So you've been to some bridal expos, seen the displays, gathered pamphlets, checked websites, asked friends for referrals and now you have a list of potentially suitable candidates for your wedding photography. You have probably shortlisted them because you love their images and their style but where to from here? What questions do you need to ask before you make a decision?
1. Is our wedding date available?
If you are getting married during the peak wedding season (in Melbourne September through to April) you may find your preferred photographers are booked 12 - 18 months in advance so don't leave this until the last minute.
2. Who will be photographing my wedding?
Some of the larger wedding photography businesses have a number of in-house and contract photographers and you may not meet your allocated photographer before your wedding day. The images displayed on websites and promotional material may not have been taken by the photographer you have been allocated.
At Magnolia Images Alison will be photographing your wedding. Alison may also have a second shooter/assistant to ensure additional elements of your day are not missed. You will get to know Alison personally through phone and email contact and at your complimentary 'E' Session (engagement photo session). By the time your wedding comes around Alison will seem like part of the family!
3. What experience do you have shooting weddings and are you an accredited photographer?
It is important that your photographer has a broad base of photography skill and experience and has consistently applied this to weddings. Wedding photography requires expertise over a number of photographic genres (macro, photojournalistic, portraiture, event and creative photography) and the ability to transition from one genre to the next very quickly.
If your photographer is serious about their craft they will be members of their professional body. In Australia we are represented by the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers (AIPP). Accredited members of the AIPP have 'met high standards for their skill, experience and professional business conduct .'(including insurance) If you are unsure about whether your photographer is accredited go to http://www.aipp.com.au Alison is an accredited member of the AIPP, and also runs her a commercial photography business and has photographed weddings over the past five years.
4. Can you describe your style of photography?
Most photographers lean towards a particular style of photography and you will be able to identify this when looking at their imagery. There is no right or wrong style but rather what style are you drawn to? More importantly can you see yourself in the images displayed?
Photojournalistic - this style captures the day as it unfolds in a similar way that a news media photojournalist would capture a story. They anticipate moments, provide no direction and are almost 'invisible' during the day.
Traditional or classic - perhaps the opposite of photojournalistic the traditional or classic style lends itself to a far more structured approach. The photographer will provide direction and is focused on perfectly lit, posed and framed images.
Artistic - this is where the photographer uses a bit of creative licence in relation to perspective, lighting, composition etc.
Try not to confuse photography styles with post production techniques. Many photographers use 'presets' to give their images a 'vintage', 'desaturated', 'dark and moody' or 'grainy feel.
At Magnolia Images we capture 'beautiful, timeless images to tell the story of your day.' So what does that mean?
We have the skill and experience to capture the traditional or classic portraits. They require understanding of lighting and posing and we pay particular attention to how your dress hangs, your body position, the direction and quality of light. These images are the ones that grandma will put on her mantle and the ones that won't date like some.
There are times during the day however when we blend into the background and adopt a photojournalistic approach to capture your story as it unfolds particularly during the ceremony, congratulations and the reception.
If you're up for something a little more dramatic we also love to create more artistic portraiture where we introduce artificial lighting to create mood and drama.
Bride and groomed photographed during their wedding reception at historic Narmbool Homestead which is situated between Ballarat and Geelong.
5. What type of equipment do you use? Do you have backups?
If you don't know a lot about photography then a list of the latest and greatest camera equipment may not help you. Your photographer should be shooting with professional camera bodies and have a variety of professional lenses at their disposal.
At Magnolia Images we use Canon bodies (currently the 5DMkIV and 5DS) and a variety of prime and zoom lenses. We have our favourites - the 70 - 200mm f2.8 and the 85mm f1.2 but most of our equipment is used at some stage during a wedding day. As well as shooting natural light there are also times that require additional light sources (such as receptions, creative portraits etc.) so we carry a variety of artificial light sources. If you are more technically minded and require a full list we would be happy to accommodate. And yes we always carry backups!
6. Have you photographed a wedding at the location for my ceremony and reception venue before?
Whether a photographer has previously photographed at your ceremony and/or reception location should not determine whether or not to engage them. Your wedding is unique; your bridal party, the decorations, the weather conditions, the time of year, changes to the venue etc. and each wedding should be photographed with fresh eyes.
It is helpful to know that 'there is a gorgeous elm tree just over the rise' or 'there's an amazing staircase at the back of the reception venue' however any good photographer who hasn't photographed there before (or for a while) will ensure they visit the property prior to the day. And this is the standard approach taken by us at Magnolia Images - not only we will go to visit a venue ahead of the day but we also like to meet the venue event manager to discuss how they have things organised to make your day run smoothly.
7. Can I give you a list of specific shots that we would like during the day?
Most photographers will and should cater for specific photographs you would like taken during the day. For example - 'My nan will be at the house when I am getting ready and I'd really love a photograph with her holding a photograph of nan and grandpa on their wedding day'. It is important that this type of request, one that is unique to your wedding, is conveyed to your photographer.
By the time your wedding day comes around your photographer should have a really good understanding of what is most important to you and photograph accordingly; so try to avoid providing your photographer with a detailed list of every photograph you would like taken. You want them focusing on documenting the day rather than ticking off a check list. The exception to this is the list of formal family portraits. Your photographer should request a list prior to the day e.g. 1. bride and groom + brides mum (Jan) and brides dad (John) 2. bride and groom + brides grandma (Beverley) etc. It is important that all family members are advised in advance if they are to be included in family portraits so they don't disappear before the photos have been taken. Be mindful of the time it takes for family portraits - we allow 3 mins per grouping.
8. What packages do you offer? Will you customise a package? and how much does it cost?
Most photographers will put together a number of different photography packages for you to choose from. Packages are the most cost effective way of purchasing wedding photography but they may not suit all weddings so make sure you ask if a package can be customised.
Prices can vary greatly between photographers and it is very easy to become confused about whether you are receiving good value for money. The most expensive photographer is not necessarily the best photographer and vice versa and the inclusions in your packages are not necessarily the same quality. e.g. two photography companies who offer a 20 page album at the same price point could be offering two very different products
Photographer 1 - thin pages that don't 'lay flat' very similar to a coffee table book. 20 pages could mean 20 individual sides
Photographer 2 - professional handcrafted album with lay flat 3mm thick pages, personalised embossing, 20 pages = 20 double page spreads
At Magnolia Images we refer to our packages as Collections. We have one Digital Collection and three Album Collections available but we are happy to customise a Collection for you. All our Collections include a USB of edited digital images, photography coverage (8hrs - from bride getting ready until conclusion of the formal celebrations at the reception), and an 'E' Session (Engagement Photo Session). Our albums are currently handcrafted at a local professional album supplier (Seldex - http://www.seldex.com.au ) so you know you will be receiving beautiful, quality albums, made in Australia and that will last for generations to come.
9. How long will it take to receive my images?
Providing a quality service from your photographer includes timely delivery of your images and/or album. Depending upon the coverage photographers regularly capture between 800 - 1500 images. The images then need to be uploaded, backed up, backed up again, short listed, cropped and edited (basic edit for colour, contrast etc.) before downloading them to a USB. At Magnolia Images digital copies of your wedding images will be available within four weeks, and are beautifully presented in a personalised USB presentation box.
Images used for albums then require further editing eg. skin retouching/creative edit before final approval of the layout can be obtained. During peak season, album suppliers can take 6 weeks to produce so don't delay making a decision. Receiving your album is an exciting time. You've seen the images online but there's nothing like having your images presented in a beautifully handcrafted album and reliving the memories of your wedding day.
9. Do we sign a contract?
The answer to this question should be YES. Professional photographers should have you sign a contract that clearly sets out the expectations of both the photographer and the client.
We have covered what we believe are the key questions to ask your photographer before making any decision about whether to engage them for your wedding. You will have many other questions but the answers may not influence your decision eg. do you offer a photo booth? If the answer is no then that's ok there's plenty of photo booth companies out there.
So the date's available, you've met the photographer, they are accredited with the AIPP and you're happy with their skill and experience, you love their style, they use professional camera equipment, you're happy with the packages and prices and they've answered all your questions, should you book them? A: The most important factor in deciding your photographer once you are happy with the answers to the above questions is whether you 'click'. Your photographer is going to be with you for the whole day so you need to be comfortable with them and trust them to capture the most important day in your life.