Don't book your wedding photographer until you've read this guide!

Where do you even begin when you're looking to choose the perfect photographer for your wedding? Allow me to try and help demystify a few things, and help simplify the thoughts for you...

Helping to demystify the choosing of a photographer for your wedding!

Where do you begin when trying to find the right photographer for your most important day?

 
I know how tricky it is when you’re planning your wedding, even knowing where to start when you’re planning your day. For one thing – you’ve probably never done this before!
 
With so much choice, so many unknowns, not to mention the confusing terminology banded around the industry, it is a minefield. There are so many things to consider, from style, price and also the personality of the photographer. Finding the right balance of all three is where it’s at! 
 
Building a relationship with your photographer can help elevate not only your experience but also your connection to your story. Find someone that you get, who ‘gets‘ you, and have fun in the process!!
 Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James

What styles are there? And how are they different?

When you start looking for the perfect photographer, it is so confusing even understanding the different terminology and indeed how each style of photographer will capture your day!

TRADITIONAL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS

Traditional photography is very posed and controlled. Everything is positioned correctly, from the dress to the way you are standing. Rather than capturing the moment, each photograph is considered, directed and created. 

Pros of having a Traditional Wedding Photographer

  • You know exactly what you are going to get as every photograph is pre-planned. 
  • Time and attention will be given to each image created
  • All of the critical points will be captured (signing of the register, cutting the cake, directed photos of you and your guests
  • The highlights of your day will be brought together in a short set of pictures

Cons of having a Traditional Wedding Photographer

  • The photos don’t tell the story. Without natural moments captured, there cannot be a narrative
  • With everything controlled and directed, spontaneous photographs cannot be obtained
  • The day is taken over for periods for photographs

So who are traditional wedding photographers perfect for? 

If you are looking for formal, posed images, capturing the outline of the day, traditional photography could be perfect for you. However, if you want more style or emotion to your photographs, traditional wedding photography is probably not for you.

How to choose between different photographers for your wedding

PURE DOCUMENTARY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS

The furthest separation from traditional wedding photography, pure documentary wedding photography or wedding photojournalism doesn’t stop or pose a thing, instead, observing and capturing the natural day. Capturing storytelling moments, often full of emotion, as a fly on the wall – nothing is stopped or controlled, the day is allowed to happen! Wedding photojournalism is about creating a complete set of photographs of the day, rather than a dozen highlights. Key skills for a photographer involve anticipation and a deep understanding to allow them to be in the right place, at the right time. 

Pros of having a Pure Documentary Wedding Photographer

  • The photographs you receive are a real record of your day, providing you with a story
  • Perfect if you don’t like having your photo taken
  • No effect on the wedding day – rather than stopping the day, it is allowed to flow

Cons of having a Pure Documentary Wedding Photographer

  • Time is not given to family photographs
  • Lack of formal photographs or portraits of the two of you
  • No structure or guidance added to the day

Is pure documentary wedding photography right for me?

If you are looking for a real narrative of your wedding day, and do not want to spend any time posing for photographs, without the need for any family images, wedding photojournalism is perfect! However, should you still wish to have those photographs of you with your family, and indeed photos of the two of you together, pure documentary wedding photography may not be right.

How to choose between different photographers for your wedding

EDITORIAL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

A style of photography inspired by the fashion editorials of glossy magazines, at it’s best it can produce genuinely fantastic high-end images. Creating these images, however, come at a cost – that cost is time! These images often require assistants to develop and leave the day highly-organised. If you are looking for this high-fashion look to your wedding photography, consider the time you will need to allocate to your photographs, and also the possible intrusion into your wedding day.

Pros of having an Editorial Wedding Photographer

  • Focusing on creating the perfect photograph, your wedding will have that high-end fashion look
  • Images will be retouched to ensure you look flawless

Cons of having an Editorial Wedding Photographer

  • Your day will be taken over for photographs
  • Lack of time to enjoy your day with your friends and family
  • There may be more investment due to the need for assistants

Are you right to be looking for editorial wedding photography?

If you want your wedding photographs to look like they have been plucked from a magazine, with a high-fashion flavour, and don’t mind sacrificing the time with your friends and family, editorial wedding photography could be perfect. You can receive very high-end images, retouched to perfection. Your day, however, will become very organised and end up with the photographs taking over the day. Do make sure to talk with your potential photographers to understand the time investment required on the day.

How to choose between different photographers for your wedding

FINE ART WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

A Fine Art Wedding Photographer is mostly an evolution of traditional wedding photography. Taking similar images as a traditional photographer, though with a more stylised end product and with a more contemporary take on poses and groups. A great fine art wedding photographer can produce a set of natural, airy images that closely resemble paintings, but do make sure you find a great fine art photographer, rather than someone who merely has adopted a processing style.

Pros of having a Fine Art Wedding Photographer

  • Similar to traditional photography you know what you will get before the day, as it is often controlled
  • Can produce romantic, moving images, though poses can be over-used
  • Pictures will have a particular look to them – if you love this, it’s right for you!

Cons of having a Fine Art Wedding Photographer

  • Similar to traditional photography, there is little time for candid storytelling imagery
  • Posed images only tell part of the story!
  • Time will have to be allowed for photography on your wedding day, how much depends on the approach of the photographer

Should I look for Fine Art Wedding Photographers?

If you want a particular look to your photographs that a fine art photographer produces, then the answer is yes! The images will be controlled and directed, so you should receive a set of images akin to the photographer’s gallery. With a direction on choreographed pictures, you will know what you are getting before the day! 

How to choose between different photographers for your wedding

HYBRID WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

In reality, photographers who are traditional will often capture a few candid photographs, and a documentary photographer will often capture the traditional family photographs and portraits – it is all about how much of the coverage will be allotted to each style during the day. 

As a Creative Documentary Wedding Photographer, like many other photographers, I like to mix it up. I spend over 90% of the day capturing the story as it unfolds, but also ensure to capture the family photographs and images of the two of you. It’s the few minutes spent capturing the “wow” images of you both that bookend your story, and of course produce those pieces that look incredible on the wall! It’s all a balance, and it’s something you need to look for when you’re finding your ideal photographer.

How to choose between different photographers for your wedding

What style of photography is right for you?

This, of course, is the big question – and the reason you’re here 🙂
 
First of all, I think it’s important to consider: What kind of photos are important to you?
 
There are so many ways to capture the wedding day; keeping things staged and traditional with a classical approach, or letting the day unfold and capturing the moments with a more documentary storytelling style. I think it’s important to think about the photos that will matter to you most after the day – and also how you’d like to spend your day!
 
Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James
 
From beautiful classical portraits to the family formals, traditional photography captures the core frame of the day. All crucial photographs that show your setting and the people who are there – almost for history. As a documentary photographer, I still place a high-importance on these types of photographs, and dedicate part of the coverage to capturing the family; in time after the wedding, these photos become so very precious.
 
Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James
 

How do you want to look in your photographs?

Capturing you and your partner looking genuinely fabulous is so important – but there are different approaches to the portraits on the wedding day itself. From traditional poses to ‘fun’ photos that involve props, to photos that show you being you…it all comes down to the photographer and their style.
 
Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James

Looking amazing, standing correctly, with your dress expertly laid out, all ensure you look perfect but is that entirely enough?

Do you want to see yourselves looking amazing, but at the same time sharing a moment, showing a connection? Alternatively, do you want to look like your wedding has been plucked straight from a magazine? Standing correctly, your dress expertly positioned, all eyes on the camera? This is something to consider!

Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James
 

How do you want to feel when you look back upon your photos?

Following on from how you want to look, it is good to consider how you want to feel when you see your photographs. If seeing every detail, with beautiful photographs of every single element you created will give you butterflies, make sure you find a photographer that specialises in this.
 
Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James
 
If you want to see the story of your day, however, beyond a few candid photos thrown into the photographs, then you’re looking at a more documentary approach!
 
Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James
 
Looking back at our wedding album, the photos that grab me the most are the moments, the photos that take me back to how I felt at that time. Photos that trigger emotion, whether it be laughter at your amazing friends partying the night away, the tears when you look at your dad’s expression when he sees you, or that look of complete joy between you as you hold hands during the ceremony, if the photographs can take you back to that place, they really are powerful. Personally, it’s the way I love to capture a wedding! 
 
Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart JamesClearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James
 

Who is the wedding day about?

The wedding day isn’t just about you; it’s about your friends and family coming together to celebrate with you. It’s the opportunities to see people you don’t get chance to spend enough time with, rejoicing in a gorgeous setting, with everyone looking fabulous! Capturing the connections between your guests and yourselves is so powerful – the underlying stories and the beautiful moments make the wedding what it is. Natural photographs of your guests, enjoying the wedding day, having the best time with you and each other, bring the memories flooding back for everyone as they see the narrative of the day.
 
Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James
 

How long do you want to spend having your photographs taken? 

Or indeed, how long do you want to be away from your guests?

From the ceremony, you typically only have a couple of hours to enjoy your afternoon with your guests ahead of the meal, and thinking about how much of this time you want to spend having your photographs taken should come into your planning. Considering how you want the actual day to flow and feel is also a concern. Some photographers turn the wedding day into a styled shoot, taking you away from your guests for a couple of hours. The photos will be polished to perfection, but potentially at the expense of enjoying the day with your guests.

Breathtaking photographs don’t have to be to the detriment of enjoying your day – it’s all about the approach of the photographer! It’s all about deciding what matters to you!

 
Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James
 
It is also the same with the family photographs – from endless lists with every variation of a group or an organised, concise set of groupings that are completed in the time it takes for your guests to enjoy their first drink! Photography doesn’t have to take over your day!
 
A bonus tip here – spend time with your photographer to ensure you cover all of the people who matter most to you and ensure they’re captured in the photographs!
 
Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James
 

What do you want to do with your photographs after the day?

This is a tough one to answer – after all, you’ve not even planned the wedding yet, let alone had it captured!
Thinking of what you would like to do with the photographs after the wedding, also comes into mind, as all photographers offer differing packages and collections.
From wall art to digital-only coverages, to beautiful storytelling albums – the choice is vast, and it’s thinking about how you’d like to enjoy the photos after the day that’s important.
My most significant piece of advice here is simple – don’t get confused or swayed by product in-place of the photographs you want – albums, prints and everything else can also be bought after the day, but you must get the photos you want first!
 

Bringing it all together

Wow – that was longer than anticipated, but hopefully helpful!
 
Balancing the way you want your day to feel, and the type of photographs you want, together with a photographer you can feel comfortable with, is the aim of this quest! Enjoy the planning of your big day 🙂
 
Clearing the confusion when you're considering choosing the right photographer for your wedding with Documentary Wedding Photographer Stuart James
 

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