I would want. Of course, if you’re considering booking a wedding videographer, that could be another camera or 2 trained on you and your guests throughout the day.  (While I mention wedding videographers, I do have a page here that provides some recommendations on the very best wedding videographers in Norfolk and beyond.)

I’ve found that I’m capable of capturing the full story of a wedding day working alone and I’ve always had great feedback on my low-profile during the day.  Not many people like having their photograph taken so doing it discretely is one painless way of ensuring that people have the best time without that sense of a camera lens being trained on them repeatedly.   The only part of a day where being solo can be tricky is during preparation but I work with couples to ensure the schedule allows me time to visit both before the ceremony.

All that said, if couples really want or need a second photographer, I am usually able to provide one for an additional fee so it would still be worth enquiring.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Albums

Something you may ultimately want, but does the photographer do them?

For a little more information on the albums that I offer, there’s a link just below

Some wedding photographers choose not to offer albums and, while an album may not be something you’re considering as you search for your photographer, there is a good chance that at some point in the future you may wish to have your favourite images printed into a professional album that will last a lifetime. It is worth checking whether the photographer that you’re considering offers albums and whether they have any examples of their designs so that you can check for quality and consistency.  If albums are not offered, it is worth thinking hard about whether you might one day really like to have your photographs in a professional album on your coffee table.

Most of the couples who book me enjoy viewing my sample albums because they show hundreds of images from full wedding days which provides some of that reassurance that it’s not just the hero images that I’m willing to share.  As professional albums are a significant additional expense at a potentially financially difficult time, most couples who’ve ordered albums have done so in the months or years following their wedding days. As I store all images indefinitely, it’s not a problem going back and designing an album long after a wedding day. In fact, I’ve found that couples actually benefit from living with their wedding photographs for some time before committing to print their favourites.  Often the immediate favourites are replaced during return viewings and new special favourites moments emerge that are more enduring and more deserving of a special place in an album.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Digital Downloads

Questions definitely worth asking

It is worth checking how your photographer will deliver your images. An online gallery is the ideal as this will allow you to share your images easily with guests should you wish to do so.  The photographer will be able to tell you if this is the case but it is worth checking on how your gallery will be set-up.  Most importantly, ask whether you and your guests will be able to download full-resolution printable images for free from the gallery. Many photographers will only allow low-resolution, watermarked images to be downloaded without taking additional payment.  For me, this is asking for a second payment for images that have already been paid for as part of the overall fee for wedding photography.

My galleries are password protected with a unique password for the couple to hide any images that they don’t wish to share.  After viewing themselves, they’re free to share their gallery as widely as they wish and guests can then sign in and download any images they like as often as they like.  The images are full-resolution and not watermarked so can be printed and used without any degradation in quality.

It is worth checking that you will receive an online gallery and that you will have unlimited free download of full resolution images before booking.  You will usually also receive a USB of full resolution images but if friends and family cannot download printable images directly from the gallery, you’re going to find yourself posting the USB or trying to email large numbers of large files to all your wedding guests individually which could be time-consuming and frustrating.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

'Your Perfect Wedding Photographer' Website

Another excellent online resource for couples planning their wedding day

If you’d like to read deeper into this subject and pick up some further great tips on planning your dream wedding day there is a wonderful online resource and wedding photography directory called ‘Your Perfect Wedding Photographer’.  I only found out about it having shot a wedding where, unbeknown to me, the owner of this business was a guest.  After the wedding, having enjoyed how I worked and liking my images, he contacted me and offered me a complimentary listing on his directory. If you’re a photographer and reading this, I can say that it’s one of the few directories that I’d recommend considering.  It’s an outstanding website that has already attracted a number of enquiries and bookings for me and is also a superb resource for couples looking for a wedding photographer.  There are some excellent articles on the site and, no doubt one with a very similar title to this page.  I’ve intentionally not read it though as I’m not a fan of plagiarism and know that if I read something similar to what I’m intending to deliver here, I’ll end up inadvertently lifting ideas.

In the sections above, I’ve covered a whole range of considerations, some obvious and some less so.  While I tried to list them in a logical order, largely in order of importance I guess, this is quite subjective.  For some, budget is not significant, others it’s of utmost importance.  Some couples will demand 2 photographers and not one and see that as a priority.  What I’ve aimed to do is to keep this guide nice and balanced and to leave couples to make their own assessment of the relevance and importance of each point to their own plans and their ultimate selection.

Andy Davison - Norwich Wedding Photographer

Wrapping Up

I hope this has helped in some way

The considerations above are really just a starting point, intended to assist couples embarking on the quest to find a professional photographer for what will probably be the first and maybe only time in their lives.  Today there are thousands of photographers to choose from and very few quality resources available to assist couples in making the right decision for them.  While I hope this page will help make a potentially hazardous search simpler, I’m always happy to receive questions from those seeking further advice – please do not hesitate to drop me a line if that is you.

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