You just got engaged and the first thing you want to do is tell the world! Suddenly your life is filled with congratulations, squeals of delight, and anyone and everyone wanting to give you wedding advice.
Soon you'll have spent hours upon hours of time and energy visualizing and planning your perfect wedding day, and you realize that unless you get a good photographer, it'll be gone when the day is over. A mere shadow of a memory and good feelings.
Now you're on the hunt for a photographer whose works speaks to you, and that can give you the confidence that they'll deliver the style and moments you dearly want captured.
So how do you begin to find the right photographer for you? You are in luck! We've compiled a list of questions to ask potential wedding photographers. Helping you navigate an industry that is well appreciated, but unknown to those who've never been married before. Hopefully by the end of this list you'll walk away feeling more confident in your ability to choose the right photographer for you and your wedding.
1) Do you have my date available?
Yeah, seems kinda simple, but oftentimes Brides or Grooms will forget to add their date when contacting potential vendors. If you've already got your date nailed down you should always include your date when contacting anyone who you are considering hiring.
2) How far in advance do you accept bookings?
One thing to learn is not every business will accept bookings years out. Us, for example, won't book farther out than two years. Others might book only one year out, and others much farther. Every business is different.
3) How long have you been in business and how many weddings have you shot?
This is technically two questions, but I felt they work well together. Almost all professional wedding photographers limit how many weddings they'll shoot a year. So you could ask how many years and get a good number like 10, which does sound impressive, but that same photographer could only shoot 5 weddings a year. You could also ask a different photographer how many years they've been photographing weddings and get the answer of 5, but that photographer books between 20 & 30 a year, giving them a lot more experience. It's up to you to determine if longevity or experience is important to you. The important thing is not hiring someone with no experience.
4) What makes you different from other photographers?
This is always a great question to ask. Oftentimes this is when they'll explain their process and really let you know what makes them shine.
5) Can I see some full wedding samples?
If the answer to this isn't an instant yes, run. Well, I might be being a little over dramatic, but if you're going to hire someone to take photos of the entire wedding day, you'll want to see a few examples of entire wedding days, and not just the select few that they've chosen as their highlights.
6) Are any of images on your website from styled shoots, or are they all real weddings?
This is a very tell-tale sign that can help you determine if the photographer you're talking to is right for you or not. If a majority of their work they show are from styled shoots then it could mean they don't have a lot of real wedding experience. If there are specific images you love, and the photographer does tell you they have some styled shoots displayed on their page, then ask about those images specifically. Taking photos during a real wedding is WAY different than any other type of photography. Being able to think on the fly and get amazing images is important.
7) Do you bring backup gear?
If the answer to this question is no, then move on to another photographer. Having multiple camera bodies is very important. No one wants a camera to stop working with no backups. We've had cameras lock up mid-wedding, but because we always have backup gear our clients had no idea and nothing was missed. Same goes for cameras with dual card slots. If the photographer your interviewing uses a camera body with only one card slot, then you have to weigh if that's a risk you're willing to take.
8) Can I give you a list of photographs we'd like?
Most photographers know all the typical photos; cake shot, first kiss, ring shot, etc...so we generally encourage a list of groupings for the family formals (it'll save time, trust me!) and things that are super special to the couple. But whatever you do don't expect to hand your photographer a detailed shot list of everything you found on Pinterest and expect them to do it all. If there's a couple things you are dead set on I'm sure that you can get it to work with your photographer, but don't expect to spring it on them last minute or give them a multi page spread of Pinterest photos you need to have done. Part of hiring your photographer is for their artistic eye.
9) Have you ever shot at my venue before?
While this isn't necessary at all, some couples want a photographer who has never been to a particular venue. They want fresh eyes for their photos and don't want their images looking like all the others that are photographed at that venue. Other couples feel much better knowing that their photographer has worked at a venue before and knows where all the best spots are for photos. It also helps when there's a great working relationship between the venue and photographer. So there's definitely benefits to both.
10) Are you the photographer who will shoot my wedding?
Ding ding! This is an important question. There's been a growing trend of photography studios who have a staff that does a lot of their weddings. It's important to find a photographer who you get along with. After all you'll spend the majority of your wedding day with your photographer. More than your future spouse. If the person you're talking to is an associate and not the photographer that will be yours, then it's important to ask to speak to that photographer instead. Then pretty much ask that person all the questions on this list, because that's who you'll be working with.
11) How will you and your assistance/second shooter be dressed?
The photographer and their staff should look professional and in style with your event.
12) If my event lasts longer than expected can I add on time to my package?
I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that every photographer will say yes, but I'll add that some of us have limits. Every photographer has their "end point" where they're just done. Some of us will work up to 12 or even 15 hours, but others may max out on 8 or 10. Knowing the limits of time in relation to how much time you're going to want might help you decide if the photographer you're chatting with will work for you.
13) What packages do you offer?
Most photographers will have package list of what they offer and what comes with those packages. Others will have more of a 'build your own package' approach. Both are good formats.
14) Do you offer engagement photos in any of your packages?
This is pretty straightforward. If you're looking to get engagement photos done, it's really a perk to have the same photographer do both the wedding and the pre-wedding session. It'll be consistent in style, and by the time your wedding comes around you'll be completely comfortable in front of their camera.
15) Do you have any album and other product samples that I can see?
We believe that every couple deserves to be able to see their images without having to get on a computer or another electronic device. The most popular way couples do this is by having wall art and a wedding album. The access to professional labs is something that the regular consumer just can't get. So if having high quality heirloom products that will last the test of time is important to you, we suggest finding a photographer who offers this.
16) Can I design my own album?
This is a question that's often overlooked. There are photographers who pick the images and send you an album. There are photographers who let you pick your images and they design the album. And there are photographers who give every couple the ability to choose their own images and design their own albums. If you have a preference then make sure you ask this question!
17) What is the turnaround time for receiving my images?
The answer to this is all over the map. There's no real industry standard, but don't expect it to be a quick turnaround. Just remember that fast isn't necessarily good, and good isn't necessarily fast. Be wary of those who say you'll have your images in just days or a few weeks.
18) How much of a retainer is required and do you provide a payment plan?
Again, no industry standard here, although many in the industry require 50% down. We do not, as we don't want to make it difficult for couples to book us, and we've found that are clients much prefer to make monthly installments. But don't be surprised when a lot of photographers you talk to require a large retainer.
19) Can I print my own images, or do I have to order prints through you?
This is a question that I feel doesn't get asked often enough, and sadly some have found out that their copy of the wedding photos all have watermarks on them. All of our wedding clients receive digital images with no watermarks, and have the ability to print wherever their hearts desire; although we do recommend steering very clear of drugstore printers..not unless you want to look orange.
20) Do you travel, and if so what is your travel fee?
I like to say, "Have camera, will travel" but not everyone wants to travel. Some photographers offer a limited amount of destination weddings a year, while others are down to go anywhere their couples want to shoot at. Travel fees rarely are an across the board thing. If you're planning a destination wedding expect any photographer you talk to, to do a little calculations in order to find out what the fee would be, as some places cost less to travel to and stay at than others.
21) Will you be posting about our wedding online?
Another question I don't think is asked often enough. There are brides and grooms out there who want to be all over social media. They love seeing themselves on the blog, in our magazine, and on other places online! But not everyone wants them or their family on social media and we 100% respect that. Most photographers do. This question is a pretty important one to ask if you DON'T want to be online, and then follow it up with "Do I have to pay extra to not be online." It seems silly reading it now, but it's all part of the fine print. You don't want to say, "I do!" to your photographer, only to go over the contract and find out there's a pretty hefty NDA fee.
If you found this list helpful, then head over to Why Wedding Run Late: Part One, to learn how to keep your wedding running smoothly and on time! Don't forget to pin your favorite images to your vision board on Pinterest!