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10/24/2019

Twenty Questions to Find the Perfect Photographer

BUCKLE UP, BUTTERCUP

You asked, and I am answering. Wedding Photography is no easy subject and interviewing potential wedding photographers can be a daunting task. Here are some questions you should be putting out there when looking for a wedding photographer.

I want to add something one of my brides said to me recently. She said that the best piece of advice she had gotten while planning her day was “Make sure you like your photographer. Not just professionally, but also personally, because you have to spend the ENTIRE day with them”.

So, some questions you may want to ask yourself while interviewing potential photographers are:

  • Do I feel a connection with this photographer as well as his/her photos? Are our personalities a good match?
  • Am I comfortable with this person’s work and communication style? (COMMUNICATION SHOULD BE KEY with all your vendors, but ESPECIALLY your photographer)
  • Has this photographer listened well and addressed all my concerns?

Now, On to the things you should be asking your potential photographer.

1. WHAT IS YOUR PRIMARY STYLE?

Each photographer has his or her own distinct style, which is reflected in the photographer’s portfolio of work. Before you choose a photographer, consider the photographic style you prefer, and then seek out those photographers whose work reflects that style. This should be your one of your first questions you ask your potential photographer, and something they should ALWAYS have a clear answer for. Please note, these are styles of shooting, not styles of editing and photographers can display a mix of styles. Some examples of different styles and descriptions:

  • TRADITIONAL: A traditional photographer will tend to treat every image as a posed portrait, even shots you may think of as ‘candid’. That doesn’t mean that all your photographs will appear stiff or forced, but that there will likely be very few spontaneous “action shots” included in the mix. Traditional wedding photographers look to capture perfect moments with artistry and skill and generally produce excellent, intentional shots of the wedding party, families, and planned events.
  • PHOTOJOURNALISTIC OR CANDID: A wedding photographer who takes a more candid approach is one who considers it is the photographer’s job to record events, not stage them. This photographer will take the group shots you want but will also include candid and spontaneous images. This will likely be the photog that prefers capturing close-ups, spontaneous reactions to events, and sensitive impressions of a wedding led by events and the emotions surrounding them.
  • FINE ART: Another style that deserves getting thrown in the mix is fine art wedding photography. This one usually involves creative framing, lighting, composition, and post-production techniques. Photographers who do artistic wedding photography are always anticipating moments where they can use fine art techniques and capture unique images. It is common for shooters to slightly change the posture of their subjects and the placement of items—particularly props’ like rings, mementos, decor, and the outfits—to achieve their desired composition.

2. HOW MANY WEDDINGS HAVE YOU SHOT, AND HAVE YOU SHOT ONES SIMILAR TO MINE?

This is a great question to get an idea of how much experience your photographer has in general. I have found that years are not the best gauge of experience. Some wedding photographers may work part time, and only shoot five weddings a year on weekends. Thus, maybe they have five years of experience, but they have only shot 25 weddings, and don’t consistently shoot. Others make their living off weddings and can shoot 20, 40, or even upwards of 50 a year!

3. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU WORKED SPECIFICALLY AS A WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER?

This question is designed to find out if the photographers are specialized in wedding photography or they are “jack of all trades” regarding photos. I am not claiming that someone who specializes in family portraits is incapable of being an excellent wedding photographer, but this is useful information when making your selection.

4. WILL A CONTRACT OF THE SERVICES BE PROVIDED? IF SO, CAN I GET A COPY?

There are a lot of studios that don’t create contracts for their wedding photography clients. (If you want my opinion: IF THERE IS NO CONTRACT YOU SHOULD RUN) You should require a contract from your photographer (and for every vendor on your day, for that matter) that describes in DETAIL what services they will be providing, pricing, termination resolution terms, etc. A contract is created for your protection, and for the wedding photographer’s protection. Be wary of photographers that “don’t normally create contracts for clients.”

5. WHAT HAPPENS IF THE PHOTOGRAPHER IS ILL?

While it is unlikely that the artist you select happens to get ill on your wedding day, there is still a chance. It is crucial that the photographer you are interviewing does something to take care of the situation in case of illness.

6. DOES THE PACKAGE I AM INTERESTED IN INCLUDE AN ASSISTANT?

If your wedding has 50 or more guests, I would suggest considering a package that has an assistant (sometimes referred to as a second shooter) photographer. Aside from the wedding site, there are many moments in which one single photographer cannot cover completely alone (think: getting ready with your crew, first kiss vs. the crowds reaction, etc).

7. WHAT KIND OF EDITING DO YOU DO/WILL YOU COLOR CORRECT MY IMAGES?

Since color correction is the basic post-production, it should be used on every single image. Many photographers will not color correct any, or will only color correct “select” images from your wedding. This means that you may have a lot of pictures where your skin tones are orange, yellow, green, red or even blue.

AAAAAAAND then there are filters. May photographers use what are called filters, or presets, to batch edit images for your wedding. This is a common practice, but it is also where terms like “light and airy”, “moody”, “true to color” come in, and you should have an opinion on what your preferences are before you select a photographer that aligns with your style.

8. WHAT KIND OF EQUIPMENT DO YOU USE? DO YOU HAVE BACKUPS?

Again, if your photographer only has one camera body, you should probably turn your search elsewhere in my opinion. No matter how wonderfully equipment is cared for, failure happens to the best of it and having a backup is essential. This is also why I am a big fan of having multiple photographers.

9. SHOULD MY EVENT LAST LONGER THAN SCHEDULED, WHAT IS YOUR POLICY? IS THERE AN EXTRA CHARGE?

MONEY TRANSPARENCY IS CRUCIAL. Money is hard to talk about, I know. BUT knowing up front the photographer’s policy on overages is critical. You don’t want to be surprised when your wedding photographer asks for an additional $1500 before they release your pictures to you because they had to stay longer than they thought they would. Even worse, you don’t want your wedding photographer to just pack up and leave when their time is up.

10. HOW LONG AFTER THE EVENT WILL THE PROOFS, ALBUM, ETC BE READY? DO YOU OFFER SNEAK PEAKS?

Each wedding photography studio varies in the time it takes to produce and deliver your pictures. Studios that do not do any post production or color correction may try to entice you by saying your photos will be ready within the week, or even the next day. This is essential information so that you aren’t waiting 10 months to a year or even more for your images (and yes, I have seen photogs even ghost before).

   

 

 

 

For example, I generally deliver sneak peeks either the day of or the day after an even, and my delivery times are within these guidelines unless otherwise stated:

3-4 Weeks for Engagement, Family, Newborn, and Portrait Photography Sessions.

7-8 Weeks for Weddings

11. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR WORKING STYLE?

This answer should help you determine whether this is a photographer who blends into the background and shoots what unfolds naturally, or creates a more visible presence by taking charge and choreographing shots. I don’t think that there is a ‘wrong’ answer here, it is just what you are comfortable with. I personally tend to get right in the middle of things, but a lot of photographers shoot from the sidelines and produce stellar shots.

12. HAVE YOU EVER WORKED WITH MY COORDINATOR/VENUE/MAKEUP ARTIST, ETC?

To me, this is OBVIOUSLY not a make or break question, but it can be so helpful to know. Great working relationships between vendors can make your day go so smoothly. If you have booked photo + video apart from one another, it can be especially helpful if your videographer and photographer work well together.

13. MAY I HAVE A LIST OF REFERENCES?

My personal opinion is that if your photog can’t provide you with one, start looking elsewhere.

14. ARE YOU THE PHOTOGRAPHER THAT WILL BE SHOOTING MY WEDDING?

If so, will they have any assistants with you on that day? If not, who will be taking your photos, and can you meet them before your wedding? THIS IS CRUCIAL. You would be surprised by how many people are surprised by a new face on their day. This should also be clearly outlined in your contract.

15. CAN I CUSTOMIZE A PACKAGE BASED ON MY NEEDS?

Pricing should never be something your vendors should be afraid to discuss with you. Some photographers offer 2-3 packages, and what you get is what you get. Others have a la cart pricing, and others offer custom pricing.

16. HOW WILL YOU (AND ANY ASSISTANTS) BE DRESSED?

I have seen it all with this one, folks. From jeans to shorts to the polished pro to actual evening wear. Your photographer should be dressed professionally and to match the style of your event. Letting you photog in on the vibe of the event is super helpful. It allows us to gauge what we should wear to best blend in. If it is a black tie wedding then a more formal approach is necessary, if not then we can relax a little (But sheesh, not too much!).

17. DO YOU CHARGE A TRAVEL FEE?

For what distance? What does that cover?

18. ARE YOU PHOTOGRAPHING ANY ADDITIONAL EVENTS ON THE SAME DAY AS MINE?

I personally commit myself to my wedding clients on the day of their wedding, but I have seen many others take on family sessions or additional clients. This also may be outlined in the contract.

19. WHAT DO YOU LOVE THE MOST ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHING WEDDINGS?

I love answering this! This is one of the most important questions to ask your wedding photographer to help get a sense of their personality, and to see if he or she seems genuinely excited to share your wedding day with you.

20. WHAT IS THE BACKUP PLAN IF, FOR ANY REASON, YOU ARE UNABLE TO SHOOT MY WEDDING?

Pro tip: Make sure you check the contract, which should specify that a photographer of equal quality and comparable style will be sourced by the photographer you hire in the event something unexpected happens.

I hope this is helpful to all the couples out there! What other questions do you think are key to be asking your photographer? Let me know in the comments!

  1. Kendra Farris

    October 24th, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    This is awesome Gretchen! Super helpful guide for couples . . . I think half the time they’re not sure what to ask and I get it, it’s a lot. You’re amazing for taking the time to write this out!

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