You are newly engaged, and about to take a giant leap (or so it may seem) into the big, diverse, trendy, confusing, colourful, blogged, tweeted, instagrammed, inspiring, Pinterest crazy world of wedding planning! Your friends are begging you for information, everyone around you is volunteering ideas and opinions, and you casually say “it’s ok we have it covered”, because actually you have got it covered.
There are so many articles online to read, so many wonderful blogs and magazines, sign ups to get free this and that, and enter a competition to win that. However, what you really need to do is start reaching out to people and, suddenly it’s all a little bit real.
You have done your “we’ve got it covered” research online as well as at a couple of wedding fairs, and you have narrowed the vast selection of photographers available to you, down to an inspiring few. The feel you want for your amazing “we do” day appears to be covered perfectly from their public online persona, and they look like the right type of creative wedding person or people you are interested in hiring. So what’s next?
I am writing this today with my photographer head on, rather than my Wedding Ideas writer head on in the hope that this will help guide you from this stage to the next in a way I have found very few articles online cover. Does that mean that this advice is missing off the web, not at all – but I thought what it did find needed a refresh.
As a wedding photographer, every enquiry I receive is different and can happen on social media, via my website form or simply via email and each one requires different consideration, a different reaction and of course a carefully worded response. Like any wedding supplier, I absolutely love receiving enquiries, especially when they feel as though they have had time taken over them. Some clients have approached me telling me how their husband to be dropped down on one knee in the middle of the busy office reception area after popping in on the way to an appointment. Some have simply given me an outline of their day, and some have kind words about how they love my work, can’t wait to work with me, and links to ideas boards, perhaps the odd “this is what we are looking to do”. Some however, are a little harder to connect with “how much do u cost?” on Facebook messenger really makes a reply quite difficult.
Today, along with a few rather amazing friends of mine, I would like to inspire you into putting as much time and effort into your first enquiry as possible. Therefore, making sure you give us extra inspiration to allow us to reply and wow you, moving mountains and making it completely impossible for you not to book us as your wedding photographer.
Contacting wedding photographers is as much about finding out a price for their services, as it is to ensure you have the right fit personality, ethically and service expectation wise. There are approximately 50,000 wedding photographers in the UK alone, and these are just the tax registered and insured ones (which of course are the only ones you should really consider for your own peace of mind and protection). After you have found a few perfect ones that “float your boat” here’s how to make an amazing impression, and get the most out of that all important first enquiry.
It’s all in the details…
From Tasha at Ikonworks
By telling me a little more about your plans, you allow me to engage you and inspire you. All the photographers in this article take huge pride in their client service abilities. You may find that we have different sets of information we can send you, different articles we can highlight to you for dare I say “homework” ha ha, and certainly different replies and sets of advice we can give you. Some of my absolutely favourite client bookings have come from couples who have wow’d me with their first email. Ensuring that by return I can demonstrate to you how much I adore my job, will then in turn inspire you to be excited about booking me and result in us working together in a much better way. Photography is ultimately about being creative, and when you as clients inspire us you enable us to produce our very very best work.
Hannah from Hannah Mcclune Photography says:
When you first get in touch the two key things I need to know are your date and venue to check if myself or one of my team is available and covers your wedding area. But I’d love to know a lot more – tell me all about the day you are daydreaming of and each other. What is it you are getting the most excited about? Why is it you are so totally in love with your bride/groom-to-be? What is the most important thing to you about your photography? What style day are you planning? What dress/shoes are you wearing? What is making the day personal to you two?… in all honesty you can’t share too much information. I love getting to know my couples so the feel like friends on the wedding day and comfortable in front of the lens. Building that relationship and getting to know each other from the first email is wonderful.
As photographers, we know most people enquiring will have a number in mind allocated to the photography part of their overall wedding budget. I have been married for fifteen years this year, and I remember planning my wedding. Funnily enough, it’s actually the terrible experiences I had with my wedding photography and photographer that taught me exactly what NOT to do in my business for my clients. We know couples sometimes have:
- Exceptional reasons for a tight budget
- An overall dislike of having their photograph taken, perhaps because they have had a bad experience, meaning it’s with a feeling of obligation they book a photographer rather than a feeling of we would love pictures of our amazing day
- The thought that having a photographer is a luxury, and therefore something that needs missing off the list
- Perhaps they read this rather bland and unhelpful BBC article, leaving couples believing every wedding supplier is a rip off merchant, putting premiums on anything with the word wedding in?
It is absolutely worth in your approach to your dream “we’ve got it covered” list of wedding suppliers saying what your budget is. There is nothing worse as a supplier than going through the process of quoting with a client, to then find out that the gap is just too big to bridge – it leaves everyone feeling disappointed. As I sit and write this, I’d like to also say;
Most photographers have their prices on their website, so if you know they are slightly out of your price range, please make us aware of this right at the start of your approach. Simply saying, if you want to save money, get married on a weekday in autumn is very short sighted, and quite insulting to wedding professionals across all specialities. All quality, reliable, committed suppliers still have things like indemnity insurance, advertising, marketing and website costs, and thousands of pounds worth of kit to insure, service and keep updated – this does not stop just because we are not shooting for a weekend. If the price is out of your budget, but you feel your style or what you love about their work is a perfect match, do speak to them but explain why and send them an awesome first email, you can but ask. If you have however, opted for the first Saturday in July, and you are booking in April you may well be disappointed.
Taking all this into consideration it is also very important to consider this is the other side – Cat from Wild Connections highlights the following,
We know how much weddings cost, many of us are married as well, so we do understand. However, we also see this market from another perspective, from the other side, the side that’s not highlighted where lots of talented wedding industry professionals struggle to make a living, because they don’t charge what they should.
This is sadly very common, and articles like the BBC one really don’t help highlight that a large percentage of wedding suppliers (especially photographers) are not able to rely on their businesses as their sole income. I hasten to add this makes them no less professional, or hard working, or talented, we have mortgages, rents, childcare and bills exactly the same as you.
Fiona from Fiona Kelly Wedding Photography says –
If you have a specific budget you need to stick to do share it when you enquire. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with a photographer even if you think they might be out of your budget. Many are happy to discuss options and if you are having a week day wedding or a wedding that requires shorter coverage you can often make it work. We photographers aren’t ogres, if someone loves the work we do and passionately wants us to capture their day, but has a smaller budget we will discuss what’s possible. This is why sharing information about you and your wedding can help us to get an understanding of what’s important to you.
Some photographers have full prices on their websites, some have a start price and some don’t have prices at all. Either way, get in touch with the photographers you like to ask for more details. Most will have a brochure or something they will send you with full details about what packages they offer, what’s included and what are optional extras. If you have your venue booked include that in your enquiry. It will allow the photographer to check to make sure travel is possible and if any extra costs might be incurred to travel, should it be a distance from their home.
When you enquire about prices or discuss budgets with us, please be polite and remember we are small business owners who do everything ourselves, put in a lot of hours and are trying to make our businesses work the best we can. We take our work and our businesses very personally and want the couples we work with to have a wonderful experience. We know that not everyone will be able to afford the prices we charge, but it’s not nice when people are rude and make it appear like we are money grabbers (which I have had in the past). If the budget really and truly doesn’t fit just reply nicely, say thanks and let us know we are out of your price range. You never know, we may know other photographer we could recommend to you who could offer you something that fits what you are looking to spend.
Sarah from Sarah Wayte Photography says –
I can only say to you what I did when I was looking for my wedding photographer. I know this is going to sound totally biased because I am also a photographer but when I started hunting, prices were not something I even considered. First and foremost, I selected photographers whose work I actually loved and whose personalities resonated with me through their websites and blogs. When I messaged the ones I wanted to meet, I told them what it was about their work that I loved and why I thought they would be a great fit for my own day. It didn’t even occur to me to say, “Hey, how much do you charge?”! I totally get some photographers may simply be right out of your budget, but here’s the thing… book them early enough in advance and you can afford just about any photographer you like!
Can we have a discount?
“We don’t want someone shooting all day”, “we are eloping”, “we are marrying abroad and having a party when we get home”, or “we just want a few hours and it’s a really small wedding”. All of these things are superb, and I don’t know many photographers who would not want to be involved, shooting your incredibly personal intimate wedding. I have just shot a wedding for a couple, their two lovely kids and two witnesses, and they popped off to have afternoon tea at a gorgeous hotel afterwards. There is in this case a difference between asking for a “bespoke package” and a “discount”, and approaching a photographer explaining your need for a bespoke package, stating you love their work but have more individual requirements is a much better way of making this type of approach.
Fiona says –
This is very much a follow on from discussing your wedding photography budget. Everyone has a budget for their wedding photography, whether its £1000 or £5000, so as business owners we know that money can be a deciding factor.
If you are thinking of asking for a discount there are definitely right ways and wrong ways to do this. Point blank, asking when you first enquire isn’t the right way to do it. You have to remember, we are small business owners. For the most part we are doing everything in our business ourselves and we have to make a profit or we won’t have a business after a year or two! When we set our prices we do so bearing in mind many factors; the number of weddings we take on in a year, the level of experience we have photographing weddings, travel costs, insurance, training, equipment…the list goes on. It’s not a figure plucked out of thin air with the intention of fleecing unwitting brides and grooms! We want to deliver a top class service and to do so for each of us, that’s a particular cost per wedding.
With all that in mind, however, very few of us will have an issue with someone asking if we can ‘do anything on the price’? This is a nice way to approach it as it’s opening a conversation. That’s what it needs to be. If you really love someone’s work but truly don’t have the budget, then explain this to them. Talk about your wedding, your plans and why this person’s photography means so much to you. It might be that the photographer can’t take the price down, but they could add something in for you, such as extra hours or prints or an album. They could add value to the package, which makes it worth more to you overall. If you are looking to reduce costs, then consider less hours’ coverage. That’s often the easiest way to bring the package price down. Sometimes we just can’t budge on the price, but sometimes it’s possible. Don’t feel you can’t ask, but ask in a way that is polite and friendly. I have done special packages for couples when their wedding was at a venue I really wanted to work at or when their wedding was on a week day.
If you go wading in saying the package is too expensive and can it be reduced because another photographer down the road is charging £200 less, you are not likely to get very far. No photographer wants to feel that they are in a bidding war or they are being compared to someone else purely on price. We are creative people who value what we do so want to feel that our work means something to you.
Maxeen from Maxeen Kim Photography says
I don’t as a rule offer discounts as I feel that it’s unfair to my other clients who have paid full price for the same service. Having said this, I do offer bespoke packages for clients who require something different to what my core packages provide. If you are wanting a discount or bespoke service, I think it’s best to go through the pricing guide first, then send the photographer an email outlining what you want and why. Sending an email saying, “I like your work but I don’t want to pay full price for it” is probably not going to get you what you want. However, I’ve had clients who have sent me amazing emails outlining their situation, why they want a different option and why they would like me to cover their day. When I’ve received emails like this I have generally been more than happy to work something out for them. For me, if you are honest and sincere about your circumstance, I would be more open to accommodating you.
What are the big no nos
I’ll go back to the “how much do U cost” message on Facebook, there was no date, no venue, not even an “are you available”. Therefore giving no information that could help a photographer to come back to the client with an answer to that question, I would say this therefore is a big no no! Personally, this approach felt as though the couple were not really interested in my services and could have been contacting any photographer, with any style not really knowing there can be huge differences between Ikonworks and the next one on the Google page under “Hampshire Wedding Photographer”.
“I’m not very photogenic”, “I already hate the idea of having my photograph taken, but you need wedding pictures right?” and even “I don’t know why I am contacting you, I don’t actually even want a photographer, but my mother says it’s important”.
As a passionate business owner, photographer and general lover of most things bridal, hearing these things quite literally breaks my heart. The quote below is from an amazing photographer in the US, by the name of Sue Bryce – she asks the question
“What will your children feel when in 20 years from now they go looking for photographs of you and there are none?”.
At one of the happiest points in your life, your wedding day, why would you not want professional, timeless, gorgeous images captured? Please put aside your doubts and worries, take the time to find a photographer who makes you feel magnificent, then trust them to do their job with the passion and integrity I know all of us this article feel. I promise you will not be disappointed, so make your first approach a positive one putting aside your worries.
Amanda From Amanda Karen Photography says
It’s always great to have an organised couple who have a clear idea of what they want, but what makes the heart sink is when there is a list of every single shot that needs to be taken, I’m not talking about the group shots, we absolutely want to know those, but it’s when you’re given a list of things like “bride having makeup done, bride walking down the aisle, the ring exchange, the kiss, etc”. All professional photographers will be well versed in the running order of a wedding and we just love capturing all those events and moments, we tend to not need to go off a tick list. The only deviation from this is if you are having something “out of the ordinary”, it’s important to give your photographer the heads up!
We know that couples have budgets and there are wedding vendors out there for every budget, please don’t be offended if we can’t work within our budget, our prices are based on experience, our business model, service offered, etc. It can be off putting when a couple enquire and complain about the cost of photography and that they don’t want to spend much on their photographer. For us, that’s sad to hear, we are lucky to work with couples who value photography, but it’s not always the case for every enquiry that comes in.
The final point, which we’ve thankfully not experienced, but know others who have, is where upon enquiry the photographer has been provided with a Pinterest board of images that are so far away from their style. You need to book a photographer based on their style and love that style, a photographer’s style has been perfected over a long time. This cannot be easily “switched off” to shoot like someone else, if you love light and airy images, look for someone whose portfolio is full of images like that, if you like high contrast or someone who just shoots in black and white, look for photographers with that style.
Cat from Wild Connections says
I still get really excited when somebody wants to book me for their wedding, but sometimes I meet with couples face to face, or spend weeks emailing them, helping them with all of their questions. But as soon as I send them the contract and ask for a deposit to fix the date, it’s radio silence. I won’t be offended if you’ve decided to book someone else, but please take the time to drop me a quick email to let me know your decision.”
She also goes on to say “Please also don’t send a Pinterest board of what you want and ask me if I can re-create it. Hopefully you’ve chosen me because you’ve seen my website and you love my style. By sending me a list of shots from Pinterest, you’re basically asking me to try and copy somebody else’s work instead creating something beautiful and unique just for you.
There are questions, and then there are lists
I just Googled “questions to ask your photographer” and got just over 24.5 million hits (yes, really), each article or blog post may spin it or word it a little differently but they are all going to say the same thing really. At this point I remind you of the section above, about it all being in the details, and inspiring your photographer and it is for exactly this reason I write this post. Instead of asking about watermarks, or the supposed Nikon vs Canon silliness, and copyright in your first approach tell us something we can connect with, something exciting, something about you’re wedding that literally takes your breath away and keeps you up at night with excitement. We seasoned professionals will at the right time tell you all the important “business stuff”, in the serious part of the conversations, promising you and reassuring you, that you initial instinct was correct, and you are making the right choice booking us.
Philippa from Philippa Sian Photography says –
I like to know that my couples have really thought about their photography, and that they too understand the importance of it and how the decision will be one you live with forever. The type of questions I’d expect to be asked, that are important are:
What does a real wedding look like? I will always showcase my most favourite images on my website, but it’s important to me that my couples can see how I photograph a full wedding so they know exactly what to expect. I will happily show full wedding galleries, whether I am asked or even if I’m not. I like to be completely transparent with potential clients so there’s never any confusion over the final product.
How do you prepare and plan for our wedding day? This is a great question, and one I would recommend all couples ask photographers because being a GREAT photographer, isn’t just about the style of imagery you produce. It’s not just about your manner and how nice you are. You have to be INCREDIBLY organised and prepared for anything, including delays, weather, emergencies, the lot. If you don’t have an organised photographer, this could impact your wedding photographs. I produce a fully planned out wedding schedule with all my couples, and if we can, do a recce of the venue to ensure we are all on the same page.
How do you protect our photos and our imagery? Some people never think to ask this, but I always like to be asked it and like to tell my couples so they can be assured that they can trust me to not just turn up and take great photos, but that I will do everything to protect my equipment AND therefore their photos, whether that be with regular servicing, insurance and shooting on multiple cameras and back up cards. Your wedding is safe with me.
So the absolute essentials are:
- Both your names
- Include your date
- Tell them about your venue
- Include your email address, your phone number and tell them a good time to call
- Tell them about your wedding
- If you are wanting bespoke, mention that
- If you are on a budget, mention that
- Have you been referred by someone, if so who do I have to thank
Jasmine Star is another US photographer, brilliant blogger and entrepreneur, she says
Photographers don’t all need to be flattered, but that we don’t mind it either and that an email saying “prices and packages please” sends a very different message to “I love your work, and hope you can photograph my wedding”.
Something key to think about is this;
Hiring your wedding photographer is not like hiring someone to clean your windows or fix your car – this is where compromise really isn’t an option and good enough is not enough.
Finally and I think one of the key things to take into consideration, i’d say
If at any stage you decide not to go ahead with your enquiry – please don’t leave us hanging with deafening radio silence. A simple email, letting us know you have found another photographer is perfectly fine and we will not be offended.
Tasha from Ikonworks photography
Hi, my name is Tasha and I am the owner of Ikonworks. Photography allows you to capture life stories, and our photographs become our collections of memories. Capturing a wedding day for a bride and groom is about the couple, their family, and the people in attendance. My ability to capture the beauty of a single moment, allows me to tell the story of your love story, your nervous smiles, your celebratory kisses, your kind glances, and your gorgeous “I Dos” with grace, kindness and a gentle touch”.
My photography partners for this article are, and I’d like to thank them all for their input and images very much.
Philippa from Philippa Sian Photography
I’m Philippa and I’m passionate about dreamy light, thoughtful and creative details, and people who love each other. I use a very relaxed, unobtrusive yet friendly approach in my photography which allows me to tell a story and capture people’s personalities and emotions in a romantic, beautiful, authentic way. I achieve this through my reportage candid style mixed with natural, stylish portraits and a keen eye for beauty. I believe that wedding photography should not just be about photographing ‘stages’ of the day, but about telling an emotive and authentic love story. I live in London & work throughout the UK and abroad.
Cat from Wild Connections
I’m Cat and I launched Wild Connections for couples that love the great outdoors, and want to incorporate their love of nature and sense of adventure in to their wedding day. Whether it’s getting married in the amongst rolling sand dunes in Norfolk or on a snowy mountain top in the Alps, I’ll be there to capture your next great adventure as you enter in to the awesome world of marriage. I don’t like labels, but guess I’d say my work is a mix between lifestyle and photojournalistic photography; I’ll mostly be working away in the background, letting the magic happen. My couples often want a non-traditional wedding, and aren’t afraid of taking a trip of the beaten path and getting a little bit dirty in pursuit of some epic photos. I’m based in Innsbruck, Austria, but being from the UK originally, I love weddings in the beautiful British countryside.
Fiona from Fiona Kelly Photography
Hi, I’m Fiona. Photographer and all round super organised person behind Fiona Kelly Photography. I truly love photographing weddings. The people, the place, the fun, the laughter, the mad dancing, the tears of joy and you two…the fabulous bride and groom! It’s all about you and capturing your wedding day story with all the bits that make it your unique day. I photograph beautiful and natural images you will treasure. Photos that bring back amazing memories of a very special day. All done with a big smile on my face and in a very relaxed and unobtrusive way.
Hannah, from Hannah Mcclune Photography
My name is Hannah and I am the owner of Hannah McClune Photography. Myself and my team specialise in gorgeous wedding photography. We love to tell your wedding story in a modern, relaxed and romantic way. Based in Reading, we cover the South of England and for the right wedding, sometimes further afield or abroad.
Sarah from Sarah Wayte Photography
Hi! I’m an Essex based wedding and portrait photographer but I have passport and will travel! I shoot weddings in a very natural and relaxed way, preferring to capture and record what is going on around me rather than set up and pose scenes to photograph. You should be enjoying your wedding day and let me do the rest! I would say my style is honest and real with just a hint of quirkiness thrown in for good measure. Just think of me as an extra guest with a very important piece of equipment! Come and say hi, look around and maybe invite me to your day. I can’t wait to meet you.
Amanda and James from Amanda Karen Photography
Amanda Karen Photography is an Essex and London based wedding photography duo, we are a husband and wife team and we bring our fine art portraiture and natural relaxed photography to wedding couples, ensuring their wedding day is beautifully captured. We genuinely feel like we are really lucky to be doing what we do, how many people can say that their job is to spend the day with people on one of the happiest day of their lives, surrounded by their friends and family and celebrating all that is great in life. It may sound soppy, but its such an honour that our couples entrust us to document their day, to ensure that for generations to come there are beautiful images of the day, it’s not just memories of the couple, but of the whole story.
Maxeen from Maxeen Kim Photography
Maxeen is a Fine Art wedding photographer based in London, and available for weddings worldwide. She has a passion for travel and adventure and loves capturing images in a beautiful and natural way; truly reflecting who you are as a couple – whether it be on a windblown cliff top somewhere exotic or in a gorgeous church in the city.