Finding the perfect Sydney wedding photographer is probably one of the hardest decisions you have to make in your wedding planning journey. There are literally thousands of photographers to choose from. Where on earth do you start? It is also one of the most important decisions you have to make because when the whole event is over, photography is one of the only tangible things you will have to show from your wedding. Wedding photography is also a family heirloom as your children and their children will see your wedding photos. This is the guide on how to choose the best Sydney wedding photographer that is right for you.
As the saying goes “The cake gets eaten, the flowers will die, the photos last forever.”
First off, let me say that this whole article is not a big ‘pick me, pick me as your wedding photographer in Sydney’. There is no big sales pitch at the end and I actually don’t want to photograph too many Sydney weddings. I would actually prefer to shoot a relaxed, rustic country wedding five hours from Sydney than battle with Sydney traffic.
The reason I am writing this is article is because there is very little information for engaged couples on how to choose the right wedding photographer for them. The internet is full of big wedding directories that dominate search results in google. And couples will only see those people who are willing to pay top dollar. Social media has also become less and less useful as
Wedding photographers in Sydney
Let’s start by talking about wedding photographers in Sydney. Wedding photography is an unregulated industry, meaning that anyone can pick up a camera and call themselves a photographer. Create a Facebook business page about weddings and there is your website. Charge a couple of hundred dollars and now you are a professional.
Every year in NSW there are between 36,000 and 41,000 marriages and Sydney would top the charts with the most marriages taking place. And every year on those ‘current affairs’ shows, you hear of disappointed brides who either hated their photos or got ripped off by some dodgy photographer.
So how do you know who is good and who is not? Here is our guide on how to choose the best Sydney wedding photographer that is right for you!
1. Word-of-mouth referrals
The first place you should start when looking for a Sydney wedding photographer is to ask your recently married friends and relatives who they used for their wedding.
There is no better way to start your wedding planning journey than to get a first-hand review of a wedding photographers product and service than from a friend or relative that has used them. You can hear the good things about them, the things they didn’t really like and you can hear just what it was like on the day to have them.
Now just because a friend may have loved their wedding photographer, doesn’t mean that that photographer is right for you or your wedding. Look at their wedding photos and see if you like them. Ask them if you can see their full gallery or wedding album and decided for yourself if you like the work they did.
Asking recently married friends and relatives who they used is a great place to start. But if you didn’t really like what you saw from them, then it’s best to search the traditional way. Google, wedding blogs, social media, wedding magazines etc. Hopefully, through your research, you can find some photographers whose work stands out to you.
2. Check out their wedding portfolio
Before you look into prices or anything else, it’s important to have a look at their wedding portfolio. A wedding photographer’s portfolio will be the photographer’s favourite photos from a whole bunch of different weddings. There will usually be a ‘portfolio’ page on their website. Otherwise many photographers use Instagram as a way to show their portfolio and recent work. Wedding photographer often do an end of year post, something like a ‘best of 2018 weddings‘. They are great posts to view a photographer’s recent portfolio. Here are some things to look for when viewing a portfolio:
- Do the images make you go wow! You want the images to have some impact on your visually.
- The quality of the photos actually
lookprofessional to you. Do images look overexposed, underexposed, crooked horizons, too photoshopped. Could you take a better photo on your iPhone?
- Do the photos make you feel some emotion? Weddings are high emotion events. People open up and laugh and cry. Is this captured?
- Can you see the personality of the couple in photos and moments?
- Is there variety in their portfolio. Different locations, different weddings, different people, photos shot indoors and outdoors, photos shot at night and during the day.
Once you like a wedding photographer portfolio, look through some of the recent weddings that they have photographed. Don’t just rely on their portfolio page or their
This will give you a good idea of how they photograph a wedding day from start to finish. Again, use the tips from above when using viewing the images. But also,
If there is a photographer that you like, but they don’t have any recent weddings online, you may have to contact them and see if they can send you a gallery from a recent wedding or go visit them to view some albums.
3. Wedding photography styles.
A photographer’s style is probably the most important factor when choosing a Sydney wedding photographer for your wedding. All photographers shoot the day differently to get the results they are after and for what they are known for. There are definitely different styles of wedding photography and the way the photographer shoots will greatly impact your experience of the day itself.
If you love the look of candid photos, it is important to choose a photographer that shows a lot of natural, candid moments. You don’t want to choose the wrong photographer and be stiffly posing all day. And likewise, if prefer the more posed, high-end glamorous/fashion style don’t choose a candid photographer. Because you will be sorely disappointed.
You need to choose a photographer whose work and style you love!!
To help explain style, I’ve broken it up into two categories:
Firstly – The way or style a photographer shoots the day. Their shooting style.
Secondly – The way a photographer edits the wedding photos. Their editing style.
Wedding photography shooting styles.
These are the main shooting styles that I see in most Sydney wedding photographers.
- Traditional Style – This is the traditional style of wedding photography dating back from the old school film days of wedding photography. This is a highly posed style where the photographer will literally pose every photo perfectly before taking a photo (except for the actual ceremony). It comes from the film days when a photographer only had 36 images on a roll of film. So they had to make every shot count. They will still take spontaneous shots but they are much more likely to set things up first and manufacture moments. For example, a traditional wedding photographer will get a group bridesmaids together, get the pose right and they say “on the count of three, pretend to laugh…” They work is still beautiful and they get consistent results.
- Candid Style – This style of shooting is also known as documentary style, photojournalistic style, reportage style or the natural style. And it basically means that the photographer will capture the day as it happens, like a fly on the wall. Capturing candid moments as they happen without prompts or interference. Candid photographers take a lot more photos because they are trying to capture that decisive moment. The beauty of digital photography is that they can easily delete photos that don’t work. The tricky part here is that you are more likely to get photos that could be considered unflattering, as there is very little posing involved. But if you want photos of you laughing and enjoying yourself at your wedding, then this style is great for you.
- Commercial Style – Commercial, fashion or editorial style wedding photography has a certain look to it that is primarily focused around perfect lighting. The sort of images that you can see on a billboard or in a glamourous wedding magazine. These photographers product absolutely beautiful images and use various flashes, strobes and lights with the help of assistants to achieve their look. The style takes slightly longer to achieve as it is much more posed and lighting has to be set up.
- Combo – A Sydney wedding photographer has to be a lot of things on a wedding day. They have to be a family photographer, a product photographer, a fashion photographer, a landscape photographer and probably many more. So often you will find photographers will use a combination of all these shooting styles throughout the day and maybe others that I haven’t mentioned. And depending on the photographer, they will probably use one style slightly more than the other.
If you are not sure what shooting style your potential photographer has you need to ask them to make sure they are a good fit for your personalities. Ask them how they like the day to run. Ask them how the ‘location portraits’ part of the day works. Try to get an idea and impression of how they work.
Wedding photography editing styles.
The way a photographer edits their photos is a huge influence on their style. Taking a photo is really only half the job. Editing wedding photos to give it the look you are after is a skill in itself. And photographers will also capture the day with their editing style in mind. There is no right and wrong here as art is totally subjective and I personally like all the different editing styles. It would be boring if everyone’s photos looked exactly the same.
These are the main editing styles as I see it. There are probably a lot more groups and subgroups, but these are the main ones. And as an engaged couple looking to hire a Sydney wedding photographer, it is good to be aware of what you are looking at.
- Classic, clean and modern – Clean edits with real natural colour.
- Light and airy – Lighter and brighter look, with slightly desaturated colours.
- Dark and moody – Darker and more dramatic images
- Trends – There are always trends with photo editing. At the moment, in wedding photography, the trend is to make everything really orange and desaturate the greens. It is a very popular look that you see o
nwedding blogs and with photographers. The problem with trends is that they date the photos. I can actually look at photographers work and have a pretty good idea of what presets they are using.
When you first see a lot of wedding photos, everything may have looked the same to you. Hopefully now when you look through a photographer’s portfolio you will now be able to see elements of photography style and how they achieve the look they do. And the more you look through lots of wedding photos, you will begin to see styles that you do and don’t like
3. Wedding photography experience.
How experienced in wedding photography does your photographer have
To excel in any field, you have to study and practice, practice, practice and this only comes with experience and learning from your mistakes. Some people say the 10,000 hours in any field means you will master it. This may or may not be true, but experience in wedding photography is very important.
Wedding photography is one of the most unpredictable, unforgiving, time
For instance, the work I am currently producing just doesn’t compare to the work I was doing ten years ago. And ten years ago, when I was shooting weddings in Sydney, I thought I was pretty damn good. But the reality was that I wasn’t really that good at all. I was producing work consistent with someone who had only been working for a couple of years in their field.
4. Good reviews
See if you can find good strong reviews from real couples on their photography business. Reviews will show that they are a legitimate business that is well established. Hopefully, there will be reviews from couples that tell you a bit about their experience of using them. By searching for reviews it will also show any ‘red flags’ to be aware of.
5. Contact them
If you have worked out what style of photography you like, and you’ve found a few photographers whose work you absolutely love, then it’s time to contact them to get more information about hiring them and to find out what the pricing and availability is. Most photographers will have a pdf price list or a private pricing page they will send you.
Contact them through their website or via email first. Don’t phone them as it’s good to get all quotes and correspondence in writing.
Here is the thing I want you to know when you contact a photographer via email. The good photographers are very passionate about the work they produce. They are producing artistic imagery. For the most part, they are insecure about their work and are always comparing their work to others in an effort to better themselves. They also want to photograph a
When a photographer gets an enquiry, they are genuinely excited. They are like “Wow I got this awesome enquiry for a wedding in Sydney at a venue I have wanted to shoot at for ages, and the couple sounds really nice”. So if you liked their work enough to contact them, then tell them. Please don’t write, “Hi, could you send me your pricing? Thanks!” Photographers want to photograph weddings for couples that genuinely love what they do.
Having said all that, if you do enquire and decide to go with someone else, please just have the courtesy to write back to them and tell them. Just a quick something like, “Hi Adam, thanks for getting back to us and for all the info. We love your work, but we’ve decided to go with another photographer. Wishing you all the best. Thanks!” There is nothing worse than the cold shoulder.
6. Check availability
If you connect with a particular photographer, contact them to check availability and to get an idea of their pricing. There are only so many Saturdays in a year, so they can book out early.
The top wedding photographer’s in Sydney can easily book out one or two years in advance, particularly during peak times like Spring or Autumn. So it is important to contact them early. A wedding photographer should be the second thing you book right after the wedding venue. In fact, if there is a photographer whose work you love, find out their availability during a certain period and book them based on when your venue is available.
It is not unusual to have couples change their wedding date so they get the photographer that they love.
It is also worth noting, that awesome wedding photographers will only do a limited amount of weddings per year. 30 to 50 weddings per year is pretty standard for a full time professional. Many are happy to do more. When I used to live in Sydney I was doing 60 -70 weddings per year. But they were pretty crazy years and it is easy to get burnt out, lose your passion and give less than 100% for every couple.
Big wedding photography studios are happy to take on hundreds of weddings per year as they employ or contract out a bunch of photographers to shoot them. This is not right or wrong, it’s just how they run their business. But you can read my thoughts on them further down.
7. Wedding photography prices.
As an engaged couple, that is the one thing you want to know. How much do wedding photographers charge?
The answer is… it depends. It can be anywhere from less than $500 to over $10,000+ It all really depends on the photographer’s experience, their cost of running a business, how many hours you want and other products and services you want in your wedding photography package. Like a wedding album, engagement shoot, multiple-day coverage, extra photographers etc. And weddings, like anything in life… you can spend as much money as you want. There are always more things you could buy.
If you looked at prices from a purely hourly rate of say 8 hours you could do a general breakdown of something like this:
<$1500 would be an amateur photographer trying to break into the wedding photography business.
$1500 to $2500 would be a weekend warrior. Someone who has a full-time job but shoots weddings on the weekend. There is nothing wrong with that. You can’t go full time in this business right away. Some weekend warriors who are good, actually charge more than this because their time is more valuable and they produce fantastic work.
$3000 to $4500+ would be a full time professional photographer.
So what is the difference between a $3000 professional wedding photographer and a $10,000 photographer?
There are a variety of reasons why there is such a price difference between professional photographers. The one thing I would say about ‘price’ is that a high price does not necessarily mean better photography. Some of the best wedding photographers I know in Sydney charge less than others, and they take much better photos in my opinion. Why?
- The costs of business for one business compared to another can affect the price. A studio, for instance, will have much higher overheads than someone working from home.
- The clientele and demographics that the photographer is aiming for. Having a certain price point will attract a certain client.
- The type of products like albums, parents albums, prints etc can increase the photography package cost.
- Supply and demand. A photographer who is extremely popular can increase their pricing because there is high demand.
- Good marketing. Selling themselves as someone worth paying for.
A higher price does not necessarily mean better photography, but it is a place to start.
8. If photography is important to you, pay for the photographer you love.
Some couples who have the money to spend, don’t see the importance of good photography. And they don’t see any point paying a professional Sydney wedding photographer thousands of dollars to cover their wedding. That is perfectly fine.
I know people who are very comfortable financially, but they would never pay for me to photograph their Sydney wedding. Why? Because they don’t value photography. They would rather spend money on something else. And that is fine. Wedding photography is not a necessity, it is a luxury item or service.
Professional wedding photography isn’t for everyone. If it is not an important priority to you, then by all means, hire a friend or an amateur photographer to capture your wedding. But just be realistic with the results that you will get. Don’t expect amazing photos and consistent results throughout the whole day.
But if photography is important to you then you should invest in the wedding photographer you love. It’s also not fair to compare a professional wedding photographers prices with someone who is an amateur. If you think they are out of your budget and are just a bit too expensive then maybe you should adjust your budget? Take five people off your guest list and you’ve just saved $1000 right there.
9. Studio vs individual artist
As an individual artist in the wedding industry, you can guess that I am probably a bit biased here. I would 100% encourage couples to book an individual photographic artist whose work you love over a wedding photography studio every time. A person whose name is on the business will work his or her butt off for you. It is their name on the line. They will work hard all day and all night because they want to create amazing imagery, not only for you but also for them. As an artist, it is in their nature to want to create amazing images and capture beautiful moments.
Sure, there will be good and bad examples on both sides, but in my opinion, you will get much better photos from an individual artist than from a random photographer working for a random studio getting paid by the hour.
10. Choosing a photographer who has shot at your wedding venue.
This is one of the most useless pieces of advice I see written on wedding websites and blogs all the time. The logic is that if they have photographed at your wedding venue before that they will know all the best locations, they know where everything is to know and you will get the most amazing photos because they have been there before.
It makes absolutely no difference to the quality of photos if your photographer has shot at your venue before or not.
Just because a photographer has shot at your wedding venue doesn’t mean that they will take the sort of photos that you will love.
A good professional photographer will do a quick scout of the venue and locations either before the wedding or on the day itself. Photography is all about light and where you shoot will often be dictated by the light that you get on the day. The light on the day is more important than the location. If the light is bad (meaning harsh or unflattering) at the location you were thinking, then a good wedding photographer will move you to somewhere else where the light is better.
A photographer who has never photographed at your venue will also see the venue with fresh eyes and newer perspectives. A photographer who always shoots at a certain venue will have certain spots that they always like to go to. It does not mean you will get better photos.
You should hire a photographer based on their style and quality of work. Not because they have photographed at your wedding before.
11. Get to know your photographer.
Your Sydney wedding photographer is going to be the person you spend the most time with on your wedding day. They may not always be talking and interacting with you, but they will be around all day and all night. You don’t need them to be your best friends but it is important that you think you will be comfortable with him or her on your wedding day.
I have also heard all the horror stories, normally from members of the bridal party who are married, who had a bad experience with their chosen photographer. The stories I hear mainly centre around the photographer
Friendly, helpful, outgoing, relaxed even funny is what you want on your wedding day from a photographer, not stressed, angry, flustered or disinterested.
So get to know your photographer a bit. You don’t necessarily have to meet in person. Get to know them through their website, through email communication and through their social media. Have a chat on the phone or arrange a Skype meeting. If you are not 100% sure that your personalities will click, meet up for a coffee or a drink.
12. Wedding Photography Awards.
Should you get an award-winning wedding photographer?
I used to love awards when I first started. For someone starting out, an award gives your work more credibility in your eyes and in the eyes of your clients. I still list my awards on this website because people like to see them.
BUT wedding photography awards and wedding industry awards, in general, are absolutely useless. They mean s*#t and every Tom, Dick and Harry has an award of some sort. There are so many photography related and wedding-related awards and more come out every single year. Photographers also have to pay to enter awards. They are not just given out randomly to awesome people. The only people benefiting from awards are the people that organise the awards. They make the money.
“Every real estate office has some framed, five-diamond president’s award thing by the desk, every hotel check-in has some gold circle service thing; every car salesman is a platinum jubilee winner. It’s all a big jerk off. It is, the hotel sucks, the real estate person is stupid, and the only thing the car salesman is good at is ripping you off.”Jerry Seinfeld
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that photographers who enter awards aren’t great photographers. Many of them are amazing in fact. But just because they win an award, does not necessarily mean that they will be the right Sydney wedding photographer for you. So take awards with a grain of salt. They are a nice marketing tool for a photographer and that’s about all.
13. Do you need two wedding photographers?
Many wedding blogs, websites will tell you that you need to get two Sydney wedding photographers. Some photographers and studio’s use two photographers as a selling point. But do you actually need two photographers?
The pros for two photographers:
- Two photographers can cover each person getting ready.
- You get different angles of the same moment during the ceremony and reception.
- If you want two different events covered at the same time.
- They can work together and support each other throughout the day.
- There is always backup if something happens to one photographer.
- You need two photographers because you have a huge wedding with 200+ people.
The cons for two photographers:
- You have hired an awesome Sydney wedding photographer to capture the day through their eyes and vision. Do you really need another photographer (who most likely won’t be as good) taking photos as well?
- It is an extra expense in most cases.
- It’s better to get one great photographer than two mediocre photographers.
- Is it really necessary to get two photos of the same thing?
- The reality is that it doesn’t matter how big your wedding actually is. Your wedding photographers main focus is the wedding couple.
My personal opinion is that you should hire one great photographer instead of two average photographers. Then ask that photographer if they think you should get another photographer. They can often arrange a second photographer if it’s really needed.
14. I found the perfect Sydney wedding photographer but I can’t afford them :(
Hopefully, by using this Sydney wedding photography guide, you were able to find the perfect wedding photographer that is right for you. But what do you do if you found the perfect photographer but can’t afford them? Here are some ideas:
- Cull your guest list. Do you really need your second cousins and all their family coming to your wedding?
- Arrive in an Uber instead of an old vintage wedding car or stretch limo.
- Ask guests to give money instead of gifts and that money can pay for wedding photography.
- Book your dream photographer for fewer hours or a base package to save money.
- Do an engagement shoot with them, so you at least get some beautiful photos of the two of you in an awesome location. Engagement shoots are a lot more affordable than full day wedding coverage.
- Get dressed up in your wedding gear again and do a post-wedding shoot for a couple of hours mid-week with your ideal photographer. Post-wedding shoots are a lot more affordable than full day wedding coverage.
- Do you have a skill, service or product of a similar monetary value, that you could use as a trade for wedding photography services? It’s worth a try.
15. Book the photographer you trust, and trust the photographer you book.
Once you have booked your awesome Sydney wedding photographer, trust them before the wedding and during the wedding.
Get their advice for timings for the day and for vendors you should book. A wedding photographer is the one vendor that is at the wedding from start to finish. They see every part of the day and the experienced ones have seen it all.
On the wedding day itself, just let your wedding photographer do their thing. Enjoy yourself and put your trust them. Take their advice on the day for when and where you should do things because they just want to capture the best images possible for you.
So I hope these tips have been helpful for you and I hope you have an awesome wedding experience.