Questions for Wedding Photographers
Over the years I have heard stories from friends about their experiences with wedding photographers. Friends who hired a friend to take pictures. Some of them received sub-standard images or no images at all. Some who had to pay more than expected for an album or for rights to reproduce digital images. For some it is a case of not reading the contract or understanding what was included in the package. For some it was the attraction of a low price, but hidden or unexpected costs appeared after the wedding. For others it was simply unfortunate circumstance. Over the next few weeks, I will be posting a list of questions every couple can and should ask potential photographers to make sure they are getting their money’s worth.
As a wedding photographer myself, I want every couple to be aware of how I do business, and confident that I will be able to capture the images that tell the story of their wedding day. Many other photographer’s websites provide limited information about pricing, or product offerings hoping that you will call and ask questions. I prefer to be “up front” about what I do , what it costs, and what I am all about.
Do you shoot raw images?
In digital photography terms, raw images are similar to undeveloped negatives in a film camera. They allow the photographer to get the best image processing possible. Digital cameras all have software embedded that “develop” the raw images. It is the digital equivalent of a Polaroid snap shot. Of course more expensive cameras have better software, but once the image is “developed”, it can’t easily be re-developed.
As a professional photographer I want every opportunity to craft the images to create the best result. Shooting raw images gives me the best ability to get you a fantastic result. Photographers who do not shoot raw are limited by whatever their camera does.
I review every image that I publish to each customer. That is my product, and my reputation. I use every tool at my disposal to provide my customers with the best possible images, and I spend about twice as much time in the “digital darkroom” as I do on the day of your wedding. That includes selecting images I believe are the “best of the best” for your albums. It is a unique “end to end” service that I provide to all of my customers.
Can I review your contract?
Professional wedding photographers have a contract. That document is designed to explain your rights and what you can expect from your photographer, especially what recourse you have if something goes wrong. The contract also specifies what you are getting for your investment. A photographer that has taken the time to work up a contract has already thought through these things and wants to make sure that you know what to expect. They are professionals who care about the customer.
I spent a lot of time thinking about my customers when I was setting up my contract. I wanted to make sure that I was explicit about meeting their expectations and that the contract was fair and reasonable to both sides.
Doing business on a handshake is a rare thing these days. I believe that the contract says a lot about the people that you are doing business with. Your investment in wedding photography is not insignificant. Your photographer should take it seriously.
Are you familiar with my: church, ceremony, reception hall, outdoor shoot location, other vendors?
An experienced wedding photographer has probably been in every church, venue, and outdoor location in your area. It is very likely they have worked with many of the vendors you may select. Ask them about their experience with churches and reception halls – if there are any limitations or restrictions, they will probably know. Likewise they will know if an outdoor location is easy to access and suitable for wedding day photos. Last – make sure that your photographer is familiar with any special religious or ethnic customs that will be part of your wedding day. That will help them to capture these important traditions and bring their meaning to your image collection and album.
At your reception your photographer will coordinate with the Hostess, DJ or Band around the schedule of events (cutting the cake, bouquet and garter, etc). She has done this before and should know how to work with them.
If you have not selected all your other vendors or finalized your church or venue yet, your photographer may have some ideas that you hadn’t considered. After all they deal with these things every weekend!
Is my wedding day schedule/plan realistic?
Your wedding photographer is the only vendor (including your wedding planner) who will be with you throughout your entire wedding day – from getting dressed to the ceremony to the reception and all stops in between. Use their experience to inform your decision making as far as how much time is reasonable to allow for pictures and preparation. Your wedding photographer has done this many, many times – you on the other hand will do this only once. Having a reasonable schedule will make your day much easier and less stressful.
Knowing the results you are looking for, and allowing enough time to get the artistic or traditional images is an important part of the photographer’s job. When things are running behind, or worse, the schedule simply doesn’t allow enough time to get what you want, you need to know about it.
Being familiar with churches and venues is an important part of the planning. Understanding different cultural traditions is also important. You and your wedding photographer should have a conversation about the schedule, so that you can choose when you need to start getting ready and how much to do in between the ceremony and the reception.
I prefer to spend time with each bride and groom, documenting an itinerary, and understanding their ideas and desires for their wedding day. During this conversation, I try to make sure that the couple understands the implications of the schedule, when the bride and her girls must be ready for pictures, what happens if we are running late, and what our options are. On the wedding day, I should have this already understood, so that I can calmly go about doing my job and handle the schedule so the bride and groom can enjoy their day.
How many weddings have you shot?
You want to establish how much experience your photographer has. The fact is, you only have one time to capture the images of your wedding day. You want to know if your photographer has “what it takes” to get the job done right. Experienced wedding photographers are prepared for all kinds of issues. They are experienced at posing, and know how to work around difficulties in equipment, people and venues. In this age of digital photography, the cost of entry into wedding photography is lower than ever and many photographers “hang out their shingle” without the necessary training, or experience or even available time to do a good job for their customers. It pays to know how experienced your photographer is.
Unlike still photography or portrait photography, wedding photography requires a unique combination of people skills and photography skills. Your wedding photographer is with you and your party the entire day.