Thursday, May 14, 2015

12 Questions to Ask your Wedding Photographer

For most people, their wedding day is the biggest moment of their life. Everything should be perfect. The couples often spend hours designing and deciding on their ideal venue, the perfect colors, what everyone will wear, who will attend them and stand near them at the altar, what they will serve to their guests, what kind of cake they will have and how it will look, what kind of flowers they want, and so SO much more. Planning a wedding is a tremendous investment of creative, emotional and financial resources. Thus, once you do arrive at the big celebration day, it’s important to make sure you have a savvy photographer so they can capture everything in order for you to have photographic memories you can cherish forever. 

This blog addresses exactly that...What should I look for in a wedding photographer? And how do I know if they are “good?” We have collected a list of questions that may be valuable to ask photographers as you are looking for the right one to photograph your wedding.

          1. In your own words, why would you say your photography is worth the amount you charge?

This question is more about value than price. This is not meant to be a wheeling and dealing kind of question, but more so, a question that will inform you of the care, detail and value the photographer invests into their work and the final products they give you. The answer to this question should give you confidence that in the end, you will get your money’s worth because of the quality and careful attention the photographer put into their work.

          2. What is your shooting style like? May I see some examples of your work?  Are the images recent? Did you or your company photograph all of these images? How many weddings have you photographed?

I lumped all of these questions into one section because they all address the end product that a photographer delivers. This may be one of the most important questions! Style is often one of the top two determining factors for choosing a wedding photographer (price being the other). Ask to see some other weddings they have photographed and notice their shooting and editing style. Make sure it’s the style you want to capture your big day. Also, you want to ask them how many weddings they have photographed just so you know an estimate of their comfort level with weddings and their skill…but truthfully, their portfolio will tell you most everything you need to know. If you like their images and they appear to be good quality that is a great sign. 

          3. Are you familiar photographing using both natural and artificial light?

There is a significant difference between natural and artificial light. One is not better than the other, but they both add a different flare. Additionally, be aware that artificial light is as much an art and a formula as composing a beautiful portrait. Don’t think of artificial light as just being “flash photography.” Though most of the time artificial light comes from flashes, it is much different than the glare of the flash from a point-and-shoot camera or an iPhone. 

Truthfully, photographers who use both natural light and artificial light are generally more prepared. When a photographer understands how to compose a photograph using natural light and flash, they are prepared for nearly any element. For example, if a photographer is only using natural light and they have no shade on a sunny day, there will likely be many shadows on people’s faces. However, if a photographer can use the natural sunlight and add artificial light, they can compose the photo in such a way as to avoid most face shadows and still capture the scenery details without overexposing.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of tremendous photographers that use either all natural or all artificial lighting and their work is phenomenal. Just be cautions…ask to see a portfolio of the photographers work and ask for specific examples of images they have taken outdoors AND indoors. Also, if your wedding or reception goes into the night, ask to see some images they have taken at night. The point is that it’s ideal to have a photographer that is comfortable with both natural and artificial lighting, but it is not strictly necessary.

  (Natural light/Artificial and natural light)
 (Artificial and natural light/Natural light)
 (Artificial light/Natural light)
 (Artificial and natural light/Natural light)

(Both images are with natural and artificial light. The second image is with increased artificial light.)

          4. Will you take pictures of our guests as well as pictures of the family, bridal party, and bride and groom?

This may seem like a silly question, but in all reality, it is legitimate. As a recent bride, I can honestly say that with nearly 400 people at my wedding, I did not have time to greet everyone. The day was so full and so fast-paced that there sadly wasn't time for a receiving line or even much time to mingle. I would have never known how many dear friends and family were at my wedding without the cherished images the photographers captured. The point of photography on the wedding day is to capture images of the bride and groom, but it is just as much about capturing the entire story in which the bride and groom are the main characters.

A few ways to do this are to snap a few pictures of guest smiling or laughing during a fun part of the ceremony, guests raising their glasses during the toast, or even specific posed “smile here” shots of each table at the wedding. Now, this is not always possible, but the moral of the story is that you want to find a photographer who is interested in catching fun photos of your guests and special interactions between family members in addition to capturing each step of the day with the bride and groom.

          5. Will you pose us? And how do you plan on capturing candid images of us?

Believe it or not, this is a valid question. We have heard of too many stories from friends and family who have had photographers who think their job is simply to show up and click the shutter. Photography is just as much about the composition of the people in the portrait and the landscape the people are in, as it is about the settings in the camera.

It’s important to have a photographer who is comfortable with people and able to help others relax in front of the camera. There are a lot of people who are camera shy and it helps if the photographer has little tricks that help everyone loosen up. The best way to see if a photographer is able to capture and create candid moments is by looking into their portfolio.

          6. Will you help us as we arrange our final timeline? And will you help keep us on track throughout the day?

This is one of our favorite aspects of being wedding photographers! Have you ever gone to a wedding or been part of a wedding where the timeline or scheduling was haywire? Perhaps events were missed and then the day had to backtrack, perhaps one event went longer than expected and the whole day felt hurried and anxious from then on? That is not at all what a wedding should be like.

Most photographers don’t realize the importance of their role is more than merely capturing the moments through photography. Think about it, the entire wedding day is basically centered around the pictures! It’s important to have wedding photographers that are on board with the timeline and able to help keep things calm and on schedule and make up time when it is lost. You want your wedding day to be stress free. Your photographer should have some valuable suggestions to help schedule time for photographs. Also, as a side note, doing a first look with the bride and groom and taking all the couples photos before the ceremony can be a huge stress relief.

          7. What is the final product I can expect? 

Be sure you know what you want for your final wedding photo results and discuss the photography packages in general. Don’t assume that digital images are included, that they will give you high resolution images, that they do or do not charge tax, or that they do or do not charge for travel expenses. Ask any and every question. Better to clarify now! Ask questions like:

~What time will you arrive at the site and how long will you shoot?
~Do you have an hour limit?
~If my event lasts longer than expected, will you stay? Is there an additional charge?
~How long is the editing turnover process?
~Will the photos be edited and color balanced?
Most professional photography companies do edit their own photos, so again, this is just something to check on. You can also tell by looking at their portfolio.
~What is the deposit and total fee?
Make sure to clarify whether or not the fee includes tax and travel. I had an experience with a photographer once where they gave me a package rate and we signed the contract and paid half down. We later found out that the original price we thought did not include tax and travel expenses and landed with an extra $500 we were supposed to pay. Just clarify…always clarify.
~Is there a second shooter?
This is a great question. Though second shooters are not necessary in order to capture a wedding day well, they are often helpful. Some companies only use one shooter; some only use two shooters.

          8. Do you have a contract?

ALWAYS GET A CONTRACT! For your sake as well as for the photographers sake! Signed and sealed contracts clear up many an argument or disagreement and then everyone knows exactly what to expect. Most photographers will include everything we discussed in the previous question in their contract. They should go over all of it with you and make sure they have answered any questions you have.

          9. Do you have a system for backing up the images and files?

This is just a generally valuable question. There’s too much at stake to lose your wedding photographs to some crazy electronic mishap. This is just a safety thing. Most photographers will have a system in place, but it may add to your ease of mind to know for sure.

          10. What happens if one or both photographers get sick on our wedding day? AND do you have backup equipment?

Both of these are valid questions. They are nothing to stress over, but it’s important to clarify. Also, even if there is not a back-up second shooter, it is possible to have just one photographer. You just want to make sure that if you are cut down to one photographer, you get a bit more of a discount. Either way, clarify!!

It’s also good to double check and make sure they at least have one back up camera just in case. I've heard of crazy things like rain ruining a camera, water spilling on the camera, the sparklers from a getaway nearly burning a camera, and it’s always a possibility that the camera may be dropped or knocked over. Those are extreme examples, but case of emergency, it’s good to have a back up gear on hand. 

          11. What will we do if the weather is bad (rain, snow, harsh wind)?

A simple question, but a good one. Most photographers will check the weather and if it is bad, they will prepare ahead of time and scout out possible indoor or covered venues for the photographs. Photographing in the rain or snow can be fun too and produce some beautiful images! You just want to make sure your photographer knows what to do in those situations.

          12. Is it okay if other people take photos while you are taking photos?

This is just a courteous question to ask your photographer. Some photographers are extremely bothered by this, others are not. The important thing is that guests know that your hired photographer needs the “front row seats” to all of the wedding day activities. After all, you are paying for professional photography and not just an iPhone picture from Uncle George. ;) 

In all of this, I encourage both parties to be kind and courteous. These questions are specific and direct, but the point is not to make the photographer feel you don’t trust them, but to ensure that you and the photographer are on the same page and know what to expect. Ultimately, you want a wedding photographer that you trust and that will be calm and help keep things stress free for you by getting well posed shots, candid images and capturing moments that tell the story of your day. 

Lachelle O'Connell
A Memory Montage Wedding Photographer
...and a recent bride. :)

We love weddings! Please contact us for more info and availability.

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