Choosing the Right Photographer for the Right Price.

Wedding photography is a very competitive industry, and these days couples are almost spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting a wedding photographer.

Technology is an amazing thing as it has lowered the costs of entry into wedding photography. As digital photography has entered the mainstream, more and more photographers are chancing their arm in the professional ranks.

With full day wedding photography available for under £500, it's reasonable for you to question why you might want to spend upwards of £1000 on your wedding photography, when bridal magazines are telling couples to pay less and expect copyright in the process.

One of the stock answers is to tell couples how important the photography is in the grand scheme of your wedding day. I'm not going to disagree, although different people place different emphasis on the value of photographs. But it's not so much the value of the photographs themselves that is their true worth - that lies in their ability to summon up the wealth of memories and emotions of that most special day, months and even years after the event.

I've seen couples happy to pay £500 for the services of a wedding car for two hours of the day, and then balk at having to pay much more than that for the photographer who'll be there for the whole day, and who'll have a huge part to play in your memories of it. In the same way that a song can trigger memories so evocatively, photographs have that same ability to bring back happy memories. And that is certainly worth cherishing.

The more practical and less heard answer is that I simply couldn't afford to photograph a whole wedding for less than £1000. Anyone who can charge £500 for a full day's wedding photography is cutting corners somewhere. They're probably only interested in quantity and certainly not quality. Let me explain.

At a full day of photography at a wedding I will typically capture over 1000 images, of which I will usually present about 300 to 400 to the client. I edit each of these individually; cropping, tweaking exposure, making other little adjustments, and finally optimising them for screen viewing and for the web. Allowing a very reasonable five minutes per image (doesn't sound like a lot, does it?), it takes me approximately 30 hours to edit the images. That's three very long days spent camped in front of the computer editing the images.

It takes another day or two to design the album, added to the original day of photography itself. That means that what sounded like an expensive £1000 for a day's photography, is actually paying for about five to six days of work.

I'll also probably have met the couple at least once, and frequently twice, outside of that in the form of an initial meeting and then to discuss album options. Then I also have to factor in tax and national insurance, public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance, purchasing, maintaining and updating high end equipment, and insuring that equipment... along with other business expenses such as running a website, hosting client galleries, advertising, sample albums...

Suddenly £1000 for a day's photography shouldn't sound like such a ridiculous figure. And hopefully you'll be asking yourself how someone who charges less than £500 manages to do so?

Many just put everything on a disc without editing it, which is a sure sign of a profit over quality mentality. Editing is the most tedious part of the job that I would love to dispense with - but I have pride in my work and wouldn't dream of letting shoddy work into clients' hands.

Some won't be insured, which is cost cutting that has potentially disastrous consequences for the photographer, and more importantly also for the wedding couple. Insurance is not there because it's needed, but for if the worst should happen. It's the least a professional should do to protect his clients (and himself).

Some have very simple equipment, which could be limiting. Ultimately it's the photographer's competence and creative vision which have the biggest influence on the quality of your wedding photographs, but there are situations where professional equipment does yield better technical quality, and other times when professional equipment will get the shot when lower end gear simply would not. Although it has gotten more affordable, high end photographic equipment is still not cheap. A professional grade camera still costs about £4000 and is succeeded by a new model every couple of years.

After all is said and done however, you should be choosing your photographer based on the quality of his or her photography. It's important not to make your decision based primarily on price, although understandably we all have finite budgets to work within.

The wrong way to choose is to have a minimum standard of photography that you'll settle for, and then choose the cheapest photographer who meets that standard. The best advice I can give is for you to flip that on its head, and to set the maximum budget that you can spend (whatever that may be), and then to find the best possible photographer you can for that money.

Good luck!