Why it's an important investment...
Deciding on who you want to capture your wedding for you may well be the toughest decision you make. There are a lot of factors to consider and there are a lot of photographers out there who offer all sorts of different things which really won’t make your decision any easier. There are those couples who consider their wedding pictures to be the most important investment they’ll make and then there are those who will treat it as an afterthought.
It’s really down to the individual but to offer my ten pence worth, when considering a photographer for your day you need to remember that your pictures are the only tangible thing you’ll have after all the celebrations have finished. They are your lasting memory of the day and will be shown to your children, grand-children and great-grand-children. So, it’s probably not the best time to rely on your Uncle Bob “because he has a nice camera” or your friend who is a pet photographer. As well as the technical skill involved, shooting a wedding is a talent all in itself. It’s pressurised, there are time constraints, there are changes in location and light every 5 secs and you only have one chance to capture the shot. You have to be a people person, a confidante, a diplomat, a problem solver and have the patience of saint all at the same time.
What style do I choose?
There are 3 main styles used these days for wedding photography – Traditional, Contemporary and Reportage.
- Traditional Style is a throwback from the more traditional era of film photography and was more focussed on taking posed shots and involved a lot of direction from the photographer and was more demanding of the wedding party. The drawback is that you miss out on a lot of emotion from the day and spend a fair bit of time away from your guests.
- Contemporary has its roots in the more fashion or editorial style photography. The shots are slightly more relaxed but involve more exciting lighting and fancy angles. They might look good but again, can be quite demanding of the wedding party. Would you rather spend 2 hours having your picture taken by a photographer with a “creative vision” or would you rather be spending time with your guests?
- Then there’s reportage or documentary style photography which is more about telling a story and capturing the emotion of the day as it unfolds naturally around the photographer. This tends to be the more popular style of photography these days and is certainly a style that lends itself best to such an emotional occasion like a wedding. If you do prefer this style just be aware that the photographer might not be keen on doing any group shots as it won’t align with their vision.
How much should I pay?
This is a bit of a minefield and something that can be quite daunting. One photographer might have 2 different packages, that take into account their length of coverage. Another one might offer platinum, gold, silver, bronze or pewter packages that go from the very basic level of coverage all the way up to including 3 assistant photographers, a wind machine, drone, film crew and a thoroughbred stallion. Basically, a Duran Duran video. It can all get very confusing and may actually have the detrimental effect of putting you off looking for a decent photographer.
Everyone has a different budget to work with, but you need to understand why you should place so much value on finding the right one.
You might find a photographer who will charge, say, £400 for full-day coverage and offer 1000 images, 3 albums, a video and a partridge in a pear tree. If they can do all that then all power to them but in truth, that is unrealistic. The average photographer will spend an awful lot of time on just one wedding, including meetings, recce’s, travel, actual photography, uploading and backing up shots, editing, printing and delivery. So, as well as great pictures that tell your story, in reality, you’re paying for time and you’re paying for experience. A safe pair of hands on the day who knows exactly what to do, where to be and when to do it with the minimum amount of fuss. Someone you can trust and who you don’t need to worry about, leaving you to enjoy the biggest day of your life. So, don’t be put off by a higher fee when you’re shopping around.
Choose someone you like and are comfortable around
This to me is probably the most important part of choosing a photographer. You’re going to be nervous enough as it is on your big day and the last thing you need is a photographer who is bossy, in your face and demanding of your time. You should only work with someone that you feel comfortable with, someone who makes you feel relaxed. If you’re relaxed, everyone around you will be relaxed which will put you at ease in front of the camera and help create those natural and fun memories that will last a lifetime. This really isn’t something you can put a price on.
Where do I fit into all of this then? Well, it’s important to know that I’m a pretty easy-going guy and I like to think that this comes across in my pictures. With this in mind I always try and meet with couples when they’re thinking about their photography. Just to sit there and have a chat over a coffee and not even talk about weddings will help you decide what sort of person your photographer is. It’s important that you click (no pun intended). If you decide that you hate me, then that’s totally cool. No harm, no foul. A lot of my couples have actually told me though that, when it came down to making a decision, the fact that I was happy to meet for a chat with no pressure helped them make up their minds. Then, when the day of the wedding came around, it was nice to have a friendly face in the morning during all the preparation.
What is my style? Well, I guess I would fit into the reportage or documentary bracket. I don’t like to call it that though as it feels a little pretentious. The reality is I just use patience and observation. I also listen. When the time is right, I take the picture. It’s about capturing the fun, the emotion and the honesty. That’s the real story of your day. But if you want group shots then I’m more than happy to do those as well and we’ll work together to make sure that they’re in the schedule. If you want the whole wedding party, then that’s great too. I have been known to balance on the top of a borrowed step ladder or hang out of a top floor window. I’ve even been up a tree to capture the shot (sadly there is no evidence to back this up but trust me, it’s true!).
People are often surprised when I say that I stay to the end of the wedding. Most photographers will only go up to the end of the first dance. But to me, as well as being a declaration and commitment of your love for each other, a wedding is also a cause for celebration and a party. You might well have friends and family flying in from all over. So it’s important to me that I capture that party element as well, and that takes place after the first dance. You’ll often find me on a dancefloor or standing on a stage whilst you and your guests are in full on party mode. This is where some of the most fun shots happen and I want to make sure that I capture them for you.
I also make sure I dress appropriately. I think this is really important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s a wedding and it’s a smart affair. Out of respect for the couple who have booked me and for the occasion itself, I make sure that I am wearing what the guests are wearing. Morning coat, black tie or lounge suit? I’ve worn them all to photograph weddings. I’ve been to too many weddings as a guest where the photographer is wearing jeans, trainers or a polo shirt with their branding all over it and it looks terrible.
The second and most practical reason is that if I’m wearing what the guests are wearing then it helps me to blend in and become almost invisible, allowing me to float around unobtrusively in order to capture everything as naturally as possible. To quote a couple of former brides of mine:
“We had so so many compliments about how fantastic he was, and some people even thought Matt was a guest as he blends in so well!”
“He captured our wedding day perfectly - all the joy, fun and laughter are held in his brilliant images. He’s also exceptionally discreet, you really didn’t know he was there.”
When it comes to my packages, I have just the one*. When you book me, I’m yours. For the whole day. No time limits. You’ll then receive a few sneak peek images on WhatsApp a day or two later, and a slideshow set to music a few days after that. These are great to view on honeymoon; I’ve had many couples get back to me to say how thrilled they were to receive these and relive their day whilst lying on a beach.
Three to four weeks after your wedding day, you’ll receive a USB with 400+ edited, hi-res images in a mixture of colour and black and white which are yours to keep and print as well as an online, password protected gallery which you can forward to family and friends. I’ll also send you two 8x10 Fine Art prints. That’s it! All very simple.
I also offer engagement shoots which are a great way to get to know me more and for me to find out more about you. They also help you get used to being in front of a camera. I don’t know anyone who likes having their picture taken so these shoots are perfect as come the big day you won’t be so phased by having me around.
So that’s me in a nutshell, my work is an extension of myself. Uncomplicated, easy, honest and natural. Your day is all about you and if I done my job properly, then hopefully you won’t really have noticed me at all.
I hope you find this guide and insight into how I work and what I provide useful. If you’ve recently got engaged and you’re thinking about photography for your wedding, then do get in touch as I’d be more than happy to meet for a coffee and a chat and hear all about your plans.
*If you’re getting married during the mid-week (Mon-Thurs) a reduction on my fee is available.
Matt Harris is a Surrey Wedding Photographer who covers London and the Home Counties. He has also shot weddings as far as Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.