Making a Shortlist of Wedding Photographers
Booking your Wedding Photographer is a big decision. I have previously discussed some of the things you might consider when choosing your photographer, so this is more about the booking process.
You have looked at all the websites or perhaps been on those online wedding directory services. For photographers these are a bit like mini websites. There might be a small discount available by enquiring or booking through the directory site. You will probably get the same discount simply by asking the photographer for it directly. And you will probably get more information and see more of the photographer’s work on their main website.
There are also those ‘bidding’ services where you enter your details and any number of photographers may respond to your post. These services encourage photographers to compete mainly on price and are probably worth considering if your budget is tight.
In any case, you will have made a shortlist of photographers who’s work you like and know the kind of package you want. Next, you will need to find out if your favourite photographers have your date available. That will usually involve a quick email or contact form submission from the photographer’s website, directory service or social media. Or perhaps a simple phone call.
At this stage, you might already have made your decision. You might have seen their work if they have photographed a friend or relative’s wedding, or you might have had a personal recommendation. Or you just might be satisfied with what you have seen and read about the photographer and know that this is the one for you. If so, just skip the next section, Your Decision.
Meet Your Photographer
If at all possible, it is a good idea to meet up with your favoured photographer(s). It is an opportunity to break the ice and you will want to make sure you get on. He will be able to outline how he works on Wedding days and you will be able to give him an indication of what you have in mind. It’s a good time for questions and answers, so write down any important questions before you meet.
You will want to see some samples of his Wedding Albums. See what kind of albums he offers and discuss the design options as well as finding out what personalisation features are available. No final decisions about your album need to be made at this stage. But it is a good idea to know what is available and perhaps, for pricing purposes, be able to indicate your broad preference.
If the photographer has a studio or office space you should be able to make an appointment to drop in and see him. Otherwise, most photographers will be happy to call and see you at your home, or your parent’s place if you haven’t moved in yet. Where there is some distance involved or if you aren’t happy with the photographer coming to your place, you will usually be able to meet at a mutually convenient location. A cafe, coffee shop or perhaps a hotel lobby.
Before making such an appointment, during the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, compliance with current regulations must be adhered to. It is important to discuss safe working practices with the photographer. If you are going to his or her studio or office it will be for the photographer to ensure that it is safe for you to visit. Where the meeting is to take place at another location, the cafe, hotel or wherever is chosen will have measures in place. It will be up to both parties to adhere to those measures, and for each individual to consider their own personal responsibility. If the photographer is to visit your home it will be essential to have had a conversation before the appointment to assess the risks. This can easily be done by email. Think of anyone at high risk, or shielding in your home, and the social distancing practicalities, provision of PPE equipment, etc. You may be asked to wear gloves if you are handling sample albums. You can get more information about staying safe on the NI Direct Coronavirus web pages.
There are circumstances where it might not be possible to meet your photographer at this stage. For instance if you are planning a destination wedding and using a local photographer as opposed to bringing one with you. Your photographer may be based at the other end of the country. For one reason or another it just might not be practical. Why not ask for a FaceTime or Skype chat? You are about to spend a fair chunk of cash and you don’t have to do it lightly!
Personally I prefer to meet my couples at this stage. But there have been those occasions when for one reason or another, it either hasn’t been possible. On other occasions the couples have just been happy to go ahead and book without meeting.
Sometime around now, if you haven’t already decided, you will have to finalise with one wedding photographer or another! When you do, you will need to let him or her know as soon as possible. Avoid delays, particularly if your wedding date is likely to be in high demand. Secure that date with a phone call and back it up with an email. Ultimately your date is not secure until you have paid your deposit but it would be very poor business practice for your photographer to book somebody else on your date once you had confirmed with him both verbally and in writing.
The amount of deposit required by photographers varies widely with some requiring up to half of the final fee upfront. I know of others however, who require as little as £100. At the time of writing, I ask my clients for a £250 deposit. Bear in mind that your deposit is highly likely to be non-refundable. The main reason for this, and the reason for asking for a deposit in the first place, is that it will, at least partially cover the photographer’s lost revenue if you cancel. Other reasons may include things like expenses incurred to date. And there are expenses, believe me! Some photographers may agree to refund your deposit, or part of it following a cancellation if they manage to re-book work on the relevant date. If they do, it will probably be outside of any contractual obligations and be based on trust. But if they make that undertaking, chances are that they will follow through. A photographer’s reputation is of great value to his business model. This brings me to another important part of the booking process.
Sometimes I get a sense of apprehension from my clients at the very mention of the word contract! Just sometimes. Couples shouldn’t be unduly concerned about a contract, there is usually nothing to worry about. It is common practice and most photographers will ask you to sign one. To be honest, if I were the client I would be more concerned if they didn’t. It provides clarity and protection to both parties.
Do read it carefully of course. If it contains anything that you don’t understand or are worried about, ask the photographer to explain, and satisfy yourself before signing. If necessary get some independent advice and let the photographer know what is happening. It would be silly of him or her to object, or put pressure on you. And if that does happen, then I would be worried.
It would be impossible for me to detail what every photographer’s contract contains. My contract, the template for which I obtained from a photographer’s professional body, and which I believe to be representative, covers things like; the amount of the deposit and when the balance is due, when travelling expenses become applicable and how much they will be, the exclusivity of the photographer on the wedding day, the supply of images and album if applicable to the client and expected timescales for this, copyright and usage conditions for the photos and what happens if either party has to cancel the contract.
These contracts should be, and in my experience are, about protecting both you, the client, and the photographer. They shouldn’t be one-sided and this should be clear from reading them.
So that’s it! Deposit paid, contract signed, photographer booked. You can sit back and relax until your big day. Well, almost.
Fees Balance and Pre-Wedding Consultation
Your balance will be due, usually between 14 and 30 days before your wedding. I suspect this is in common with most wedding service providers.
It will also be around this time that the photographer will be wanting to see you again for a pre-wedding consultation. This will be centred around timings on the day and finalising details. It will be a chance for you and the photographer to run through the day verbally and know exactly what each other will be doing and when. It is a chance to ask any last-minute questions or make late requests. This might sound trivial and an unnecessary burden in your last-minute preparations, but it is important for you to know exactly what to expect on the day. It helps to reduce stress, letting you get on with enjoying your big day.
It might also be the time to choose the finishing touches for your wedding album. Depending upon whether the photographer holds a post-wedding viewing at which time the album can be finalised, or uses an online gallery from which you choose your photos for your album. If it’s an online gallery, the pre-wedding consultation might be the last chance to see cover material swatches or compare lustre and glossy pages, etc.
It’s also good just to catch up again and re-familiarise. It will make for better wedding photos!
Don’t Quote Me!
This outline of the process of booking a wedding photographer is based on how I personally work. I believe it is fairly much the same throughout the industry. It is intended as a rough guide for couples setting out on the process who, in most cases probably haven’t arranged a wedding before!
Let me know if you found it useful or if your experience was completely different.
If you are searching for a wedding photographer in Northern Ireland, and haven’t already done so, please have a look at my Wedding Photography services. I have four main templates for wedding photography on the day and I am happy to provide a bespoke quote for something different. I also provide a range of Photo Storybooks and Wedding Albums as well as Digital Options. Or you can make an appointment for an initial, informal consultation here.