The wedding date is set! Already, the excitement is building for your big day. You want awesome wedding pictures. But the challenge feels daunting. You know your family shutterbug Uncle Ned is not who you had in mind. Chances are you have never hired a photographer before. So where do you start? You know you want to interview the candidates, but what do you ask them? Here are 17 great questions to ask photographers before booking.
1. Are you full-time? When did you start shooting full-time?
The truth is most wedding photography operations are very fly by night. The photographers are doing their photography on a part-time basis with negligible photography experience. Do you believe your once-in-a-lifetime event should be on-the-job training for your photographer? I did not think so. A full-time photographer has already made the considerable life-long investment of their energy, time and money to create a valued and trusted service. Your wedding memories deserve your photographer's 100 percent commitment not a 20 percent commitment.
2. Why do you like to photograph weddings?
This question helps you to gauge who your photographer is as a person and artist. Take stock of the person's passion and energy. Does he / she seem enthusiastic or kind of flat? People who love what they do have a tendency to be very good at what they do and working with them is always more enjoyable and fun.
Also, knowing a little about what makes the person tick is a good way to feel out what kind of a personality "fit" you may share with the photographer. After all, you will be spending an entire day with your photographer, so do what you can to be sure the person you pick will be genuinely excited to be there and pleasant through that day.
3. Will you be the actual photographer to shoot our wedding? If not, who?
It's not uncommon for photographers and larger studios to have a network of shooters. If you learn the person you are talking to will not be the shooter then insist you speak to the person who will and also insist you see their personal portfolio.
4. What kind of input can we have on the shots? Ie subject matter, shotlists and ideas from other wedding shots we liked?
A formals / posed groupings worksheet is sometimes necessary when planning when and how to get that part of your wedding completed and done in time. Lots of communication is key here. When working with a good wedding photographer, it is important when capturing the unique qualities and moments of your wedding to keep it open-ended for your photographer. A good photographer can not produce every photo you can think of, but he / she can produce photos you never dreamed of.
5. (For self-described photojournalists) How much of your candid-looking work is placing and setting-up of shots or do you get shots as they happen without placing or reenactment?
"Wedding photojournalist" has become a buzzword which has lost its specific meaning with its surge in popularity among photographers. Often, the term "photojournalist" means candid-looking when used by photographers and studios to describe their own work. Often these photographers will set up and reenact a few things during your wedding day but strictly heavily upon traditional portraiture for a lot of your photos … there is nothing wrong with this approach if you are comfortable with that. However a true wedding photojournalist has the talent and ability to expect, observe and "see" moments as they happen without the need to interfere with the natural flow of your wedding day.
6. Are the digital files available on CD / DVD? If so, are they high resolution?
This is a popular request by couples. The discs can vary broadly in price. Also ask if there are any discounts applied to the CD / DVD after a certain time has passed from the wedding. For example, the photographer may offer the discs at half-price two years after the wedding.
7. What kind of improvements do you make to the files on the CD / DVD?
It is nice to have your pictures in hand to keep safe and make whatever prints you like. Keep in mind all digital images on the disc should be toned, adjusted and worked a little to make an adequate print. You should have some guarantee of the quality of pictures on the disc.
8. Do you have a list of references with contact info?
This is a rarely asked but very effective question. A real live person who has worked with a photographer will give you valuable, objective information.
9. Who do you carry liability insurance with?
Businesses that adhere to professional practices will deliver professional service and results to you. Chances are slim you will ever have to worry about insurance coverage. But accidents can and do happen. Would you let a roofing company put a new roof on your home that did not have liability insurance? How about a mechanic working on your car? I hope not.
10. What is the delivery time for the various products you offer?
It really should not take half a year to receive an album, your proofs or any other products. Try to be timely with any input your photographer requires as far as albums, edits to help this process along.
11. With the albums, how does the design and picture selection process work? Are there any fees for changes we would like prior to the album's production?
You should have some input into important keepsakes of your wedding like an album. Some photographers charge extra for a certain number of changes to the albums they design for you prior to the printing and binding of any album. Make sure such fees are all clearly stated. Beware of time deadlines too, they are necessary to prevent production bottlenecks.
12. When will the proofs be ready? Is there a time limit for the online proofing galleries?
If working with a digital photographer, online proofing (when you first get to see your photos online) should be completed within a couple of weeks of your event. The time period of online availability for those galleries varies among photographers. Some post them for three months, others post for a full year. Check with your photographer.
13. What happens if the photographer is ill? What about back-up equipment?
Any successful, established professional studio should have a network of shooters available for emergency help. You should have a written assurance the substitute photographer will be a competent professional.
14. Should our event last longer than scheduled? Will the photographer stay, are there extra charges?
Most weddings will not exceed a six to eight hour time commitment from your photographer. If you think you will need more time, find out how your photographer handles extra hours.
15. What associations do you belong to?
Another useful way to gauge a photographer's qualifications and professional commitment.
16. Why should we hire you?
Again, this question is similar in spirit to Question 3. Your photographer's answer should communicate some excitement about the privilege to shoot your wedding.
17. May we see your second photographer's entire shoot from a wedding?
Wedding photography studios often promote themselves as two shooter "teams." They are often a husband and wife duo. They are usually not the 2-for-1 benefit they advertise. For the most part they are perhaps one decent photographer and a person who is nothing more than a camera holder with very little qualifications or experience. Have you seen an entire take of both photographers? Insist on seeing the second photographers entire shoot.
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