Choosing a wedding photographer should be treated like a job interview, not simply comparing rates. Brides who are wedding planning should go into each interview with a potential photographer with questions that will help separate and narrow your list of photographers and help you make one of the most important and stressful decisions of planning your wedding. While planning your wedding you want to ask questions to be prepared, but you don’t want to be a bridezilla before the wedding even begins. Aside from the basic questions including the photographers experience and a sample of their previous work, this article covers 10 essential questions every bride should ask her photographer.
1. What is your style of wedding photography?
There are several styles of photography including traditional, documentary and creative. Traditional photography focuses on the posed portraits and key moments, the end result will be more standard. Documentary style photographers will focus more on shooting the entire day – documenting all of the large and small moments, compiling everything into a story for the bride. Creative wedding photography would push the limits of traditional poses, offering unique photography – often undesirable for most traditional brides.
2. What is included in your base rate?
At this point in the interview you should have a ballpark idea of the photographer’s base rate for wedding photography. Now the key is to figure out what exactly the base rate covers. You will want to get specifics on how many hours the base rate covers, how much of the pre-wedding and post-wedding ceremony the photographer includes (some will only stay up to cutting the cake). Also ask to determine what products that will be included in the base rate. When we meet with brides I have heard horror stories about hidden costs, charges past the time agreement, engagement surprises...be sure to ask the right questions and look at the fine print.
3. Do I get digital copies of all images?
Wedding photography 10-12 years ago it would be outrageous for the bride to ask for the negatives. In today’s weddings it is common for photographers to hand over digital copies. In fact, many photographers will include digital copies as a part of their wedding package. I certainly do. In recent years most brides want to print their own pictures to save costs, I have adjusted my prices to include providing digital copies for the brides (without watermarks). The decision to hand over these files is simple, this is the single most important day in the bride’s life – you want her to be happy. A happy bride will lead to more generated leads.
4. How do you organize/handle large group photos?
I included this question because if you have a large family that you want- you need to know if your photographer can handle it. Organizing large family portraits at weddings has to be my least favorite moment. 50 different faces, all looking in different directions – and usually with 15 cameras behind me distracting their attention. You should find out from your photographer how they deal with larger groups and how they handle this situation. An experienced photographer will be able to communicate how they have handled this in the past, which may include using an assistant or other members of the wedding not in the photo.
5. How much time do you need for bridal portraits and how much time for wedding party portraits?
This becomes a very important planning item for all brides. You need to know how much time to schedule into your wedding day – some photographers can work quickly, others may need to see the location or have follow up questions for you to determine an answer. The bride ultimately decides if she will have portraits done before or after the ceremony, but you need to know how long the photographer will need to do these portraits. Anything less than 30 minutes would be a red flag that the photographer may not have adequate wedding experience. A standard time frame would be between 30 minutes and one hour to do all wedding party portraits.
6. Do you have a backup photographer in case of an emergency?
What happens if your photography becomes sick, or is injured the day before your wedding? This may not be a common occurrence – but you do not want to be that bride it happens to. Most photographers have a network of other wedding or portrait photographers they turn to in these situations. You will want to know who your photographer uses as a backup – and then check their work. If you don’t like their style you can ask for your photographer to look for a different backup. Remember, plan for everything!
7. Do you normally work with an assistant?
This is a common question and will help you get an idea if your photographer will be requiring any additional help or if he/she will be able to move quickly and keep up with the wedding demands. If your photographer does not work with an assistant – this shouldn't be a make or break question, but one tip would be to designate a family member to help the photographer with different family or group photos. Typically asking a person who knows both sides or a large majority of the key people will be a tremendous help.
8. If my event runs longer than expected, how much do you charge per hour overtime?
I have worked many weddings over the years and the first thing I can tell you is your well planned timeline will eventually fall to pieces. Weddings require too many moving parts to stay on track the entire day/night. If the wedding goes too long, it is now 8 pm and your photographer is scheduled to leave but you haven’t hit key moments – do you know how much you will be charged? Most photographers will not stay out of the kindness of their hearts. Remember, it is their business. If you run into this situation you should have an idea of what moments you want photographed and what moments you are willing to sacrifice. This actually happened to myself as a groom - our wedding was running 30-45 minutes behind schedule and our photographer was going to charge $160 per hour even if we went over by a few minutes. This was one of the reasons I wanted to remind brides - check your contract; actually back up - be sure to sign a contract.
9. How long is your editing time before I can expect to see the photos?
This question will bring a wide variety of results. Some wedding photographers will take 4+ weeks to give you a preview of their photos. I have been involved in some weddings where the photographer does a “shoot/burn” approach and has a slideshow running before the reception is over. There is no real standard for your turnaround time, but expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 4-6 weeks. If you are waiting for a professional wedding book this should add several weeks for the printing company to prepare the book. You don’t want to bug your photographer daily waiting for photos if you have a general timeline of his/her turnaround time. My wedding turnaround time is always less than one month, but most photographers I have met with (as I interviewed my own wedding photographer) and for this article will edit in 4-6 weeks, some may take longer. Be sure to ask.
10. What happens if I am not happy with the pictures?
Hopefully this question will not apply to you. The key to this question is to remember that with wedding photography you truly get what you pay for. If you are shopping for a CraigsList Photographer on a slim budget you may not be happy in the end. Don’t be afraid to ask your photographer this question – you should be able to get a good read on his/her personality with their response. If the photographer becomes extremely defensive obviously that is a red flag you want to avoid. All of the photographers I network with wan the bride to be truly happy – and will do whatever it takes to make sure the bride loves her photos. I know photographers that will offer a specialty bridal portrait shoot to redo bridal portraits – others have given extreme discounts back. Photographing a wedding is a difficult job – to make sure you don’t need to come back to this question treat your wedding photographer as an investment, not a bargain bin.
Shameless Plug: I Am A photographer TOO
I am a wedding photographer based in San Francisco / Sacramento, California. I, like everyone else, need to make an income to survive. I pride my wedding photography on practice, communication and making sure my bride (and groom - but bride first) are happy with the pictures. Make sure your photographer is to. And if you want to talk about your upcoming wedding for my pricing or for help with your photographer selection - check my wedding package page or my contact page.