In today’s day and age with wedding photography brides seem to want Cadillac expectations on a Ford Pinto budget. You can’t blame the brides – but you can blame the explosion of amateur photographers who label themselves “professionals” and charge rock bottom prices for shoot/burn wedding pictures. When brides are looking for a prospective wedding photographer an interview is standard. She will want to see your experience, ask questions about your rates, negotiate aspects into the contract, and in the end may just be tire kicking for prices. However, photographers must also know this is the time to be interviewing your bride as a potential client at the same time. The first rule of wedding photography is: Do NOT take every bride as a client. To protect yourself and your photography business, and for the wishes of the bride – you need to ask several questions to make sure yourself as the photographer and the bride (and groom) are a good match. This article covers the essential questions every photographer should ask his bride.
What is your budget?
Obviously you need to know the brides expectations and limitations with her budget. Not only do you need to try and figure your brides expectations and what you can reasonably deliver, you will also get insight into the brides expectations for the overall wedding. Some wedding photographers will avoid taking a budget wedding simply because they know the venue/decorations will also be on a strict budget – which may severely limit the potential of the pictures. Think of it this way, a bride comes to you with a budget of $750 – which you may be willing to do with severe restrictions, she also notes she is getting married in a fairgrounds banquet hall and decorations will be minimal. She has come to you because she loves your wedding pictures she saw on Facebook – (which are all in vineyards/old rustic locations/etc). If you allow this bride to believe her ten cent budget will bring $10,000 results – it is your responsibility to educate her on why certain photos may not be possible.
How many guests are you inviting?
This is a must ask question for one simple reason…larger guests=larger group photos, which then equal more distractions and more complications. You should ask this question to lead into asking about the brides expectations for group photos. Does she want one large family photo, and if so – how many people does she anticipate in this photo? All too often I have photographed a wedding where the bride intended for 15 people in the photo…which translated into over 45 people when the actual photo took place. This is important because it obviously changes your planning – including lighting equipment and the amount of time set aside for a group photo.
Do you want bridal/wedding portraits before the wedding, or after?
While the traditional bride would immediately answer “After of course! He can’t see my dress!” – more and more modern brides are choosing to do wedding portraits before the actual wedding. I personally love shooting portraits beforehand for several reasons…if you plan it properly you can shoot these pictures well before the guests arrive. Guests = distractions. Shooting beforehand also frees up a significant amount of time pressure for both yourself as the photographer and the bride/groom. After the ceremony most often the bride wants to see those close to her, she wants the portraits – but also wants to get back to the party. Taking portraits beforehand will also leave you time to reshoot any portraits you may not have been happy with.
Do you have a family member from both sides to designate as a wrangler?
A wedding wrangler has many terms, I use it to literally mean 1-2 people from each side of the family that is available to help round up people needed for portraits. These two people should each know their side of the family – this will free up important members of the bridal party (or bride herself) to find the people you need for photos and get them to the right spot.
Do you have a list of group picture combinations you would like?
The key to great group wedding pictures is to make sure you have one of every combination the bride wants. Leaving it up to the actual wedding day is certain to leave someone out. Have your bride think about these combinations and write them down beforehand – that way you can plan accordingly, prioritizing based on efficiency and make sure the bride is happy with the results.
Do you have a list of 10 ABSOLUTE must have moments?
While a bride may say “I want everything of course” – this list needs to narrow down the brides top moments she is looking forward to looking back on. I would recommend you encourage the bride for no more than 10 moments she considers “must have moments”. This way while you are running around shooting pictures – you can be sure to be in the right spot at the right time. Keep in mind, if you ask the bride for these – make sure she understands you will do your best, just be sure to be there! These might include pictures like:
Mother/Daughter before the wedding
Grandfather smiling at bride
Lacing up the dress
Groom’s face as bride enters
Do you have any questions with my wedding contract?
This is perhaps the most important question you can ask to prevent issues with your bride. As long as you have a proper, adequate wedding contract (cover that in a different article) – you should make sure your bride has gone over it and is happy with it. In your contract be sure to cover your plan in case the bridal portraits don’t turn out, standard rates, overtime rates per hour, backup photographer, and of course a model release so you can use them later for publication/social media.
How did you meet? What do you two enjoy doing together?
This should start your conversation – you need to get to know your bride/groom. Don’t treat them as someone showing up just to buy a pack of gum, you need to develop a relationship with your bride. If she can’t feel comfortable around you it will be a very long wedding day. You also want to know a bit of history about the couple and what they like to do together. I like to give the bride a small gift on her wedding day to highlight something about the couple, just to make sure she feels special on her wedding day and that it isn’t all business.
The key to these basic questions are twofold – you need to make sure your bride is comfortable with your photography style and your experience. If you are an amateur the worst thing you can do is try and hide it from your bride. Be open, discuss the photography and keep an ear out for any red flags you may have with her as a client. If you aren’t comfortable – don’t be afraid to let her know you think she would be better served finding a different photographer. Tell her upfront, not after the wedding!
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.