Choosing a Photographer
Hiring a wedding photographer is a daunting task. It’s a lot of money and you want to make sure you get the best value for your money. But how? Here is a list of questions to ask that will (hopefully) make you a more educated consumer.
1. What do you consider your photography style to be? Don’t settle for a one-word answer (traditional, photojournalistic, etc) – ask to see examples of the work. Don’t be afraid to ask for an elaboration – why is that their photography style? I remember when I was planning my first wedding I met with a photographer that didn’t like me asking questions – he obviously did not care for an educated bride. He kept saying his work spoke for him (yep – he had at least 10 albums with 4 weddings each and they all looked identical). He also kept looking at my fiancé when answering questions even though I had already been clear I was the one choosing and paying for the photographer. He didn’t get the job.
Sidebar – This brings up one of my biggest lessons I try to teach my couples: love your wedding professionals! If you don’t like a photographer, don’t book him/her even if they do have the best price or are the most sought after. If you don’t like your photographer it will show in your photos.
2. Do you shoot on film or digital? If the answer is film, then ask black and white or color. What format do they shoot (5×5 medium format used to be a popular choice amongst wedding photographers)? Most photographers are now digital and digital images can be printed in black and white or color (or even sepia tone).
3. Do you bring an assistant or second shooter? If the answer is no, keep looking. I think it is essential for a wedding photographer to have a second shooter! There are too many things happening at once, too many angles to shoot from for one photographer to get it all. It is also important to be clear on the distinction – an assistant might just be carrying equipment where a second shooter will actually be capturing moments.
4. Do you work well with videographers? Clearly this question is only important if you plan to have a videographer, but it is important to know if your photographer will work with one. And if you want a videographer but haven’t hired one yet, ask for a recommendation.
5. Do you correct your photos? I’d want to make sure I have approval on corrections – fixing a double chin in an otherwise perfect photo is one thing…erasing all the wrinkles from grandma’s face is another.
6. Will the photographer give you a high-resolution CD of your images? In other words, will you be able to print your photos at will or will you have to go to your photographer every time you want another image printed? Also be clear on how many images will be on the CD – will it include all the raw footage or only the edited images? Personally I want all of the images but some photographers will only hand over the ones they have edited – make sure you are clear on what to expect.
Sidebar 2 – Be sure to ask your photographer WHEN you can expect the photos as well. If the answer is longer than you want to wait, see if he/she can send you at least one photo within a week to help the time pass more quickly.
7. Are you willing to have input on the photos we want? Again, if the answer is no – RUN! If you have a photographer that isn’t interested in your must have photos, or maybe some specific shots you have been inspired by, then that is clearly not the photographer for you. Remember the photographer from #1? He refused to shoot black and white (which I wanted) and even though I told him I didn’t like some of his poses he told me that’s what he does…including smashing the cake in the face. I was appalled by his complete lack of flexibility.
8. Are you the actual photographer who will shoot on my wedding day? There are some collective photographers out there – kind of like a doctor office where you don’t always know which doctor you will be seeing. I would be wary of booking a photographer with whom I haven’t actually met.
9. Are you familiar with my ceremony/reception site? This is a valid question but I don’t think a no is a deal breaker. If it bothers you that they haven’t been to your site(s), ask if they can visit it prior to your wedding day to familiarize themselves with the property. Odds are, the answer will be yes. If it’s no, well, then you have to decide how important it is to you that he/she be familiar with the space. I still don’t think it is a deal breaker, but that is something only you can decide.
10. What comes in my photography package? It is essential when you are comparing photographers that you are comparing apples to apples as much as possible. Photographer A may sound really cheap until you find out a second shooter is extra, it only covers 4 hours, and you only get 20 edited images. Even though photographer B might cost a little more they include a second shooter, the coverage is 6 hours, and you get all the images. Don’t focus solely on price…it doesn’t give you the whole picture.
11. How are you prepared for equipment malfunctions? Does the photographer carry extra batteries, flash, memory cards? What about extra cameras?
12. What will you wear for my wedding? This may seem like a nit-picky type question but I once had a photographer show up in shorts and a bright Hawaiian print shirt – not exactly appropriate attire for an elegant wedding. Scoff if you want, but I still say it is a valid question to ask.
What questions do you wish you had asked your wedding photographer?