The Importance of Choosing the Right Photographer


I originally wrote this blog as a response to a segment on Radio 2 earlier this year, that was discussing how choosing a Wedding Photographer could be compared to a lottery. This was after some of the callers explained how things went wrong with their photographers on their big days.

Here are my thoughts on the matter, and if you are looking for a Wedding Photographer yourself, hopefully this will give you a few tips as to how to find the one perfect for you.

Dear Jeremy,

I’ve just listened back to your show broadcast yesterday (Friday 2nd March 2018) regarding Wedding Photography, and I feel that this is a very important issue that needs to be discussed, because as a Professional Photographer myself, my heart just breaks to hear such stories.

Anneka and Anna, I’m so very sorry the memories of your special days were ruined by people claiming to know what they were doing. But I think your reason for highlighting your experiences was to help save others from similar situations, and thank you for doing so.

A Wedding Day is one of the most important days in people’s lives, and deserves to be recorded in the best possible way. Getting married is not a cheap affair by any means. And the way I saw it when we got married back in 2007, was that as we’re spending quite a significant amount of money on the day itself, we needed to ensure that the Photographer we chose would be able to capture this day for us in the best possible way, for us to look back on for years to come.

As the bride, our day was just absolutely phenomenal, and flew by so fast. It was the only day in our lives so far that we have had all of the people that we love most in the world with us, and unfortunately that will never be possible again, and I am so very glad we chose a brilliant Professional Photographer.

We chose Anna after a recommendation from one of my colleagues, who had just taken delivery of her wedding album. It was a stunning photo album that had been handmade in Italy and was just exquisite, and although a little out of the price range I’d allocated for a Photographer, I wanted an album like that to remember our day. Anna’s website showed many of the weddings that she had shot, and her style was clear and consistent throughout. The final stage was to meet her in person, to talk over our aspirations for the day and to see some of her other wedding albums, and she did not disappoint us. We booked her that very evening.

I think what was missing from your segment was the solution to the future Bride and Groom’s problem: How Do We Choose a Wedding Photographer? After all, every Professional Photographer’s dream is to take the most amazing photographs for our clients.

So my first point: choose a Professional. Now this is a little bit tricky, because what is a Professional Photographer? Technically, a Professional Photographer earns the majority of their income from Photography. Which hopefully means they realise that their livelihood is on the line should they not deliver, which is the ultimate accountability. Note that there’s no mention here of qualifications? That’s because technically, someone could call themselves one WITHOUT ANY EXPERIENCE.

Now, to be brutally honest, anyone with a camera, some pictures, a website, could look like a reputable Photographer. I think you mentioned that on your show. But in the last week alone I’ve heard of two websites that have appeared offering Wedding Photography for £250, however most of the photographs shown own the portfolios on their sites have been stolen from other Photographers! How the heck could a Bride-to-be know whether this photographer was genuine or not? And with payment facility right there on the website, £250 sounds a bargain to those who haven't had time to do their research. I’m horrified. How do you know anyone is even going to turn up on your big day?

So if you are using the internet to search a Wedding Photographer, one of the sure fire ways to know who you’re dealing with is genuine is to look for whether they are listed with any of the Photography Industry bodies. Whether that is the British Institute of Professional Photographers (BIPP), the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (SWPP), the Master Photographers Association (MPA) or the Guild of Photographers, if the Photographer lists membership to any of these it shows they take their work seriously. A quick check on any of these bodies’ relevant websites will ensure that the photographer is genuine.

Whenever a client enquires about booking me, I usually follow the email with a phone call and ideally a meeting in person, to make sure that I am the right choice of Photographer for that Client. Every Professional Photographer offers something different, and my style is not for everyone. But it is the Client’s prerogative to make that choice, and I want to ensure that they have all of the information they need to make an informed one.

The next thing I’d look for in choosing a Professional Photographer is a personal recommendation from a friend or acquaintance. They are impartial, and will give an honest account of their experience. They will have spent anything up to 12 hours with this person (if they shot their wedding), and know whether what they promised was delivered.

John Dean, a Photographer from London said that as Photographers, we would like to see more regulations in the industry. I agree, and the industry bodies that I mentioned above vet all of their members. The first three I mentioned run qualification programmes, starting with Licentiate. Which is the equivalent of a Licence to be a Professional Photographer. Think of it as Check-A-Trade for Photographers. Would you be happy to let someone into your house and mend your boiler without checking they are who they say they are first? If not, I’m guessing you wouldn’t choose someone to photograph the most important day of your life without doing similar check, would you?

Photographers that are members of industry bodies I mentioned above are serious about what they do. And as an absolute minimum, to be members they must have Professional Photographers’ insurance (which incidentally, every Professional Photographer will be happy to show you they have, and covers everything from equipment failure to traffic to breaking priceless heirlooms). Membership of one of these shows our potential Clients that we are accountable. And after gaining my Licentiate earlier this year, it has really helped me grow as a Photographer, ensuring my photography is of the high standards expected by such organisations, and enhances what I can offer my Clients. Which can only be a good thing!

Through our experience as Professional Photographers, we know what is expected of us on a wedding day, how to think on our feet, and deal with the unexpected, and are pretty much prepared for every eventuality. You should see some of the kit that some of us carry, just in case!

So yes there is always the chance that something could go wrong on the day, but by choosing an experienced Licensed Photographer, we know that is highly unlikely that any hiccups would impact on our work, and the experience we are offering our Clients. Which we all hope totally exceeds their expectations.

With very kind regards,

Rachel

Ps. That handcrafted in Italy wedding album I mentioned? I discovered recently that it comes with a lifetime guarantee. Would anyone other than a Professional Photographer have even considered that that would be important? I’m so very glad that Anna did. Just in case anything ever happened to our precious memories.

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Rachel Thornhill ABIPP ASWPP LMPA  - Beautiful story-telling photography and stunning wall art for fun loving people, Rachel is an award-winning professional portrait Photographer based in Lower Kingswood / Tadworth, Surrey, UK.    Tel: +44 (0)1737 244745     

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