Let’s face it, the devil is often in the details. It’s a rule to live by when it comes to striking any deal, and it’s no different when selecting your wedding photographer. That’s why it’s important to know what questions to ask when meeting with a wedding photographer for a free consultation. After all, those “free consultations” are really just a job interview to help you determine whether or not they are the right fit for your wedding, so you better grill them and get all the information you can.
I always appreciate a couple that comes in with their list of questions that go beyond asking about my packages and pricing because it means they are taking their wedding photography seriously and have done their research. The five areas you should really be drilling down on is their (1) experience level; (2) photographic style; (3) the service the photographer will provide on the day of your wedding; (4) what their final product delivery looks like; and (5) any other fine print that you may not necessarily think about initially. Below is a breakdown of some suggested questions in each of the five areas, along with a brief explanation of why you should care. These can also be accessed in an easy to reference infographic, that you can download and reference during your wedding photography consults.
How many weddings have you shot?
Why you should care: If you are paying the big bucks you want to make sure the photographer has adequate experience to give you confidence that they can do a good job shooting your wedding. Just like with any craft, the more you do it, the better you are.
Have you ever shot a wedding at my venue?
Why you should care: It’s always reassuring to know that a photographer has shot a wedding at your particular venue in the past and has a good rapport with the staff. Even if a photographer hasn’t shot in a specific venue previously, it certainly doesn’t mean that they can’t do an excellent job for you, but this question opens the door for them to explain how they may go about shooting at a venue they are unfamiliar with. For example, if I can, I always like to visit a new venue prior to the wedding day to get a feel for its surroundings.
Have you ever shot my particular type of wedding before (i.e. Indian, Afghan, Greek Orthodox, etc.)?
Why you should care: Like in the previous question, it’s great if a photographer has shot your particular cultural wedding in the past, but it isn’t necessarily critical. This question does open the door for the photographer to hear about the unique aspects of your wedding, and allows you to see if you feel comfortable with their responses and strategies for adapting to your particular type of wedding.
What shooting style do you specialize in (i.e. candid, editorial, traditional, etc.)?
Why you should care: Each photographer has a unique shooting style. You should make sure you like their style because that is the type of photographs that you will ultimately end up with. Their style is usually obvious from their portfolio so make sure to pay close attention.
Will photographs be retouched & color balanced?
Why you should care: Most wedding photos are edited in some way (either retouched, color balanced or both). Some photographers take a heavier hand at editing than others. Typical edits include removal of blemishes, erasing fly away hairs and even slight thinning of the bride and groom. Color balancing also heavily effects the look of a picture. Some wedding photographers edit pictures to have a lighter airy tone, others opt for darker colors or black and white images, while yet others aim for a more natural look. You want to make sure you like the photographer’s overall editing style.
Can I see what a full wedding photo gallery looks like?
Why you should care: All wedding photographers put their very best images on their website and social media accounts. But you don’t want just 2 or 3 spectacular images, you want your entire wedding day to be captured. Some wedding photographers even hire models and travel to pristine locations to take extravagantly beautiful pictures for their websites. While this looks great, it may not reflect what the photographer can deliver under the pressure and time constraints of a wedding day. So make sure a photographer shows you an example of full wedding coverage so that you can have realistic expectations about what they typically deliver.
Service on the Day of the Wedding
How many weddings do you shoot per weekend?
Why you should care: While snatching an in demand photographer is never a bad thing, photographers that shoot more than one wedding per day (2 weddings per weekend) is a risk because it means their attention is split and they may not be on their A game.
How many hours of coverage do I get on the wedding day?
Why you should care: Of course the more hours of coverage, the more photos the photographer will be able to provide. This typically depends on the package you choose, with more expensive packages providing more hours. You should discuss with the photographer your plans for the day to decide a realistic amount of coverage that will yield the photos you are hoping to capture.
Will you be my actual photographer? Do you have a backup in case of emergency?
Why you should care: Some photography companies that shoot multiple weddings on the same day may not assign the same photographer you meet with during the consultation to shoot your wedding. You should never assume that it will be the photographer you meet with. Make sure to ask. Also, ensuring a photographer has a backup plan in case life happens is never a bad idea either. You wouldn’t want to be left high and dry without a photographer on the day of your wedding.
Will there be a second shooter?
Why you should care: Having a second shooter is a great luxury if a photographer is able to provide it and/or you are able to afford it. It allows the bride and groom to be shot getting ready at the same time before the wedding and reduces the possibility of missing key moments such as the first kiss or groom’s reaction to the bride walking down the aisle. So ask if any packages include a second shooter.
How do you coordinate with the videographer?
Why you should care: Photographers and videographers are often competing for the same shots in a wedding, so some coordination is necessary to ensure one doesn’t get in the way of the other. If I am not handling the videography for a wedding I am photographing, I always like to touch base with the videographer beforehand to go over a game plan. Ask if your photographer does something similar.
Will you follow a shot list?
Why you should care: You want to know that the photographer will be able to follow instructions, and capture all the images you want. I take three steps to make sure I understand what the bride is looking for. First I ask them to fill out a questionnaire that asks them about the specific photos they are looking for, second I ask them to create a Pinterest board of the photos they would like to see and share it with me, and third I have a pre-wedding phone call with my clients to go over the photo requests to ensure I understand.
What will you wear?
Why you should care: Typical attire for a photographer on a wedding day includes black pants and shirt in order to be as unobstructive as possible. However, I have seen photographers wear all sorts of clothing. If it’s important to you that your wedding photographer dresses classy, you should express it during the consultation.
Final Product Delivery
How many edited photos will I receive and how will I receive them?
Why you should care: Each photographer has slightly different offerings regarding how many pictures from your wedding they will edit. I never deliver under 100 for a 6 hour wedding day, and try to include every step of the day so that the edited photos tell the story of wedding day, with priority given to formal portrait sessions (including the couple, wedding party and family members), knowing that those are the photos likely to be printed and framed ultimately.
How they will be delivered is important too. For example, will they be in an online gallery, on a CD, on a flash drive, etc.?
What will happen to the unedited footage?
Why you should care: Photographers generally take far more pictures during a wedding day than they are able to edit. You will want to make sure the photographer is committed to delivering an adequate number of photos to tell the story of your wedding day. For example, I generally deliver between 500-700 of edited photos for an 8 hour wedding day. That is around the sweet spot to ensure you get all the fun details from your wedding.
How long after the wedding until I receive my images?
Why you should care: In the era of camera phones and social media, people are used to seeing pictures instantly. Most photographers take at least a couple weeks to deliver photos, so you should make sure to have realistic expectations about when you will receive them. Also, some photographers will edit a few of the best wedding photos the day after the wedding to provide couples a taste of what’s to come, and to allow them to make their post on social media the day after their wedding. If this is important to you, talk to your photographer to find out if they do this.
Do you print albums? If so, what do they look like?
Why you should care: It’s not uncommon for wedding packages to include albums. Ask your photographer to show you a sample of an album during your wedding consult and make sure you like the look and feel of them. Also, ask about their process for selecting the photos to include and the general layout of the album.
The Fine Print
How much is the deposit, and is it refundable?
Why you should care: Almost all wedding photographers require a deposit to hold the date. Find out how much it is, when it is due and whether or not it is refundable.
Do you charge extra for far destinations? What about parking?
Why you should care: Couples looking at package pricing sometimes don’t factor in extra costs for long distance travel. I generally charge extra when it is over a 1 hour drive to their venue location. Inquire during the consultation about whether the photographer has a similar policy. Also, parking is often overlooked by couples as well. Often, brides and grooms have photographers meet them at hotels and other busy city locations that require paid parking. Photographers often need close parking because they have a lot of equipment and don’t want to waste time walking to and from their car when moving locations. So if you foresee parking being a potential issue, it’s not a bad idea to talk to the photographer during the consultation about how they might handle it.
Do you have liability insurance?
Why you should care: I rarely get asked this question, but it’s a good one because it’s a sign of a well-established experienced business. You also want to know that a photography company is covered in case of any mishaps during your wedding day. Also, many venues require they be added as an “Additional Insured” on a photographer’s policy, which of course requires them to have a policy in the first place.
Are there restrictions to using my photos?
Why you should care: You should have full rights to your wedding photos once they are delivered, free of the photographer’s logo and branding. Talk to the photographer to ensure that they give you full rights to distribute and use the images as you please.
What is your overtime rate?
Why you should care: Weddings often run late, despite the best efforts of the bide and groom to prevent it. Understand how much your photographer will charge per hour to stay later than the allotted time just in case!