It’s wedding planning season again and, if you’re getting married in 2016 (or 2017 for you early birds out there), you’re probably meeting with a bunch of vendors right now. Lots of decisions need to be made in the coming weeks/months and choosing your photographer is definitely one of the most important. So what are the most essential questions to ask when hiring a wedding photographer? Read on to find out.
1) How many weddings have you shot?
Practice makes perfect. The more weddings a you shoot, they better you get. This is an important consideration if you’re thinking about hiring a friend or family member who specializes in another kind of photography. Just because someone is an amazing landscape photographer or portrait photographer, doesn’t mean he or she will excel at shooting weddings.
2) What makes you different from other photographers?
There are thousands of wedding photographers out there. Some are genuine artists with unique visions; some simply follow the latest trends. If you want your wedding photos to be unique, you need to hire someone who not only shares this ambition, but also has the creative capacity to back it up.
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3) What kind of equipment do you use? Do you have backup equipment?
Digital cameras and lenses range in price from a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars each. I could write an entire book about the differences between consumer-level and professional gear, but I don’t want to nerd out on you too much here. What you need to consider is this: does the photographer’s equipment justify the prices he or she is charging? Of course, you also have to take experience into account (see #1 above), but equipment is almost as important.
What about lighting? Does the photographer bring off-camera lights or does she just shoot ambient? How does she handle low-light situations?
Finally, does she bring backup equipment? Today’s cameras are basically small computers, and we all know how fickle computers can be. Will she be able to roll with the punches in the event of an equipment failure? Also, extra batteries, extra memory cards, hard drives for backing up your photos, editing software like Photoshop and Lightroom. There are many considerations here.
More on this in a future post.
4) Do you have a second shooter?
This is super important. Shooting a wedding is a massive undertaking and it’s impossible for one person to capture everything (or even most things). “The girls” get ready at the same time as “the guys,” and in separate locations. Details, guests being seated, anticipation shots before the ceremony, the recessional/receiving line, family photos, bride and groom portraits, guests enjoying cocktail hour, and so on, are all important components of a well-rounded wedding shoot. There just isn’t time for one person to do it all. With a second shooter, you can divide and conquer.
Moreover, camera batteries can die. Memory cards can fail. Even great photographers miss a shot from time to time. Having two cameras trained on important moments like “the kiss” is just good planning.
More on this in an upcoming post.
5) May I see some of your full wedding shoots?
When you look at a photographer’s portfolio, you’re seeing his best 20-30 or so images that were carefully plucked from of a much larger body of work. It’s not necessarily the best representation of his style or ability level. If you view a full wedding shoot, however, you’ll get a much better sense of how your photographer works and, in turn, what your photos will look like.
6) Can I customize a package?
Most photographers have a preset list of packages that include x number of hours, x type of photo album, and possibly an engagement photo session, print credit, etc. But maybe you need more (or fewer) hours of coverage. Maybe you want to swap in a different photo album style. Maybe you’re not interested in doing an engagement shoot. Is your photographer willing to customize your package to better suit your needs or would she prefer to stick to the preset packages?
7) What if I want to add more time at the end of the day?
You’ll be making a financial commitment to your photographer many months before your wedding, so it can be difficult to determine at that early stage exactly how many hours of coverage you’ll need on the day of the wedding. Also, weddings run late. Predetermined timelines are rarely adhered to. It’s just the nature of the beast during events that involve so many different moving parts. Will your photographer be flexible enough to stay longer if needed? An important factor here is whether or not he books more than one event per day.
8) How soon will I receive my photos after the wedding?
This varies widely. Some photographers won’t promise the finished product any sooner than six months later; others can get them to you within a couple of weeks. There is a great deal of work that goes in to editing a wedding shoot and, frankly, depending on the ability of the photographer, some photos need more work than others. After your wedding, you’re going to be super excited to see your photos, so it helps to know how long you’re likely to be waiting.
Also, how will the digital images be delivered? DVDs? Thumb drives? Direct download from the photographer’s website?
Finally, what’s the turnaround time for printing photo albums?
9) Do I get a printing release?
This can be a confusing issue. Let me be clear: wedding photographers don’t relinquish the copyright to their work to brides and grooms. The photos are their intellectual property. However, many photographers will provide you with a printing release, which will allow you to make prints on your own (for personal use only). Some photographers, however, require you to print directly through them, at a substantial mark-up. The main thing to consider here is quality. Yes, it’s more expensive to print through your photographer, but the print quality will be much better than what you can get from Costco or Walmart or Shutterfly or other consumer printers.
More on this in a future post.
10) How about references?
Okay. You’ve found the perfect photographer for your wedding. You love his work, he was charming and informative during your meeting and he has a ton of great reviews online. He’s perfect. Wouldn’t it be a bummer if after you put down your deposit, he’s not as responsive to your emails? Or if he arrives late for your engagement shoot and misses the sunset? Or if he doesn’t have a backup plan in case of rain on the day of your wedding? Online reviews can be very helpful, but the best way to get the straight scoop about how your photographer behaves on the job is to ask one (or five) of his previous clients.
There are a ton of other questions you should ask when searching for your wedding photographer, but these are among the most important and should send you well on your way to finding a photographer who is right for you.
Feel free to contact us directly with any other questions you might have.
Thanks for reading!