Wedding planning can be crazy stressful, and hiring a wedding photographer or any wedding vendor can seem like a daunting task.
I know I’ve heard so many horror stories about issues people have had with less-than-professional photographers – issues with contracts, no-shows, or unexpected fees, etc. – and a lot of them stem from their photographer not setting expectations or a lack of trust.
Here are a few ideas of what to ask if you’re looking for someone to photograph your wedding day! This person will be by your side during a great portion of your day, and you want to make sure that they are a qualified professional, and that it’s a good fit – ideally someone you enjoy being around and can trust completely with their job, because it will be such an important part of your wedding day. Other than your marriage and your certificate, it’s one of the only things that’s physically left when the day is over and years have passed.
Are you insured?
You want to hire someone who not only has equipment insurance, but liability insurance as well. A lot of wedding venues actually require that photographers have liability insurance up to one million dollars. In case things go south, it’s reassuring to know that your photographer is insured.
Can I see a full wedding gallery?
If a photographer is hesitant to show you a full gallery, or doesn’t have one to show – take this as a major red flag. Artists always highlight the best of the best of their work on their website and social media, so seeing a full gallery will show you the full story, and what kind of photos they include in the final gallery – like candids, reaction photos, details, dancing, and so on. You can also start to see if they have a good understanding of how to handle low light or other difficult lighting situations. You can really start to see a photographer’s style when you see them tell a story from beginning to end.
When & how will we get our photos?
Every photographer has a slightly different method and timeline, and of course there isn’t a “right answer” to this question. But setting expectations and knowing them upfront is crucial – you don’t want to wonder after the wedding when the heck you’ll ever see your photos, or be surprised that you aren’t in fact getting any digital photos with your base package and that they cost extra, for example (yikes!). You should have an understanding of when they’ll be delivered (approximately) and in what format, and how you will be able to use them. What resolution images will we be getting, and do they have watermarks? Are we allowed to make prints from our files? Roughly how many will we get? Can we share them on social media? Will we get an album with our collection, or if we come back a few months later can we order one?
What are your backup plans?
Every wedding photographer should have a backup plan in case anything bad happens. What if their equipment fails? What if they’re sick, or worse yet, what if they die? What if it rains during the ceremony?
Most wedding photographers have a vast connection of other photographer friends that they can ask to step in at the last moment if needed. Having a second photographer is also an excellent way to help ease minor situations, especially on the wedding day – like if one of your photographers accidentally falls down a set of stairs or backs up into a fountain (I think we’ve also seen those viral Facebook videos, right?).
A lot of this stuff should be noted out in the contract as well, in case of emergency: specifically equipment failure, sickness, and other catastrophes. It isn’t in the contract to scare you, but instead to ease your mind that it’s something they have considered and are accounting for.
How do we book you? What’s the process, and what can we expect?
Your wedding photographer should make it crystal clear what their process is for booking. If they do not hand you a contract, walk away immediately and don’t look back – a contract is there to protect both of you!
You should ask them if they require a deposit, and what all they need from you to get you on their calendar. Most photographers will not hold dates, for example, until a deposit is made and a contract is signed. You want to understand exactly what you are getting with your wedding package, too – like I mentioned above.
Ask them about their payment process, their delivery process, their policy for adding extra time on the wedding day, and any other concerns you might have that might come up before or after your wedding.
Open communication is a huge indicator of how much you should trust them.
To ask yourself: Do I like and trust this person?
You’ll be spending a lot of time with this person on your wedding day – in a lot of cases, more time than you’ll spend with the one you’re marrying. You want to make sure you can get along with this person! Do you trust them to be not only professional in terms of photo-taking abilities, but also just a pleasant person to work with? Is it someone you can laugh and smile with, who doesn’t annoy you or make you feel uneasy? To put it plainly, do you like them?
I also want to include a few things not to ask, that either aren’t necessary or won’t give you information you really need.
What gear do you use?
As long as they aren’t shooting on an iPhone… if they have a pro or semi-pro DSLR and are using lenses they had to buy separately (i.e. not kit lenses), it doesn’t really matter too much whether they shoot Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony, etc, or if their camera is full-frame or has a crop sensor. A good photographer can take great photos regardless of gear.
Can I see the raw files/digital negatives? Can you send me all the photos?
As a photographer, it’s part of our job to deliver a gallery that tells the full story – you’re right about that. But we take SOOO many photos at a wedding, often taking 5-10 photos a second at crucial times. At the end of the day, we might have 3,000-5,000 photos, and that’s a lot for a couple to sift through and find your favorites. We take out a ton of duplicate photos, or ones that are slightly out-of-focus when someone’s moving, or photos with less than flattering facial expressions. It is also part of our job to deliver the best possible product, so honestly I’d be wary of someone who’s willing to give you unedited photos.
How would you describe your style?
When describing styles, it’s easy to use trendy buzzwords. I’m a little guilty of it too – authentic, genuine, artistic – but it’s hard to glean from that what the photos will look like. This reminds me of a famous quote: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Instead, check out their blog, their social media, and consider asking to see a full gallery! You can also ask them more specific questions, like how they approach photographing on a wedding day. Do they like to stand back and photograph things candidly, or do they set up most of their shots? Do they prefer external lighting or natural light?
Can you send me a list of references?
As a photographer, if you asked me this, I’d send you my absolute favorite clients I’ve ever worked with, because I know they’re going to rave about me. You should be able to find testimonials/reviews online – check Facebook, Wedding Wire/The Knot, or other similar sites to see what past clients have to say, including any negative reviews. You also want to focus on how the photographer answers questions during your consultation, and whether or not they sound like a professional you can trust.