Finding a photographer for your big day can be daunting. I am here to help you formulate questions for potential candidates and to offer my advice!
First: What should I ask during my initial email, phone call or meeting?
Are you available for my wedding date? Do you have any prior engagements that day/weekend? If your wedding requires travel, be sure that the photographer doesn't have any other weddings that weekend and if they do, make sure it is doable for them! Most professionals won't schedule more than two weddings in a weekend depending on the time commitment.
How long have you been shooting weddings? It's best to go with someone that has a couple of years under the belt as the LEAD shooter at weddings! Usually the more experience they have, the more competitive their pricing is. If someone's prices come in a lot lower than other people in your area, chances are that thy are new to the industry or they don't know the industry well enough to have competitive pricing.
Are you insured? Can I see the proof of insurance? Super Important!! *Side note, some venues actually require that all of your vendors are insured!
Do you have an education in this feild or are you self-taught? If they are self taught ask them what steps they have taken to get where they are at. If they have a formal education like a college degree ask where they went to school or for more information. This is a great way to start getting to know each other.
Do you offer packages or is all of your pricing custom? If they offer packages, ask where you can look at the pricing and what all is included. This will help you avoid a lot of the questions I have below.
What is the average investment that your clients make? Even though some people offer packages, not everyones packages include prints and not every photographer will give you printing rights! If you want an album, make sure you know the cost of it before making your decision. This can also give you a good idea of what package is the most popular!
How much do you require upfront in order to book my date? Does that price come out of the total package price or is that an additional payment? Retainers = non-refundable ... deposits = refundable ... this is something I have learned along the way about contract wording!
Do you have a contract that I can look over before making my decisions? READ THE CONTRACT! ALL OF IT! Start here before asking questions because a lot of your answers are probably within their contract. If they don't ask you to sign a contract when you are booking, RUN! Contracts ensure your safety as well as their safety!
Do your prices include any kinds of albums or prints? If not, is that something I can add on or do I print myself? My suggestion would be to go with a photographer who can also do your album. It will make your life a million times easier and you will probably get a much better album than you would ordering it yourself. Most professional photographers order through companies who work specifically with business owners to produce quality prints and albums and they are just a leap ahead of your typical online print stores in terms of quality as well as aesthetics.
Do I get printing rights to the images?
Can I see a fully edited gallery? Photographers should have a gallery from a pervious wedding that they can share with you. Most photographers share their best work on their websites and it may not reflect a full wedding day. You want to be sure whoever you hire can deliver stunning images from the start of the day to the finish!
Do you deliver fully edited galleries that I can download or will I be receiving a proof gallery following my wedding? Proof galleries seem to be less and less common. If you aren't familiar, a proof gallery is when a photographer shares a gallery of very lightly edited images with you (typically with a watermark) and they allow you to choose which images you would like to purchase. The photos you choose would then go through a more in-depth retouching process before being delivered (either prints or digitals). I would say that the majority of wedding photographers cull the images themselves and edit everything that turns out from the day. They then deliver the images via an online gallery or they mail you a USB (or both). You then have X number of days to download all of you images before the online gallery is no longer accessible. It is important to find out which process the photographer does because that could affect the decision you make.
Am I allowed to post my wedding photos online if I give you credit? Some photographers don't allow their images to be posted online. If that is something that is important to you, you should ask this upfront. Most photographers will allow you to as long as they are tagged or given credit! They will probably also ask that no changes be made to their work including any further retouching or cropping.
Do you use a dual slot camera and do you have a backup camera? If you ask any question, let it be this one! Technology can fail us and you only get one chance to capture these images. Make sure your photographer owns a high-end camera with dual slots and that they shoot with a card in each slot at all times! They should also have their own backup camera body ready to go in case of a malfunction with their main body.
Do your packages include a second shooter? If not, can one be added on? If it is an add on, how much would it be? Second shooters are amazing and if you have the opportunity to have on at your wedding, you should take advantage of it. Many professionals offer a second shooter within their packages. Some photographers don't even work at weddings without their second shooter. Having that second photographer there is a wonderful safety net. You will likely get so many additional photos and there is always a backup there should something go wrong!
Have you worked at my venue before? This is a great question to ask if your venue is unique or you really prefer someone who has experience in the space but to me, this should not be a deal breaker question! Not every photography will have worked everywhere and if you are hiring someone experienced, they should have no trouble adapting to new environments or lighting situations!
Do you have experience with flash? They should say "yes! I have tons!" Unless you are getting married in a bright and sunny outdoor setting and your wedding is only going to take place outdoors or near massive windows, the photographer will more than likely need to know how to use flash. The majority of the receptions I have worked at are dark and sometimes the ceremony is as well. Our cameras are pretty awesome but 95% of the time, we need that additional light at some point that day! Some photographers market themselves as "natural light photographers," they will photograph your wedding with no flash, which is fine if your style includes a lot of grain in the darker settings!
What happens if my wedding runs over our contracted/scheduled time? There should be a plan set in stone if this were to happen! Majority of photogs will probably charge a set fee for every hour that they have to stay. Some people stay for their contracted time and dip out regardless of whether or not the party is still going. Just make sure if things do go over on your wedding day and they offer the overage pricing, that you communicate that you need them to stay!
What is your turn around time? How long after my wedding will I have my gallery/proof gallery?
How many images can I expect to receive from my wedding? This answer can vary a lot depending on how many hours the photographer is contracted for, they layout of your day of schedule, whether or not you have a second shooter, etc. Make sure you specify exactly what you want before asking this question.
Does your package have any hidden fees?
Do I have to pay any taxes on top of the total package cost or is that included?
When is the final payment due?
Do you allow me to pay periodically or do you have any special payment plans?
How can I pay you? Do they accept cash, check, Venmo, Paypal, etc? If they accept online payment, make sure that you are paying their business directly. Most website hosts require their users to have a business bank account to accept online payments. For the most part payments through a photographer's site are safe. If you are paying them over Venmo, make sure that it is going to a business account! Taking these steps are important. You don't want to get scammed and you want to be sure that who you are working with is managing their business legally. If you pay cash, be sure to do it in person and ask for a receipt if you don't feel comfortable!
How would you describe your working style? This can really affect how your day goes! If you are looking for someone who gives a ton of direction, make sure they are comfortable with doing that. Maybe you like someone who is more of a fly on the wall, find out if they have a photo journalistic approach. Chances are they are probably a combination of the two, but it is better to know upfront! I like to hang out in the background aside from styled shots like flat lays of details, posed photos at sunset, and family portraits following the ceremony.
Can I give you a list of specific shots that I want? They should say yes, they are working for you!
Do you provide retouching including color correction, skin retouching, teeth whitening, etc? Be sure to ask this if you have any specific editing requests.
Where can I see some reviews from your previous clients?
What are the next steps we would take if I were to book you?
Second: Things to think about now that you have all of these answers.
Can you see yourself getting along well with this person and/or being friends with them?
Is their personality the kind that you want around during your wedding day?
Did their answers satisfy your wants and needs?
Did they answer all of your questions in a timely manner and were they thorough in making sure you got everything you needed?
Do you feel drawn to their work and shooting style?
Did you feel comfortable with how they handled customer service?
Did they have any negative reviews?
Were they happy to answer these questions or did they seem a bit thrown off that you would ask them?
Does the pricing match your budget?
Is everything you want included in the pricing or can it be added on?
Is there anything that gives you an unsettled feeling?
Third: Narrow down your choices and compare the pros and cons. Decide who works best for you!
Fourth: It is always polite to let the photographers you did not choose know that you are going with someone else. It keeps them from waiting around and sending follow up emails to check in with you. If you are comfortable sharing why you went with someone else, I am sure they would love to hear your feedback. If not, a simple "Thank you for your time, but I have decided to pursue other options!" is great!
Fifth: PUT DOWN THAT PAYMENT AND SIGN THAT CONTRACT! WOO! YOU DID IT!