Yes, its one of those annoying "list" blogposts, so apologies for that, but I think these are things that you should be aware of before you start your search for a photographer for your wedding. Obviously not all these points apply to all photographers - they are general points that, as a newly engaged couple, probably searching for a professional photographer for the first time, you may find useful to know. So, in no particular order, here goes...
1. Cost = Quality? Not Necessarily.
You don't necessarily get what you pay for. As a photographer you can charge almost anything for wedding photography, but that number doesn't always directly translate to quality. Your photographs won't be good just because they were expensive. Some photographers charge based on their cost of doing business, some charge according to the type of wedding they want to shoot and some charge as little as possible to book as many weddings as they can. Don't just pick a price and find someone that charges what you want to pay. Set yourself a budget, but always pay careful attention to the photographs. I mean really LOOK at the pictures. Imagine that the pictures are of your wedding - would you be happy with them? Once you've decided that, decide whether the price is fair and within your budget.
2. Workshop Work
Lots of photographers, particularly those just starting out, go to workshops and seminars to learn or improve their photographic skills. Quite often those workshops will involve "live" shooting sessions, where the organisers arrange models, stylists, locations and wardrobe and then allow the delegates to shoot with their own cameras. This allows them to put what they've learned into action. However, shooting a model in a controlled location is not the same as shooting a bride on her wedding day. The problem arises when these photographers use the pictures as examples of their work. The implication of including those shots in a portfolio is that the pictures are from real wedding commissions, which is misleading at best, but mostly just dishonest.
3. Good Albums are not cheap
High quality albums are expensive . The major manufacturers' high-end albums are usually hand made using the best archival materials and stringent quality control. You really do get what you pay for. A decent size album would usually start at a minimum of £300 and the sky is the limit.. If a photographer is including an album as part of a package and the package only costs £1000, then you can be fairly sure that the album is not going to be of the best quality. Either that or the photographer is not making much money (the former is more likely). Note that most of the professional album companies won't sell albums to clients direct, only to registered professional photographers.
Some photographers operate studios with multiple photographers shooting for them. They may have their name above the door, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they will be the ones that shoot your wedding. Its an economic thing - one photographer can only shoot so many weddings a year, so the "get rich quick" approach is to build a brand, take on every wedding you can, and then assign "associate" photographers to shoot them. Make sure you know who's going to turn up on your day and that you see that photographer's pictures.
Almost every photographer seems to be "award-winning" these days. Its a mostly meaningless term. Most of the competitions and awards are run by member organisations, for the benefit of the members. You pay a membership fee to an association or club, then you can enter their contests. And when you win one you can put "award winning" on your website. Awards only mean something if you know who awarded them and how many people entered. And winning an award for a single image from one wedding doesn't really prove anything about a photographer's consistency.
Another meaningless term - "International Wedding Photographer". What that basically boils down to is a photographer who is willing to travel abroad if you ask. Not many photographers will turn down the chance to shoot an all expenses paid wedding in a foreign country. Its not a badge of quality to be international. I'm not even sure it makes grammatical sense for a person to be international. Aren't we all nationals of a particular country? Combine 5&6 into "I'm an international award winning wedding photographer" and you've described about 90% of all photographers with a website.
Referrals don't always happen because someone thinks that a photographer is the best photographer for you. Quite often if a venue or other vendor recommends someone it will be because there's a reciprocal arrangement. You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.
8. What Exactly Does "Approved" Mean?
Some venues only allow approved vendors. DJs, photographers, florists, caterers etc. Approved doesn't necessarily mean best. It just means that there's some behind the scenes deal being done that you're not privy too.
9. Internet Fame
Most photographers will expect to plaster your wedding pictures all over the internet to get retweets/likes/pins and blog features. If you want to be the first to see your wedding pictures, before all your Facebook friends, or you simply don't want your pictures posted online at all, make sure you tell your photographer. Some photographers won't like it.
10. Mid-Week Discounts
Its just as much work to photograph a wedding on a Wednesday as a Saturday, so don't expect a massive discount just because its a mid-week wedding. The economics of photography are different to venues with fixed running costs. Venues have to try and fill as many days as they can or they lose money. When a photographer takes on a wedding it involves a day of shooting, plus all the associated meetings, travel and post production work. All that work takes the same amount of time whichever day of the week the wedding takes place. Successful photographers won't need to take on mid-week weddings at massive discounts just to stay busy.
11. Perfect Brides
The bride you've seen on Pinterest, photographed in perfect light, at the perfect location, wearing a perfect dress, is probably a model posing for a photo shoot. Don't expect your wedding photos to look the same, even if you do buy the same dress. Venues, dress designers, hair stylists, make up artists, florists, cake makers - they all need professional images of their work. The wedding day is not the best time to get these pictures, so professional photo shoots are arranged instead. Those pictures require a team of people behind the camera, and they won't be there on your wedding day.
12. Style and Substance
Photographers show what they consider their best work. Don't expect better pictures from your wedding than the photographer shows you, and don't ask a photographer who specialises in one kind of photography to shoot in a different style.
13. Lazy Editors
Photographers that promise you ALL the pictures on a DVD will give you lots of very similar pictures. You don't need to see 20 slightly different pictures of the cake. Just the best one or two. Its part of the photographers job to decide which ones are the best. If a photographer is offering you everything then its not because the photographer thinks that's the best thing for you (its not), its because the photographer is lazy and doesn't want to edit the take properly.
14. Editing vs Processing
"Editing" and "Processing" are two different things. Editing is selecting the best pictures from the full take. Processing is colour-correcting and adjusting the images to look their best. If a photographer is promising you 2000 pictures then they won't be processed to the same standard as a photographer who aims to give you just the best 250 individually processed, finished images.
15. Who's Pictures Are They?
Photographers automatically own the copyright in every picture they take. Its a law called the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This means that they own the rights to the pictures, even though the pictures are of you. You must get permission from your photographer to be able to make copies (physical prints or digital copies). Most photographers will happily give you that permission in the form of a simple letter. However, that permission will be for personal use only. You still won't have the right to sell your photos or use them in any commercial way. For example, you are not allowed to send your wedding photos to your dress designer for them to use in an advert. This also works the other way - a dress designer is not allowed to use a picture of you in their advert without obtaining your permission, even if the photographer sends them the pictures.
Couples backlit with flash at night, side-by-side headless couples, couples standing in cornfields at sunset, making heart shapes with their hands, holding balloons or handwritten signs. Its like there's a book somewhere - "101 Bride and Groom poses" (although I'd be surprised if there were as many as 101). If there is it must be a bestseller because its all been done to death. Your wedding is unique - have unique pictures.
So, that's some of things I think you should know, that you won't necessarily be told by any photographers. Feel free to let me know what you think or add anything else in the comments below. And if you're a photographer, what have I missed?