Things to ask a Potential Wedding Photographer...
...written by an Actual Wedding Photographer.
I keep seeing these lists floating around, but they look like they were written by a wedding journalist. This is the stuff we wish you would ask-although a good photographer will probably go over these with you already, this is your chance to brush up on them before your consultation.
As you read it remember, photographers are not one size fits all. Some of these questions will apply, some won’t. They are just what I think help a consultation and wedding day go along smoother. Because you don’t have to hire me, but I do want to you hire the photographer who is right for you. -Jo
Without further ado and in no particular order….
Do you have a contract? A good wedding photographer will present you with a contract and I consider it a big red flag if they don’t. Things like their contingency plan and processing/return times should be included. This is not just for peace of mind, this is too protect you. There has been several times I’ve gotten the, “My photographer stopped calling me back.” email from a bride or groom. Every time it’s been the same, a friend was supposed to take the pictures and backed out to due cold feet or maybe had a falling out with the couple. It happens, but finding a photographer 2 or 3 months out from your wedding is hard, (and stressful!) and some will charge a premium for short notice.
How long have you been doing this professionally? Were you a second shooter before? Just gives you a glimpse into their experience. Their portfolio will still be the best indicator. We all started somewhere. Sometimes we just don’t want to work every weekend. I cap my weddings at 12 a year because I don’t want to take time away from family and my other portrait work.
Did you take all of the pictures in your portfolio, and were they at actual weddings? Again, sounds strange, right? Some photographers have bought stock images to create a portfolio or they have attended a workshop where there are models playing part of bride and groom and a teacher telling them how to set their camera.
How comfortable are you in low light and/or working with/without a flash? Many churches do not allow flash photography during the ceremony and require us to work from the back of the sanctuary or the balcony. Make sure the photographer talks to the pastor or wedding coordinator about this. Many newbies come into it with the attitude, “I’m going to do whatever I have to for a shot.” A wedding ceremony is still a sacred service in a church and as such their rules should be respected. A lot of times the coordinator will tell the bride and groom during a planning session, so please pass that on if you’ve been told already. This also includes the ‘natural light’ discussion. Churches are notorious for having poor natural light. Make sure you photographer knows how to run a flash during the formal non-ceremony pictures and check those samples in their portfolio.
How would you classify your style? Ours is…. It’s a good thing to get it out right away what type of pictures you want the most. I work mostly with classic style wedding portraits. There is a different studio in town that does almost exclusively photojournalistic style (think candids). Do we both do good work? Yes. Can we cross-style (I do candid and he does formal)? Definitely. Most weddings will have some of both but you can definitely see which way we lean in our styles. Some photographers will ONLY shoot in their style and by their shot lists, make sure you know that beforehand as well.
Will you be doing any post-processing? There is something call ‘shoot and burn’ that is a growing trend. Basically, the photographer takes pictures, burns them to a disc and gives them to the couple with no editing. Do you have time to sort through 3,000 photos? 4,000 photos? Do you have the knowledge to edit them? There also tends to be a ‘spray and pray’ type. Basically they take thousands of pictures hoping one turns out right. An experienced professional will take a few of each pose because they know how to set their camera for consistency. They will then pick the best of those frames and edit them, presenting you with good, quality images from your wedding. If you want some of those fun candids, definitely ask if they can be included, but trust me, 4,000 pictures is A LOT to sort through. I’d only ask for the really good ones. FYI, ‘shoot and burn’ is not a wrong way to shoot weddings, just something you should understand as a client.
Will you be shooting the wedding yourself? You’ve look at the portfolio, you want to make sure the person whose pictures you viewed is shooting the wedding. Many larger studios sub-contract out weddings.
Do you have a back-up photographer? People get in car accidents, they get sick, and occasionally they even make a mistake a double book. Make sure your photographer has a contingency plan. (If not, make sure Great Uncle Sal has his DSLR there and ready to go-can you tell I’ve done that before too) Also a good time to ask about their backup camera.
How long will you be there taking pictures? Ask about their time and/or travel requirements and make sure you understand it. Work out a shooting schedule as far before the wedding as you possibly can. Usually another contract point.
Can you take our engagement pictures? Engagement pictures are such an important thing for photographers and couples to do together, in my opinion. It gives you a chance to bond, to see how well you work together, and to just generally get a glimpse how great their pictures look when you are the subject.
If we opt out of engagement pictures, can we get a credit for other photos instead? Some photographers will, some won’t. Doesn’t hurt to ask.
Do I have to give up my ‘first look’ if we see each other before the wedding? My husband and I didn’t see each other before our wedding. There was nothing sweeter than knowing the look of surprise at me in a dress (any dress) as I came down the aisle was genuine. However, time doesn’t always allow for that. The latest and greatest wedding photography trend is the ‘First Look’. We keep you separated until both of you are all ready and then kick everyone out of the church but the bride, groom and the photographer. Then I get to capture the look on his face when he sees you the first time. Romantic and I have a better chance of capturing the ‘looks’ you want when you’re not mid-aisle surrounded by people. (And he gets the chance to cry in private)
Can my Great Uncle Sal with the nice camera take some pictures too? Again, this will probably be in the contract somewhere but the reason we like to discuss this ahead of time is that it can be very distracting for a wedding party to be looking at two or three cameras. Some photographers won’t care, I do. I need your attention to keep things running on time. I usually address the family around me during the formal stage so they know that. We get a good laugh, I get better pictures.
Do you need a meal? This seems strange to some but look at it this way, your photographer might be there 8+ hours. Usually people eat something during that time. Many photographers will have that in their contract. If you don’t see it, feel free to ask. Me? I usually live on Pepsi and candy bars those days but if a meal is offered, I do try to sit down and eat between jumping up to snap photos of you kissing, giving speeches, etc.
Talking point to touch on: Photographer’s clothing. If you are having a very formal wedding, you might want to touch on that. Some photographers will wear full business dress for formal weddings, but I have attended some where they don’t and they definitely stand out. A photographer should blend with the guests.
I will inevitably be making a Part 2 to this.