If you’re currently planning a wedding, I’m sure you’ve stumbled across those articles titled something like “50 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer” on Pinterest, am I right? As a wedding photographer, I always click on those articles to see exactly what kinds of questions these blogs are telling couples to ask. Most of them are actually pretty good, but others are just nonsense questions where the answers wouldn’t mean anything to most couples anyway. So I decided to compile a list of the most USEFUL questions to ask your wedding photographer, and I’m taking it a step further by explaining why these questions are important, and I’ll answer them myself! Let’s go!
How long have you been shooting weddings AND how many weddings have you shot?
WHY IT MATTERS: Even if their work is stunning, an unexperienced photographer can be hit with wedding day challenges that they just don’t know how to handle. Have they shot a wedding where it rained the whole day and they had to improvise portrait locations? Have they experienced timeline delays, dark churches, couples with different skin colors? You want to make sure they’ve shot enough weddings that they can handle any curve balls that get thrown at them!
MY ANSWER: I shot my first wedding in 2012 and as of today, April 2019, I’ve shot 112 weddings.
Can we see a few full galleries?
WHY IT MATTERS: Anyone can put their highlight reel on Instagram or their website. No photographer is going to showcase their worst photos. Ask to see several full galleries so that you can see how they handle different types of light and to make sure the quality of their work holds up!
MY ANSWER: Of course! Shoot me an email!
Do you regularly get your equipment professionally cleaned and serviced, and do you calibrate your lenses?
WHY IT MATTERS: A photographer can have the best gear around but if they don’t take care of it, it can have an effect on your wedding photos!
MY ANSWER: Yep! Once a year, right before wedding season starts, I send all of my equipment in to be professionally cleaned, calibrated, and checked for any issues.
Do you have liability insurance?
WHY IT MATTERS: What happens if grandma trips over your photographer’s light stand and breaks her hip? Or your photographer accidentally damages the venue? You want to make sure they’re covered so you aren’t left paying the price.
MY ANSWER: Yes, yes, yes. Occasionally a venue will request to be added as an additional insured on my insurance, and I can do that too.
Do you have backup equipment?
WHY IT MATTERS: Equipment can malfunction. Does your photographer bring multiple cameras, lenses, and flashes in the event that something goes wrong?
MY ANSWER: Absolutely. I wouldn’t dream of shooting a wedding without backup gear. Equipment malfunctioning at a wedding has even happened to me a few times! But it didn’t put a dent in the wedding day AT ALL because I was prepared with my backups! I also only use second shooters who shoot with the same equipment as I do so that we have even MORE backups.
How would you describe your shooting style? Do you step in and do lots of posing/set up shots or are you more of a fly on the wall?
WHY IT MATTERS: You can like their work, but their photos don’t show how hands on they are. You may not want to be asked to put your shoe on ten times to get the perfect shot, or that may be a priority! Think about if it’s more important to have a documentary photographer (one who stays in the background and shoots moments as they happen), or if you’d rather have someone step in and tell you exactly what to do for the shot. There’s no wrong answer!
MY ANSWER: I like to think I’m somewhere in the middle, leaning a bit more towards documentary. Let me explain: I’m very hands off, fly on the wall during the first part of the day (getting ready photos). I’ll guide you to the good light but I won’t make you redo things to get the perfect shot. I do some posing here and there but I also make sure to give lots of direction to get that candid look!
Many of the most important questions can be answered in their contract (P.S. - if a photographer doesn’t have a contract, RUN!). Ask to see their contract before committing. Read over it, and if it doesn’t answer these questions, just ask the photographer:
When do we get our photos back?
WHY IT MATTERS: The average wedding photographer returns wedding photos in just a couple months, but I’ve heard of photographers taking up to a year. Either is fine - just make sure you know what to expect.
MY ANSWER: My average turnaround time is 4-5 weeks.
What happens if you get sick and can’t shoot my wedding?
WHY IT MATTERS: I don’t really have to explain why this matters - you’re investing thousands of dollars into photos of a day that will never happen again. It’s easy to get anxious thinking about “what ifs”!
MY ANSWER: Luckily I’ve never even come close to missing a wedding (knock on wood). I would have to be incapacitated in the hospital or have a SERIOUS family emergency for me to miss a wedding. But I do have to think worst case scenario in this job. So first, second shooters are always included in my packages. This is an extra safety net should I get into a car accident on the way to a wedding - you still have a professional photographer planning to be at your wedding. Second, pretty much all of my friends these days are professional photographers, and I’m part of several large networks of wedding photographers in Tennessee. I could call on any of them at a moment’s notice and they would be there for me with no hesitation.
Do I get the copyright? Can I print the photos on my own?
WHY IT MATTERS: Copyright can get tricky if you don’t exactly know what it means. Every once in a while I’ll get an inquiry that asks if they get the copyright, when really what they are asking is if they can get a print release. Copyright means that the photographer owns the image. Even if you pay for the photos, you still don’t own them. The owner of a photo can do whatever they please with it - they can sell it, they can use it for advertising, they can enter it into contests - all things that photographers actually do! A print release on the other hand gives you the ability to print the photos and share them on social media. If a photographer transfers copyright to the client, the photographer can no longer use those photos for anything. So if copyright is actually what you want, most photographers charge a hefty fee.
MY ANSWER: I retain the copyright, but print releases are included with all packages!
How much editing do you do?
WHY IT MATTERS: If you know you’ll want extensive retouching done, you’ll want to know upfront if your photographer offers that or does it for a fee.
MY ANSWER: I apply my basic presets to the photos in Lightroom, do color correcting, cropping, straightening, and VERY basic retouching (i.e. edit out minor distractions in the background, you woke up with a zit on your forehead, etc.). I do NOT make anyone slimmer than they actually are or fix bad makeup or hair jobs. Requests for extensive editing are charged extra per photo.
Questions that DON’T matter:
Have you shot at my venue before?
WHY IT DOESN’T MATTER: If they haven’t shot there before, most good photographers will arrive at your venue a half hour before their start time to walk the grounds and find good spots to shoot. I sometimes feel that photographers who shoot OFTEN at a venue are at a bigger disadvantage - it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and shoot in the same spots. Photographers who have never shot at a venue before see it with fresh eyes and might get more creative shots. Not saying this is always the case, but don’t knock a photographer just because they haven’t shot at your venue before!
What equipment do you shoot with?
WHY IT DOESN’T MATTER: Unless you’re just a gear junkie and curious, it doesn’t matter what tools they use to create their work, as long as you like it! I know videographers that use their phones to film parts of the day and their work is INCREDIBLE. Just make sure they have backup gear!
Side note: I should mention that cheaper cameras and lenses usually can’t handle low-light very well. So if your ceremony or reception is dark, gear does matter!
Do we get the RAW files?
WHY IT DOESN’T MATTER: I hesitate to put this in the “does not matter” section because some photographers WILL sell you the RAW files, so it doesn’t hurt to ask if that’s something that’s important to you. Just be prepared, they usually come at a very high price and take up a LOT of storage.
When you hire a professional you get, well, professional photos! Think of it this way - the RAW file is like all the ingredients of a chef’s specialty dish. You wouldn’t go to the chef’s restaurant and ask for his ingredients; you’d order the meal that they’re best known for! I don’t know of any photographers that give RAW files. In fact, you have to have special software to be able to open them. Just make sure you love your photographer’s editing style and this won’t even be a thought!
Wedding photographers: did I miss anything? What would you add to this list?