Many people planning a wedding have never before commissioned a photographer. From the outside looking in there are many similarities between wedding photographers in South Wales.
Most wedding photographers have a website, a Facebook Page, an Instragram feed and will probably be able to produce a set of photos from your wedding day that will be far better than your guests will take on their smartphones.
But there are two distinct categories of photographers. The service you can expect from both is extremely different and the photographs you’ll be left with will be of a different quality.
The two categories are amateur, or part-time, wedding photographers or full-time professional photographers. According to the Bridebook UK wedding survey report, 77% of weddings have a full-time professional wedding photographer. Only 15% of weddings have a part-time or amateur photographer.
Although there are many successful and competent amateur and part time photographers in the market, below I am going to explain what defines the two groups and describe why you should only be looking at a full-time professional photographer for your wedding day.
This is what we do, day in and day out
From the moment we wake up on a Sunday morning, to the end of a long wedding on a Saturday night, we are thinking about wedding photography.
This isn’t just about receiving a responsive service from your photographer, as in they’re always available to answer your calls and meet, it’s about hundreds of little details.
We structure our weeks around our weddings, carefully planning upcoming weddings and delivering the photos from weddings in the past. A full time professional wedding photographer is likely to photographer far more weddings per year than an amateur or part timer and that experience shows from the moment you meet.
Having a greater experience of wedding venues, timings of the day, guests and couples means we’re ready for every eventuality.
Wedding Photography is how we feed our families
Employing a full time professional wedding photographer isn’t funding a CEO of a major corporation’s new yacht. You’re allowing someone who has given their all to pursue their passion put food on the table for their families.
Many of us have given up careers or opportunities of stable employment to pursue our passions and apply our talents to capturing special moments and wedding days for our clients. We all love what we do, are all passionate about providing the best service to our clients, but cannot do it for free.
No full time professional wedding photographer believes they’ll become a millionaire from wedding photography. Most of us have humble lifestyles and are just trying to provide a living to support our families.
What motivates most full time professional wedding photographers is self improvement and perfectionism. We’re thinking 24/7 about improving every element of our photography and our businesses to be able to deliver the best for our clients.
There is always a place for amateur and part time photographers, people who have other full time employment and do wedding photography on the side for extra cash. For many it’s extra money on top of their stable salaries to pay for cars, holidays, ponies and other luxury items.
Of course there’s nothing wrong with people earning money on the side, although it must be considered that the motivations of any amateur or part time photographer will be different from that of a full time professional wedding photographer.
Although a full time professional wedding photographer may cost more than most amateurs will charge, this is because we don’t have the safety net of sick pay, holiday pay, an employer contribution pension scheme or health insurance.
Roughly 1/3 of what we earn goes back to HMRC as tax. Most full time professional wedding photographers I know like to save another 1/3 of what’s left towards holiday times, quiet periods or retirement. For what’s left we work long and unsociable hours. Anyone who has ever calculated it knows that most full time professional wedding photographers are working for far less than minimum wage.
Full time professional photographers have more to lose
Going full time as professional wedding photographer is a huge risk. Using our real names as our business names means there’s no hiding from our reputations.
There’s simply no option for us to just throw in the tools and give up if we have a bad experience or deliver a poor service to any of our clients. Every wedding is critical to the future of our businesses and professional reputation.
When you’re planning the most important day of your lives and investing your savings on a single event you’d hope that everyone involved will be professional. Of course there’s plenty of amateurs who are able to provide a high level of service and deliver a high level of photography, but the risk if things don’t go perfectly is far lower in that situation.
A professional is more likely to be insured
Nobody should be working, taking photos of weddings at venues, without insurance. Wedding photography insurance is expensive. Not only does it cover the thousands of pounds of equipment (usually £15k-£20k for a professional) that’s being left unattended in high risk environments, it also includes public liability and professional indemnity insurance.
Most full time professional wedding photographers also have extended insurance that acts as a guarantees their work. It’ll cover costs of any loss incurred if anything goes wrong.
The industry leader for insurance is Aaduki and most full time as professional wedding photographers use their cover. Many venues now ask all photographers at weddings for their insurance certificates before working on their premises, and this often includes ‘friends’ or ‘guests’ who are acting as a photographer for lower budget weddings.
Full Time Professional Photographers take backing up VERY seriously
Most full time professional wedding photographers will take you that the second biggest expense, behind cameras and lenses, is file storage and backup.
With our reputations, businesses and livelihoods at stake it’s just not worth the risk for us to not invest in the safety and security of your wedding photos.
On your wedding day we will be using professional level cameras and shoot in ‘RAW’ format. This ensures that as much information, as data, is stored in each photo taken.
Professional level cameras also always come with two memory card slots and the camera writes the RAW files to both cards at the same time. This means that if one card happens to corrupt or die (and it happens, often) we will always have a backup. It also means that when we’re travelling we can separate the cards and alleviate loss through any unforeseen circumstances.
When we get back from every wedding the first thing we do is back up our cards. Using a top of the range iMac I copy all the files from every card onto my Drobo Raid 0 drive system – a system that is backing up itself within itself at all times. These systems are very expensive and hold every photo that I have ever taken in RAW format as well as every photo I have every delivered in JPEG format.
Overnight my system backs up onto the cloud using Backblaze – a system that I can call upon at anytime for backup recovery. I’m very meticulous about this part of my workflow – having previously been an IT manager I know how critical every file can be.
For every piece of equipment I own I have a backup ready. This means that I carry at least two cameras to every wedding, I have two lenses with every focal length that I will need (I carry a 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 60mm prime lenses as well as a 24-70 zoom). I have two of every cable and lead, a spare graphics tab, a spare computer and even a spare keyboard at the ready.
All in all this part of a business for a full time professional photographer is a very expensive investment, one that few amateurs or part timers can afford or justify.
A full time professional photographer will have you in mind
A photographer who is just starting out and portfolio building will have this on their mind at every point of the day. Sure you’ll get plenty of nice photos, but they’ll be more focused on the cliche than the uniqueness and details of your wedding day.
From experience full time professional photographer will be more in tune with the pace of the day and will have a ninja like focus on the events, emotions and interactions between your guests and will be ready to capture anything that happens.
Although the costs are higher for full time professional wedding photographer, you get what you pay for
I’m regularly asked to photograph for commercial companies and brands. Working for these people is a different challenge as they’re usually clear about what they want and expect the highest of standards in every single photo that’s delivered.
My commercial clients that have asked me to photograph for them include Dwr Cymru, SA Brains Brewery, The Royal Academy of Arts, Porsche, Bill’s Restaurant, Las Iguanas, Natuzzi and Krispy Kreme among others.
These clients rarely if ever employ an amateur or part timer to do this job as they appreciate what they get from a full time professional photographer is worth paying for.
How to distinguish a full time professional wedding photographer from an amateur or part timer
Below are ways that you can sift through the photography market and find the perfect photographer for your wedding day by differentiating professional wedding photographers from an amateurs and part timers.
A professional will respond to your enquiry and other emails within 24 hours.
A professional will answer your calls at any time, or call you back as soon as you can. This is not only important before your wedding, but if you have any questions after your wedding day.
A professional will be more communicative with you before and after your wedding.
A professional will deliver a gallery of photos to you that is consistent with the photos they show on their website and in galleries they have delivered previously.
A professional will have their reputation and livelihoods at stake and will value your satisfaction and positive feedback.
A professional will have backups of backups and will keep your photos safer and for longer.
A professional will allow you to make payments in a flexible way and will give you reassurance about what you are paying for.
A professional will have more at stake and more to lose so will work harder to deliver for you.
A professional will bring with them a wealth of experience that will show in the service they deliver and the photos you receive.
A professional will give you a timeline after your wedding day and will stick to it, delivering your photo gallery when you expected them to without chasing.
A professional will deliver the highest standard and quality of photography.
A professional will have a family to feed, a mortgage to pay, a car to run and won’t have the fallback of a stable job behind them if you choose to spend your money elsewhere.
So when you’re planning and prioritising your budget for your wedding day, remember the choice you make about the type of photographer you employ will have a huge impact not only on your wedding photos. You will be funding a passionate professional, securing piece of mind about your photos and will receive a higher standard of service.