“ Address: 113 Higher Parr Street / St Helens / Merseyside / WA9 1AG / England / Tel: 01744 24354. „
(Note: this review actually dates back two years to when I got married, but the views in it still hold, although prices may now be different)
In these days of digital photography, it's easy to be tempted to dismiss the cost of hiring a professional photographer and ask a friend to take your wedding photos instead. Sure, this is a lot cheaper but it's also likely to be more stressful, as you have to organise everyone, make sure you get all the group photos you want and make sure they are good quality snaps.
For our wedding, Mrs SWSt and I decided to go with Lairds Photographers, a small, friendly family firm that I'd used before for pet portraits and had always been pleased with the results. Here's how things panned out before, during and after the Big Day.
Before the wedding
A key consideration in selecting a photographer was how easily it could all be arranged at a distance, as we were actually getting married over 100 miles from where we lived. This proved easy with Lairds. On a weekend when we were in the area anyway, we went in and had a quick chat to see whether they were free on that date (since they are a small family firm, they don't have a lot of photographers). They were very friendly and professional, confirming their availability, noting down all the relevant details and showing us some of their work. We provisionally booked them, but did not have to pay anything at that stage. Only one further visit was then required to sign the contract, pay a deposit and select the album we wanted for our pictures. That was all we needed to do - the next time we saw them was at the wedding itself!
Lairds exude the friendliness of so many small family firms; the personal touch you often lose with bigger firms. They were always friendly and chatty, took a little time to get to know us and establish what we were after and we always felt we could ask any questions we liked without being a nuisance.
We were also put under no pressure to spend more than we wanted to. For example, they have a large range of albums to suit all tastes and budgets. Each of the options and costs were explained to us, including details about how many photographs came with each album, but we were left alone to decide which one we wanted. We chose the cheapest, and they simply accepted that decision and didn't try and sell us the virtues of the more expensive options.
At the wedding
In line with what we had already experienced, the photographer on the day was excellent. Before and after the service, he took all the traditional shots with the minimum amount of fuss and didn't keep people hanging around unnecessarily in the cold (it was March!). He often only took one or two pictures to get the shot he wanted and didn't mess about trying to get people standing 1mm to the right. He was also extremely friendly and not the slightest bit bossy, so people didn't mind when he did ask them to shift position slightly, or had to take another shot because someone had blinked.
He also took some photographs during the ceremony, but was extremely discreet. I've been to some weddings where the photographer has been a real pain, constantly moving around, making a lot of noise and generally distracting people from the ceremony. This one was so discreet that until we saw the printed photographs, neither Mrs SWSt nor myself were aware that he had been taking these shots!
After the service, things were just a little more chaotic, as the number of people to organise was much larger and occasions, the photographer wasn't quite forceful enough, in asking people to line up. Similarly, just occasionally he would announce one shot, but then decide to take a different one, resulting in people wandering off again. Despite these minor issues, the whole process still only took around 30 minutes, so everything was done very efficiently.
After the wedding
Around a week after the wedding we contacted Lairds and were told that the photos were ready and we could make an appointment to go and view them. The album we had chosen included 40 photographs in the price and we were told how much it would cost for anything over that number. Once again, though, there was no pressure to buy more, they were simply giving us the facts. We were then left alone for as long as we wanted to go through the photographs and select the ones for the album. This was a difficult task as the photographs were almost all excellent and there were only three we discarded immediately as unsuitable. Although the day had been cold and windy, the photographer had done an excellent job in disguising that fact. There was just one where it was obviously blustery as people's hair was sticking out at crazy angles. The pictures also came in a range of styles, including traditional full colour ones, black and white ones and more "arty" shots, using camera effects which meant you could build a variety of different shots into your album, rather than having to stick to a particular style.
Once again, the benefits of dealing with a local, family firm became obvious when it came to making up the album with the pictures we had selected. Because they knew we were travelling from a distance, they asked when we were going back (3 days later) and said they would try their best to have the album ready before then. Most companies would simply have told us there was no way they could have it finished in that time and expected us to make a special trip back to collect it. Lairds were as good as their word and we returned home with our album.
Of course, the cost of all this was not cheap. Even though we chose the cheapest album, it was still a lot of money (around £800). For some of the fancier albums, prices go up to £2000! Costs of extra pictures are not cheap either - £5 plus VAT for each additional photograph. On the plus side, you don't need to make a hasty decision on whether extra copies are needed: we were assured that all the photographs are kept on file permanently, so at any point, we can contact them and ask for additional prints.
Overall, the quality of service and work from Lairds Photographers is excellent. The service is friendly and efficient, with no high pressure sales techniques, and the quality of their photographs excellent. If you want a record of a special occasion, a studio portrait of your family or a photograph of your pet, they are well worth looking up.
113 Higher Parr St
Fingerpost Shopping Centre
Tel: 01744 24354
© Copyright SWSt 2010
Specialists in wedding and portrait photography.