Questions to ask a wedding photographer BEFORE you hire them
In last week’s post we covered the First steps towards finding your Wedding Photographer
Once you have narrowed down the list of wedding photographers in your location based on style, now you need to contact each of the people on your list. This first series of questions can be done via scouring their FAQ page, emailing them, or calling them. These are a few of the questions on what to ask your wedding photographer:
Are you available on my wedding date?
No point going any further if they are not available for your wedding day.
How long have you been working as a wedding photographer? Is this full-time or part-time?
Experience isn’t everything to creating memorable images, but it is very important for anticipating wedding day events and moments. An experienced wedding photographer can assist you with your wedding day timeline to maximise your opportunity to get the best wedding photos. Experienced wedding photographers have also seen the pitfalls that can occur on a wedding day and are better prepared to manage these issues.
How many weddings have you photographed?
Experience is very important so that events can be anticipated early so that the photographer is ready to capture them.
What type of equipment do you use? Do you have a backup plan? How many camera bodies and lenses do you bring to a wedding?
Essentially, you need to know if your photographer has a backup plan for equipment failure. You also want to know that they are using professional grade camera bodies and lenses. Do they carry lighting equipment? Avoid at all costs a wedding photographer that does not carry backup equipment: camera bodies, lenses, flashes, etc. It is also best if that backup equipment is immediately available during key moments of the day.
If you want a completely independent view of this topic, by an industry leader (teaching many photographers), check out this article on the Bare Bones Minimum Equipment to Shoot a Wedding.
NOT Professional Wedding Camera Body and Lenses
Professional Wedding Photographer Camera Body and Lenses
As you can see from the photos, it is not easy to determine if a photographer is using professional level equipment suitable for a wedding. Whilst a lot of DSLR camera look similar, their performance capabilities are vastly different. Ask what camera body and lenses the photographer is using and then look them up after the meeting if you are at all concerned. The article mentioned above on the Bare Bones Equipment Required to Shoot a Wedding is an excellent resource to check the photographer’s answers against.
Do you use off camera flash at the reception or during other parts of the day?
Avoid anyone that says that they are a natural light photographer and therefore don’t use flash. In ideal conditions a flash may not be necessary, but a wedding day and reception is filled with less than ideal lighting conditions. I recommend that you ask if the photographer is experienced in using off-camera flash. Those that have experience in using off-camera flash are best equiped to deal with any lighting condition on your wedding day.
On Camera Flash
Off Camera Flash
Are you an accredited mbr of the AIPP or another professional body?
Membership at a professional body such as the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers (AIPP) does provide some reassurance that the photographer has a certain minimum skill level. However, more and more photographers are choosing not to join professional bodies such as these due to costly membership fees with very little in return. In the end, the proof is in the pudding, can you see multiple full weddings of photos of a professional standard throughout the wedding day? If the answer is yes, then membership at a professional body becomes irrelevant.
What coverage hours do you offer?
Is it all day, is only up to the reception, or even a shorter time frame. If you have decided to have a sparkler exit, it would be better to have your photographer there all day to capture this event.
Can you help me plan my wedding day timeline?
This can be a real life saver if you haven’t hired a wedding planner. Memorable weddings don’t just happen. They take a large amount of organisation. To ensure a smooth flow of beautifully captured memories of your day, a timeline of wedding events will help guide your planning.
An experienced wedding photographer can help you allocate the right amount of time for the events in your wedding day. They can also ensure the time of the events maximises the best lighting conditions for your photos.
What does your base wedding package cost and what does it include? Can you show me your complete wedding photography pricing?
Keep in mind this is unlikely to be the amount you would end up spending and should be seen as the absolute lowest price possible with minimal inclusions. You probably know by now in life that you get what you pay for. If you need some reminding of this when choosing your wedding photographer, I recommend reading this excellent blog post by Mike Most Photography.:
What does your average client spend on their wedding day photography with your studio?
This is very important to ask as it will give you a much better idea as to if your photographer is within your price range. Keep in mind that this price should include the extras such as additional pages in your wedding album, prints, and/or wall art. It is quite normal for the average client to spend the same amount again as what they spent prior to the wedding. For example, if you start with a $3500 wedding package, you can expect to spend another $3500 after the wedding on these additional items. Whilst this is completely optional it is also very common.
What system do you have for backing up our wedding images (digital files) and how long to you keep them for?
You want your photographer to have a backup of your wedding images. This is what will distinguish a professional wedding photographer from an amateur. A professional with have your images backed up on 3 seperate devices in at least 2 locations. If you are unsure why this is so important check out this important blog post on how to keep your wedding photos safe.
You narrowed down the list, now you need to meet each of the photographers on your list. These are an extra few of the questions you might like to ask each photographer or look for, prior to making a decision:
What finished products do you offer?
More established wedding photographers will have a greater variety of products for you to consider. Unless price is your primary concern, stay away from ‘shoot and burn’ wedding photographers that only offer digital files. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a family heirloom started.
Can you show me a couple of different wedding albums from past clients?
Again, this is your opportunity to see the quality of a photographer through an entire wedding day. This will also allow you to confirm that you enjoy the photographers work.
What contact will we have leading up to the wedding?
Having someone that is experienced in the wedding industry available in the lead up to your wedding is invaluable. You want to know that you will get a chance to get to know your wedding photographer, rather than them just turning up on the wedding day.
Why did you become a wedding photographer?
Those that do a job for a reason outside of a pay check are going to be more passionate. Passionate wedding photographers’ will go the extra mile to get you the photos you desire plus they will offer incredible customer service.
What images rights will I have to my wedding photos?
Depending on wear you live, will depend on who automatically has copyright ownership to your wedding day images. This article explains this concept in more detail.
Your wedding contract can alter this ownership, so it is important that you ask the photographer what is in their standard contract. If you are not happy with what is written in the standard contract, ask if your photographer is willing to alter it.
How do you pose your clients?
Posing has today become a dirty word among wedding blogs, bridal magazines and many brides. Most of that has come from a lack of understanding about posing, a previous bad experience with a photographer that did not know how to pose properly and a general fear of being in front of a camera.
Posing well is a difficult skill that few photographers excel. Along with lighting it is considered the most challenging skill for any photographer to master. As a result most clients have never experienced being posed with someone that finds the process easy. As a result both the clients and the photographer become awkward and uncomfortable.
When posing is done well, the photographer and the clients will move effortlessly between poses, often with a ton of laughter and some tender moments in between.
The purpose of posing is to make the clients look their very best in combination with lighting and camera techniques that minimise undesired areas and emphasise their best features. For example, many women are self conscious about their waistline, hips, and thighs, and wish to emphasise their bust. This can be achieved by utilising by correct posing to slim areas of concern and enlarge the bust area.
What level of post production of images is included?
The bare minimum you should expect is colour correction, exposure, and tone. Images that are captured in RAW file formats require this base level of editing prior to conversion to JPEG and delivery to a client. If you order an album or wall art you should expect fully retouched images that include skin retouching, object removal, head swaps, etc.
What to ask your wedding photographer – Summary
Once you have answers to all of your questions, ask yourself:
How comfortable did you feel around each of the photographers? Did the photographer appear comfortable answering all my questions? Do I feel they have the style I am looking for, and the right amount of of experience and skill for the price they are charging?
I hope these questions on what to ask your wedding photographer will help you to decide who is the best wedding photographer to shoot your big day. Wedding photography is a highly specialised form of professional photography and is arguably the most difficult. Putting the effort in early to find the right photographer will pay off in the long run to ensure you get the best wedding images.