A TON of decisions need to be made during the wedding planning process and choosing your photographer is definitely one of the most important. So what are the most essential questions to ask during this process? Without further ado, here are the most important 10 questions to ask when hiring a wedding photographer:
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 unique wedding photos, you need to hire someone who can think outside the box and deliver.
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 important as well.
What about lighting? Does the photographer bring off-camera lights or does she just shoot ambient light? 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.
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 arriving, anticipation shots before the ceremony, the recessional/receiving line, family photos, couples’ portraits, 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.
Check out our post on why you should have two wedding photographers for more info.
5) May I see some of your full wedding shoots?
When you look at a photographer’s portfolio, you’re seeing his best 30-40 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) Do you offer full-day coverage?
There are two types of wedding photographers: those who have a list of packages that include a set number of hours of coverage (e.g. 4 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours, etc.) and those who will be there for as long as it takes to get the job done. When Moira and I shoot a wedding, we’re in attendance from the beginning of “getting ready” to the final send-off and sometimes even longer to shoot nighttime portraits. This way, we tell the full story of the day and you don’t feel rushed in trying to cram a whole day’s worth of photos into a shorter time frame. You get to relax and enjoy the day with no time crunch.
7) Do you book more than one wedding per weekend?
Shooting a 14-hour wedding day is exhausting. What’s even more exhausting is shooting two 14-hour wedding days back-to-back. Most wedding photographers are troopers who can handle the workload, but it would be folly to not think that this doesn’t take a toll. If you want your photographer to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with the energy to create new and unique imagery at your wedding, this might be a good question to ask. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you can’t make compelling imagery when you’re tired. It’s just that it’s more difficult.
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 every photographer’s workflow (and work load) is different. 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? Thumb drives? Direct download from the photographer’s website? Both?
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.
Check out our post of the copyright vs. printing releases for more info.
10) How about references?
Okay. You’ve found the perfect photographers for your wedding. You love their work, they was charming and informative during your meeting and they has a ton of great reviews online. They’re perfect. Wouldn’t it be a bummer if after you put down your deposit, they’re not as responsive to your emails? Or if they arrive late for your engagement session and miss the sunset? Or if they don’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 photographers behave on the job is to ask one (or five) of their previous clients.
Thanks so much for reading our post on the most important 10 questions to ask when hiring a wedding photographer. These should send you well on your way to finding a photographer who is a perfect fit for you and your wedding.
Feel free to contact us directly with any other questions you might have!