When you start looking at booking a photographer, you will send out some enquiries and get back a heap of different options.
You will probably find that most photographers will have 2-4 packages to choose from, or offer “A la Carte” where you put together your own package (pro-tip, most packages offer significant savings and contain the items that most couples will end up wanting when it is all said and done… even if they didn’t think they would to start with).
You will find that there are two questions that are crucial to answer to best choose your wedding photography package.
How many hours of coverage do I need?
How many photographers will I need?
The answers to these questions vary greatly. You will need to consider factors such as geographic locations of Bride Prep, Groom Prep, Ceremony and Reception. You will need to have a reasonable idea of your timeline. Factors such as the size of your bridal party will also impact this, as well as the number of people that you will want family photos with, the style of your ceremony (so how long it will take), etc.
So, lets look at question 1. How many hours of coverage do I need?
The first thing I do when answering this question is to tell my couples to start from the time they are happy for the photographer to leave, and work backwards. If you are planning a sparkler exit at Midnight, and want the whole nine yards with bouquet toss, garter toss, First dance, father daughter dance, lots of party time on the dance floor with everyone, then you are probably looking at a late finish. Lets say midnight. So then you need to work back from there and look at ceremony time, and what time you plan on heading to the ceremony. Lets say its a 3pm ceremony, and its going to take you 30 minutes to get there. So if you just want a little Bridal prep coverage, say fastening of the dress etc, then you realistically are going to want a photographer on hand from 1pm. So already we have 11 hours coverage. If you are wanting full bride prep and groom prep, then pretty quickly you can be pushing 14-15 hours of coverage for a single photographer.
On the other hand, you might just be planning an intimate little elopement at a single venue, for example Quamby Estate. Everyone is getting ready there, the ceremony is there, the reception is there, and you aren’t planning any late night partying. You might decide you want to finish up on dusk, which in the middle of summer might be 9pm. You have a 4 pm ceremony planned and really just want a few “getting ready” photos, but not the whole process. So you might decide that 5 hours wil cover this.
Ultimately, my advice is always to start at the end of the day and work backwards, deciding how much of the getting ready stages are important to you, and how much of the tail end of your reception (Party Time!!) you want covered.
Next up, 2. How many Photographers do I need?
Well, the first thing I suggest couples consider there is the style of photography they have hired their photographer for. If you have gone with Reportage/Documentary/Photojournalistic style coverage, you won’t want people everywhere, you want your photographer to be able to melt away unseen into the shadows. You want the least external influences present possible, so if you can get away with it, just get one.
That said, you may want a photojournalistic approach, but want coverage for both of you getting ready, and geographical distance will prevent one photographer from doing that. So you might decide to have two photographers for just the prep, or maybe the whole day. Speaking from my own experience, I have an awesome team of ninjas… I mean photographers… who are fantastic at just blending in and capturing moments as they happen. We have also worked together so much that during the times where we both might be present, we still don’t impact on the moment ourselves, and we work seamlessly to cover multiple angles and still not make our couples feel like there are photographers everywhere. So with the right team, you can have two photographers and still get nice candid imagery. The key things to consider are distance and space.. two photographers in a tight enclosed space (like prep) will not work so well for documentary style coverage.
If you want more formal or classic photography, with formal group and family photos, with posed portraits, then you really should be looking at two photographers, and maybe even two photographers + assistant (though don’t panic about that, most photographers will just bring an assistant if they need one, and all you may have to do is provide the extra meal)
Why? ok, so first, having two photographers for this style of wedding allows a few things to happen. Firstly, you get both of you getting ready. Then, you get a second shooter who can help the primary by holding lights and reflectors etc, dealing with bulky equipment when the primary is busy shooting, and you get a team for the formal posed group shots. Having two people for these means that one can drive the camera, while the other makes sure everyone is standing correctly, and keep the images looking neat and tidy. Additionally, two photographers means multiple angles are covered during the ceremony and reception. Ione photographer staying locked on you guys and your bridal party, the other covering your guests. One covering whoever is giving a speech, the other scanning the room for peoples reactions.
Why then would they need an assistant as well? Well, maybe you want someone taking photos of your guests while the formal family photos are happening, or during your bridal part shoot & portaits. so then the assistant can help the primary, while the second covers the stuff that you are missing out on seeing.
In both cases, when you want that classic/formal look, you are putting an additional expectation on your photographer, and depending on the light and conditions one the day, their job might be simple- working with natural light, or might get complicated- adding multiple artificial light sources through the day, something that is extremely difficult running solo. The key thing here is that with the formal/clssic style photography there is a lot more complex work, and they have to be equipped and capable of dealing with almost any situation that arises. To deal with this solo might mean shots are missed due to time constraints.
So if you have decided that you are looking at having a second photographer on board, why not get that friend or relative that likes photography to tag along? Or maybe you could book a second photographer for part of the day?
Consistency and teamwork is why. You want your photographers working together cohesively and not getting in each others way. You want efficiency… Weddings are hard work to photograph. Your photographer might be working flat out for 8-10 hours with no drink or toilet breaks, switching from one part of the day to the next, constantly in motion. Anything that does not fit this 100% will impact their performance, and ultimately the images that are delivered. They are dealing with enough variables through the day, so adding a rogue photographer into the mix is just a bad idea. Trust them to bring the right team to do the job.
So.. that was a lengthy post, but I hope it has helped your decision making process…
I’m going to leave you with this one last thought:
Ultimately it will be a balance between budget and photography. With that in mind, it is better to have the photographer that you REALLY want for the most important bits of the day, than 2 all day that you weren’t so keen on, but they were cheap and gave you everything for the price of the really good one for a few hours. Consider hiring that one photographer for less hours, and finding other ways to record the not so important bits (I’ll give some tips about that in another post).