I have always been an advocate for professional wedding photography. I cringe when I hear about couples “hiring” Uncle Bob to take the photos on the most important day of their lives. Just because someone has a fancy-shmancy camera doesn’t mean they can use it to the best of its ability. And even if they can, that doesn’t mean they know weddings. Even if your friend or relative is a professional photographer, he or she may not deliver the best potential photos if the professional photography covers… nature. Or cars. Or even babies. Every genre has its own daunting requirements, and wedding photography is no different.
A professional wedding photographer has worked as a second shooter under another leader in the industry at some point, understands the general flow of a wedding, and has great people-skills to manage groups of family and friends as well as you and your partner during intimate moments throughout the day and the days leading up. You’ll also work with your photographer after you’re all good and married because you’ll need to design your album together, so having a comfortable rapport is a must!
Hopefully I’ve convinced you to hire a professional wedding photographer, and you’re now considering a few different companies to interview. Choosing who to hire is a big decision and is probably on the same level of importance as choosing your venue. Do not cut corners on photography. You will regret it and that will make me sad. Careful consideration and a chunk of your budget should go into your wedding photography selection.
So how do you decide? What do you ask? Keep reading!
- Do you pre-scout locations at your wedding venues? A wedding day goes by pretty quickly! Nobody should be wasting time figuring out the best spots to photograph you! “Nobody” means you, your partner, your family, your maid of honor, and certainly not your photographer. Hopefully, your photographer has either worked the venue a bunch of times and knows every nook and cranny that would benefit the look of your photos. If your wedding photographer has not shot at the location before, that’s OK, but I would hope he or she would check out the venue in advance and take into consideration the time of day the shooting will actually take place so that the proper lighting and angles will complement you as you star in your wedding photos.
- How do you shoot in non-ideal shooting circumstances? Small rooms, bad light, weird angles, far shots — these situations occur, especially if you’re getting married inside in the synagogue. There’s nothing wrong with getting married in the sanctuary, but just keep in mind, it could be a photography nightmare for someone who’s not a seasoned pro. So ask the photographer how they deal and make sure you’re cool with their plans for these likely variables. Adapting is key. They can’t fix these shooting conditions, but someone who knows what they’re doing can still produce excellent photos.
- Do you have an assistant and what does your assistant do? Have a clear understanding of what the assistant shooter handles on the day of the wedding. Is it the details shots? The far away or side angle images? Is it the getting-ready session with the groom and his guys? Ask these questions to understand how your day will be photographed so you can have open communication and comprehension of the flow. Yes, you are hiring a photographer, but you are also getting his or her work style and system in the price. Make sure you like it along with the photographer’s personality and photo products.
- Do you work with the videographer to share the space? Like cross-town high schools, photographers and videographers can become wedding rivals. That’s not necessary, but it happens. Your photographer should feel comfortable advocating for his or her work and setting up a system that will help both the photos and the video succeed in capturing your day. Both vendors are important to you and the preservation of your memories. A true professional has the communication skills to work the videographer and, really, all vendors who are part of your wedding team.
- What’s the deal with your back-up gear? You don’t even have to understand everything about camera technology, but it’s important to know that your photographer has a plan if shtuff hits the fan. Ask about the gear he or she uses. Most likely it’ll be either Canon or Nikon. You don’t have to agree, prefer, or even know the difference between the two, but they are both great brands of equipment. Also make sure you know that the photographer has back-up batteries, cards, lenses, and other gear that will ensure your memories will be captured even in an emergency. Your photographer should have relationships with other photographers or camera stores in case borrowed or rented equipment has to save the day in an emergency situation.
- What happens if you can’t shoot my wedding? Photographers get sick, too. Or get into car accidents. Or sprain their ankles. And while we never wish this on anyone, we certainly don’t wish this on our photographers near our wedding dates. But hey, accidents do happen. So ask the potential photographer what the plan of action is in an emergency and if he or she can’t be at your wedding. Find out who the back up photographer(s) will be in the event the hired photographer can’t make it. The photographer may not be able to give you the exact name, number, address, weight, blood type, and SSN of a singular person, but he or she should have a Rolodex of colleagues to have cover if something icky should happen.
- What happens if there are still important wedding events to photograph, but the time on our contract expires? Here’s the thing, you are not asking your photographer to shoot and not bill for time. That’s called slavery. You are more than willing to pay for the time for your professional wedding photographer, but make sure you know the protocol for staying longer than the contracted hours. Sometimes, weddings run late or the events of the Wedding Olympics don’t go as scheduled. So if your photographer has been contracted to stay until 9 p.m. and your cake cutting hasn’t happened yet, how does paying for more time work? Whats the cost? How do you pay? Most photographers should be able to stay longer for a price. Make sure those details are on the table.
- Do you blog? To be honest, I am nervous about photographers who don’t blog or take part in social media. That tells me they are not up-to-date on current wedding trends and operations and lack some business savvy. I know that’s a really bold statement to make, but I would personally have a hard time hiring a photographer who is not staying on track with the climate of the wedding industry. So, I would want my photographer to blog. Still, you may not want to be featured on a blog or on social media. Be sure to say so, so that you and your photo team are on the same page about your privacy preferences. This also goes for submissions to wedding blogs (ahem!) and Facebook albums.
- When do I have to order my album? Wedding albums are no joke. It’s not a project you want to rush through or haphazardly design. You need time, patience, and, well, quite a few dollar bills. Find out when you’re expected to select photos for the album so that you have a reasonable timeline to expect. If there’s an expiration, you’ll be able to budget and save appropriately for the album as well as make photo decisions in a timely manner.
- When can I expect to see the finished work? Once the bouquet has wilted and your thank you notes are mailed, you’ll be eager to view the finished photos. Having a clear expectation of when that will happen will make your post-wedding blues ease up. Some photographers will have teasers ready for you before you get back from your honeymoon! Others will take three or so months to show you raw images. There’s no real right or wrong answer, but knowing an answer at all is more than half the battle. It really is so exciting to see teasers or, of course, a whole gallery when they’re up! Hopefully, it happens soon!