We’re now square in the middle of engagement season, and many of you are trying to pin down a photographer for your wedding next year. As you might have noticed, there are a ton of photographers out there. Many of them offer similar options, and I know from my own wedding planning experience that it can be a bit overwhelming to try to balance package options, quality, price, and overall appeal of a variety of photographers. I thought I would share what I feel to be some of the more important questions you can ask your photographer, in hopes that it will help you choose someone who is a good fit for you.
1. Will you actually be shooting my wedding? I’ve never run into this personally, but there are some cases in which a business is actually a variety of photographers and interns, and the “main” photographer who lends his/her name to the business doesn’t actually shoot every wedding. That’s fine, but you should know this in advance.
2. How long will you be at my wedding? Many photographers put this directly in their packages. If not, ask them. Is is unlimited? Do they charge by the hour? What if you need them to stay for an extra hour or two?
3. How many weddings do you book in a day? In a weekend? It seems impossible to me, but some photographers manage to shoot 2 weddings a day. They must spend all winter in endurance training, because one wedding is just about all I can handle. You want to be sure that you are their priority and that another wedding running late won’t impact your time.
4. Are there any additional fees? Most photographers list fairly detailed packages on their website, so you can see exactly what you’re getting. However, there could be additional fees for travel, extra time, meals, etc, and you want to be sure you know about that in advance.
5. How do I get my pictures? Proofs? Prints? Digital files? Standard practice used to be that brides went to meet with the photographer and looked through their proofs (or in some cases took the proofs home to browse) and then chose which pictures they wanted. Today, though this is still the case with many photographers, other photographers provide the digital files to clients, from which they can order or make prints if desired.
6. High-res or low-res? Can I make prints? If you want the high-resolution (good quality, printable) images on a DVD, you need to communicate that to your photographer and be sure he/she is comfortable with that. Some photographers are willing to give you a low-resolution set of images for posting to Facebook, and others will give you all of the high-resolution images and printing rights. Sometimes, that is an additional cost. Make sure you understand and are comfortable with how your photographer handles this.
7. What if something goes wrong? Your photographer should have extra equipment in case some fails. They should have a plan for how pictures will be taken in bad weather, and they should have alternate photographers on hand in case something truly unforeseen happens and they cannot be at your wedding.
8. What is your style? You should already know a little bit about their style from viewing their work, but it’s helpful to have a photographer describe themselves. Are they photojournalistic? Traditional? Do they love bright colors? Soft light? Your photographer’s style plays a huge role in what pictures get taken, how they get taken, and how they are edited, and you should be happy with that style.
9. How much editing do you do? What kind? Some photographers heavily retouch each photograph, while others prefer only to make minor corrections. If you want a blemish removed or an image converted to black and white, is your photographer willing to do that? Is there an extra cost for that kind of work? What if your eyes are closed in a picture or someone is making a dumb face in a group shot?
10. Can I see a full wedding? The images in a portfolio and on a website are the best a photographer has. I have roughly 6,000 images from my business in the last year, and I chose 86 to showcase as the best of the year. That means that there are well over 5,000 other images on my computer. I make a point of showing these to my clients, because they should see what all of my work is like, not just the very best. Most photographers will be able to show you full weddings of good, solid pictures that you would be proud to take home. However, a few photographers display a vast difference between their best work and the rest of the wedding, and their clients are disappointed when they receive their pictures. Make sure you know exactly what the quality of your photographer’s work is.
And a bonus question, which is actually a series of questions on one topic.
11. How flexible are you? Are you willing to take suggestions? Do you truly care about us and the success of our wedding day? You want to hire a photographer who is dedicated to giving you exactly what you want or need. You want someone who will help the groomsmen with their cufflinks, hold the umbrella when it starts to rain, and lay down in the mud to get a shot if necessary. You are going to be spending a good portion of your wedding day with this person, and you want to be comfortable with them. You want to be confident that they have your best interests in mind. And you want your wedding pictures to be a fun, creative, enjoyable collaboration.
There are probably many more questions you could ask (Do you bring a second shooter? Where do you order albums from? What color are your eyes?), but these are the questions that I am consistently asked by couples. These questions will pretty easily and quickly give you a good idea of exactly what your photographer offers and how. Good luck choosing!