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What do you REALLY need to know before hiring a wedding photographer?

So, you're about to kick off the hunt for a wedding photographer and you've likely already been told about the questions you need to ask, the shots to request and the importance of an engagement shoot...
Hold up though. These are the kind of things you start thinking about when you've narrowed your list of potentials down to three or four, not when you've just started the search. There's no point running before you can walk, right? Before you start practicing your best Zoolander-inspired Blue Steel pout, you'll need to find the photographers, work out what styles you do and do like (because there's more to wedding photography than pointing a camera and hoping for the best), how much budget you feel comfortable allocating, and what kind of credentials you value in your photographer. Think of these factors as the wedding photography basics: what you need to sort out before the interview process begins. With that in mind, we asked four professional shutterbugs to offer up their pearls of wisdom on these topics and how each will influence your final decision.

How do you even find a photographer?


With so many photographers out there, it’s no surprise that one Google search can leave you feeling more confused than when you started. And sure, using search engines is a sure-fire way to find hundreds of photographers, but with this one we think it’s a case of less is more. Even if you do fancy yourself a Google wizard, knowing how to sort the wheat from the chaff can prove tricky – and time-consuming. For Sydney-based photographer Ben Newnam, the most efficient way of finding your wedding snapper is an old-fashioned method. “Word-of-mouth is best, because you generally have first-hand experience observing the photographer in action and seeing the results they have produced for a friend or family member,” Ben explains. “If you don’t have the luxury of word-of-mouth or you just don’t like your friends' or family members' photographers, reviews are great. You can generally tell if reviews are genuine, and many company websites will have an authenticity check before they will display the review.” Read: tap into the experiences of your nearest and dearest; they’re more likely to give you frank, honest advice about their own experiences with wedding photographers, and you know you won't have to take what they say with a grain of salt #trust.

Ben Yew couple kissing
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How much are you going to spend?


When it comes to deciding what you do and don’t want for your wedding, budget has a big role to play – and your photos aren't any different. Of course, your photography budget won’t be exactly the same as everyone else, so we’re not going to waste time laying out what you should and shouldn’t pay. Why? Because it’s just not as simply as saying “this costs X” and “spend X on that”. Generally speaking, though, you’ll get what you pay for, explains Leo Farrell, a Melbourne-based photographer. “In general terms, lower-priced wedding photography equates to a photographer who’s less experienced (quite often they’re part-time) at not only shooting, but also post-production, back-up systems and the quality of camera equipment and computer,” he says. “Mid-range to higher prices usually represents a full-time pro photographer who is an experienced wedding photographer, and is supported by all the right equipment and has established good back-up systems and work flow.” Settling on an amount you feel comfortable spending should be one of your first moves before you even start meeting potential photographers. And remember the final price of your wedding photography fluctuates depending on what your photography package includes: an engagement shoot, more than one photographer on the big day, a wedding album or fine art book, high-resolution copies without watermarks, canvas prints or an online gallery with print options. This last one's always a winner, explains Leo, because then your friends and family can order whatever prints they want, rather than having to organise it through you.

What kind of photography do you want?

That said, there’s no point looking at photographers who nail the candid and casual aesthetic if you’re after more styled pose-heavy shots. So before you even start scouting photographers, a good place to start is sitting down with your partner and chatting about what you want from your wedding photos – a glass of wine is optional, but highly recommended. “I think the most important thing is for a couple to firstly work out what they both want and their expectations of the end result,” says Megan Blumenthal from Blumenthal Photography in Sydney. We know this can be a big ask, especially if the terms ‘golden hour’ and ‘post-production’ mean absolutely zilch to you. To get started, talk about how you want your photos to look: do you want them to be soft and natural, arty and boho, or classic and elegant? Then write it all down; it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the technical terms, you’ll still have an idea of the direction you want your photos to take. You’ll also need to think about what kind of post-production you like: do you want your photographer to digitally alter your images with Photoshop? Are you happy for them to airbrush and enhance as they see fit? Or do you want the only corrections to be to the shadows, focus and lighting? “It all comes down to personal taste, and it's also important to remember that things date quickly and trends change,” Megan says. “You don’t want your photos being reminiscent of a bad 1980s fashion mistake!” 

What should you look for in a photographer?


You’ve likely heard everyone say how important it is for you to click (yes, pun intended) with your photographer, but that criteria should really come after you decide what style you’re after and what you want out of your wedding photography - is there really any point hiring a photographer who you’re chummy with, but whose work you aren’t in love with? Something else you might want to consider is how important your photographer’s experience is to you. Are you happy to go with someone relatively new to the photography game, or would you rather go with a seasoned veteran? “There are a lot of new, young photographers out there and I think experience is very important when you’re photographing a wedding,” says Theo Halacas from Loco Photography in Melbourne. “The photographer is under so much pressure with time restrictions, needing to be at certain locations by certain times, and making sure they tick off the requests of the couple along the way.” Put simply, wedding photography is a lot like other skills: practice makes perfect. That’s not to say hiring photography newcomers is a no-go, but make sure you’ve had a thorough look at their portfolio and are happy with their previous work before signing on any dotted line – it’s not being snobby, it’s being sensible. Other things you need to be aware of are if your shutterbug favours film or digital photography (there are pros and cons to both, but film photographers tend to be more selective with their shots).

Coloured chalk engagement shoot
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Up with the slang


Venture into the world of wedding photography (or just photography in general) and you’re bound to come across a jumble of jargon you've never heard before. So, to make your photographer recce (another industry word for research) a bit easier, we've pulled together a glossary of some of the terms you'll probably come across...

  • Candid: a natural, informal and unposed way of shooting.

  • Composition: how an image is arranged; the placement of objects and subjects (like you and your partner).

  • Film emulation: a treatment that mimics film stock, including the addition of 'film grain' to make images look less digital and more analog.

  • Golden hour: a time period, generally late in the afternoon, where the natural light casts a golden, flattering glow.

  • High contrast: a treatment where highlights are made very bright and shadows made to look very dark.

  • Matte: a treatment where images look flatter and have lower contrast.

  • Post-processing: the work and editing done to a digital image after it's been taken.
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