What questions should you ask your wedding photographer?
I don’t know about you, but the thought of spending a good few thousand dollars on a product you have not yet seen can be overwhelming. With it becoming increasingly easier to make a website and hire a few models, how can you trust the person you are considering hiring is the real deal?
Once you’ve a few favourite photographers, set up a time to meet them. You have to like, trust and get along with your photographer. Not only should you like their images, you should also like them! You’ll be spending many hours with them during your wedding day, in fact they will probably be the person you see most of and will be by your side when you’re full of nerves or your dress rips (don’t panic, this doesn’t happen often and a good photographer has an emergency sewing kit).
What follows is a list of questions to ask your wedding photographer which, while not exhaustive, is a good place to start. Photographers will not be offended by you asking questions – I personally think it’s a great thing to do and a simple way to gauge if you will all be a good fit.
1. How many weddings have you shot as a lead photographer?
This is a great question to get an idea of how much experience your photographer has in general. How long they have been in business is not as important as the amount of actual wedding experience – you don’t want a part-time photographer who has only shot three weddings a year for the last two years. Bonus: ask to see a full wedding gallery – it is an easy way to see their consistent style and talent.
2. Will a contract of the services be provided? If so, can I get a sample copy?
A contract is created for your protection, and also for the wedding photographer. Please stay clear of photographers that don’t work with contracts. A typical contract details what services they will be providing, pricing, copyright information, etc. A good photographer will take on board any questions and changes you would like to make.
3. What happens if the photographer is ill?
There is always a chance. It is crucial that the photographer does something to take care of the situation in case of illness. Find out what their plan is in case someone is sick.
4. What do you like most about your job?
An unusual question, perhaps. Think of it this way – a wedding photographer who loves their job and all things wedding will be enthusiastic at your wedding, but also completely immersed in the process. Much better than one who just does it for the money and can’t wait for the day to be over.
5. Will you colour correct my images?
Since colour correction is basic post-production, it should be used on every single image which needs it. Many photographers will not colour correct any, or will only colour correct “select” images from your wedding. The end result is some orange skin tones, too much blue and and an inconsistent style.
6. Do you have backup equipment?
While wedding photographers don’t necessarily need the best of the best equipment out there, it is important to have backup. Nothing would be worse than for the photographer to miss half of your wedding because their camera or lens broke, and they didn’t have a spare. This also goes for memory cards and batteries too.
7. How many photos do I get?
Wedding photographers typically deliver 50-100 photos for every hour of coverage they provide. Six hundred photos may seem like a lot, but your photographer is preserving all those little details and the moments you missed while you were mingling. As a side note, ask them if there is a limit to the amount of photos they will edit for you. The answer should be ‘no’.
8. Will you help me look good in my photos?
A good wedding photographer will be able to direct you into the most flattering position and angles for your shape and any major height differences. Even those who specialise in candid, photo-journalistic styles should move you around a little. Also, relax! If you’re relaxed, it’ll come through in your photos.
9. Do you work from a shot list?
A shot list forces us to check off a list of pictures instead of taking photos of your wedding story as it unfolds. We can’t capture the genuine moments and behind-the-scenes images if we’re constantly looking at a list.
Communication with your photographer is key – if you have a specific shot in mind, for example if you dream of a photo in front of the starry night sky, make sure they are excited to work with you on making it happen.
One shot list I do recommend handing over before the wedding is the groupings for the family formals. It also helps for the photographer to have a point person to help them – it makes for a smoother process than having them shouting out for Auntie Marjorie (this also gives you and your guests more time for cocktail hour)!
10. Do you bring in your own lighting?
The answer to this should be a resounding ‘Yes!’ If they do not, expect a detailed answer as to why they work without their own lighting. There are many photographers out there who claim to be ‘natural light photographers’ – in my (probably controversial) opinion this translates as they haven’t learnt how to use lighting correctly.
11. Why is wedding photography so freakin’ expensive?
Wedding photography seems like easy money — go to a wedding, take photos, drink champagne and rake in the cash, right? Most full-time wedding photographers I know carry over $20,000 worth of wedding gear and often work 70-hour weeks. (Those 600 images from question #7? It takes several full days just to edit those.)
I typically work 14 hours straight on a wedding day, with no break. Add insurance, taxes, software, advertising, albums, repair and education expenses, many photographers end up making less than minimum wage for the first few years of their career. I added up my take-home wages in my first year and was shocked I could afford to eat!
As an added extra, if you are thinking about saving money and just hiring a family member who enjoys photography – please don’t. There are NO re-dos in wedding photography. None. Despite the perceived ease of digital photography, there is no margin for error when shooting a wedding. You have to anticipate moments in uncontrolled lighting situations, and keep a nervous bride calm.
Wedding photography is one of the most pressured types of photography, and that’s coming from someone who used to be a paparazzi (long story. I was terrible.) Professionals understand the flow of the day, constantly observe for key moments and know how to use any light to their advantage. The other downside for the friend or family member is the pressure on them to create lovely photos.
Your photos (and your new husband/wife) will be the one lasting thing from your wedding, and it’s worth making an investment for good ones.
I hope these questions to ask your wedding photographer have been helpful. Stay tuned for my next blog post – how to plan your wedding photography timeline.