Last night I was browsing Pinterest and saw this graphic with questions to ask your wedding photographer pop up in my feed and started getting really angry. I saw it was from Buzzfeed sourced from Wedding Party App that was written by a planner (photo credit to Ciara Richardson) and I got a little bit more rage-y. It’s VERY obvious that this was created as Pinterest bait and by seeing the hundreds of repins of this, I guess it is working. However my issues with this list is that it’s not really helping clients and is a bit misguided. I decided to write my own version of this list that would help clients a bit more than the one I saw.
The questions from the Wedding Party App infographic and what you should ask instead:
1. What is your preferred style of photography? Traditional, Artistic, Natural Light, Photojournalism or Illustrative?
It’s VERY rare that any client knows what any of these words even mean when it relates to photography and hell, I don’t know what Illustrative or Artistic “style” would even look like! Only people that are interested in photography or photographers themselves will know what any of this means. Instead, find a photographer whose portfolio grabs you and the images are the style you would like to see your wedding images reflect. By the time you are meeting with someone, you should know if their style is up your alley, whatever it is called.
ASK INSTEAD: Is your portfolio reflective of your current work? Often photographers grow and change as time goes on and fads come and go. Make sure that the images you are viewing are a current reflection of their style.
2. How many weddings have you shot in your career?
While this is an okay question this is one needs a few qualifiers to be pertinent. Ideally you want to make sure your wedding photographer is experienced. Many people spend years second shooting under other photographers so this number could be very high but they only were the lead shooter a handful of times.
ASK INSTEAD: How many weddings (roughly) have you been the primary photographer for? This will give you a better handle on how much experience the photographer has photographing weddings.
3. How many weddings will you shoot on my wedding day? If they say more than one, ensure there is adequate time in between each wedding.
I’ve never known a photographer to shoot multiple weddings in a day themselves unless it’s courthouse weddings or elopements.
ASK INSTEAD: Will you be the photographer for my wedding if I hire you or do you employ a team that works under your studio name? There are some companies out there that have multiple teams that photograph weddings and there have been times where the clients do not know the owner won’t be the one photographing the wedding until the day of. Make sure you know who will be the person with you and if it will be someone other than the owner that you’re able to view their portfolio of work.
4. Have you ever shot at my venue? If they haven’t, ask if they would be willing to do a site visit.
Site visits are kind of silly for any seasoned pro but I understand that often they can make you feel better. The problem with site visits is that often they won’t be during the time of day/time of year as your wedding and often the setup for your wedding will be entirely different. Outdoor locations will have different light and shadows at various times of the year and the day and indoor receptions can be completely transformed depending on your decor changing the entire look of the room and the way it would be photographed.
ASK INSTEAD: Have you photographed an event at my venue before? If not, can you show me some examples of a wedding day that has a similar set up? You want to make sure that your photographer will be able to handle the various lighting conditions that your particular day will have, so ask to see a church ceremony and a ballroom reception if that is what you will be having and so forth. While the same venue is ideal it shouldn’t be a deal breaker. A ballroom is a ballroom and an outdoor tent is an outdoor tent, just make sure that they will be photographing it in a way that floats your boat!
5. Do you bring in your own lighting? The answer should be a resounding, “YES!”. If they do not, expect a detailed answer as to why they work without their own lighting.
This question made me laugh because most clients won’t know what this even entails or why it is important. Does this mean flash? Off-camera lighting? Flood lights?
ASK INSTEAD: Will you be bringing along lighting equipment the day of the wedding? If so, how will this impact the day? Sometimes extra lighting may take some time to set up so make sure you know before making a timeline if you need to plan in 5-10 minutes for the lights to be set up for formals or on location for portraits. You also want to make sure your photographer has some kind of lighting as I’ve yet to photograph a wedding that didn’t require flash of some kind in 7 years! Outside of that though, you shouldn’t need to worry about the details.
6. Do you work from a shot list? If they do, ask to see this list. If they do not, follow up by asking if you can provide a specific shot list for them.
If you are hiring a professional photographer they shouldn’t need a list to work from the day of the wedding, they should know what the essentials are to cover. I personally do not accept a shot list because nine times out of ten it’s something from Pinterest or a magazine that often doesn’t pertain to the wedding that my client is having or they are images that should be covered without needing to be told to. They usually have “the bride walking down the aisle” and other “duh” must-haves which always makes me laugh. The only shot list I accept is one of the formal images clients want with the family, THAT one is the most important and the only one you really must have during the wedding day provided you hired a professional photographer. Trust me 🙂
ASK INSTEAD: May I give you a list of formal images for portraits? What makes this awesome is that you’re able to find out ahead of time what parents want what images and everyone knows to stay after the ceremony for these. I HIGHLY suggest having a point person who knows most of the people that can wrangle the guests and can get people “on deck” while the photographer is working. Yes, I can rattle names off as well but it’s often smoother and easier to have someone on hand who knows the people – it’s a perfect job for that family member that wants to help but isn’t in the wedding.
7. Can I request that certain images are taken at the wedding? If yes, ask how they will ensure to capture these images.
Trust that the photographer you hired is going to do their best by you and create unique and beautiful images that capture YOU as a couple instead of a ton of various Pinterest images that were about nameless couples that are not you. Also know that sometimes we can HOPE for an image but it may not be able to happen due to circumstances beyond our control. We know you want a photo of your Dad crying but it may end up that he’s so proud that he doesn’t end up shedding a single tear that day.
ASK INSTEAD: May I submit a few images I am inspired by or would like to recreate? I love when my clients send me what inspires them but want to use that as a springboard and not a template for their wedding. However, I LOVE when my clients want to recreate images that their parents or other loved ones took on their wedding day. Those are often some of my favorites and the tradition is fun to see carry on.
8. How many hours are included in your package? Typical wedding photography needs to start at least two hours before the ceremony.
How many hours is a great question so you know where you stand on coverage but the whole at least two hours before the ceremony thing is silly. Everyone prefers different things and every wedding is different.
ASK INSTEAD: Given our tentative schedule for the day, what hours do you feel would be the best fit for us? Talk to each other and find out what you prefer to be covered professionally. Some people want everything from sunup to sundown, some care more for reception than pre-makeup, some care for a little of both. From there find out what hours would be ideal for the kind of coverage you prefer.
9. How much does an additional hour of coverage cost?
This question is valid however you need to find out a bit more. Some photographers are parents and they may not be able to suddenly add on an extra hour of baby sitting the night of so find out if this can be added on if needed the day of the wedding and how they require payment for that hour. Some photographers won’t work the extra time until paid in cash, some are happy to work it and get paid later, some will accept payment later but will not edit the images before payment. Know where your photographer stands if this question is important to you.
ASK INSTEAD: What is the cost of an additional hour of photography and is it something we can decide on the day of? Sometimes wedding timelines go to hell and you want to make sure that if catering takes an extra two hours for dinner that your first dance can still be covered.
10. Do you bring a second shooter? I do not let a bride walk down the aisle without a second shooter for at least the ceremony. There are so many moments missed (the bride’s face when she sees her groom, and the groom’s face when as sees his bride for the first time) because there is only one photographer.
This is the one that sent me off the cliff. The whole “I don’t let a bride walk down the aisle without two shooters” is bullshit. I capture both of the images this planner claims is only capable with two shooters at almost every single wedding by myself, regardless of second shooter or not. If you are hiring a professional, they should be able to do the same. Typically my second shooter is back with the bride and father so these images aren’t possible for them to capture from their vantage point.
ASK INSTEAD: Is a second photographer included in the package and if not, can we add one? What will their role be on the day of the wedding? Make sure that if you are paying for someone that they will be taking pictures, not just carrying a light or bag around all day. Typically those are called assistants but some photographers bill them as second photographers because at the reception they’ll be given a camera for a few images.
11. How many images can I expect to see from my wedding? On average photographers take between 1,200 and 1,500 images at your wedding, but that doesn’t mean you will see all of those! Typically, brides see anywhere from 150 to 400 images from their wedding.
This is a fine question but the stuff beneath it? Every photographer is different. There’s no magic “right” number here.
ASK INSTEAD: Roughly how many finished proofs should we expect from our wedding day? Again, there’s no right number but if you know you’re the type of person that wants to see the nitty gritty know you’re going to want a photographer that delivers maybe a bit more than the photographer that tends to deliver 250 images.
12. Do you have a limit to the amount of images you will edit? The answer to this should be “No”.
This is just a bizarre question, I don’t know what this even means and I’m a photographer so I don’t know that a client would know this either. Does this mean they cap the number at 250 and won’t go over or does this mean they limit the amount of images they will touch up beyond the proofing stage? So confused.
ASK INSTEAD: Will our digital proofs be print ready? All the proofs I deliver are ready to be sent to the printer of your choice but many photographers deliver digital proofs as-is from being shot in camera. If you are planning to print from your proofs make sure they’re going to be ready to be displayed when printed. If your photographer does multiple edits, see what those look like (some do a general edit, then do an artistic edit for the blog and/or album).
13. How long does it take to see proofs from my wedding?
Valid question but I’d personally expand on it a bit to find out the best personal fit.
ASK INSTEAD: How long will it take until I’m able to view the proofs from my wedding and how are they delivered? Is there a teaser and if so, what kind and how long does that take? Some photographers do online galleries, some require in person viewing and some send out proof books to your home. There’s no right or wrong length of time but if you’re impatient you may want to choose a photographer that will have their proofs ready quicker. Many photographers blog or Facebook a select few images as a teaser before the final proofs are done. Personally I put up a teaser image or two within a day of the wedding on Facebook and the full gallery is ready online within the week.
14. Do I receive a disc of images, or do I have to order all prints through you?
Valid question but this could be tailored a bit to find your ideal photographer.
ASK INSTEAD: How and when will the digital proofs be delivered? What size of images are able to be printed with the files provided? Many photographers are providing the digital proofs now but they are in various different sizes and delivered in different ways. If you do not have a computer with a disc drive you may want to see if there is an ability to get the images via flash drive. If printing images from these files are important to you make sure you find out what sizes are able to be printed. Some photographers deliver full resolution and some provide only mid to low resolution printing only a 4×6 or 5×7.
15. How much are prints?
Valid question but again, I think this can be made more specific to help with your search.
ASK INSTEAD: What is your pricing for prints and will your current pricing be locked in when I book? No one likes surprises and if you are banking on the 4×6 to be the same price in a year when your wedding is make sure that it will be.
16. Is an album included? If so, ask to see a sample of the album.
Valid question but let’s take this one a bit deeper.
ASK INSTEAD: Is an album included in the package and if so, may I see an example of the album? What is the album design process like? Personally I’m a huge advocate of wedding albums because they are heirlooms that will outlive you and your children and be how your great-great-grandchildren will get to know you! However you need to know what you are investing in. Some photographers choose all of the images that go into your album and others allow you to choose what images go in. Some allow you to have an input on the design going through a proofing process and some design and you may not get as much leeway in the process. Know what you are getting with your investment and make sure you are OK with it if the album process is something you may not be involved in.
17. Will you use my images in any advertising?
Valid question but this is only typically an issue with few clients. If this is a concern of yours, you may want to dig a bit deeper.
ASK INSTEAD: What, if any, advertising will you do with the images from our wedding? Will we be able to OK any national campaigns before they go live? Advertising is so broad that if you have concerns about where your image may wind up you should have a clear understanding with your photographer on what you are OK with and what is NOT OK. Advertising can be anything from using the images on the photographer’s website, blog, Facebook, Instagram and/or Pinterest to nationwide campaign ads in magazines. If anything concerns you, bring these issues up with your photographer during your meeting.
18. Will you request the photography guidelines from the ceremony and reception locations?
Personally, I require my clients to get this information and then to let me know what the house rules are. I can certainly TRY to get this information but often I’m given the run around. I’ve also found that when I am the one to ask about photography restrictions I will be given the strictest rules but when the clients approach this issue, they are given a more lenient list of rules. I also prefer that my clients are involved in the conversation about guidelines because if there are constraints on where and what I can photograph, they need to be aware so there are no surprises the day of the wedding for any of us.
ASK INSTEAD: Are you able to photograph the ceremony from the back of the church if my officiant requires it? Are you able to photograph the ceremony without flash? This is the crux of the issue with house rules, often photographers are relegated to the back of the church and cannot use flash and if the photographer you hire does not have a telephoto lens or professional camera gear this could be a problem. Make sure that the photographer you are hiring is equipped to photograph your wedding from any vantage point they may be restricted to without the use of flash.
19. What will you and your second shooter wear?
If you are hiring a professional photographer this question should not need to be asked. This may be something that you want to address with a new or budget photographer though. I also have no idea what I’m specifically wearing until the day of the wedding – it all changes depending on location, weather and my mood. I am a girl after all!
ASK INSTEAD: My church requires _______ attire for a wedding, would this be a problem? Every religion and “house” has different rules for attire. I’ve photographed weddings where I was required to wear all black (not a problem as this is my go-to color so I blend in) and others where I had to have a shirt that went to my neck and covered my arms. If you know your religion or church will be requiring special rules make sure your vendors are aware so there aren’t any surprise issues the day of a wedding.
20. What is your plan if you are ill or there is an emergency and you can’t photography my wedding?
This is a question that you should always be asking but it definitely needs expanded upon to hit one of my biggest pet peeves with wedding photographers – lack of backup equipment. Wedding Photographers are also a tough lot, we pretty much work through anything. If we can stand (sort of) and walk we’re working so don’t fret about a cold or cough leaving you without a photographer.
ASK INSTEAD: If an emergency occurs and you are not able to photograph our wedding do you have a backup plan in place? Do you have backups of cameras, lenses and lighting? Stuff happens, make sure that your photographer has a plan in place, not one they’ll toss together last minute, just in case something does occur. My husband and my friends are all aware of my backup plans JUST IN CASE. Backup gear is also essential when photographing weddings. Things break or just stop working and you don’t want to be stuck with a bride walking down the aisle and a camera that went kaput. Every photographer should have not only at least one backup camera (and one that is professional, not a junky camera), backup lenses and lighting all within reach or a few steps during the key elements of the day.
21. How much is the deposit?
Valid question but you may want a bit more info to have all the cards on the table.
ASK INSTEAD: How much is the deposit and what methods of payment do you accept? Are there any additional fees for using a credit card? I personally do not charge additional fees but some photographers do when a client uses a credit card.
22. When is the balance due?
Valid question but I’ll expand on it a tinge.
ASK INSTEAD: What is the payment schedule for the wedding and/or when is the balance due? Some photographers break down the payments into multiple payments, some just do a deposit and final payment.
23. What is your cancellation policy?
ASK INSTEAD: What is your cancellation policy and timeline for cancellations? Everyone’s cancellation policy and timeline is different and it’s hopefully something you do not need to worry about but if you do, make sure you not only know the policy but what the timeline may be. Many photographers require payment in full if the wedding is cancelled within 30 days of the wedding, regardless if the wedding happens or not.