As a documentary wedding photographer what I really love to capture is the unscripted moments. I do notice that even when couples specify before a wedding that they want a bunch of formal, posed, group shots, the images they really love afterwards are not those images, but images like these, which go a little off piste. This was supposed to be one of the formal shots of the groomsmen and the bridesmaids..but then the bridesmaids attacked! I love this shot and this for me is what weddings are all about, unscripted moments.
This is one of a series of blog articles I decided to write to give more information to couples looking to book me. My process is quite standard in the wedding industry so it might be helpful for you to read even if you don't book me.
1.If you've been in contact about booking me then the first thing to do is for me to check I have the date available. Weddings get booked well in advance and it's not uncommon for my diary to be booked a year to 18 months in advance. If you want a date over the summer months in particular, you need to book well in advance ( unless it's a weekday wedding, these are generally easier to accommodate ).
2.Once we've established the date is available and you are happy with the package/price then I'll arrange a meeting either via skype if you are more than an hour away, or in person if possible. At this point nothing is decided yet, and this initial meeting is quite important. I'll be spending the most important day of your life with you so we both need to be sure we will get on. This is also a good time to establish that my style and way of doing things is a good fit for the style of photography you want.
3.Assuming the meeting goes well and you still want to book, then you will need to pay a 25% deposit of the final package. This is to secure the date. Once I have that deposit no one else can book me for that date, even if they offer me twice the money! I'll send you an invoice for the deposit.
4.Once the deposit has been paid then I'll send out two contracts, pre signed. These are standard wedding photography contracts, designed to protect both parties. You will need to sign one and return it to me, and keep the other for your records.
5.I'll need some details of the day, like lists of group shots, VIPS, venues and contact numbers. I'll keep reminding you to provide me with this don't worry:)
6.4 weeks before the wedding the final balance is due, I'll invoice you for this as a gentle reminder to pay up, and also for your records ( and mine )!
7.One the day, I'll show up ( probably early ), do my job and then leave once I've gotten all the shots we have agreed. Within 2 weeks I'll have your images ready. If your package includes an album I'll then ask you to pick 120 images for the album. I'll then design it and post it online for you to approve. Once you have approved it I will order it for you. At that point, our contract will have been fulfilled but if you have any further queries or requests I'm always happy to hear from past clients.
If that all seems complex, it really isn't, and I'll guide you through the whole process should you decide to book me:) After that wall of text I feel the need to stick a photo in, from the awesome wedding of Karl and Alice at Ye Olde Bell in Hurley:)
I get asked this a fair bit by clients so I thought a blog post was in order! I think of myself as a reportage/documentary photographer, but what does this actually mean? Traditional wedding photography was basically a collection of group shots and then some staged shots with the happy couple. This was back when we were all shooting on film, and my own wedding photos follow this pattern. Now that digital photography is firmly established couples expect more, and the era of candid/documentary photography is very much upon us ( I think this is a good thing ). Simply put, documentary wedding photography is unposed, follow the day, shoot what happens photography. This is a documentary wedding photo...
They had no idea they were being photographed, it was a candid moment at the reception between the bride and her father. This is a posed photo by comparison...
There is nothing wrong with this ( they loved it ), but it is a posed photo. There are various degrees of documentary wedding photography. Some photographers are 100% documentary, nothing is posed. They turn up and they document the day looking for awesome moments. There is a lot of skill that goes into this, from choosing the right backgrounds to being able to use flash in a non invasive way. It's not just turning up, putting the camera into burst mode and then firing away. Then there are people like me, who are 90% documentary/reportage but we will do posed/group shots. I believe they are important, as a record of the day. It's impossible to guarantee that you will capture everyone on the day, so the group/posed shots are a kind of safety net, to capture those people who have evaded you otherwise during the day. This is a good example of a shot that is 50% candid and 50% posed....
I love the confetti shots, its not a candid shot because I set it up, but there is a large element of chaos in the confetti run which means its a nice mix of the two genres ( in my opinion ).
Part of the skill of documentary photography is being inconspicuous and this is where gear can play a part. I use a Sony A9 as my main camera for weddings, the main reason for this is that it is completely silent and I find that I can fade into the background a lot more easily than with a big DSLR with a loud shutter sound.
So which should you go for? Well, that's up to you of course. I do find that couples who want a whole load of group shots come to regret it on the day and often abandon the idea when they realise what a stress it places on the whole timeline. If you are going to go for group shots allow 10 minutes for each one. That may seem a lot, but once you factor in the missing relative who has disappeared off the toilet just when you need them most, it starts to make sense. When couples see the final shots its always the candids they prefer, but don't discount the group shots, there are an important record of who was there on the day, and you can always opt for a mix of the two.
I get this question quite a lot, and I believe it is important to explain the value of good wedding photography, as well as the reason it costs what it does. I'm talking about the average price for wedding photography here, which in the UK is between £1100-1200 for mid range weddings. So I'm going to talk about the value of wedding photography first and then go into the costs.
1.Your wedding photography is not just for you. Think about your parent's wedding photos, or your grandparent's wedding photos, and the value they hold. They are priceless, especially when the people in them are gone. I don't want to be morbid about this, but there have been numerous occasions when wedding clients have said to me, sometimes years after their wedding, that I captured some of their favourite photos of people who are no longer around. For your children and grandchildren, these photos may mean even more than they do to you, so yeah, wedding photography is important. Your wedding is one of the few occasions in your life when almost all your nearest and dearest, both friends and family, are in one place, and its important to capture those moments when everyone is together and ( hopefully ) having a great time.
2.After the big day, the flowers will eventually wilt, and the food will have been eaten, the drink will almost certainly have all been drunk! All you will have left is each other, the rings, and the memories of one of the best days of your life. Good wedding photography will transport you back to that day, and really good wedding photography will show you moments you may have missed because you were so busy being, well, married.
3.Good wedding photography is not always easy. The pros will make it look easy, but it really isn't. Sure, you may get lucky and have beautiful weather, well behaved guests who love being in group photos, and a spectacular venue, but that doesn't always work out the way you think it will and it can be very challenging to get decent photos on the day. A pro will get the photos no matter what happens, an amateur, or your best mate who happens to have a DSLR, will need a good slice of luck to come out the other side with some decent shots.
So why not get your niece or uncle with the nice camera to take your wedding photos? Well, that may work out if they are skilled and have done a wedding before, but don't you want them to enjoy the day? If they are doing wedding photography properly on the day they will be working all day, with barely time to eat, so no, they won't be enjoying the day in the same way as a guest. It's a lot to ask, and there are numerous stores out there of friends or relatives who felt pressured to photograph a wedding and as a result had a horrible time, or at best just didn't get to be a proper guest and enjoy the day. I'd never ask one of my friends or relatives to do it, when the time comes for my kids to get married ( a long way off just yet! ) I'll be budgeting for a pro to photograph it ( they'd better be awesome if they are going to make me look good!).
So why is wedding photography so expensive?
1.It's not really that expensive when you think about what you are getting and all that goes into it. An average wedding takes about 30 hours of the photographer's time. It's not a case of rocking up on the day and taking a few snapshots. There are timelines to plan, wedding contracts to send out, pre-wedding meetings to attend with the bride and groom and then there is the editing process, which can take as long as the wedding day. For an average wedding I will have between 3500 and 5000 photos to go through. Then they will need cropping, colour grading, and delivering to the client. After which there will probably be an album to design.
2.There is a lot of training to go through to become a good wedding photographer. Your wedding photographer will have spent hundreds of hours learning their trade, including things you may not even see them do on the day, such as using flashes or other lighting equipment when the natural light is not good enough.
3.Wedding photography gear is expensive, I mean really expensive. An entry level camera and lens just will not cut it, unless conditions are close to perfect ( lots of lovely natural light, no rain, bright venues ). Your gear needs to be able to operate in all kinds of conditions and enable you to get the shot when the light is terrible, it's raining, and there are awful LED lights from the venue making everyone look like Shrek. And for each bit of expensive equipment you will need a backup, because on the day you can't afford for your camera to go wrong and not have a backup handy. You then need insurance for all that expensive equipment and that is not cheap. You also need public liability insurance to operate in most venues. Photographers operating at the cheaper end of the market may well cut corners on some of these things, but can you afford for them to do that if it means they can't get the photos you want?
The recommended amount to spend on wedding photography is around 10% of your budget, though of course if you want a particular photographer you may need to spend a lot more than that. While every wedding vendor adds a tremendous amount of value to your day, it's important to be able to capture the memories of all those things, so don't cheap out on your wedding photography, you will regret it if you do!
This is something I'll come back to again and again I'm sure, but photography, and particularly wedding photography, is all about problem solving, and that is what makes it fun, at least for me. There was a perfect example of this at the wedding I was the photographer for n Berkshire a few weeks ago. It was March in the UK, and we don't usually expect snow in March over here. We expect wind and rain, but not, generally, snow. My bride and groom were not phased by this in the slightest though, which was good. They decided, in fact, that they wanted to be photographed in the snow shower that arrived late on in the wedding, when it was dark, and very cold and icy. Normally I'd have had my assistant grab a flash, and we'd have been able to do the shot very quickly with no problems, just balance the flash against the ambient light from the venue ( there was no ambient daylight left ) and it would have been fine. However, the groom suffered from epilepsy, so had asked, quite reasonably, that we didn't use flash at all. I'd also sent my assistant home, as it was getting late, the snow was getting heavier and he had a 2 hour drive ahead of him. I thought he wouldn't be needed again that day as we'd completed almost all the planned shots for the day. However, the couple asked me out of the blue for these snow shots so I was happy to try and get something for them.
I grabbed an icelight, which for the non photography geeks amongst you is an LED light that basically looks like half a lightsabre, and is daylight balanced, stuck it on a stand and we headed outside.
Upon seeing the photos Karl wrote to me "Amazing work. The shots in the snow look great: hopefully the cold was worth it!". Certainly was:)