QUESTIONS TO ASK A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER

A common dilemma which many bride & groom's face is just how do you choose a wedding photographer for your wedding?  You have probably never have hired a photographer before.  So how do you know if he/she is any good?  Are you being offered a good deal? Your wedding photographs have to last a life time so you want them to bring you tears of joy, not the other kind!  So if this is you and you're sat there thinking of questions to ask a wedding photographer then this article is for you.

I'll start out by giving you the important information you need to know to help you shortlist a few wedding photographer's to meet.  A few tips on what to look out for when you are looking at their work and a few common mistakes I see couples making.

Things to understand

Photography is an art and art is subjective.  What I mean by that is that what makes a great looking photograph to one person, may be rubbish to another. We all have different standards.  This is important to understand and ultimately you will need to make your own decision as to if this photographer is producing photos that you will love not just for today, but for the rest of your lives.
Unlike many professions like a doctor, teacher or even electrician.  There is no standard qualification for a wedding photographer.  So there's no way of knowing for sure that he/she has reached a minimum level of competency needed to be a wedding photographer.  A few photography organisations have 'qualifications' but none are nationally recognised.
My favourite analogy is to treat choosing a wedding photographer like your wedding dress.  They are different in quality, prices and also what you get.  Generally though you do get what you pay for.  Just in the same way you want to fall in love with the dress more than the price.  It's the same with photography.


Commonly asked questions for a wedding photographer

These are the questions I get asked the most. They're not what I'd say are GOOD questions but I do understand why people ask them. I've included what I think are better questions later.

HAVE YOU PHOTOGRAPHED AT OUR VENUE BEFORE?

This is probably the first question I get asked.  Often in the initial email.  I totally understand why you'd like to know.  You want someone who is familiar with the best places to get photographs and experience of any tricky rooms etc.  Each year I will be fortunate enough to visit new wedding venues and also to return to others.  The most important factor for any wedding photographer is the light.  He/she should always be looking for where the good light is.  This is something we can do during the day of the wedding.  There's little point in visiting weeks/months before.  I've taken some photographs in some very strange places just because the light there is beautiful.

HOW MANY PHOTOS WILL I GET?

This should be an impossible question for your wedding photographer to give a definite answer to.  The answer is that it depends.  For example the number of guests you are inviting, the hours of coverage and what your guests do will all directly affect the final number of photographs you are given.  What they should be able to do though is give you a ballpark figure based upon their previous weddings.  Just be very wary of anyone who makes any guarantees because the only way they can do that is to shoot to a number rather than what best tells the story of your day.

Also consider that quality is not the same as quantity.  Which would you rather have?  The photographer who delivers 200 perfectly captured and edited photos that nail the essence of your wedding day?  Or the photographer who delivers 2000 unedited photos on a CD?  In short, do you want better?  Or do you want more? 

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER?

Experience is a good thing.  Unless you're on a severe budget where you may consider an inexperienced photographer then generally it's a great idea to hire someone who has been there, done that and has a proven track record.

However, when it comes to wedding photographer, you also need to factor in not just how LONG they've been a wedding photographer for but also how MANY weddings they shoot per year.  Anyone can claim they have fifteen years of experience.  But firstly what are they defining as experience.  Do they mean the day they picked up a camera and took a photo of their cat?  Or their first wedding?  Secondly would you rather have a wedding photographer who has been shooting 50 weddings a year for the last two years?  Or someone with five years of experience but who shoots ten per year?


Better questions for your wedding photographer

Here are some questions which if your wedding photographer doesn't cover, you should definitely ask.

CAN I SEE 2-3 FULL WEDDINGS YOU'VE SHOT FROM A SIMILAR TIME OF YEAR

A photographer's portfolio is by very definition their best work.  The photographs which they are most proud of and define their style.  However, with the best will in the world, not every photograph is portfolio worthy.  What you want to find out is if your wedding photographer is able to deliver to a high standard from the start of the day until the end....consistently.  What you don't want to find out is that they are great when the sun is shining but they struggle in a dimly lit church.  Asking to see more than one wedding helps reassure you that they can repeat those same high standards you are looking for.
Be wary of any photographer who cannot show you a full wedding or only has albums with selected images from different weddings.  The question you should ask yourself is why are you not showing me the others?

WHAT CAN WE DO WITH OUR PHOTOS AND WHAT CAN WE NOT?

Almost always what they really want to know is if they can print & share their wedding photographs with friends and family.  Maybe make an album if they are not buying one from the wedding photographer.  Few professional photographers will give you copyright but what you should get is a license which will allow you to print and share.  Check with your photographer what their limitations are.  For example some will allow you to print photos but not give them to friends & family.  Others, like myself have no such restriction.

Also it is worth checking if your photographer has rules regarding use on social media.  I know several wedding photographers who insist that you must only post watermarked images with their logo on if you are sharing on social media.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO RECEIVE OUR PHOTOS?

This is a great question since let's face it.  After your wedding, you'll be excited to see them.  Editing time for wedding photographer's can vary wildly. The most common answer you will hear is 4-8 weeks but I know some photographer's can go over that and be 8-10 weeks.  Sometimes even more!  It's so important to know before you book so at least you have some idea the wait you will face and build that fact into your decision making process. Personally I have develop a very streamlined and efficient workflow that has allowed me to reduce my average turnaround time to around three weeks.  My own personal opinion is that we live in the 21st century.  Waiting 8-10 weeks just seems so old fashioned! Most of my customers will receive between 40-50 photos the very next morning from my same day slideshow.  Perfect for sharing on social media and ride the wave of excitement from your big day.

WHAT'S THE HARDEST SITUATION YOU'VE HAD TO DEAL WITH?

This is a tough question in my view since it's probably not something they've ever been asked before. There's also no right or wrong answer.  It will test their ability to think quickly which is skill which is imperative at a wedding but also their answer should allow you to think "Is this the way I'd expect them to have handled it?"


Bad questions to ask and why

Here are some questions which often customer's have read that they should ask.  So they do.  But they've no idea why or why it is an important question or not.

ARE YOU INSURED?

On the surface this is a great question!  Certainly it's usually one of the first questions I see many wedding photographers recommend you ask.  So why do I think it's not a good question to ask?
Well for starters insurance is there for when things go badly wrong.  I mean REALLY badly.  Like for example they've lost your wedding photos.  Or they've set fire to your dress by accident.

Secondly and more importantly.  Insurance is cheap.  So cheap in fact that even the newest, least experienced wedding photographer's will buy it so that they can use it to project legitimacy.

Right now your goal is to make sure they can deliver great photos and great service. Asking them if their insurer will pay out if you sued them doesn't really help you decide that.

WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU USE?

Unless you are a photography enthusiast then i wouldn't recommend asking this question since it is unlikely you will understand the reply.  We don't ask a garage mechanic what tools they are going to use to repair our car or what oven a chef will use to cook our meal.  The main thing that matters is that you trust your photographer is a professional and that he/she will choose the right equipment to get the job done.

CAN YOU LET US KNOW IF SOMEONE ELSE ENQUIRES ABOUT OUR DATE?

This is a totally unfair question to ask since it puts the photographer in a very awkward situation.  There's no simple way of calling you and saying that someone else has enquired without it sounding like a sales tactic.  At the same time you've effectively hedged your bets.  What if they don't call?  Are they supposed to just keep the date pencilled in just in case?  If you love their work then book them before someone else does.  Especially if you have a peak summer date.


Summary

I hope this article has given you some good food for thought and more confidence when meeting with your photographer.  It shouldn't be a daunting experience at all.  Everyone deserves stunning wedding photographs and by asking the above questions then I hope it will allow you to find the perfect photographer for your special day.

Lastly, this isn't strictly speaking a question to ask your wedding photographer but something to ask yourself. "Is this person someone you would be happy spending a lot of time with on your wedding day?" He or she may produce the most stunning photographs in the world. But they won't be able to get the best out of you if you can't stand to be in a room with them!


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