Something Borrowed, Something Roo: Finding Our Perfect Wedding Photographer

Something I am always keen to promote through Rock n Roll Bride is the importance of hiring a professional wedding photographer to document your wedding (the photos are the only thing – well except the marriage of course – that lasts after the wedding day etc etc) However not only that, I also think it is crucial to hire a professional wedding photographer that gets you. It may be all well and good that a photographer has won a gazillion awards or has shot some fantastic weddings that have been featured in magazines and on wedding blogs, but if you don’t like them as a person or they don’t understand your vision for your wedding… well they aren’t the guy/gal for you.

It warms my heart when I hear from photographers that they feel that’ve made ‘real life’ friends with their clients and that they’re going to ‘miss them’ now their wedding is over. Sure, you want to find a photographer to capture you’re day fantastically, but having a wedding photographer that can also become one of your best friends is pretty amazing. Plus…and this is a big plus…unlike a lot of wedding suppliers, this person will actually be attending your wedding. You’ll have to hang out with them for a lot of the most important day of your life. I sure as hell wouldn’t want someone I didn’t like at my wedding!

Anyway, that’s my mini-Monday afternoon rant over. Roo’s story on her hunt for her perfect wedding photographer/new best friend echos my ideals exactly. Come on then lady, spill…

♥  ♥  ♥

A couple of months ago, my Dad said to me, “whatever you do, make sure you have a good photographer – we had a friend do ours” – “but Dad,” I replied, “I’ve never really seen any of your wedding pictures”. He smirked and said simply, “that’s because they were sh*t”.

The UK alone is awash with incredibly talented photographers, so we figured that it would simply be a matter of leisurely scrolling through some online portfolios and choosing our favourite. Having been a successful photography student through college, I would say that I’m acutely aware of the style of photography that I like – ethereal, experimental, from the hip (see also: Lomography).

Photography credit: Samuel Higginbotham

For me, good photography is all about capturing and representing your subject in an honest way, whether it be animal, mineral or vegetable. Everything has its own personality, but personality is something that can rarely transcend to a photograph – unless, of course, you find a good photographer.

This little epiphany taught me the valuable lesson that plucking a photographer from the ether just wasn’t going to cut it. We needed someone talented, sure, but there was more to it than that; we needed someone who could understand us both as people, and what it is about us as individuals that makes us work as a couple.

I have a few very talented photographer friends, but none of them had ever wandered into wedding territory before, and this phased me. I am incredibly blessed that this internship has opened up many doors of opportunity to us that were previously off limits – namely, meeting the most talented of wedding photographers both up and down the country, and from across the pond. I’m a strong believer in fate, and I don’t consider it an accident or coincidence that the first photographer I met was Lisa Jane Brown.

Photography credit: Lisa Jane Photography

Not only do we share the same name (yes, I’m a Lisa Jane too) but I also instantly found that I could trust her implicitly. She hits natural photography square on the noggin, quietly papping away so stealth-like that it’s easy to forget that she’s there (no offense, sweetie, you are of course unforgettable). During that first meeting, between shots I found her taking an active interest in what made me tick; as we shared a tube ride home at nightfall I was completely confident that we were on the same page.

As if it had been a first date scenario, I couldn’t get her out of my head. Afterwards, we kept inundating each other with images, weddings and general things that we liked from all over the internet. There was a definite click in personality and taste that I had definitely wanted to find in a photographer, but didn’t think that I ever would.

I showed her work to both of our parents, who were tentative of hiring what they considered to be an unconventional photographer – but with Lisa’s understanding she drafted an incredible invoice that documented exactly what we’d be getting for our buck. This put our very traditional parents at ease, and so we went ahead and booked her for our wedding.

Photography credit: Lisa Jane Photography (full wedding on Rock n Roll Bride here)

There’s little more that I can say about Lisa as a photographer, because I hope the fact that we chose her speaks enough volumes.  I could spend the rest of this post listing other photographers that I like, but then that wouldn’t be for all of you, would it? Photography is such a sensitive and subjective area, and trawling the industry is all part of the fun – you never know, you might stumble upon a gem that you never would have thought twice about before.

As you will all know by now that I love lists, I will instead leave you with a handy checklist that I hope you’ll find useful when searching for your own photographer:

Make a note of the photographers featured by your favourite bloggers.

Take particular interest in photographers who they feature by choice – not just those who have paid to be advertised.

Create a bookmark folder in your internet browser and keep a comprehensive list of weddings you’ve found and liked.

That way, when it comes to talking to your potential wedding photographer, you can show them an idea of how you want your wedding to look, and you can work out whether they’ll be able to shoot it in the appropriate way.

If you’re interested in a photographer, make every effort to meet them.

I cannot stress this enough. Go for a coffee or step out for a cocktail; treat it like a date situation, where you want to find out as much as you can about each other.  Talk about your hobbies, favourite films, photographers that you both admire… Try to get to know the person behind the lens and have them get to know you. If it doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world, but striking a strong connection is everything.

When you feel like you’re settled on your choice, have your photographer draft a comprehensive invoice.

Ask them to stipulate the kind of shots that they will be taking – you’ll be able to work out where you can ‘cut corners’ and save on valuable time on your big day. For example, you might not want to spend an hour after your service having group shots taken – you might feel that it’s more valuable to focus on having some portraits of just you and your husband/wife, say.

Finally, while it may be difficult to accept, nothing else will be as important as your photographer.

This is the most important day of your life, and of course you’ll want to document it. Next to your venue, a large portion of your budget should accommodate a decent photographer – you don’t want to be my dad 30-odd years down the line saying that your wedding photos were rubbish. If you’re working to a tight budget, there is no harm talking it through with your chosen photographer – see if they can jiggle their price band in order to shoot for a reduced amount of time for example.

Photography credit: Lisa Jane Photography

Above all else, be cool, and be patient. Your perfect wedding photographer is out there somewhere, even if it’ll take a bit more than fate for you to find them.

Do any of you have your own tips to share for finding a great photographer?

20 comments

  1. “Nothing else will be as important as your photographer…..Next to your venue, a large portion of your budget should accommodate a decent photographer ” I couldn’t agree more! At the moment though, while people are feeling the pinch, it seems like the first thing that people want to cut in their budget, is the photography. Obviously, being a photographer I am biased, but I really do believe that your wedding photos are precious and that your album in its own way becomes an heirloom for future generations. I love looking at my parent’s album, poring over the pictures of the guests (many of whom are no longer with us!) and checking out the fashions. My daughters love looking at our album too.

  2. I agree with a previous commenter – the first thing that gets cut seems to be the photogaphy budget (maybe Im biased as well as Im also a wedding photographer)… when in reality, I truly believe (and not just b/c its what I do), that other things should get cut way before the photography… like Roo said, its the only thing you will have after the actual day – and the day goes by super fast and blurry if you are the bride and groom.

    Cant get behind the list part though – maybe b/c Im more of a photojournalistic photographer… but its impossible to guarantee that I will get every shot on a list… so be flexible – if you really find someone whose style you love (and you get along with – so important!) – then chances are you will be more than happy with your pictures!

  3. Leila

    I have asked a friend and colleague of mine to photograph our wedding. I am very lucky to have many talented and generous friends who have agreed to help me out with my lo-budget wedding and I am hugely confident that he will capture some amazing images. Yesterday I saw a picture that he’d taken that my heart flutter and made me so excited to have him as our photographer. He has helped another few friends out by photgraphing their weddings and got some great formal pictures and well as amazing ones of getting ready details and everyone boogie-ing on the dancefloor and I can’t wait to see what he produces from our wedding. One of my bridesmaids is also starting out as a photographer and specialises in studio portraits, so I know I’m going to have some great images of us all while we get ready.

    I’m not saying that this approach would suit everyone, but my mates have proven track records! Like I said, I’m a very lucky girl! 🙂

  4. There are many different styles of photography & many different ways in which photographers work, think about what suits you best, just as a silly example , do you want your photographer to shoot you as you put on your make-up ‘for real’ or do you want them to wait until you’ve finished & then move you somewhere else to pretend to put on your make-up so your shots look the same as everyone elses….can you guess which I prefer , lol, sorry it’s just that I care very much about recording what ‘actually’ happens on someones wedding day not just a series of photo shoots dotted across the day ! If you haven’t thought about ‘how your photographer works’ aswell as looking at the amazing pictures they have taken, you might be in for a surprise and they way in which they achieve these *may* not suit you ! As always there isn’t a ‘one size fits all ‘ solution, enjoy the research ! Gosh , that was a bit of a ramble, it’s hard not to comment when the subject is something you’re obsessed with !

  5. Great post Roo, and thanks from another wedding photographer. Trying to make brides, and grooms, realise that their photographs will be the ONLY lasting physical thing is difficult. And you’re spot-on, if you and your photographer have a good friendly relationship, this will really really show in the photographs.
    One point though, whilst many will, and should, attempt in some way to meet budget, or offer to value-add, cutting hours on the day to save money is difficult. It’s not like that photographer can take another booking to fill those hours, so you’re just cutting earnings that they need to run their business. This is perhaps why many, like ourselves, start with a flat rate that includes full coverage. If someone tried to book us for say, half a day, we’d need ANOTHER booking for the other half of that day. And if we committed to that half day booking, it’s sods law that the next day someone would enquire on a full day booking for the same day..We can only shoot one wedding a day, but we’ll be there 12 hours+ if that’s what you want…

  6. Dale

    Aw come on guys, I think the great memories probably last beyond the day as well! That’s what all the time, effort and cash that you put into your guest list, ceremony, venue, food and drink, band etc is for… create an atmosphere and the pictures will stay in your head and your guests.

    I’d rather have a great day than a mediocre day and a set of great photos.

  7. Paul – really useful comment! I’d only mentioned about discussing reduced hours purely because I’d heard of someone doing it before; I’m glad you’ve come forward and said that it’s not a popular avenue for wedding ‘toggers to go down. I wouldn’t want to give anyone false hope!

    Dale – I’m absolutely with you along the lines of time/effort/£££, but a lot of brides & grooms that I’ve spoken to since we got engaged have told me that their wedding day was such a whirlwind, that there are a lot of aspects of it that they’ve since forgotten.

    And finally Addie – when talking about the list/invoice, I didn’t mean specific shots. When Lisa wrote one for us, it was more about reassuring my parents that we were still going to get some “traditional” shots throughout the day – the list that she drafted for us was titled “a suggested list of formal shots throughout the day”, and included things like bride & groom with parents, bride with bride’s parents, groom with groom’s parents, shot of everyone, and so on.. so nothing structured to the letter, but an idea of what we’ll see in our album at the end. I hope that makes a little more sense to everyone, because it’s something that I know I really valued Lisa taking the time to do!

  8. jennie

    I totally agree with everything you say about Lisa. I met her about 4 years ago after building an online friendship through another blog site and when she said that she was doing weddings I knew she was the one for me. I know that the photos will be perfect when she does our wedding next summer.

  9. When Lamb and I first got engaged, my boss said to me “you just know, don’t you?” – as in, you know when you’ve found The One. I totally believe it applies to your wedding photographer as well. I can’t wait to see how Lisa captures your wedding, Jennie 🙂

  10. Caroline

    When my H2B and I got engaged about 2 years ago, photography was not an important part of our plans. It just seemed a big expense for some photos we’d never end up looking at. How things have changed in those 2 years!
    Our ideas have changed so much on what we want from our day. We’re now running away – just the two of us – but with our photographer Sassy! We actually chose our wedding date around her availability and it has become the such an important element of our day – especially as its just the two of us. We couldn’t be happier. I can’t wait for her to run away with us!!

  11. Angela

    As soon as we got engaged, I had to explain to my fiance that the most important part of our wedding (apart from us actually getting married!) was getting the right photographer. and apart from the catering, it is also the most expensive part (yes, more expensive than my dress). now I can’t wait for 18/05/2012 and all our wonderful wedding moments being captured for eternity! X

  12. When we were planning our wedding, my dad actually called me a Bridezilla for wanting to get a photographer; he thought we’d have a family member do it. I was really upset because our wedding was on a very small budget but I knew that I wanted a great photographer because I really believed that would be the most important part of the wedding besides the actual marriage, and yet I was made to feel like I was crazy for wanting that one pretty darn standard thing. Unfortunately there was just no way we could afford to hire a seasoned pro. I found our photographer through craigslist… she was a third-year photography student at my university, and she was literally the least expensive photog I found in my searches, but she had amazing photos in her body of work, and was a really wonderful girl. She is now working with one of my area’s most in-demand wedding photographers, and I feel lucky to have had her capture our day. For anyone on a very tight budget, I would totally suggest looking into hiring an *advanced* photography student; if you do your research and you really like their portfolio and you get along well, they can produce amazing results.

  13. Post author

    Ha Danielle that’s crazy!! You totally did get lucky with your photographer.your photos were great!
    I too don’t think there is anything wrong wit using a new photographer if you trust their work and are able to see a lot of examples of it beforehand xx

  14. Roo – how sweet of you to reply… 🙂 Thanks for the clarification too – I think thats a great way to do it and as a photographer, I would be happy to do that for any couple…. but Ive had a few brides that hand me “the list” at the beginning of the wedding day and expect me to get every single shot – plus document the day…. crazy!

    My husband and I were just discussing this the other day… and seeing as how I meet the couple again after the wedding to show them their pictures, I get to hear all about what went wrong (although you would never know it if you didnt hear it from them) – the food was wrong, the flowers were wrong, etc, etc…. and this is where my husband and I were discussing why you get the best photographer that you can afford… if the food or flowers or cake is wrong, chances are very few people will actually remember and those things wont ruin your wedding day (make you irritated as a stressed bride, yes, but not ruin the wedding day), but if your pictures are wrong/terrible, then you do have a major problem – you spent all that money on the wedding (and photographer) and have nothing to show for it – or at least nothing that you want to show…. 🙂

    anyway… just rambling… but just something to think about…

    (love all your posts Roo – cant wait for the big day!)

  15. Chick

    I totally agree, great article. Choosing your photographer is SO important. We went with someone I knew through a past job, we were happy with the photos we’d seen and felt that as we knew him it would help on the day rather than a stranger.
    We’ve just got our wedding photos back and while there are some lovely shots, we couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed with others, now i’m sure some can be fixed with editing and I’m maybe comparing some to other absolutely awesome photos my brother has taken who has taken up photography as a hobby and some other brilliant photos taken by other guests but I’d really stress to people that to be really picky when choosing your photographer for one of the most important days of yours lives and don’t just go with a friend for a maybe cheaper, easier option x

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