Top 20 Questions to ask your wedding photographer before you book
Top 20 Questions to ask your wedding photographer: Choosing a wedding photographer to shoot your wedding day can be difficult, especially when you’re unsure of what questions to ask. We can’t think of anything worse than hiring a photographer to only find out that they only shoot a certain way or only do it as a hobby, or even worse, you never receive your images. It’s not an easy task to find the right wedding photographer, after all, you may love their work but find you don’t really get on when you first meet, leaving you back where you started: Searching listings and online content sites.
So, with this in mind we thought that we would list our Top 20 Questions to ask any wedding photographer when initially discussing your big day.
But first let’s have a quick look at budgets and costs.
It’s important to stay well within your wedding budget if possible and we know that this is rather like doing a three legged egg and spoon race, blindfolded. Many things can change throughout the planning stage and quite often we find ourselves either changing things to suit or just leaving them out all together to help keep the budget on track.
But there are things on your wedding To Do list that should always have a little more consideration, and wedding photography is one of them. Like the reception venue and church, wedding photography should be high on your list if you’re wanting to remember your day, and of course, be reminded of all of the little things that are easily forgotten on such a busy but amazing day.
So, onto the list, and in no particular order:
Do you use a shot list, and can we add to it?
Although this doesn’t seem like a difficult question, for some photographers, it is; or rather a question some photographers would like to avoid. If the answer to this question is something like “…I don’t need one…”, “…I work in the moment…”, or something similar, say thanks and move on down your list.
All wedding photographers will have some form of shot list, and all good wedding photographers will take time out to merge any shot list they have with the ideas you have to create an updated shot list for you. Now, saying that, sometimes not every shot on that list is attainable, for instance, Aunty Ann may not be able to attend the wedding at last minute or Uncle Pete completely refuses to get his picture taken…it happens. For photographers, it’s a bit like table planning: Who’s sitting next to who, as well as who shouldn’t be etc…
A shot list is an important guide for a wedding photographer, and it helps the bride and groom to at least visualise what they will eventually see when all the post production has been completed.
The wedding photographers who don’t use one…Well, at your own peril be it.
Do I (we) need to sign a contract?
Asking this question is important. It lets you know how the photographer’s business is run. Your proposed wedding photographer should answer this quite easily, and the answer should be a definite “Yes.” A contract for your wedding photography not only lets you know what to expect and when to expect it, but it also covers you in case anything goes wrong. The amount of newly-weds we have spoken to who have either had a bad experience or never received their images, would have been on much firmer ground if a contract was in place. Instead, they have had to grin and bear the loss of both their money and images of the day.
A contract is also your way of placing some of your own personal wishes for the big day. Any good wedding photographer should be more than happy to incorporate certain wishes into the contract itself.
What style of photography will you shoot our wedding in?
Styles of photography are varied, and especially with wedding photography as it’s always a matter of personal choice. But your wedding photographer should be able to answer this question very quickly, with their style. Sometimes, more than one style of photography is undertaken to produce a more eclectic end product. So remember to ask and discuss what styles you prefer so this can then be part of your contract. If the photographer says “…I shoot in all styles…”, walk away. No professional photographer shoots all styles as they will normally specialise in only one, not unless they’re shooting in their own time for themselves or a personal project.
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How many images do we get and how long do we wait before seeing our photographs?
This is an easy question to answer, but a very important one to ask. All wedding photographers work to a time frame and this includes editing and post production (if requested). But the answer can vary depending on how many images you have both agreed upon when going through the contract. Some wedding photographers can offer 50 images and others can offer 200-300 or more, so it’s kind of a mixed bag when it comes to what you will eventually get, but you will (or should) always have a choice.
The average waiting time is roughly 6-8 weeks before you receive your final product, whether that be a wedding book or digital. But this is (or should be) staged, so you know that after so many weeks you will see the proofs and so many weeks until you see your chosen book design completed etc…
We spoke to a couple a few weeks ago who mentioned that they were offered 2500 images by a wedding photographer, and he was only going to be there for 4-6 hours. Beware of this kind of sales act, it’s definitely not a route to take. Although many images can be taken at a wedding you could end up with many of them looking exactly the same. Now, as much as you may love your dear old nan, 60 photographs of her in the same dance pose may be too much, and a waste of your money and time.
Your final images should be as varied as possible, so if a photographer offers you a silly amount of images…Beware!
Have you photographed at our venue before?
When booking a photographer, they will always meet with you at least once before your big day, and this should always be at your chosen venue if possible. This is where you can sit down and discuss certain extras or exclusions etc… It’s also a good chance for your photographer to make notes on possible images for inclusion on the shot list. There are exceptions to this of course, such as the venue being in another country or far outside the usual travel distance of the photographer. In these circumstances the photographer should arrive extra early or even the night before; or days before if abroad.
If your photographer hasn’t shot at your venue before and doesn’t mention or offer to meet there at all, or if you have to ask for a meeting there, once again, walk away and continue down your prospective list.
Are you a full time photographer?
This question is important, and quite possibly the most important. The answer should always be “Yes.” The reasons for this are simple: If you employ a photographer to shoot one of the most important days of your lives, it’s important that they not just know what they’re doing but that they’re a real business with professional camera/lighting equipment, insurance etc., and not just doing it for a weekend hobby and they work full time doing something else.
If they’re not a proper business and you’re okay with that, it’s okay; but you will have to remember that you will not be covered if anything goes wrong as there’ll be no insurance, liability or indemnity to speak of. Understanding that online social media such as Facebook and Twitter is not ultimate proof of a fully fledged business who deals with photography day in day out. Having a Facebook page always helps, but it’s not security against part timers who can disappear in seconds if they so wish.
Make sure you have checked their website along with everything else before making a decision. Another thing which should sound the alarm bells is email addresses.
A month ago, we were approached by a couple who, after 19 weeks, had still not had there photographs. The number they had was to a pay an go mobile phone and the email address was a hotmail account. Our view is that if you hire Goodwish Photography (not the photographers involved), their email address should be firstname.lastname@example.org…or something similar. The point being that if the photographer is using a regular email address, be wary.
How do I (we) pay and when do I (we) pay?
Most professional wedding photographers will have detailed payments, leaving you in no doubt of where, when and how. Once again, this may be detailed and listed within your contract, with times, dates and payment details.
Most often there will be a deposit, with the remainder having to be paid so many weeks before the wedding, usually 8-12 weeks, but this can vary. In many cases you will be expected to pay a deposit or full discounted amount once the contract has been agreed and signed. This is another reason why having a contract is crucial.
On average, people spend roughly 10-15% of the wedding budget on the photographer, so knowing how and when you will be paying will help your budgeting, as many couples often use their monthly income to pay. So being able to know that a portion of the balance isn’t due until a certain date will always be a good thing.
The amount of deposit may also vary if it’s a percentage of the final cost, and if so, this can be anything from 30% – 50%, and you should always…always, get a receipt. If you’re getting no receipts for the money you pay out then you need to question why.
Methods of payment are just as varied and you should have the option of paying in a manner which suits you best, whether that be by cheque, credit/debit card, bank transfer, direct debit, or even Paypal. Whichever method you choose should always be detailed within your contract. If you decide to pay cash, be sure to get a signed receipt.
How many photographers will there be?
Another simple question for a wedding photographer to answer. Most of the time you will already know because you have checked out the package you want on their website. But it’s always a good idea to confirm this with the photographer but if you don’t get a definite answer, they’re not the photographers for you. You can also make a request to include these details into your wedding photography contract.
Most of the time there will be 1 photographer, but this may change after your initial meeting after you specify how many people are expected to attend. If you have a large wedding party there may be a need for a second or third photographer, which will usually cost a little extra.
If we order prints, what paper will you print them on?
There are many types of paper when it comes to printing photographs, but the answer you’re looking for should be archival quality paper. This kind of printing paper stands the test of time and won’t fade the way other printing papers do. They’re also acid free which helps with the ageing process of the print.
What will you be wearing and how will you conduct yourself at our wedding?
Sounds like a bit of a strange question to ask, but we have either been at weddings (as guests) or been told about weddings where the wedding photographers were wearing or acting like the following:
- Bright Blue Ugg boots with tassels and bells.
- A skirt far too short.
- A bright Green suit with a ripped collar.
- Husband and wife team who ended up arguing.
- Jeans and T shirt (wasn’t allowed into venue and eventually had to borrow a shirt and tie just to get in).
- Indirectly insulted a bridesmaid and ended up being asked to leave.
So, maybe a strange question to ask but it’s just as important as any other question. so the answer should always be “…appropriately to the day planned…” Also, there are occasions when the bride and groom decide upon a more unusual wedding and you need to know that the photographer won’t stick out like a sore thumb. Wedding themes such as Star Trek, Game of Thrones and Frozen seem to be getting more popular by the year, even though it’s unlikely that you’ll ask your photographers to dress like Jon Snow or Guinan, it’s always nice to know that they will. 🙂
Can I (we) share the wedding photographs on our online social media pages?
With online media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram being very popular, it’s a good question to ask. A wedding photographer will/should already have things in place so you can. Some may even request a licence fee or may only allow certain images to be used online, while others will tell you that it’s not a problem at all and there’s nothing extra to pay.
It’s important that you tell your photographer that you will be sharing some images on social media because certain social media (like Facebook), and the way they upload and compress images, can ruin even the best of images. If your photographer knows your intentions he/she can then create web ready images for you, usually at no extra cost, as they will normally be watermarked.
It’s important to understand that the copyright of all images taken belongs to the photographer. You can request to purchase the copyright, and sometimes copyright is included in the package you have selected to go with.
Once again, this will be something which will be set out within your contract.
What medium do you use to photograph weddings and do you shoot RAW?
Some wedding photographers only use digital cameras whilst others may use an array of different formats such as 35mm film, Lomo, mobile etc… So the images created are more varied in style. But most often it will just be digital, but it doesn’t mean to say that you can’t request a certain style of camera to be used.
A RAW image file (NEF for Nikon users) is something we always shoot in. A RAW image file is very much like a digital version of film negative and it allows for the very best in image quality, unlike jpeg files, which do not have the dynamic range, quality or file size needed to capture your day properly. If your prospective wedding photographer says they will be shooting in jpeg, or says that jpeg is no different from RAW, then consider moving on down your list of photographers to call.
Do you retouch or airbrush the photographs?
Whilst all photographer post process the digital images taken, very few actually airbrush unless specifically requested to do so. The reason for this is simple: It’s very time consuming and costly to the client. Therefore, it’s always good to ask a photographer if they will upon request, as not all photographers can do so. If they can it may cost a certain amount per image.
Retouching images is usually normal with wedding photographers but this will only be basic retouching and any further retouching should be discussed at the time of booking and contract.
What happens if you are unable to shoot our wedding at last minute?
Professional wedding photographers will always have a backup plan, so no client is ever without a professional photographer for their big day. If your reply is anything different from this plan or their reply to the question is “…let’s not think about something like that…” or “..that’ll never happen”, choose a different photographer. All professional photographers will have something in place so you don’t lose out.
Are you insured?
If your photographer says “…No…” or skirts around the issue, go elsewhere. All wedding photographers have to have insurance and it’s a legal requirement, without it they can possibly put one of the most important days of your life at risk. If someone has an accident due to the photographer or his/her equipment and there is no insurance you can be left high and dry with no means of recourse, and you may also be landed with a hefty invoice from the venue, as their contract is with you and not the photographer.
Many wedding photographers bring extra equipment with them, so it’s a wise question to ask.
If you’re at the wedding longer than expected, do you charge?
When you sit down and go through your wedding plan with a photographer you will no doubt have selected a photography package, it’s important to iron out any small details at this time. Most packages will have a time limit, whether it’s ceremony only or to first dance only. But it can be a common thing for a photographer to be asked to stay on later into the day/night, and for this there is usually an hourly rate fee. This fee should be agreed upon when finalising your contract details so you know where you stand if you decide to keep the photographer on later than intended.
Do you provide a pre-wedding shoot?
Many wedding photographers now also provide pre-wedding shoots as part of some of their wedding photography packages. It’s important to find this out as this would have to be scheduled and shot before the wedding day. Usually, you will have the option to request your own location, normally where you first met or where the wedding proposal was. Either way, make sure that it’s in with your package.
If it’s not part of your package, the photographer should have no problem with arranging it for you, either making it part of your package or separately, and there may be a charge for this. So it’s best to find out, early in the planning stage.
Do you charge for travel?
Another important question. Many wedding photographers travel the length and breadth of the UK, and sometimes beyond. So it’s crucial that you know if your chosen photographer charges for travel. Usually you will find that wedding photographers will charge a small amount for mileage, and this is normally only if they travel out of their area.
Therefore you should check for mileage costs and ask when they start. Professional photographers will already have this detailed and will be able to give you exact amounts per mile and where their boundary is. i.e. 49p per mile if they go over 50 miles, therefore 60 miles will cost you £4.90. There may also be other costs involved such as accommodation, flight costs, and food if needed.
Do we have to feed you?
Seems an odd question but it’s very relevant. A wedding photographer will often spend many hours capturing your wedding day and will need something to eat and drink to keep going. Some photographers will bring their own food with them and take a few minutes break, usually when the wedding breakfast has been served.
You will find that this is normally written within the contract.
How many weddings will you be photographing on our wedding day?
Seems like another strange question to ask, but it’s something you need to know. The answer you get should be “…Just one, your wedding…” If you get any other answer you need to ask why, so you can make a more informed decision on whether to book or not. There are occasions when a photographer shoots more than one wedding on the same day, and this is usually when they are different times and the clients only want a short time package to just cover a ceremony or similar.
But this may create further problems with time and logistics. What if the first wedding overruns? What if there is 100 miles between the wedding locations and traffic is worse than usual? We have heard of a photographer who got stuck on the M6 for more than an hour and completely missed the church ceremony.
So, if your photographer is shooting more than just your wedding on your big day, choose a different photographer.