The marriage date is fixed. The venue finalised. The countdown to the big day has begun. But have you arranged for the person who is going to be spending the most amount of time with you on your wedding day? No, we are not talking about your spouse-to-be but the person who will be capturing your most precious moments on your most important day.

A post-wedding shoot by Paresh
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Finding the right wedding photographer is quite like finding your dream spouse, say wedding planners. So, what do you need to keep in mind when booking a photographer?

Here are pointers from some leading wedding photographers in Dubai:

1. Do your homework

Review websites of wedding photographers to get an idea of the kind of work they have done, says Christophe Viseux, Dubai-based wedding photographer (christopheweddingphoto.com) who shoots on average one wedding every week. ‘It’s important to find a style of photography that you can connect with, you are happy with and would like to have,’ he says. ‘The website will give you a feel of the final pictures that you can expect to get.’

Paresh Gehi, head of Dubai-based Luminous Productions specialising in wedding photography, takes it a step further. ‘The client must see at least one full gallery of one wedding before deciding on a photographer,’ he says. ‘A few handpicked pictures may look good, but the magic is created when the entire event is showcased as a story. Also, it’s important to ensure that the photographer has covered a wedding of a similar culture and tradition as yours.’

Melon of The Melrish Studio, too insists that online research is key to shortlisting a wedding photographer. ‘It’s important to choose the style of photography that you like. If the style you have in mind does not match that of the photographer’s, you are unlikely to be happy with the end result.’

2. Decide the budget

‘Most people compare costs when they should be comparing the quality of work,’ says Christophe. ‘The average budget for a wedding shoot is anywhere between Dh10,000 and Dh20,000 depending on the number of hours that the wedding would take.’

Melon calls her outfit ‘more mid-range’. A four-hour package starts at around Dh8,500, she says, adding a smaller package starting at around Dh3,500 without an album is also available. ‘The rates of photographers depend on the time required for the shoot,’ she says.

According to Paresh, the per event fee starts at Dh2,400 for a traditional style photographer. ‘The rates would vary depending on whether the client requires documentary, artistic or candid styles of wedding photography,’ he says.

3. Meet the photographer

Once the budget has been finalised the next important step is to meet with the photographer.

‘Remember, the photographer is the person you will be spending the most amount of time with on your wedding day,’ says Melon. ‘So it’s important you vibe well with him/her.’ She suggests that the couple and the parents, if possible, have an extended conversation either individually or together with the photographer so everyone is on the same page when it comes to the kind of pictures they would like to have.

Christophe finds India ‘very colourful’ for shooting weddings
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Christophe, too says it is very important to meet with and talk to the couple much before the wedding day. ‘I like to meet them face-to-face, talk with them and get to know them in advance.’ He prefers taking along an album of his work when meeting the client. ‘It’s always better to see pictures in print rather than online and my album helps me introduce myself and my work.’

A wedding Paresh shot in Dubai
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Paresh says that he sits down with the couple and their families to get to know them better much before starting the shoot. ‘We need to understand the flow and important pictures in the couple’s mind and what they are expecting from us. The look and feel that the couple want of their pictures is very important. The more we can sit and ask questions, the better,’ he says. Upping it a level, he also asks the couple to make a Pinterest gallery of the pictures they like. ‘That helps us gauge what kind of pictures they have in mind.’

4. Discuss the shoot

‘It’s important that the photographer know the basics – like the number of guests expected, the event flow, the venue - so that we can decide on the manpower requirements,’ says Paresh. ‘Also, it is extremely important that the couple list the important members of the family and who needs to be given special attention during the wedding. This way, the photographer will ensure that no one is inadvertently left out from the photographs.

‘We also show them samples of what the end result would be like. If the couple has some ideas, they can share them with us. We could see if we can achieve that.’

Conversation with the couple and family is important to get to know their expectations, says Melon. ‘Some important questions we ask are what kind of wedding it is (whether there’s a theme), the number of guests, number of hours.

‘We also try to get as much of the couple’s story from them and their family so that we can create images that reflect their story. We try not to make the creative overshadow the couple’s big day. It’s important to translate their big day into lovely memories, so it’s not about excess artistic style but more about their story. The idea is that when people watch the wedding photographs or the video, they get to know a little more about the couple and are not overwhelmed by the photography.’

Christophe prefers getting an early confirmation for the wedding so that he can prepare for the couple’s big day by talking to them and getting to know them well. ‘My work is more contemporary and I like to capture the day as it progresses without interfering too much. Some photographers like to do a lot of posed shots and there are couples who are looking for that as well, but I like to do a more documentary style of shooting weddings.’

Melon agrees. ‘The couple should be open to telling the photographer what kind of shots they prefer – after all it’s their big day and their story needs to be told in the best and most beautiful way. While we specialise in photojournalistic or fine art documentary style, we also do posed shots if that’s what the couple prefers.’

5. Sign a contract

‘Once the budget has been decided, draw up a contract with the photographer that includes the deliverables – when you will get and what you will get,’ says Melon. ‘For instance, we give the couple the entire set of wedding images that could be around 1,000 pictures. We also do short 3- to 5-minute videos showing the highlights of the wedding apart from the extended video as well. We also provide the client with the raw footage.’

The deliverables must be discussed and confirmed in advance, agrees Christophe, too. ‘The client needs to specify whether they want soft copies or an album. I personally push for the album. The digital version is often viewed only during the initial few weeks or maybe a couple of months after the wedding. But if there is a physical album with pictures, that will sit on the table and the couple, the family and guests will actually open and flip through them.’

Other points to keep in mind

One photographer or two?

It would depend on the size of the wedding and expectations of the couple. If you are looking for a lot of guest coverage, you may need more than one photographer, says Christophe.

‘If there are several events happening at the same time during the wedding, then more than one photographer would be required. But we generally recommend one photographer,’ says Melon.

‘If the guests are around 250 one photographer is good enough to cover that in around 4-6 hours. More than that would require a second photographer,’ says Paresh.

How early to book the photographer

‘If you have confirmed the venue, you can start looking for a photographer. Preferably at least a month’s notice would help the photographer understand the requirements, event flow and be prepared to do his best,’ says Paresh

Melon too prefers at least a month’s notice although more time is always better, she says.