There is no doubt in my mind you have a million and one questions for the photographers you are looking into booking for your big day. I have come up with a simple list of the most important questions to ask the photographers you are looking at.
Do you have my wedding date available? This may be the most important question to ask. Once you have the answer to this questions, you may move forward without wasting any one’s time.
How far in advance do I need to book with you? Again, asking this question up front may save everyone quite a bit of time. If you wait too long, many sought-after photographers will already be completely booked. I recommend looking into booking as close to 9-12 months in advance as you can. Waiting longer will slim down your list of potential photographers.
How long have you been in business? There are many new photographers out there who are willing to shoot for damn-near free. There is a reason for this- they lack experience, confidence in their work, and training. If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.
What is your shooting style and how would you describe your working style? If you are looking for a photographer who captures real emotions at the time they happen, you want someone who is journalistic and blends into the crowd. A photographer who choreographs shots and the set up of them is called a ‘traditional’ photographer. If you’re going for traditional, I recommend springing for a second shooter. The second shooter will most likely cover all the unexpected moments that always seem to happen. A ‘creative’ photographer is one who steps outside the box. If you want one-of-a-kind wedding photographs, seek out this type.
Do you shoot in digital or film format? Many photographers nowadays have switched to digital format for a number of reasons. A select few of us still offer film as an option, but expect a fee for this luxury. Film costs money, developing costs money, and shooting in film requires an additional camera to do so.
Can we give you a list of specific shots we would like? If the answer to this question is anything other than, ‘yes’, move along. This is your day. In all reality, you cannot expect the photographer to get 100% of these shots. Think of this list as more of a suggestion. Weddings are surprising, things happen, and sometimes the guest(s) you want in the photograph don’t want to be featured.
What information do I need to provide you with prior to my wedding day? Every photographer needs certain details so that the day may go off without a hitch. We need addresses for where everyone is going to be getting ready, the ceremony location, the reception location, and where you’d like formal shots (if not at a location already listed). We need specific times. Most photographers show up an hour or two early; don’t worry, you aren’t being charged! I always ask if there is someone attending I can go to with questions regarding the big day. Usually a groomsman, bridesmaid, or parent is good enough. I always like to know how many guests are going to be in attendance. This should never change the price of your package. Knowing the number of groomsmen and bridesmaids is always good for the planning of formal photographs.
May I have a list of references? No photographer should hesitate or stumble with this question. All great photographers will proudly give you a list of references. If a photographer hesitates, move along.
Are you the photographer who will be shooting my wedding? Why does this matter? You need to be working directly with the person who is going to be covering your event. You need to build a personal relationship with this person. Why? So the photographer knows exactly what you’re expecting of them. You also need to ‘be on the same page’ as your photographer as far as wants and expectations go. There is only one chance to nail the photographs you’re wanting. Remember that. There is no re-do.
Do you have back up equipment? Every professional photographer has more than one camera, flash, battery pack, shooter, etc. Just in case anything should go wrong or get broken, there needs to be a back up. If the photographer offers no back up plan and his/her equipment breaks, kiss your wedding photographs goodbye.
Are you photographing other events on the same date as mine? Wedding photography is an all-day ordeal, even if you’re only paying for 4 hours coverage. No photographer should be splitting their time between such major events.
How will you (and any assistants or second shooters) be dressed? A photographer should disappear into the crowd. You don’t want the brightest person at your wedding to be your photographer. A professional photographer will typically wear all black or a white dress shirt and black pants. Dresses and skirts are inhibiting and unprofessional. I don’t think I even need to touch on the professionalism of shorts. However, if you’re having a sandals and shorts kind of wedding, your photographer should dress accordingly.
Is it okay for my guests to take photographs while you’re taking them as well? Many photographers find this very distracting. Many will ask that your guests refrain from snapping photographs while they are working. If there are three people with cameras out, who do you look at? You want photographs where everyone featured is looking directly into the camera. Please ask your guests to refrain from this. When the photographer is done, your guests may snap away at will.
Have you ever worked at my venue before? If not, are you going to check it out in advance? Professional photographers like to be prepared. We need to be prepared. Checking out a venue ahead of time will guarantee that your photographer is prepared for any lighting needs, architectural incorporation, and rules the venue may have regarding flash photography. I always like to meet the officiant or a representative for him/her just in case they have their own wants and needs.
If my event goes over our agreed upon time, will you stay? Is there a fee for this? Nothing goes 100% as planned. Nothing. Every wedding I’ve shot has gone over the allotted time. Professional photographers know this and prepare for it. There is usually an hourly fee associated with this. Find out so you know whether or not to dismiss the photographer or ask him/her to stay.
What packages do you offer? Can one be customized? Photographers typically offer between 3-4 packages. These fit most events’ needs, but not always. Custom-built packages are offered by almost every wedding photographer. We are here to serve you, not the masses.
Do any packages include bridal or engagement sessions? This will vary from one photographer to the other, but if it something you want, speak up.
What type of album designs do you offer? Some photographers spring for template albums, while some create them from scratch. There are flush-mount albums and loose-leaf albums. You can get albums from wallet-size to 16″x16″. Leather-bound, book-bound, and classic-bound albums exist. The prices for these vary greatly and this is something you should investigate on your own accord to find a suitable match to your wants and needs.
Do you offer editing or retouching services? Many photographers do their own retouching, while some send out for it. I find that a photographer who does their own corrective service can meet the needs of their clients more so than one who sends them out.
How long after the wedding until my proofs are available? Will they be online or on a CD? It is 2012 and most photographers know the power of the internet. Professional photographers will almost always have an access point on their website for viewing your proofs. If it is not password-protected, ask for it to be.
How long after I place my order will it be ready? This is probably one of the hardest questions to answer. It depends. It depends on whether or not your ordered an album (and what kind!). It depends if you’re asking for a lot to be retouched or edited. It depends on the printing company your photographer uses. It just… depends. I’d say 6 months is far too long. 1-3 months is a fairly normal (and quick!) turn around for wedding photography.
When will I get our contract? Many professionals will have a copy for you at the time of signing. I offer paperless billing and contracts. Sign on my iPad and it will be sent, automatically, to your email inbox for safe keeping. If any professional tells you that you do not need a contract, run! A contract protects you and the photographer (or any other wedding vendor) alike.
How much of a deposit do you require and when is it due? Professional wedding photographers usually require half up front to book and hold your wedding date. The rest is typically due prior to any shooting and usually well-before your shoot date. Do not expect your prints, albums, or DVDs if there is a balance on your account.
Do you have liability insurance? If any wedding vendor replies with a ‘no’ to this this question, keep looking. Insurance protects their equipment, your agreement with them, and if anything should happen that keeps them from attending your event.
One question to ask yourselves:
Do we feel a connection with this photographer as well as his/her photos? Are our personalities a good match? You should get along with your photographer as if he/she were any other person in your circle. Your photographer should know exactly what you want, what you need, and what your expectations are. He/she should be professional, a good listener, and innovative.
I hope I’ve made this process a little easier for you. Feel free to print this page and take it along with you.
In 50 years, you won’t remember the exact details of you dress, the faces of everyone who attended, or who danced the funky chicken. You will, however, have photographs to remember it by. It is up to you to decide the quality of the images you want.