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How to choose your wedding photographer

When it came to our wedding photography, Franz and I had decided that it would be one of the most important aspects of our big day. After lots of research and several face-to-face meetings with a number of suppliers, we happily settled on Capetonian photographer Claire Nicola King. Here, I chat to Claire about her pro tips for choosing someone to capture your big day.


Claire’s 5 top tips for choosing your wedding photographer

1“First and foremost, find a photographer whose style of work appeals to you,” advises Claire. “Look through their website and decide if the pictures you see are the kind of images you would like to have from your own special day. Not seeing the style of pictures you like on their website? It’s probably because it’s not their area of expertise or the manner in which they shoot, so move on.”

2“Be sure to meet with your photographer before booking them,” says Claire. “This person will be spending the bulk of the most precious day of your life with you, so have a cup of coffee together and see if you get along! Online personas and branding don’t always translate into an accurate representation of the person you’ll be working with.”

3“Unfortunately (as with most good things in life), reputable and professional photographers cost money. Try to get a healthy feel for what the average asking price of a few wedding photographers is, instead of shopping for the cheapest one available.” Which leads on to…

4“Word of mouth is the most reliable way to pinpoint a good service provider,” says Claire. “Get referrals from friends who have made use of a specific photographer before, and who can vouch for their capabilities. This will help narrow down your search and give you peace of mind once you’ve made your decision.”

5“If you have time before making commitments to a specific photographer, keep an eye on their blogs over a few months instead of making a decision based on one wedding you’ve seen on Facebook,” advises Claire. “Photographers whose work is consistent in quality are more likely to give you a final product of the same calibre. A less experienced photographer’s style of shooting and editing will be more erratic and varied from shoot to shoot while they’re finding their feet – if your wedding photographs are a priority, avoid beginner photographers.”

Before booking, always ask these questions

How do you shoot in low light conditions?

“Be sure your photographer is prepared and competent to deal with varied degrees of darkness so that they won’t miss important moments,” explains Claire.

Do you have backup equipment should there be a technical malfunction on the day?

“You never know what might happen, so be sure your photographer is prepared for the worst!”

Do you make use of an assistant, second shooter or both?

“An assistant will help your photographer with their equipment, while a second shooter will actually take images. This is important because it helps you understand the service you’re getting for your money: if the photographer seems a little pricier, but you get a second shooter who will snap images of the groom getting ready while the main photographer is with you as you get ready, then the extra cost may feel justified. It also helps you to manage your expectations: if you’re not willing to pay for an assistant or second shooter, you might need to book your photographer for more hours, to ensure she has time to take all the pictures you want.”

How many hours do I really need to book my photographer for?

“Most photographers will have a typical workflow timeline for a wedding day, which will advise you on the optimum amount of time needed to capture a specific event (normally between eight and 10 hours),” explains Claire. “It’s best to go through this carefully and ask your photographer if there’s something you don’t see on the shooting schedule which you feel is important to have captured. A great example of this is capturing the groom’s preparation before the ceremony. Not many photographers budget time for this in a standard package, and couples who would like this done will more than likely be advised to add an extra hour to their package to allow adequate coverage of that particular event.”

When is the best time to get married to get great lighting for photographs?

“The most flattering light will almost always be the time that you would set aside for your couple’s portrait session (typically after the ceremony but before the reception). Photographers work according to what is known as ‘the golden hour’, which falls in the hour and a half before the sun sets (google the precise sunset time on your wedding day),” explains Claire. “When you’re planning what time your ceremony will start, consider when you’d like to be doing your couple’s shoot and work backwards from this, remembering to allow adequate time for the ceremony itself, greeting your guests, and family photos in between. It’s usually safe to say that ceremonies should start no later than 3pm in winter and 5pm in the height of summer.”

Claire answers some of your wedding-day photography dilemmas 

Help! I’ve got family members with partners who may not be around in years to come. How do I handle this when it comes to family photos?

“Being proactive when it comes to family photographs is going to be your best bet,” advises Claire. “Draw up a list of each family shot you would like taken, along with the name of every person who is to be included in the shots. Then give this list to your photographer and your MC or chief bridesmaid (whoever you trust to help you manage things). That way, on the day you can remove yourself from any responsibility of who was included or not, and have your MC or bridesmaid call out the people needed shot by shot. The workflow will improve for your photographer, you’ll get the family shots you want and no one will able to point the blame at you if they’re excluded.”

How necessary is an engagement shoot?

“Apart from it being a lovely way to spend time getting to know your photographer better, most couples find themselves amazed at their own ability to look fantastic in photographs taken by a professional! Shy individuals never think they could look like the people they see on wedding blogs, but after being photographed properly and seeing the results of an engagement shoot, many people are a lot more confident in handing over their insecurities and trusting their photographer on the big day!” Plus, an engagement shoot helps you iron out any kinks (like which angles you love and which ones to avoid).

My man always looks awkward and nervous in photos – how can I make him relax for our pictures?

“Many couples are nervous about having their picture taken, and one of the big benefits of having a professional photographer is that they will be prepared for this; it’s part of a good photographer’s job to make you feel comfortable in front of the lens. The best thing you can do is follow your photographer’s instructions, even if they seem bizarre at the time. They will guide you both in how to come across as your most relaxed and comfortable selves,” advises Claire. This is also why meeting your photographer in person before booking is important: the better you get on with your photographer, the more relaxed you and your man will be when she’s snapping away.

Any suggestions for great wedding photos on a tight budget?

“An experienced photographer can make any wedding, expensive or not, look good. A less experienced photographer has the potential to make even the most expensive wedding look like it was photographed using a cell phone. So if you need to cut back, photography is not the place to do it. In 20 years’ time, you probably won’t care if the flowers were imported or picked in your backyard, if the guests had a gift at their place setting or if the cake was designer or homemade. What you will remember is if your photographs are a beautiful reminder of one of the most important days of your life. So don’t cheat yourself out of this keepsake by hiring an inexperienced photographer who won’t do your special day justice.”

How did you choose your wedding photographer?  Tweet us at  @GLAMOUR_sa with  #GLAMWedding to share!

Sarah Browning, 24, is the managing editor of GLAMOUR. She moved to SA from London three years ago and lives in Cape Town. In this  #GLAMWedding Wedding Blog, Sarah’s sharing her wedding-planning journey with you.  Join the conversation! Tweet your thoughts to Sarah via  @GLAMOUR_sa using  #GLAMWeddingTo view more weddings photographed by Claire Nicola King, visit

Follow Sarah on Twitter:  @sarahmbrowning

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