How to Choose the Best Photographer for Your Budget
All Photography by DALE WEEKS PHOTOGRAPHY
This is a subject approached time and time again by wedding bloggers and photographers alike. It is an issue that has divided opinion and raised debate. However today I am hoping to approach the whole subject of choosing a wedding photographer from a different perspective.
This isn’t a post about how find the best deal for a wedding photographer, this is a realistic post about finding the best photographer for your budget. Time and time again I hear people say that if you value photography you will choose the best photographer money can afford. Whilst I think this is true (you will read my own experience with this in a minute) I think it is even more important to educate people on how to find valued and talented photographers, no matter the budget.
I wanted to write an extremely honest and open post for you today so first I want to tell you about my own search for a wedding photographer. Well to be honest it wasn’t much of a search? I was on a budget, so couldn’t splash out on anything, the dress was under £100, the venue was my grandmothers house, food was picnic baskets… need I go on? Ok you get it!
In my budget fuelled haze I asked Jess (who was also one of my bridesmaids) to ‘take a few photos throughout the day’. Que pitch forks at the door! I admit it, I was completely ignorant about the amount of work that went into wedding photography and yes, now I cringe at the thought. You see this was before the blog and before I had spent much time with Jess in a professional capacity. I had never once really considered the hours of editing, the cost of equipment, the travel, training, advertising etc. I just saw her with a camera sometimes and thought it was a point, shoot, instant type of thing. I will put my naughty hands up in the air and tell you I was one of those people that didn’t appreciate the worth of photography.
When I think back, I can see Jess’s face now as she excitedly agreed to be my bridesmaid and then I watched it drop as she didn’t know how to tell me that she couldn’t be both that and a photographer (I’m sure she wanted to tell me I was a stupid ass too but she is way too nice for that). I honestly don’t know what the hell I was thinking?
Starting a wedding blog was like rehab, as I was introduced to other blogs and photographers, I started to identify with what was good and bad photography, I started to appreciate the hard work that went into those beautiful images and I developed a passion for it. All I can say now is thank god I never went through with my wedding photography plans because I don’t think poor Jess would have ever forgiven me.
I suppose the point of this is to let readers know I relate. I totally get that some people don’t rate wedding photography as a high priority and that budget can be a huge barrier but one thing I can guarantee, you will never find a couple who regret hiring a good wedding photographer whereas I could tell you lots of horror stories of those that chose not to.
Now let’s get on to the crux of the matter. I started out wanting this post to be about how to choose the best photographer for your budget. Now when I say budget I really mean that, I am not talking about those that decide to spend thousands on everything else but…
I am talking about those couples that really want a good photographer, they have allocated as much of their budget as they possibly can and want some good advice on how to find the very best with the money they have.
So with the help of some friends I would share some tips to ensure you get great wedding photographs no matter how much your budget is.
Give yourself and good start and make sure you are armed all the information that you need. We asked Laura Power what she thought were some of the most important questions you should ask your prospective photographer . In my opinion this bit of advice will hold you in good stead for the rest of your photographer finding journey regardless of budget or experience.
♥ How many hours does the cost include?
♥ Do we get all the high res photos on a disc and is that included?
♥ Do you have back up kit?
♥ What happens if you are ill on the day?
♥ Are you confident in shooting family groups (sometimes organising a large number of people can be a daunting task for a new photographer)
♥ How do you backup your images?
♥ Are all the images supplied edited?
♥ Do you have insurance? You should always ask to see evidence of this. What if cards are corrupt and they lose images? What if the old lady falls over their kit bag and breaks a hip?
Get yourself a piece of paper and write these questions down now! They might just make all the difference.
Ask yourself how much experience is enough?
The average cost of an experienced photographer is around about £1200 – £2500, so someone in the £600 – £700 bracket will be fairly new to the business and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, everyone has to start somewhere. I know lots of photographers that were in this bracket for a few years and they are some of the most talented photographers around however they will tell you what they made up for in talent they lacked in experience.
Here is Dale Weeks to tell you more… “When I was starting out, I had one main camera body and just 2 lenses, I didn’t have an expensive website or endless amounts of editing software and I wasn’t quite ready to advertise. My fees were a lot lower back then, because the cost of running my business was cheap and I had a full time job, which meant I wasn’t putting the cost of living into my fees.
My first wedding just about paid for a second camera body – it was important that I had a backup in case the first one ever broke!I assisted a couple of photographers at their weddings and I shot a couple of friends weddings for free. That built up my portfolio and experience and I could show clients what I could do.
If you book well in advance, say – a year or so before your wedding, you may find a photographer that has shot a couple of weddings and will be charging within your budget.
I can hear people already shouting ‘ but how do I know that they will be any good? – or ‘what about lack of experience?’
With your wedding being a whole year away, it is quite likely that the ‘newbie photographer’ will then shoot up to 15 weddings in their first year – and you would have locked in a good price with what will hopefully be an awesome photographer!
Just have a look at their portfolio and read their ‘about me’ section – you’ll know when you have found your photographer. If you can connect through their words and images then send them an email, open up a conversation – tell them what you like about their photos, ask how many weddings they have shot and go from there!”
The general rule of thumb, as with most things in life – if it sounds to good to be true it probably is. If you have found a photographer who claims to have years of experience but is charging dirt cheap prices then you should air on the side of caution.
Please don’t think this applies to all photographers because of course I am sure there are photographers out there that do charge that and are experienced (as Dale said earlier it depends what a photographer basis their prices on i.e. living costs, travel etc) but I would make sure you were asking the right questions first. Is the photographer being upfront about all those costs? Whilst researching for this post I was horrified to hear one photographer’s story of a bride that thought she had found an ‘experienced’ wedding photographer with cheap rates, only to find she would have to pay several hundreds of pounds to have the photos released to her on disc afterwards. That is heartbreaking!
As I said before please dont panic if you have found a photographer who is cheap and is claiming to have lots of experience, as long as you have asked all the correct questions your shouldn’t be hit with any nasty surprises.
Use Social media!
Dont underestimate the power of Twitter and Facebook. If you really want to do your research all you have to nowadays is find the person’s Facebook page or Twitter and you can gauge a pretty good idea of how reputed the business is. Look for portfolios, reviews, all these things will help clarify if this is the photographer for you.
Ask Your Friends!
Ask for recommendations from your family and friends. I asked photographer Craig Dearsley how he found a photographer for his wedding.
“When we were planning our wedding we had quite a small budget for our photography, but we used Twitter and Facebook to see who was up and coming etc. The photographer we found was Emma Case, she was in her first year, so we snapped her up. Since then she has become one of the leading wedding photographers in the UK and a very dear friend. We chose her on her style and as she was starting out we got a decent price, we put our faith in her and it paid off.”
Wedding blogs are also great places to look for up and coming photographers, many will be involved in styled shoots as a way of building a portfolio, others will have already shot a couple of weddings and will have submitted to blogs to try and build more of a reputation.
Reduce your Coverage!
Most photographers work hard to include packages that cover different types of budget so calling the photographer to ask if they do a bespoke package might be a suitable option. The photographer may well be able to limit the number of hours coverage to limit the costs. However be realistic, shaving a few hours off isn’t going to shave a few hundred pounds off.
And please don’t insult the photographer by suggesting they take the photos then have someone else edit them to save money. Yes I have heard of this being done!
Look for great deals and competitions!
Wedding blogs are great places to look for competitions – we hold these types of competition every year. Last year Craig Dearsley was the perfect example of a photographer trying to build up his portfolio and reputation as an alternative wedding photographer. The competition he held on Bespoke Bride was hugely successful and because Craig is a genuinely super guy he ended up choosing two winners both of which you can see here: A Family Infused Festival Wedding & Alices Adventures in Wonderland. I will let you judge the results for yourselves but I would say they were pretty flipping fantastic!
Our most recent competition is being held by Scuffins Photography so be sure to check it out!
If you are concerned that if you spend all your money on a photographer and won’t have much left for anything else say a videographer (which again I highly recommend you do!) then look for deals that provide both. I suppose I am mostly mentioning this because the other day I spotted a great deal being offered by Papertwin Weddings and Claire Penn in which you could get both your video and photography for just £3295! That is a bargain if I might say so myself! Or you could hire new kids on the block Just Say Yes Films – I am sure Jess’s boyfriend will love me for throwing that one in there!
Well I think that is about all for now folks, you are probably reeling with information overload. More than anything I want you all to feel prepared for the journey ahead. It should be fun and enjoyable no matter your budget. We would love to hear your experiences and if you feel there is anything we have missed out please be sure to let us know!
Much Bespoke Love