If you’re looking at this page, then I don’t need to convince you of the importance of wedding photography. You probably already know the saying about how the cake gets eaten, the flowers fade, and the dress gets packed away, but the photos are forever. You probably already have pictures of family members you treasure, and you know the importance of capturing new moments for the generations ahead.
But you probably also know that there are a LOT of photographers out there… more than ever. And you need to find the right one for you. The internet, being always extremely helpful, is full of question lists to guide you in this process. I’ve been asked the questions on the Knot’s list over and over, and while they’re useful, I thought perhaps a new group of questions might be a more helpful article to add to the cyber mix.
1. Which photos are you proudest of? Which ones speak to you?
This is a follow-up to the common “describe your style” question. A lot of photographers shoot a particular way because they think it’s what clients want, or what wedding blogs want, or what gets them search engine and Pinterest traffic. For example, I always post as many pretty detail shots as I can find on my blog posts, because it’s good for marketing purposes. BUT what I really like are candid, emotional moments between family and friends. The photos that speak to me are usually expressing something a bit more subtle than what you’ll see in the pages of a wedding magazine. To get a good idea of what I’m talking about, check out my Moment Collection or the wedding collections on the Favorites tab. If these photos speak to you too, then we’d probably be a good fit.
When you find out what a photographer is most excited about, in many cases you’ve found out what they want to shoot. And if they’re shooting what they want, they’re going to be working harder and doing a better job for you. If you find you both want to make the same kinds of images, then by all means, get a package together and book!
2. What have been your most memorable weddings so far?
Whether you’ve shot 5, 50, or 500 weddings, there are always a few that stand out. If you can get your photographer to talk a little about what kind of weddings most inspire them, you may get a better idea of whether or not you’re a good fit. Not everyone is going to have a completely stunning, enormously expensive, wildly creative, Pinteresty wedding. But not every photographer is looking for those things. It’s likely that you’ll share an aesthetic with at least one photographer, and when those aesthetics click, magic happens.
3. What are your thoughts on the wedding day schedule?
Some photographers like to direct the whole time and are serious about the schedule. Some photographers like to stay out of the way as much as possible. Some (like me) do a mix, as required. I try to hang back and be as unobtrusive as possible, but I am not afraid to direct people as needed for group shots and portraits. As far as the schedule goes, I like to help with your timeline as much as you want before the wedding, but on the actual day, I go with the flow. I’m also neutral on issues like the first look, which most photographers seriously encourage (or even require).
4. How much retouching do you?
Editing is a big deal in digital photography. You’ll get an idea of a photographer’s preferred editing style from their website.
Retouching is different from basic editing because it involves actually removing or changing parts of the photo. Portrait photographers tend to retouch a lot more than wedding photographers, simply because we deal with a higher volume of photos and retouching is incredibly time consuming. If retouching skin and backgrounds is important to you, find out if this is something that’s included in your package or if it’s an additional charge. You may even find that your photographer has a certain philosophy regarding how much retouching is appropriate.
5. How does the second photographer fit into the day?
Many photographers offer a “second shooter” as part of their packages. This means you get not one, but two photographers covering your day. It’s a great deal for everyone involved: you get more points of view in your photos, you get more of the wedding day covered, the main photographer doesn’t have to run ragged trying to get everything shot on their own, and there is a built-in backup plan. All this said, however, it is important to find out who your second photographer might be. Is it a photographer you’ve already interviewed and turned down? (Oops.) What’s their style like? How experienced are they? Does your photographer regularly work with this person? How will the day be split up? How many of the second photographer’s files are usually used? Will the second photographer have the right to use your images on their own websites?
Get a run down on exactly how the second photographer will be a part of your day so that you’re not surprised or stressed out by anything new at your wedding. Most good second photographers are pretty low key and hang way back from the action while the main photographer is shooting, so you likely won’t even notice them.
6. Do you have backup equipment? Are you licensed? How long have you been in business? Do we get a contract? Etc.
I’m grouping all these questions together because I’m pretty sure they’re all aimed at one thing: making sure your photographer is a legitimate, trustworthy business person. A reliable photographer should have a range of equipment for working in many different lighting situations, plus back-up equipment in case of failure. They should be licensed by their city, town, or county and operating legally under their state’s tax laws. Ask questions if you don’t see sales tax charged. And if there is no contract, request one. A contract protects both of you.
7. How do you work in low or poor lighting?
This question is almost never asked, and it’s so important. A wedding is not a family portrait session in the park. Wedding photographers have to be able to shoot in dim churches, candlelit reception halls, rainy forests, and gloomy hotel hallways in addition to beautiful open vistas and mountaintops. You need to be sure that your photographer can create beautiful images no matter what the conditions are. They need to be able to add light, control light, and utilize available light. If all you see on their website are golden sunsets, dig deeper. Ask to see a wedding in a church, an indoor reception room, and a rainy afternoon to give you an idea of how they approach different situations. And at the very least, ask what their backup plan for terrible lighting is.
In the photo below, the room was beautifully lit with a wall of windows… but the blinds were drawn for the reception. I had a light on a stand across the dance floor, pointed towards the stairs, because I knew the couple would be entering from this staircase. The lighting is enough to brighten them without losing the golden ambient light from the room. A simple on-camera flash was not enough to accomplish this. And although this is not one of my most artistic shots ever, it’s a photo they were looking forward to seeing, and I wanted to get it right.
8. Will our photos be publicly viewable?
In the past year or so, I’ve seen an increasing number of clients who are concerned about their privacy online. They don’t necessarily want to share every photo of their wedding on Facebook or the photographers’ website, especially without seeing them first. Most contracts will give your photographer the right to share your images as they wish, for promotional and marketing reasons. If you’re uncomfortable with this, you can request an addendum asking to approve the images before they go online. It’s a simple task to set up, and it keeps everyone happy.
9. What do you need from us?
In order for your photography experience to run smoothly, you can bet we need certain things from you ahead of the wedding day. The schedule, your family portrait list, cell phone numbers, parking instructions, and meal information are a few things I can think of right off the bat. Remember that you’re working as a team, and if you’re not able to get them this information in a timely manner, they may not be able to do their best work. The schedule in particular should be sent well in advance in case adjustments need to be made. Ask your photographer early what information they’ll need from you, and put it on your master to do list. It’s likely the same information you’ll be giving to other vendors as well, so you may even be able to send it all at once.
10. Do you ever give discounts?
I’m probably going to catch some flack from my photographer friends for posting this one, but I get the question a lot and truly, it never hurts to ask. A photographer who can’t give you a discount will simply tell you “no.” But sometimes, we are willing to adjust prices a bit to shoot in a specific venue or in a specific season, or to build our portfolios for a particular market. We can also modify packages to include fewer hours or goods. There truly is a way to make quality wedding photography fit into every budget, but it can take cooperation and openness to make it work. We are more likely to work with you on price if you’re truly interested in our work (see #1) and not just looking for a deal. You might also find better prices if you’re marrying on a Sunday, a weekday, or in the off-season (January-April here), when we’re less likely to book the date.