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Choosing a Wedding Photographer

Choosing a Wedding Photographer

The beautiful Bride Sarah getting married at La Virginia Chapel in Marbella.

The beautiful Bride Sarah after getting married at La Virginia Chapel in Marbella.

 

How do I find the right photographer for me

We have decided to take the risky step of sharing our experiences and behind the scenes knowledge of the wedding industry here in Marbella, in a bid to help others see how they will save time when choosing a photographer but even more importantly to help avoid hiring someone that is not right for them. After 28 years on the coast I cant help but notice trends in the way people are approaching this often touchy subject that has been the reason for war between many people and places here in Marbella and so by following this guide you should be able to avoid any chance of being one of the poor suckers behind these misfortunes and instead go on to have one of the most important days of your life visually documented in the way you want.

A real time fire in wedding couples portrait background

DONT WORRY, IT'S EASY

Simply read this guide to distinguish the facts appropriate for you and we promise it wont leave you hanging or more confused than when you started, as simple solutions are included. Please note however that this page is aimed at (and therefore more relevant to) people wanting to manually find a photographer on their own, if you wish to avoid all of this and have the hard work done for you for free then simply ignore this page and take advantage of our complimentary photographer locator service

Photographer falling over

 

Firstly it's a shame this document has to be so long, especially when we pride ourselves in simplifying the services we offer in such an amazing way. We know business is easy and it's people that make it complicated so like many other things in life that should be simple, the details of our findings need to be fanned out clearly so as to cater for all. Getting the correct information is not always easy for people who aren't in the industry, so don't feel bad if you're struggling a little, for example much of the available info is simply untrue, a Bride or Groom may tell people they liked their photographer but this is not always case as more than often they simply just don't want to acknowledge their disappointment or have spare the time to start going into detail. While some couples might say that they are genuinely happy with their photographer, others slate all over social media & ruin the reputation of that same photographer when we see that the offending issue turns out to be something petty in most rational peoples minds. Wedding photographers are easily targeted to these attacks by people who think the cost is high 'for just pushing a button' or when showing others their images they try to blame the skills of the photographer when in fact the images are great and they were possibly just not happy with something else.

Like many other industries or professions where you do not find out the results until after its too late, the secret to manually finding the right wedding photographer is most definitely to balance out the probability (whether good or bad) and come to your own rational decision based on fact. Whilst faith, gut instinct and intuition are all great and lovely to use as a guide at times, your wedding day photography is of course of an unrepeatable one off and often expensive event that perhaps should not be largely decided on personal feelings and more on resulting evidence of many years experience.

 

Female wedding photographer on the beachHOW TO FIND THE RIGHT WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER  

There are of course various ways to find & filter photographers and we intend to share with you the pros & cons of each so that couples & 'Brides to be' who read this can better utilise their time planning what they want instead of unnecessarily sieving through, studying, researching & selecting from the unbelievable amount of Marbella wedding photographers or people that claim to be Marbella wedding photographers. You may be surprised at the amount of couples that after becoming overwhelmed with choice, actually result in using faith as part of their process, they often don't know which photographers are more suited to them or which are even genuine. More & more couples are finding out the hard way though and we truly hope to put a stop to this sadness or at least lower the figures by sharing our knowledge here... hopefully in a way that doesn't upset too many photographers, planners, venues & suchlike, although we certainly don't care about upsetting the charlatans and outright scammers. We welcome comments here, especially if they can assist in the improvement and subsequent editing of this page as the information here is in fact already constructed from the hard work and miss fortunate experiences of the many people sharing their stories with us. Thankfully we know we have already helped others here and due to their previous positive comments, edits have already been made and we now feel it documents many useful facts in the most non bias way possible and we hope it helps you too.

 

Commissions going in peoples pockets

WHY THIS INFO ISN'T AVAILABLE ELSEWHERE

The reason the information we are offering here is not openly accessible is quite simple, the fact is that most people either don't know it or are too scared to share it due to their business or personal association with others in this close community here. Everyone knows everyone in Marbella and in the wedding industry even more! You often closely socialise with these same people whether you want to or not, or work alongside these people throughout the year and we know this networking is needed as it's rare that anyone will make it here without being associated in some way to the persons & places influential enough to be causing these problems and getting away with it... but on a lighter note however, it's just not good sales to mention so many pitfalls and so of course everyone avoids it. Why are we sharing it then? Quite simply, after our many years of caring for locals and offering our free services to them, we eventually gave up, we knew it was impossible to help everyone without our clients losing out and so we decided to run PhotoMarbella as a 100% independent agency. We never fell out with anyone or made any enemies, we just knew that we weren't happy helping locals for free while our clients were losing out, so as of 1st January 2012 we decided to "no longer be associated with any particular individual, business, association, premises, club, service, group or persons", this means quite simply that to keep our prices down and save you paying for things unnecessarily, you will not find us related to anyone else.

 

Bride chatting online'BRIDES TO BE' TELL ME ALL I NEED

If only this was correct. In fact it's rare that upset newly weds who have been misled will even go to the pain of reminding themselves about their bad experience and start writing detailed posts about them on the internet, it's of course a negative way to start their new married life. Yes I say 'newly weds' because unfortunately couples don't usually find out the bad news regarding their chosen photographer until their wedding day or later (both of which are of course too late), yet these occurrences still happen and contribute to a depreciation in the value of our local wedding photography industry. We noticed that the lack of trust caused by this is in fact affecting the entire industry here as the amount of money couples are willing to 'gamble' is of course always lower than what they would be happy to pay if they had a guarantee the services they receive would be exactly what they wanted. A recent follow up service to foreign & expat couples that got married in Spain revealed that a large number were ultimately unhappy or sometimes even devastated with something regarding the photo or video capture and so as an independent agency we thought we should help and share this information with you. We noticed that while the venues, planners & suppliers were all fighting over a each & every enquiry, this scavengous behaviour was becoming more & more absurd, the happy couples with no local knowledge made easy targets and therefore were unfortunately the only ones ever losing out. Whilst the venue still got paid and often free images from the day and a commission, the planner got another notch, their free images and a larger commission, the photographer although now disappointed at what they have been left with after all the extra work (and paying the commissions) at least still gets paid, but it's the Bride & Groom that receive a lower end service at a higher price or sometimes even pain & suffering. What helped make up our minds to go this bizarre route of solidarity was when we were informed that photographers were being asked to pay commissions the total amount 'including any wedding albums', well many order these albums at cost and yet the high end albums can go into large figures, so how on earth were photographers expected to pay a commission them. The photographers hotel & travelling costs amongst other things were of course sometimes added to the package and yet photographers were expected to pay commissions to one or more places on this too, bizarre behaviour indeed. Of course none of this was acceptable so we decided to separate from the pack and help try and put a stop to this by warning couples before hand. Our message is quite simple... we care more about our clients than any local venue or supplier and therefore we concentrate our efforts on how our service can help the Bride, not a few euros of commission.

WHY BELIEVE US
We know that the majority of what you see regarding Marbella photographers on the internet is of course coming from bias places or people either associated with the photographer in some way or another, whether this be a friend, relative, commission earner or a receiver of free images for promoting their services, but the reason we do not follow this pattern is because we are the only free agency in southern Spain dedicated solely to expat operators & foreign clients. Due to this unique position we can be braver than others when it comes to the truth about our experience over many years and we hope that as long as you know this information, you should be able to make a more conscientious decision and obtain the right photographer for you. We just want to be the good guys, yes it did affect business at the beginning and weddings were down for three years, but our bold decision is finally starting to pay off and we love our new unique position of being able to use our power for good.

 

 

 Choosing a wedding photographer on the Costa del Sol, Spain

METHODS YOU CAN USE TO FIND PHOTOGRAPHERS

In no real particular order, here is an overview of the methods you might adopt when looking for a wedding photographer and hopefully you will see some new ideas to try... or avoid:

 

Search Engines
Google and suchlike can bring to the top the popular photographers in any area, however we know that people can simply pay for advertising that does not merit hard work and we have a mass of artists who spend their time perfecting art and not sitting doing SEO at a keyboard. Amazing artists can spend so much extra time unpaid on their images that they would not have the funds to pay a search engine or internet guru.
  pros: Search engines are quick to sieve through and to start collecting any names or contact details.
  cons: Like any industry the amazing talents aren't always seen by Google's bots & crawlers.
    Google CustomSearch

CostaSearch
CostaSearch is our local search engine on the Costa del Sol, it filters out much of the useless stuff that's on Google and adds things that are more personalised to us here on the coast. 
  pros: More personalised information than the bigger search engines
  cons: Some photographers may be missing from the search
    CostaSearch.com

Wedding Websites
We of course know that most 'Brides to be' love chatting and sharing information they have found and more than often they are happy to lend a hand based on their research by sharing their own experiences and even sending you their photographer list, however they don't always and some like to keep their findings to themselves. Remember also that these Brides will possibly not find out any problems until after the wedding so are unable to advise yoo now.
  pros: They often have first hand experience in to dealing with a particular photographer.
  cons: They only receive some of the needed information & some photographers names.
    List Wedding Websites

Social Networks
Facebook is of course stuffed with wedding photographer profiles, apps, groups, pages & more... so if these people see that you could potentially be bringing some cash to Marbella then they will be all over you, happy to offer anything (possible or not), just anything that might get them a deposit. The majority of English speaking photographers here rely mostly or often solely on couples travelling to Spain and therefore up to 100% of their market is in the dark about what goes on in reality here.
  pros: The largest networks will show the masses as most photographers have a business profile or page.
  cons: Most of this info is supplied by themselves or bias suppliers, vendors, venues and suchlike.
    Facebook CustomSearch

Forums
Whilst its all about numbers and power, posters on popular forums can quite possibly supply the names of photographers, but again these posters are usually foreign Brides that of course have no experience in the wedding or photography industry in Marbella.
  pros: Forums are quick to search and show the wide variety of different tastes & styles out there.
  cons: Often the information is either bias, based on rumours, bitching and/or outdated information.
    Wedding Forums

Planner Suppliers Lists
A very sensitive area that as a result of our honesty has already seen us excluded by some from their "Preferred Suppliers" lists. As the planner they of course hold the keys to it all, so where possible they might select a photographer list based on what commissions they will receive and not necessarily which photographers are right for the Bride.
  pros: They can offer photographer lists and possibly even free or reduced photography as an incentive.
  cons: The lists often include obligated & discontented low budget photographers who unwantingly have to pay commissions.
    Local Planners

Venue's Resident Photographer
Whilst some people might say that a resident photographer is safer as they will know the venue better than anyone, others say that the venue photographers are often part-time amateurs that were unable to make a business of wedding photography on their own. All we can say is that any professional photographer (most of which would have probably shot at the venue in question previously anyway) can walk into any environment, anywhere & under any conditions and create the same stereotypical shots shown on venue websites. In fact having an independent photographer can often give you the uniqueness you might be looking for anyway, as they have a new fresh perspective and are not swayed by the these easier & more commonly used shots that for whatever reason might not even look so special now.
  pros: Resident photographers can be safer if your next favourite photographer is not professional.
  cons: They are often paid little and this can naturally reflect in their efforts.
    Local Venues

Wedding Fairs
Great fun of course and a chance to see who has the spare cash to splash on a stand, whilst many of the higher end photographers may choose to not join the circus anyway, some lower end photographers have the luxury to be able to easily afford anything they need, so success and suitability shouldn't necessarily be measured on a photographers visibility at an exhibition.
  pros: Good entertainment and an indication of who the most elaborate wedding photographers are.
  cons: These photographers often need to charge more to cover these extra expenditures.
    Fairs & Exhibitions

Local Bars & Social Places
It is a proven fact that where alcohol is involved there can be errors and at minimum some misjudgement. You will find that many are willing to help a tourist by openly expressing their undying love or utter hatred for a local photographer, but how many of these people have actually hired that photographer or any local photographer remains more than often to be seen. Our last survey showed that many did not even know any of the differences between a photographer and a wedding photographer or many of the requirements needed to be one.
  pros: Honest advice from the heart I'm sure... and you can have a cold drink :)
  cons: Rumours in bars are largely based on negatives, hang on that can actually be a pro.
    Popular Bars

Word of Mouth
It is unfortunate that whilst a photographer might have a high 99% client satisfaction rate, there will often be that one perdon that will for whatever reason spread the word of negativity. It is also unfortunate that a bad photographer who is a popular person will undoubtedly receive great local recommendations. One of the biggest scammers we know of is most definitely on the surface the nicest person you will ever meet and yet one of our high end photographers in extremity reserved at times and therfore not so popular. The long and short of it is that wherever there is word of mouth, it's again more than often not based on hard evidence or even actual facts of the weddings a photographer has shot at, so we just need to bear this in mind.
  pros: Its nice to hear someone willing to personally vouch or even warn you about something.
  cons: Word of mouth is rarely based on factual evidence.
    We guess Popular Bars again

PhotoMarbella Free Locator Service
Of course we don't stay here late at work writing posts like this for no reason, we have a goal to be the most recognised place for wedding photography by utilising our wide knowledge and database of photographers on the Costa del Sol and I guess we shouldn't start trying to find and promote any cons in our system. We are different however and will practice what we preach by being honest in that our service is perhaps not for everyone, some couples have much time on their hands and are happy to do it all manually. Although one thing they might not have seen is the safety we offer that couples can often actually hire the exact same photographer and receive the same package cheaper booking with us. Yes, because we supply bulk weddings to photographers we often have deals that mean we can hire them cheaper than anyone and because we are a free service you save this money. Further to this there are many other benefits including the fact that photographers protect their position on our database by ensuring they give their upmost best to us and our ability to switch photographers for you if needed... or supply an emergency one... anyway this is starting to sound like a plug for our service which was not our intention in this post.
  pros: Free professional, impartial dedicated service with safety & discounts lower than hiring direct.
  cons: The time you wasted before finding us :)
    PhotoMarbella Locator Service

 

A woman who has found her wedding photographerSO YOU'VE FOUND A SELECTION AND NEED TO NARROW THEM DOWN

Taking away the fact that despite efforts we all often just go for what felt right way back at the beginning of a search, there are however a number of useful things you should take into consideration when eliminating unsuitable photographers. There are also things you can easily ask them, whether outright or just in casual conversation, but all of which will ultimately answer whether they are right for you.

 

THINGS TO ASK PHOTOGRAPHERS

What cameras do they use? - When you have the model, simply Google it.
Just as 'Brides to be' love talking about their day, photographers love to share how proud they are of the their equipment and if after searching their model it comes back as a 299€ entry level kit then you can pretty much say that another operators camera at 6,000€ will be more capable of taking better images. Price is not gospel as the 45,000€ Hasselblad H4D wont help you much at a wedding and all this relies of course on the skills of the operator, but a good guide however is that crop sensor camera kits cannot keep up under low light or fast movement, so you should in these cases be looking for a photographer using a 'full frame' body and probably prime lenses. A guide to low light or fast movement is the lenses needs to at least able to open to an f-stop of 2.8 and if it opens wider to f1.2 or an even lower denomination, then all the better.

How many images do they usually capture? - This is usually different to how many they will supply.
A common amount of shots taken at a full day wedding with a single photographer and one camera commonly ranges from 2,000 to 3,500 and as most of the higher end photographers shoot with second camera and/or a second shooter this figure can easily go up to 5,000+. We do not think for a minute that you should receive all of them, but after the time-staking job of filtering the no's (blinking, strange facial expression or mistakes etc.) you should ensure that you are at least getting a good percentage of the remainder... if you want the fuller story that is. If you are looking for more creative stuff then don't be shy to ask your photographer to offer less images but spend more time capturing/selecting/editing them.

Have they captured multiple weddings in the area? - Preferably at your chosen venue.
If they can't offer you examples of a collection of full local weddings captured, then they may either be a newcomer to the area or not even a legitimate wedding photographer. Whilst it's easy to open a free website and post a few collected or even stolen images that make them look like a successful photographer, its harder for them (but still not impossible) to obtain entire galleries. To solve this issue you are welcome to contact us regarding our complimentary 'Photographer Authenticity Service'.

Will they send you a full-resolution example? - Preferably the RAW file but if not a full-res jpeg image.
They may not send you the RAW file (which would pretty much prove that they took the shot), but they should always be happy to send you a full resolution jpeg image from the gallery you choose. Why wouldn't they? It can be watermarked so it's of no risk to be used elsewhere and it would only demonstrate their good quality, basically any good photographer will almost beg at times for the chance to show their work in its full resolution entirety, instead of potential clients only seeing a low-resolution internet iPad version. If your photographer cannot or will not supply this (or when you receive one and zoom in it is not pin sharp) then this is of course a warning sign.

What do they offer as digital negatives? - Discs, USBs & downloads should be full-resolution & unwatermarked.
Many photographers make their extra money by limiting parts of their service or the package, we are not saying this is wrong as it's common practice in any industry, but we dislike this method none the less as its often overlooked and instead ensure all our own packages come with everything. We get inundated with emails asking us "is this included" and "is that included" and they are always nicely surprised after we confirm time after time that we are giving them everything and that there are 'no hidden costs whatsoever'. Ask your photographer for an in depth & detailed list of the precise contents of a particular package and this should include the words 'full resolution' & 'unwatermarked' or compatible equivalents.

How fit are they? - Find their personal Facebook page to ensure they maintain a healthy lifestyle.
If it's not bad enough that wedding photography is most commonly booked more than one year in advance and anyone can change in that time, if you are wanting your your photographer to capture your day fully, it often helps if they are both physically & mentally fit and strong. Even an passenger aeroplane with a super fit pilot has the ability to pretty much fly itself in the event that something goes wrong, but we don't have that luxury in wedding photography and therefore cannot stress enough that the heat, long hours, intense parts of the day and any problems to overcome can take it's toll on the best of us... if your photographer is not fit & healthy then they may not be able to keep it up. Just Google or Youtube 'photographer ruins wedding'!

How many breaks do they take? - We were shocked at how may photographers think it's OK to take regular or long breaks.
It's a proven fact that the best photographers in the world are still rushed off their feet all day and so where is anyone going to get the time to relax. All our in-house photographers typically take no more than a maximum of 2 short breaks, one 10min (or 15mins if they are lucky) usually after cocktails and sometimes a quick 10 or 15 minute one if possible during the wedding breakfast or after everything has been captured at the reception. Despite the fact that digestion of heavy food can be hard when constantly standing, the strange positions photographers often have to get in to capture something and the speed in which they may need to get there means large meals make it near impossible for anyone to do both. When a venue meal is offered, it should be a 'suppliers snack' and a light one at that, I can tell you from experience however that the staff food is rarely ready and with the most common time for food being during guest speeches, us photographers often miss the chance to eat anything at this time. Our typical snacks consists of things in our bag when their is a safepoint, such as sandwiches, bananas, light refreshments and sugar packed energy bars & drinks to get us through the tough times.

Well we are just part the way into these things you should know and I can see that the list truly goes on forever, we have not even touched the sides of some seriously important areas such as cancellation, security, back-up equipment, contracts and many other factors... let alone details of how to select the right style photographer. So, feel free to contact us and ask us anything that you are concerned with as our database makes it easy to refine your requirements and we are more than happy to help in any way we can.

 

A wow style wedding imageIV'E SEEN A WOW PHOTO AND I WANT THAT PHOTOGRAPHER

Couples tend to fall in love with a particular image or gallery and then compare every other photographer to that, when in reality an opposing photographer most likely has other shots you would have found equally amazing, but just weren't in the examples you saw. Almost every successful photographer has some wow images to put to their name, but the secret to a good wedding photographer is more than often consistency and the ability to capture the moments as they happen in a clear and concise way, therefore we recommend noting this successful consistency and not necessarily just the odd impact shot.

If you are specifically looking for an artistic wow piece then remember that the most professional photographer's images of (a typical clean style) can be edited later, they can have filters added to create the feel you want or even match a desired current fashion (although be careful as this will of course out-date quicker). We can tell you that these filters & edits are often used by some less aalented photographers to actually hide a multitude of sins, so this is actually one more reason why we advise effects as an afterthought and not necessarily related to the wedding story capture itself. If you are chasing a photographer based on a small handful of images that have been majorly altered, you may even run the risk of eliminating better reportage style photographers who's images could just as easily be altered in the same way.

Bride portrait lighting setup on the beachThere are of course some shots that need more set up than a wedding photographer can offer while they are capturing your story, so why not hire a good document style photographer to cature it all and then (and if they allow it) a separate 'artistic' photographer to come along and get set up ready for a more creative set at one or more points during your day. Of course we all know that when a model for example goes to a studio shoot, there are many factors not typically included in wedding packages, this is largely related to the set up time, extra resources & equipment and extra shooting time required to do this. There are hundreds on our database and many are very affordable, some are amazingly talented and yet still inexpensive to hire. At busy weddings, your main photographer may even like the sound of a small break while the artistic photographer captures you in their pre set-up with special lighting, assistants and more to create that specific feel.

Whilst wedding photographers can sometimes manage both artistic & reportage (or have a second shooter who can assist with this), they are however usually more experienced in speed vs story capture and they often use different equipment too. A camera used for art is usually under less strain to capture its single wow shot, whereas a good wedding photographers camera (or cameras as most of our shooters wear two) is usually 3 or 4 and up to 10 or more times the price as it has built in durability and options that aid them in not missing things you want captured. In short, most professionals will sometimes tell you that modelling photography and wedding photography is a different industry altogether but all will certainly agree its certainly a different job.

 

Again I find myself wanting to add more and more information that we know will help others, but I guess there of course has to be a limit to the amount we should cram on one page :)

SUMMARY

There are of course many honest, hardworking and talented people in Marbella and it is a shame that the rogues spoil it for others, needless to say that like any other service you might hire, it is more than just advisable to check the authenticity of your chosen photographer before making any commitment and certainly before handing over any deposits. If in doubt at all, we can put your mind at rest with our confidential Courtesy Photographer Validation Service

(If you are a local photographer (of any level including entry or trainee) and have received even just email contact of any type from us in the past then you are already on our private database, if you would like to add your service or make it public then please add it for free here)

 

A nun searching for a wedding photographerWe hope that the information here has been useful to you and that we live to see the results of the help we have offered... you know how when people think their life is in danger they say that if anything happens to them, it was not accident! Well, if our website is hacked again then you know that our truth hits the nerves of some people & places and it will help confirm that there was indeed a need to post this and a reason for Brides to have some faith in the knowledgeable & free Wedding Photographer Locator Service we provide here at PhotoMarbella.

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 THANK YOU :)
We would like to say thanks to the various contributors to this page and a special thank you to the unfortunate brides that were kind enough to share their information with us and support our mutual attempt to help others seek the right photographer for them. Good luck with your own searches for a local photographer here in Marbella, the Malaga region, Andalucia or Southern Spain and please remember to contact us if you think we can answer your question as we are always more than happy to help.
(please share this page to help others)

 

 

 

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