Planning a wedding can be daunting, especially when dealing with elements you have little to no experience of like timetabling a full day of entertainment, choosing one meal to satisfy everyone, or what your closest friends should wear. Choosing a photographer is just one of those decisions which I personally consider to be pretty important (obviously I'm a little biased but it breaks my heart when I hear about people being disappointed with their photography). Occasionally I get sent obviously copied lists of questions that brides have taken from wedding blogs which often include technical questions that are really not relevant with answers that will mean absolutely nothing to you as a bride. Let me help you navigate what is genuinely important to ask.... and scroll to the bottom for the bottom line of what should guide you!
1. Do ask: Are you free on our date?
On occasion I have had clients move their date for my availability. If photography is one of the most important things for you and you have some flexibility then this is worth considering. Many top photographers won't consider booking further than 18 months in advance but at the same time the best people get booked up definitely a year in advance. Fortunately the wedding community is a strong one and if your chosen photographer is not available they will be able to save you further time by sending over a shortlist of brilliant colleagues who will be available.
2. Do ask: How many images will I receive?
I can assure you there will be some shots from the day you won’t want to see. Someone will have blinked, sneezed or made a funny face in the background. After I leave you on the day I begin the process of selecting the best images which really showcase the fun and beauty of your wedding and curating the story for you. I usually deliver around 600 images for a full day of photography. More than enough to tell the story of the day. If the day is longer you'll probably get more. Basically you will receive all the images which are consistent with the photographers style and are unique enough. By having 10 variations of the same image you dilute the set and what a photographer is trying to do is tell a beautifully crafted story with the images to hand not dump every single image on to you to wade through - that's just laziness on the part of the photographer.
3. Do ask: How do you describe your style?
You should have a good idea of a photographers style from their portfolio but if you would like them to work outside of this range, such a documentary photographer shooting more formal group images, it's best to clarify upfront. If you are considering a documentary photographer, sending over a detailed shot list will not be well received! You should connect with their work but feel free to ask for what you want so there is no disappointment on delivery.
4. Do ask: Can we see a whole shoot from a previous wedding?
Photographers will obviously curate the images they show you on their website. They will be showing you images that are their best examples and also the type of work they enjoy shooting and want to shoot more of. However, if their images are all natural light, dreamy images and your wedding is going to be mid winter and mostly in dark spaces then check to see a full wedding to see how they cope in different lighting conditions. I'm always happy to share a full gallery from a wedding as I want you to see the attention that I give to all parts of the day such as the preparations or the dancing as well as the more wow portrait shots.
5. Do ask: How will you deliver the images and when?
The majority of professional photographers will shoot RAW files. Do NOT ask for these! - they are literally the 'raw' material that comes out of the camera and a photographer will not release them without doing post production work on them. You should receive large Jpegs which are suitable for printing. I deliver my images on a private online gallery that allows free downloads. My contract states 6 weeks but if I'm on top of editing it can be 2/3 weeks. Don't chase your photographer a week after the wedding - you want them to spend time and care on the end product and that process is just as important as the actual shooting of the day.
6. Don't ask: Do you have a contract and insurance?
I usually only get asked for insurance details when working with some of the larger wedding venues who insist of receiving this from suppliers. I have professional and liability insurances to the maximum. Holding these should be as standard for most photographers. Contracts are also essential to ensure that expectations are aligned between you and your photographer in terms of timings, locations and delivery. A professional photographer will absolutely have these. However, short of asking for evidence of these things you will just have to trust them.
7. Dont Ask: What equipment do you use?
Unless you are a camera geek, it's likely that your eyes will glaze over and you will have little or no understanding of the answer that will follow. It is highly likely that there will be many guests at your wedding with bigger and more expensive cameras than I will have. That is because I've taken a creative choice to downsize my kit and work with cameras that allow me to be discrete, mobile and more creatively agile (Fuji XT2s, in case you are a geek). I won't even look like the wedding photographer probably - and I usually get asked how I know the bride and groom. Great! I want to mingle in with your guests so that they feel at ease around me and my cameras. At the end of the day, you don't admire the fanciness of a chef's oven - you judge his talents on the end result and the same should go for photography. Same with back up - trust an experienced photographer - they know what they are doing.
8. Do Ask: What do I get for my money?
Good question. In my opinion the simpler the better. I'm not going to confuse you with packages and extras. On the whole I have one price which includes my time (pre agreed hours) and delivery of your carefully and individually edited images on a private online sharing gallery. Albums, prints, extensive retouching, a drone etc etc not included. I'm not going to fluff up my offering with 'free' extras because free is never free. You are still paying for it.
9. Do Ask: Have you photographed at my venue before?
... And then disregard the answer. It's not important. Would you prefer to have a photographer who shoots 10 weddings a year at the same venue or would you prefer your photographer to arrive at your venue for a walk around the morning of the wedding fresh eyed, enthusiastic and excited by the challenge of a new space to work in? Creatives enjoy variety. Occasionally I return to a venue but the majority of venues are new to me. I do my research online before hand via the wealth of tools available - google maps, blogs etc. I turn up early for a walk around. And then I am led by the weather and you two as a couple. If I turn up and the wedding planner says 'photographers always shoot in front of that fountain', I will probably turn you around and take you into the fields. I want your photos to be unique to you, not a carbon copy of every other wedding that's taken place at that venue.
10: Do Ask: Do I need a second shooter?
Probably 80% of the weddings I photograph I do so alone. I've also photographed weddings where I have been one of a team of 7 or 8 strong photo and video team. Talking through your wedding plans and schedule should make it obvious to the photographer whether you need one or not. If your wedding is for 250 people and the bride and groom are getting ready miles apart then yes, that would be a good idea. If you are having an intimate 60 person wedding where the ceremony and reception are at the same place and you are both getting ready on site then 2 people is probably overkill - you don't want to turn your lovely wedding into a media circus. I don't every work with assistants - only experienced photographers whose work I love and trust and who have a different eye to me. I don't want a replication of the shots I am getting, I want them to have the freedom to go a little crazy creatively whilst I get the 'safe' shots. It's really fun being a second shooter and I do it when I can.
Ok - so I realise the questions can actually be endless! And so....
...the most important considerations should be:
- Do I connect with this photographer's work?
- Do I like this photographer as a person and are they someone who will fit in with my friends and family on the wedding day?
- Has the communication been smooth and has this photographer listened to my needs and answered my questions to reassure me so that I trust them?
GOOD LUCK AND HAPPY HUNTING!!!