Choosing a wedding photographer

Except for “I do”, your choice of photographer will be the most important decision you make for your wedding day. What should you look for?~By Roger Overall, LIPPA


FOR most brides, once they’ve picked their man, their wedding dress is paramount. This is understandable. You do, after all, want to look your best on your wedding day and the dress plays a vital role in this regard. Yet the dress will only be worn once. Similarly, you will be driven in your hire car for only a day; the meal will be gone in a couple of hours; and your wine may linger in your head the following day, but it too won’t last. You’ll be left with some great memories, but the human mind is pretty feeble and most of us struggle to remember what we had for lunch last Wednesday. Memories fade.


This is where your photographer scores big. You will have your wedding album for decades – in fact, it should outlast your great-grandchildren – and it will preserve the memories of one of the greatest occasions in your life. As a result, it is important to get your choice of photographer right. It is, almost, more important than choosing your wedding dress.


So how do you make sure you make the right choice?




Price shouldn’t be your main consideration, but as money and budgets are important to us all, it is a good place to start. There are photographers to fit any pocket, though generally speaking you will be looking at anywhere between â‚ ¬1,500 and â‚ ¬2,500 for a decent-sized album produced by a reliable and creditable photographer. There are photographers who work on either side of that scale, but you need to understand why they are either cheaper or more expensive.


Cheaper photographers may just be starting out. It is a competitive business and price is one way for a newcomer to introduce themselves into the market. It may also mean that they are part-time photographers, so they can subsidise their prices with their main job. It may also mean that they have simply got their business strategy wrong. You may well be booking your photographer 18 months ahead of your wedding date. Will the cheap photographer manage to survive in business that long?


Photographers who charge big money for their services do so for a variety of reasons. They may provide you with an album that is expensive to produce. They may be at the top of their profession – a big name in the business, with celebrity clients. They may be absolutely, hands-down, stellar photographers who are worth every single cent you pay them. Or they may just have a big ego.


Price may also be dependent on what you get. Make sure you understand clearly what you are paying for:


- How much of your wedding day will be covered?


- How will you see the proofs of your pictures?


- Are you getting just prints at the end, or are you getting an album?


- If so, how many pages does it have and how many pictures can you have on a page?


- Who decides what pictures go in your album and which pictures go where?


- What stages are there in the album production?


- Roughly how long will it take to produce the album?


Then there is the big hot potato – will you get all of your proofed pictures and who owns the copyright?


Many wedding photographers shoot with digital cameras these days and offer their clients their pictures on a CD. Some charge extra for this, others include it in the package price. Ask whether you will be getting a CD, or whether you can buy one afterwards.


If you are given or buy a CD with the pictures from your wedding on it, it does not mean that you can make prints from it for friends and family. That would be breaking Irish and EU copyright law, which states that copyright belongs to the photographer and then their estate for 70 years after the photographer dies. However, some photographers will give you licence to make your own prints. Others won’t. So it is important that you know what you can do with the pictures on any disc you are given.


By the way, it is worth noting that the photographer is not free to use the pictures from your wedding as they please either. They should get your permission if they want to show your pictures to others or use them in marketing material. You will know that you are dealing with a professional if they ask your permission to show pictures from your wedding to others.




You might find that you can be flexible on price. You could, for instance, cut back the champagne budget to pay for the photographer you really, really want. One thing you cannot and must not compromise on, however, is personality. Other than each other, your photographer will be the person you see most of at your wedding. You may not always be aware of them, but they will be around you a lot.


So, it is vital that you find a photographer you feel comfortable and relaxed with.


If you want to be left alone mostly to get on with your day, go with someone who understands this and who will keep their distance. If you want a lot of stage direction, go with someone who will take you by the hand and tell you what to do. If you are most comfortable with an assertive photographer, find one. If you’d be happier with one that will be more laidback, go with them. If you want a detached approach or a friendlier one, you will be able to find someone to fit your own personality. The key thing is that you go with someone who is compatible with you. A bit like getting married.




Personality will also have a bearing on the style of the photographer you choose. Broadly speaking, there are two main styles of wedding photography at the moment. There are lots of names for each style, but they come down to two choices: “Plenty of Posed Pictures” or “Almost No Posed Pictures”. In both cases, you will get formal group shots of friends and family. The difference is what happens apart from that.


The “Plenty of Posed Pictures” approach will give you lots of gorgeous and glamorous fashion-shoot-style pictures. There are some fantastic photographers doing this sort of work if this is your preference, but you must be willing to give them the time they need on your wedding day. What this means for you is that you will be sacrificing some of your day to get these pictures, leaving you less time with friends and family. It also requires a bit more discipline and planning. This style is more intrusive on your day and there will be plenty of direction from the photographer, but it can be very rewarding if you want the fashion-shoot experience.


The “Almost No Posed Pictures” approach is the opposite and is often called “Reportage”. This is a more relaxed approach and, if done properly, lets the day flow without too much interference from the photographer, resulting in a series of photographs that tell the story of the day, usually capturing moments you missed yourself. Again, there are some very talented photographers producing this sort of work. A word of warning, though. Because of its unpredictable nature, the quality of reportage wedding photography is hugely dependent on the ability and concentration of the photographer.


You will also find photographers who give you pictures that have a little bit of both of the above approaches. In all instances, though, satisfy yourself that they have the ability and professionalism to provide you with quality photography.




How do you guarantee quality from your photographer? You can’t. You might book a genius behind the camera only for them to have an off day. It happens. You can, however, stack the cards in your favour by satisfying yourself that the photographer knows what they are doing.


You can look at how long the photographer has been taking pictures professionally – that is, how long their work has been of a standard high enough for people to pay money for it. We all know someone who has taken some good pictures in their life. But a professional photographer is someone who delivers quality work so frequently that they can pay their mortgage. There is a big difference between the two.


Take the time to ask about awards that photographers have won. These need not necessarily be specifically for wedding work, though there are dedicated wedding awards handed out. Having said that, be aware that awards are usually given for one-off pictures and in photography consistency is more important than one-offs. Awards are important, but not the be-all and end-all. Mind you, if your chosen photographer has a couple or has regular won awards, so much the better.


Look at a selection of albums from photographers you are interested in. If they have a few top-quality albums to show, then chances are they know what they are doing.


While some of the greatest photographers in history were never involved in professional associations, membership of a professional organisation can be an indication of quality, though it very much depends on the association. On balance, membership of a professional body does mean you are dealing with a photographer who is conscientious about their profession and they will likely be bound by a code of ethics. Most associations will also require their members to submit panels of work for judging and provide a qualification structure, allowing photographers to put letters after their name. Letters are generally a good thing, but again not a be-all and end-all.




We all know someone who was married recently. Ask them about their photographer and about the things they looked at when booking. You might not decide to use the same photographer, but you’ll get useful information about things you hadn’t thought of.


Finally, if you find a photographer whose manner you like, whose style of photography is what you want, who has a range of albums you like, who has a good track record, and who provides a suitable package for a price that fits your budget, then book them sooner rather than later. Chances are, if you like them someone else will too and photographers can only photograph one wedding a day.


Roger Overall is a professional photographer based in Glanmire, Co. Cork. He has photographed weddings in Ireland, England, Wales, the Netherlands and Spain. You can find out more at or by calling 021 451 8000.