Choosing Your Wedding Photographer – Expert Advice

When you’ve spent time planning the most amazing celebration of your life – your wedding – you want to be able to look back, in years to come, and remember all the special moments and details. As a creative wedding planner, I always aim to design unforgettable weddings. But choosing beautiful wedding photography, from a talented wedding photographer, can mean so much. Photos keep the celebration alive and capture memories that might otherwise slip your mind. Earlier in the year I spoke with top UK and destination wedding photographer, Cecelina Tornberg of Cecelina Photography. And Today I’m sharing her expert advice on choosing your wedding photography and photographer.

Where should couples start when thinking about their wedding photography?

That is quite a big question. You have to talk about what you like and what you enjoy, between you. Plus decide how important photography is for you and your wedding? Because that will definitely set the budget.

Look online, on blogs and Instagram, at lots of types of wedding photography. Think about your wedding and what images you want, what makes you happy? Are you style-driven – and really enjoy the place settings and the beautiful portraits? Or are you more of a ‘moments’ kind of person, and you like the human interaction? Then find a photographer who you really love. It’s really easy to get caught up in budget straight away, but I think it has to come from the love first.

Meet your photographer before choosing. Personal connections are so important. I mean, I only photograph weddings where I just love my couples.

Weddings cost a lot, but photography is a luxury product. Instead of going straight to a photographer and asking, “How much are you?”, just try to find out about them. How do they work? It’s not just about what kind of photos you like, it’s also about what level of service you expect. Because obviously, the more you pay, the more service you will get.

What should couples ask their wedding photographer when they meet?

I like to just have a chat. Things like, “What do you enjoy? How do you shoot?” Not just what’s included in the service. Make sure that you like the person, and that you trust them.

I think it’s so important, if you don’t like being photographed and you’re a bit nervous about it, to have a connection with the photographer. And also, if you trust someone you will naturally relax around them. On a wedding day, there are so many emotions. You have family there, and there might be chaotic situations and dramas (hopefully not, but there can be). You want to have a person there who you really like and who can calm things down when things are hectic. So, it’s really important you feel relaxed with the person who’s photographing you, and you see them as a person – like a friend – who is there to capture beautiful pictures. Then you’ll relax, and you’ll look better, because you’ll be having a good time. You won’t tense your shoulders; you won’t be self-aware. You’ll smile at the person.

How much should couples spend on wedding photography?

I’m a great believer in not overspending. But a wedding is a luxury – you don’t have to have a wedding – and photography is a luxury product. You should decide how much you value photography. And how much you value other parts of the wedding. Then spend money on the things that are most important to you.

Photography comes with a service as well, so decide what you expect in terms of service. Things like, how quickly does the photographer reply to emails? Are they easy to get hold of? How much time do they spend with you? How long until you get your photos?  You don’t buy products, you buy a service, you buy a person, and you buy a creative person’s vision as well.

Wedding photographers shoot weddings because they love weddings. We come with so much passion, and we put our heart and soul into it. So, make sure you connect with that person, and make sure their vision is your vision. There is a photographer for everyone.

Be careful to not only identify good photography but a good service too. You want a photographer who can deal with suppliers, be happy and respectful, chat to family and friends and make them feel good. They need to have a relaxed attitude at a wedding and be very well organised.

Some couples might get surprised with what photography costs, so it’s a good idea to understand that the people you hire are usually individual professionals running small businesses. You’re not just paying for a product or someone turn up to your wedding, shoot, and then give you the pictures. I spend maybe a hundred hours on average with each couple. There’s a lot of time involved.

What is an engagement shoot, or an ‘E-shoot’, and why would a couple want one?

An engagement shoot (or an E-shoot) happens before the wedding. It’s a session for a couple of hours, where you meet up with your photographer and just have a feel of what it’s like to be photographed. A lot of couples I find, especially British couples, opt out of the engagement sessions because they don’t like to be photographed. But that is a reason to have one.

There can be times in an engagement session where I might tell a couple to walk to the camera, hold hands and look at each other. And the couple can feel awkward and like it doesn’t feel right. Then, when they see the photographs, they say: “Oh, we actually look great. This worked.” Then, on the wedding day, instead of creating any awkward moments, the couple know the shot works and they trust the photographer. It’s also a good experience for the photographer to get to know the couple, to see how they interact. Are they a hold hands type of couple? Kiss on the forehead kind of couple? Anything like that.

Also, instead of asking yourself, “Do we need an engagement session?” ask, “What will these pictures mean to me in the future? What will they mean to my children, my family?” Because photography is ultimately, to me at least, a way to celebrate things that happen in your life – the moments. There are few things we celebrate in life outside of an engagement, a wedding, a birthday maybe, and the birth of a child. Photography, I think, should be part of all those stages in life.

It’s important to also say – if you aren’t a touchy, feely kind of couple then you don’t have to have an engagement session like that. I like to represent a couple’s relationship. We might go where they had their first date, for example. I do a lot of London ones because my couples meet or live in London, so it’s part of their story. You can equally go up a big mountain and wear a beautiful floaty dress, or you can go to your local pub and just have a pint, if that’s what you do at the weekend.

Cecelina has shared so much valuable information here when it comes to choosing and booking your wedding photographer. Come back next time as Cecelina shares her wedding day photography tips.

All photos by Cecelina Photography from an experiential Christmas wedding.

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