Checklists

Ask the Experts: 10 things to consider before hiring your wedding photographer

Top Irish wedding photographers reveal the main things couples should consider before making their investment

Claire Moulds asks some of Ireland's leading wedding photographers what you really need to know before you book.

1. Budget

“Having a realistic budget to work to and understanding what means most to you when allocating it is crucial when planning a wedding,” confirms Fionn McCann of studio33weddings.com.

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“I normally find that couples prioritise photography third on the list after the church and reception venue but I have on occasion been booked before anything else! Given an average wedding takes a year to plan and will be over in just 24 hours the question is, how much value you place on having those memories beautifully recorded forever.”

2. Experience

“One of the most important things to look for in a photographer is experience," says Fionn. "While not essential, choosing someone who has shot your venue beforehand is advantageous as they know what works and what doesn’t and how to get the best out of the setting. If your photographer isn’t familiar with your chosen location then check what additional prep they will do beforehand.

"For example, if I’m shooting a venue for the first time I will always do a recce visit and create a Pinterest mood board in advance of the wedding so we can all talk through the various options and formulate a plan.”

3. Lighting

“Beautiful photography is all about great light!" explains Seán Lordan of Into the Light.

"When choosing a photographer you should always enquire about how they deal with different lighting situations, from moody dark churches to bright sunny days. If your venue is very dark, make sure you pick a photographer who works well with a flash.”

“If you’re planning an autumn/winter wedding also remember that daylight hours are limited. It may therefore be an idea to have a ‘first look’ photo shot before the ceremony to take advantage of the light. Another option is to think about your timings for the day and to have an earlier ceremony.”

4. Recommendations

“When planning a wedding the amount of vendors available can be staggering," adds Seán, and you can easily find yourself lost in a sea of choice.

"You will of course get recommendations from your friends and venue but it’s always good to ask others in the industry for their personal opinion. They will know from previous weddings who would work best for your big day.”

5. Style - Formal vs reportage

“We shoot in a mainly documentary style,” explains Paul Mongan of Moat Hill Photography, "which involves capturing the essence of the day in an authentic way, rather than directing or setting up improvised moments. When it comes to family photos we try to keep to four main photographs – bride and groom with parents, both sides, and with families, both sides.

"If the couple wants more formal shots that’s fine, but it does take time out of your day and can potentially compromise the documentary process. Some documentary photographers won’t take any group shots at all for this reason. That’s why it’s so important for couples to know what type of photos they want and to choose their photographer accordingly.”

6. Creativity (eg. in bad weather)

“There is no doubt that a photographer has to get creative in bad weather – both inside the venue and out – and experience counts for everything in this situation,” adds Paul.

“At wet weddings we constantly watch how the weather is progressing and have often got some great shots by grabbing the bride and groom for two minutes between courses to get a late sunset after a wet day. The opportunities are there when faced with bad weather and the right photographer will seek them out for you. Equally, couples need to be willing to head outside and get a little wet in order to get the shots – you’ll be glad you did when you look back at your album in later years.”

Read more: Three simple ways to prepare for rain on your summer wedding day

7. Quality

“If you’ve never booked a professional photographer before, it can be daunting,” says Lou McMaster of The Lou’s.

"That’s why it’s important to do lots of research. Look closely at a wide variety of different images on a photographer’s site, at the composition, the lighting and the overall effect. If he or she has a blog, scroll through as many of the weddings as you can as it will give you a really good sense of how they work.

"In particular, make sure you view complete albums of entire weddings from start to finish, rather than a highlights album of several weddings, as then you will know that your photographer can maintain the same standard throughout the day whether inside or out, capturing group shots or intimate portraits or working in daylight or the golden hour.”

8. Personality

“Once you’ve decided on the style you like then it’s just as important to make sure that you get on with your photographer," Lou adds. "They will be by your side for most of the day, so you want to feel comfortable and relaxed in their company.

"We try to Skype our couples or meet them before they book in order for us all to get to know each other a bit. It’s also a great idea to have an engagement shoot with your photographer as then you can experience first-hand what the process will feel like on the big day itself. Finally, it’s crucial that you trust your photographer and their vision for your wedding as we’ve always found that the bigger the trust our couples have in us, the better the final images.”

Read more: How to pull off the ultimate festival themed wedding

9. Timeline

“Compiling a timeline with your photographer is essential,” advises Tanya Cullen of Bronte Photography.

“A good tip is to give them ‘time out’ within the schedule to be creative. After all, if you fill their day with a big list of pictures of you with every single guest then they won’t have the time to create the beautiful images you saw in their portfolio. If you chose them for their particular style, you need to give them the space to recreate that at your wedding.

“After the ceremony some couples like to stop off at another location, maybe where the groom proposed. Given how fast the day goes this ideally shouldn’t be too far away. In this instance I like to send the groomsmen and bridesmaids ahead to the reception so that they can ensure everyone is ready for the family shots on our arrival.”

10. Copyright

And a final word of advice from the Irish Brides team! Just because the photos taken are of your wedding, it doesn’t mean that you own the rights to them. Always check with your photographer exactly what they are willing to allow in terms of future usage before you sign any contracts.