Your wedding will be one of the most important and amazing days of your life, and the photographs from the day will let you relive the way you felt for years to come - so it's worth thinking carefully about your wedding photography to ensure you get the shots you want for you and your family to enjoy for forever.
Choosing your photographer
So, how should you choose your wedding photographer from all of us out there? Obviously, budget will be a consideration, but you'll also want to choose someone whose style of photography you like, who you can trust to deliver what you want and who you'll get on with on the day - after all, whoever you choose may be with you for quite a bit of your wedding day!
The best place to start is to check out potential photographers' portfolios, as other consideration will count for nothing if you don't love the end product. Look to see whose style might best match your vision for your wedding - for example, do you want a more traditional, formal and posed approach to your shots or a more relaxed, less formal, documentary style? And, do you like natural, timeless pictures or ones that have a vintage, dreamy or other effect applied in the edit? Once you've got a short list of photographers whose style you like, it's worth going beyond the shots that have been carefully selected for the portfolio to see pictures from every part of a few real weddings. This will give you a good idea of what to expect from the day as a whole.
Next, you'll want to take a look at client reviews for your shortlisted photographers to see if they look like the sort of person who'll fit in with you, your family and wedding guests. What do couples they've worked with say about them? Do reviews comment on how well they put people at ease? Do they mention that guests found them friendly? Do they appear flexible as well as professional? You can also ask advice from your venue, though be aware in doing so that their recommended photographers may have some sort of commercial arrangement with them.
Of course, once you've found a photographer whose style and reviews you like, you can't beat talking to them, either on the phone or in person, to get to know them a little and make your final decision.
All day or part day coverage
Once you've chosen a photographer whose style and approach best matches your needs, it's time to think about your budget and what aspects of your wedding you want photographed. You might opt to have full coverage for the whole day from getting ready, through the ceremony, drinks reception and into the evening with some family portraits along the way. At the other end of the spectrum, you might just have a photographer just cover the ceremony with a few family group photos afterwards. If you want coverage of the whole day, but your budget can't be stretched to afford the photographer you want for the whole day, you might consider hiring your chosen photographer to cover the most important parts of the day and then asking a friend you trust to take candid photos of the rest of the day. That way, you can be sure you'll get the professional shots you want from the most important parts of your day, while having coverage of the day as a whole.
Allowing time for the photos you want
The next thing is to allow enough time during your day to get the photographs you want. This is particularly important if you want group photos of family and friends, together with some bride and groom portraits, in addition to documentary coverage of the day as it unfolds. To ensure you get the group shots you want, you should draw up a shot list with your photographer and allow around 3 - 5 minutes per small group photo and up to 10 minutes per large group photo (more than 10 people) in your schedule. I usually recommend keeping the group photographs to no more than 12 - 15 shots to avoid turning your wedding day into a photoshoot!
For larger weddings, it's also a good idea to share your shot list with someone in the wedding party who knows all your guests, so they can help round everyone up for each photo and check if anyone is missing! To help with this, try to plan group photos for a time when everyone will be together in one place - usually immediately after the ceremony - before they have a chance to wander off!
Then you'll also need to allow 20 - 30 minutes for some bride and groom portraits, as well as travel time there and back if you'd like your portraits taken at a location away from the venue. In all, a rough guide is to allow 2 hours from the end of your ceremony until you go in for your wedding breakfast. This gives you time for group photos, bride and groom portraits and some time to chat with your family and guests without feeling rushed. You'll need to plan for more than this if going off site for portraits.
If you've timed your wedding day schedule too tightly, it's your photographs - the one thing that you can keep to relive your special day in years to come - that will suffer. So, plan your day with plenty of time for the photographs you want and not only will you get some stunning photos to remember the day by, you'll also have a more relaxed day too!