How to choose a wedding photographer that isn’t going to disappoint or rip you off .

Posted in AT Your Service, special event photography, Wedding Photography on December 26th, 2014 by John Coxon

(Cautionary free advice  from reliable, trusted  and long experienced ( 40 years plus) and committed Greater Manchester based wedding photographer  John Coxon)

john coxon  greater manchester wedding photography

Choosing  the right  wedding photographer for your big day  can be a minefield.  With the number of bargain fairly decent digital SLR cameras available with built in do it all for you modes  and the ease , for example, of creating a credible website there are  now so many people out their offering their services often with somewhat limited experience. ( It is not uncommon for such dodgy photography websites to actually use images to illustrate their websites stolen from other legitmate photographers )

Many are offering a  variety of packages essentially designed to increase the costs /income for the photographer of course at your expense- as you get down to  what you really want the costs rack up dramatically. I am sure you want the best but also value for money so do be very cautious before you make your final choice as to who to trust to photograph this so very important day!

Please click on this image to view a  video illustrating samples from weddings I have photographed.

Please click on this image to view  from my You Tube playlist  videos illustrating samples from weddings I have photographed more recently.

Buyer  beware Sadly there are  also an increasing number of  amateurs posing as professionals and offering greatly reduced rates in an attempt to undercut seasoned professionals and often disappointing people with less than the consistent high standard of photographs they hoped for and deserve . (An amateur is essentially someone whose hobby is photography and their results are far more likely to be hit and miss . The definition of professional is actually based on photography being their main source or sole source of income. )

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Beware of non-specialists  as the market for the many and  various subjects photographers used to be able to cover for income has shrunk so dramatically in the last decade  and a number of technically proficient photographers have often seen weddings as an “easy” option to fall back on and yet may lack the committment and interpersonal skills the role really does need. You really need a people person to photograph your wedding !

  john coxon wedding photography manchester group shot

You certainly don’t  want a photographer to turn up in jeans and a tee shirt ( amazingly some do!) and you want to be sure that the person you hire for your event is genuinely experienced, highly competent and can guarantee that all the photos they take on your behalf are to a very high and consistent standard . Equally important you need  someone  that  looks and behaves in a professional manner at all times , someone who is approachable ,confident, good-humoured and skilled with people and able to make them all feel at ease.

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Meet and talk to any photographer you are considering hiring. 

It is essential to meet up with any photographer you are thinking of hiring they should show you a portfolio, testimonials and give you a clear idea of what they are going to do for you at what cost. Meeting up will also enable you to get an  impression of what kind of person they are as, in my view, technical skill and experience of photography need to be matched by very good interpersonal skills. The interview should be about what you want and expect not about what the photographer can and will do. If you don’t feel at ease with them how are they going to put you and your friends and family at ease on the day ?

 

salford wedding photograpy service  John coxon

Although I began, first as a semi professional ( i.e. part time )  in marketing, media and sport photography way back  I actually began specialising in weddings and family event photography almost by accident. This photograph , one of an albumful of photos I took on  that day was actually not as the hired professional but as a family guest. Fortunately I took my pro camera gear with me!

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Sam had hired a  professional she had found in her local yellow pages and he wasn’t cheap. She I think had presumed he would comforably cover all the formal stuff , family and friends in groups etc  but also the informal shots they wanted both before, during and after the ceremony and the reception and family and friends  fun aftewards.  She took me to one side quietly in a bit of a tizz as they guy they had hired did not do and would not do when asked , any  informal shots ( I suspect it was out of his comfort zone and I had personally found him very reserved and more than a little pompous! )  and was also nowhere to be seen at the reception venue.

I never saw his finished efforts but  suspect they were competent without being exceptional  and  likely lacking warmth.  When I finally sent my photos to the happy couple it was those informal moments I captured that they cherish to this day.  From that day hence I focused on the craft of professional wedding  and social event photography with that valuable timely lesson in how not to approach the role !! Over a decade later I still love the job and truly believe it was what I was born to do!  It is a service you provide , the privilege of meeting other people’s needs not gratifying your own.

john coxon wedding photography ,manchester father of the bride happy

EXPECTATIONS

What will it cost and what will you get for your hard earned cash ?

You want a set of memories to treasure  showing you, your family and friends at their best . You will likely and quite reasonably  be hoping  for photos , both formal and informal , that wouldn’t look out of place in a country set magazine but also know that such coverage on average can  cost you  between one and two thousand pounds where the national average according to the most recent survey is £1400 so it wise to shop around with caution.

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Watch out for strings, the extras  that are designed to rack up the cost once you are hooked !

Before the advent of professional quality cameras that could more than compete with the best professional film cameras , wedding photography had a range of extra costs and since the photographer kept the negatives you  were essential forced to end up paying a lot of  extra money  for example for additional prints as would your guests.

Even now many professionals are reluctant to hand over all the digital files and operate website shopping galleries so they can earn addtional income say from guests who want copies.  I took a view early on when I turned to specialising in weddings some fifteen years ago to share copyright with my clients and give them copies of all the edited images on a number of DVD’s so they could copy and share them with family and friends.

weddimng photography service greater manchester

Be cautious when presented with a range of packages at different costs  – the incriments tend not to reflect that much more value  in addtion for example for the photographer covering your day for more time. Some photographers increase the cost dependant on how much of the day you want covering, and many double the  cost if you want an album.

In contrast I will  negotiate a one off cost with my clients  covering  the day from bride’s house  to ceremony venue arrival, the ceremony, group and informal shots before during and after the ceremony, reception and the full evening  including speeches, cake cutting, first dance etc. I tend to stay later than the majority of my colleagues and only leave when I am sure I have covered everything and everybody. Not all brides want photographs taken at their home or hotel room as they and the bridesmaids get themselves ready but I am always happy to cover that too on request at no extra cost. I see that as a great opportunity to get to know people and put them at ease.

john coxon wedding photography manchester bride home shoot

Do you really need to pay over the odds for a wedding album ?

A number of professionals offer packages which include a limited number of selected prints at various sizes  and depending on the package will tempt you will a lovely album and it is not uncommon for that product , with a number of images  of your choice printed off  for that item to actually double the total cost and I always thought that was unfair.

I tell my clients that I don’t offer albums because I believe it is an unecessary cost and also suggest where to find a selection of high quality wedding albums at reasonable cost.) In the early days I did include a fixed number of high quality prints which I carefully printed myself but these days I provide all the original high resolution  images on DVD’s and in movie form on request also.

 

THE BIGGIE – WILL THE PHOTOGRAPHY GIVE YOU ALL  THE ORIGINAL IMAGE FILES IN DIGITAL FORM WITHOUT WATERMARKS ?

The fact is that many of us now prefer to view photographs in digital form via  our TV, DVD player, on our phones and laptops etc and may want to  frame just  a few shots . Getting prints , if people want that option, couldn’t be easier , either from on line companies or on the high street  and usually without compromising quality and my clients can do that far more easily and cheaper than I can! Moreover of course images in digital form can be e mailed, shared on social media etc.

Checking photography websites – GOOGLE with caution!

When trying to find a wedding photographer in your area likely you will run a Google search and check out promising websites .Google search listings these days top rank photographers  who have paid  to come at  the top of the rankings and its no gaurantee that they are any better or worse than one’s who come further down.

Check a number of sites and of course take a look at the photos which give you a flavour of the style and quality of what is offered and check and compare the costs of packages looking out for hidden extras and other strings attached. Check out to see if the local photographer you are considering hiring has a photography blog or Facebook and also how long they have been photographing weddings. it takes more than a couple of years to learn the craft!

THOROUGHLY CHECK OUT ANY PHOTOGRAPHER WEBSITE YOU VISIT – LOOK BEYOND  THE SHOP WINDOW DRESSING PHOTOS AND EXAMINE GALLERIES AND PORTFOLIOS AND TESTIMONIALS.

In my own archives I have  many thousands of images  from the many weddings  I have covered over the last decade and a half  and of course a huge task to pick out a small selection which show my work. Easy for us all to cherry pick but are all the photos I finally present to  clients are all of the highest standard . My business depends on it and whover you are you will always get my best and I will meet and exceed your expectations in terms of consistent quality, enthusiasm and energy.  All my photos are meticulously edited to maintain my consistent high standards.

You are not going to publicly display all your work from an event on social media if  all the shots aren’t to a great standard and word of mouth recommendations are how I get bookings. Essentially I don’t do paid advertising – my work should speak for itself . I have a number of glowing unsolicited testimonials and in fifteen plus years I have never had ay negative feedback from weddings or indeed other social events I have covered.

Many photographers have carefully chosen short  galleries as samples that you can see but have a closed area for clients making it harder to see how consistent their work is.  You might also be cautious about the blurbs where some professionals and closet amateurs describe themselves , how they got into the trade and what they aim to do for you. I would tend to take what they say with a pinch of salt! Check too how long they have been in the business. One local photographer in my area has covered weddings for less that three years which hardly seems enought experience to do the job most effectively as she is in her early twenties !

Check out the opinions of other people who have used a photographer you are thinking of hiring.

A far more reliable indicator of how good a job various photographers can do is simply word of mouth recommendations  and unsolicited testiomonials and some like me include testimonials on my web pages. I am always happy when interviewing couples to show extensive samples of my work, testiminonials and provide contact details for previous clients on request.  You can of course learn a lot about a person by actually meeting and talking to  them face to face and I advise always meet up with your chosen photographer before committing to using their services .

I always visit couples at home prior to the big day to listen to their needs and reassure them. I am naturally sociable , friendly and open. Your photographer ought to come over as a  good listener, I’d say be likeable and friendly and inspire your confidence. They ought to radiate enthusiasm about photographing  your big day and I am certainly sincere in that regard as Ilove my work and meeting and exceeding people’s expectations.

wedding photography service Greater Manchester

Click to view a short sample video from Nathan and Lisa’s wedding – background audio is of the voice of the bride singing beautifully and played just before the actual ceremony !

CHECK PHOTOGRAPHERS OUT ON SOCIAL MEDIA !

Social media is a great leveller for small one man independent businesses like mine (and bigger ones ) & a great tool for those researching who to hire for important moments in their lives.   So easy now to make or get someone in to make a flashy website to make you look good at what you do but look out for a professional photographer active on Facebook and maybe with a blog as well as the standard website thing. So easy to dress things up on a website, harder on social media unless you are entirely genuine. 

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(Click image above for a short sample video of photos from Craig and Hannah’s perfect day )

Despite the internet’s amazing reach, word of mouth is the photographer’s best friend and if any photographer expects to take your money they better be reliable, honest , open and deliver consistently in front of and behind the shop window!

Find a photographer who is happy to publish their stuff all year round not only on their business Facebook but even on their personal page because if they do give a damn then both are going to celebrate their joy and competence with their camera every day .

I have been amazed to find people claiming to be wedding photographer’s  who boast on their websites they  are and “always have been passionate about photography” and yet even found one locally looking forward to your twenty third  birthday and we should trust them to hire for a wedding? This is not a weekend hobby – it is your life if you actually give a damn.

I actually need feedback not only to let me know I hit the spot, met and hopefully exceeded expectations but also so I can use those comments to show I can be trusted to deliver.

Meanwhile, the fact that, after social events, marriages, christenings, parties, charity events et al, so many people flood my Facebook business page with image likes,so many tag requests and use one or more of my images as their Facebook profile pictures or cover makes me a very happy man. check out my page here

John Coxon Facebook Page.

I  would never knowingly publish any photograph here or anywhere else on line that was not my best or made someone somewhere, king or serf,  garden snail or a sparrow feeding in my garden, look their best. What you see is what you get from me and you would/ could not be happy to upload and show every photo you took from any event you covered unless you were decent , modestly self assured but totally open and very good value for the money !

Recently, in view of understanding of how frightening it is that wedding costs so quickly mount up, I know offer payment in  installments to help those who want the best spread the cost. Call me on my mobile, 079892300104 or message me via my Facebook page if I can help. No weddinhg photographer in my area ( Greater Manchester / North West) offers so much for your big day at such reasonable cost.

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