Hiring a wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions you can make about your wedding, and you need to know the following questions for your wedding photographer. Almost anyone with a camera, an attractive subject and plenty of time in natural lighting can take an excellent staged wedding photograph.
But there’s a reason why wedding photography is specialized and expensive: Unless and until your wedding photographer has had ample experience negotiating the pressure and chaos of a real day-of, what you see in an online portfolio may not be anything like what you get in a final package.
You better be darn sure that your photographer can make magic under REAL circumstances: Oppressively bright sun melting makeup and a bride’s remaining sanity, a drunk father-of-the-groom, an AWOL wedding coordinator with a full voice mailbox, and a reception room with lighting darker than Uncle Joe’s toast after three shots of tequila and just as many of his own failed marriages. Here are the best 10 questions for your wedding photographer.
Unless these questions for your wedding photographer can be answered well, all bets are off:
Questions for your wedding photographer #1: Ask to view a portfolio of an entire wedding, from start to finish, in a location and time of day similar to your planned wedding. This will enable you to see what you’re likely to receive in a final package, as well as to determine whether the final images have a consistent style, finish and quality.
Questions for your wedding photographer #2: Ask how your photographer would or has handled a day-of equipment failure (does he/she carry backup equipment, use a second shooter or assistant, or have insurance)?
Questions for your wedding photographer #3: Carefully review a sample contract. At a minimum, a client contract should contain acceptable provisions for the following: Retainer and payment agreement (including dates, methods of payment accepted, contingencies if the wedding is cancelled or if the photographer is unable to perform services), a method of dispute resolution (binding arbitration versus lawsuit in court, payment of attorneys’ fees, and venue), and the exact hours of service and complete description of the final product to be received, inclu
ding copyright and reprinting rights, digital files versus prints, and any other agreements for extra sessions or products included in the cost (for example, an engagement session or a wrapped canvas print).
Just because someone is a great artist, doesn’t mean that he/she is also a great business person.
Questions for your wedding photographer #4: Don’t be afraid to ask your photographer how he/she would handle hypothetical difficult scenarios. An initial client meeting is in fact a job interview. For instance, if you know your family is rowdy and massive, ask exactly how your photographer organizes and coordinates family/bridal party shots on a strict time limit after the ceremony. Ask for past examples.
Questions for your wedding photographer #5: Ask your photographer to describe his or her shooting style. Rapid fire and candid or posed and precise? Depending on the size of your wedding, style preference and time constraints, this will give you a good idea of what to expect and how much time to allocate for shots the day-of. Consider whether you want your photographer to give explicit direction on how to pose, or whether you’d prefer not to know that he/she is even there – and communicate expectations and pros and cons accordingly.
Questions for your wedding photographer #6: Be sure to thoroughly discuss what and how your photographer edits images. Every bride I’ve met wants to look like the best version of herself in her wedding photos – many wedding photographers refuse to do any cosmetic edits, and edit only for color, clarity or with a black and white option of each image. Others will charge considerably more for advanced or cosmetic edits. If you envision anything other than or in addition to standard black and white and color images, negotiate your expectations specifically or find a photographer that is willing to customize weddings for each client.
Questions for your wedding photographer #7: Ask how your photographer performs in low light situations, with fast moving subjects (e.g. every reception). Don’t believe a word until he or she shows you extensive photos of real receptions. Sparklers, bouquet tosses, the electric slide – ask to see it all.
Questions for your wedding photographer #8: Ask your photographer if he or she has any tips to minimize stress and ensure all of the important moments are captured the day-of. This may include utilizing a second shooter for key hours, and/or an assistant. Also feel comfortable asking what their experience and qualifications are, and how long and for how many events they have worked together. Ask if he/she has experience working directly with the wedding coordinator to create an efficient, realistic timeline together.
Question for your wedding photographer #9: Ask what your photographer’s policy is with regard to allowing guests or other vendors to take photographs simultaneously. Some pros disallow or strongly advise against allowing non-professional photographs to be taken as part of the client contract and others have no preference. Do you want the shot of your first kiss set in front of 100 guests on their smart phones? Or, is it more important to you to have guests post on social media in real time?
Questions for your wedding photographer #10: This may seem obvious, but many couples choose a photographer based on the lowest quoted cost or from a single reference. Ask your photographer to describe his or her style, view his or her profile extensively and make sure that you see eye-to-eye AND that you have a genuine rapport with one another. You don’t need to feel one way or another about your caterer, but photography is highly personal and requires great trust between the artist and subject. If you hire someone that has a different style than your own, he or she won’t be passionate about the job, you will be uncomfortable, and the images will reflect both.
Finally, and for more wedding inspiration, check out Loud Love Photography’s website at www.loudlovephotography.photoshelter.com.