What to ask your Wedding Photographers
Choosing the Wedding Photographer for you
Searching for Wedding Photographers can be an overwhelming task. I’ve been photographing weddings in Cincinnati since 1999 so I’ve seen a lot and want you to be confident in the decisions you make for your wedding so it will be fun and stress free! This article is lengthy but if you use this information, I’m confident you will feel very good about your vendor choices.
No doubt you've already been told by family and friends that Wedding Photography is the most important thing to spend money on because the pictures are the only thing you have left after your day is past. Though there is some truth to that, the bigger reason is that your wedding photographers set the tone, flow and feel of the day. They will interact with you more than anyone else that day. You want a wedding photographer who makes you feel confident they know you, your style, what you want and who needs to be photographed. You want your photographer to guide you through the day and help you have the best day ever. This is what a professional wedding photographer should do. Having said that, you want quality photography to document that experience!
Many wedding websites will give you a list of questions you should ask your photographer. Some are good, some not so much and always there are too many of them! A true professional wedding photographer will not need to answer questions about what equipment they use or what they are going to wear because you can tell by their presentation if you should expect professional quality or not.
Here are the four questions that will teach you more about your photographer than any others. Some of these questions can apply to other wedding vendors as well.
- What distinguishes you from other wedding photographers?--This is pretty self-explanatory.
- Describe your style?--Every person has a style they prefer even if they don't know how to put it into words. Most people like more than one style; so if you want candid photos at your wedding, don't spend the entire time focusing on the more artistic photos. That will only be a very small percentage of your photos. Make sure they represent all of the things that will be important to you.
- What is your favorite photo in your studio and why?--This will really give you some insight. Will they try to "sell" you here? Will they pick the "popular" photo knowing you will like it too? Will they lean artistic, traditional, candid or personal? There is no right or wrong answer to this. But you will know if you like the answer.
- Why did you choose this career and why do you continue to do it?--This is where you will find where their passions lie and if those passions match what you want at your wedding.
Things to look for
There are many things to look for to ensure you will have a great experience with your wedding photographer. Again many of these apply to other vendors as well.
- Do they present themselves well in their marketing? This is the first impression and any well-run company knows it. If they don't put their best foot forward, what is their follow through going to look like?
- Is their website easy to navigate and full of information? There are a lot of template websites out there. That's cheaper and easier but makes things a little more challenging for you. Obviously you want someone who makes this easy for you.
- Is the initial contact easy? They should make it easy to get a hold of them by phone or email. More importantly they should respond in a reasonable amount of time. Keep in mind you photographer will likely be working most Saturdays and probably takes Sunday and Monday or Tuesday off. But they should have some type of auto-response that lets you know that. If they don't respond in a timely manor when they are trying to earn your money, how good will they be after they get it? If you send an email and don't hear back, try a phone call and vice versa. Sometimes you can't hear a phone number in a voice mail or an email gets caught in spam.
- Are they open and up front about answering your questions and such? If they withhold information and try to pressure you into buying on the spot, it's not a good sign for someone that has your best interest at heart.
- When you meet them for the first time, is it in their home, at a restaurant or a studio? This is different for different vendors but with photography they should have a work area. The location where a photographer meets you is a representation of what they are and what their quality is. It's how they want you to see them. If it's not impressive, don't expect anything else to be either.I'd be very nervous hiring a photographer that met me at Starbucks. That screams weekend warrior which tends to be where a large chunk of the horror stories come from. There's nothing wrong with meeting in their home if they have a good professional presentation and preferably and office or studio area in their house. If they have a lot of distractions it shows a disrespect for you and it also likely is a sign of how the rest of the experience will be.
- How do they make you feel? Do you feel confident trusting this person with your entire wedding day? If not, keep looking.
- Do they present you with printed pricing in a professional format? Did they just print out a paper on their computer? Was it professionally laid out? Is it in a nice folder or layout? These sound like little things but in the end if a wedding photographer has attention to detail in things like their literature, they will have that same attention to detail when it comes to your wedding photography!
- Ask your friends for referrals. However, know that they likely picked the best vendor for them and also have only used that vendor once. Also ask other vendors what they think. The combination usually results in a very good idea of what type of quality any one vendor offers.
Check Reviews. Almost everyone has mostly 5 star reviews. If they don't it's a big red flag. Here are a few tips on reviews:
- Look for their oldest review. Wedding Wire began online reviews in 2006 while the Knot began in 2009. If your vendor has reviews every year from then forward, you can rest assured they have been a consistent presence in the industry since before that time. Though length of time in business is not always representative of quality, it certainly gives a level of comfort.
- Look at quantity of reviews. A vendor in their first year of business could have 10-20 reviews if they give their clients a deal for writing a nice review. But it’s really hard to get 50-100+ in just a few years.
- Read several reviews. You get a much better sense of their experience that way. Are they happy, excited or blow away? Does the review talk more about their experience or the photos? If they rave about their experience it’s likely they loved the photos as well. But it’s more important to be treated well than it is to just deliver a product.
- If the studio has multiple different photographers, look for reviews from the other photographers in the studio. Are they just as good as the main person? Can you find some for your photographer?
- Have they consistently won The Knot and Wedding Wire awards? A long line of awards shows they’ve consistently been among the better studios in the city. That’s reassuring.
In general you will have to early on get an idea on price to make sure it’s even worth your time to talk to that photography studio. However, that’s much more tricky than it seems. There are many additional charges in most wedding photography packages. Here are some things to look for:
- Without a doubt the most common question I am asked, "What are your starting packages?" Though you must know pricing to figure out if you can even consider a photographer, the starting price is the most misunderstood aspect of wedding photographer packages. Very few photographers actually sell their "starting package" simply because it lacks the basics of what they would like to include. And when they do sell it, it usually comes with upcharges after you sign your contract. A better way to phrase the question is "What is your average package price?" This is much more likely to be in the range you'll spend.
- Packaging may be the most complicated part of shopping for your photographer. The hidden charges can easily double your package price after your wedding. For example, the high resolution dvd that everyone asks for is often not print ready and if it is, is still not the same level of quality as what is shown in studio and on their website. To get the same look to your photos that you saw in studio, your images need to be color corrected and often cropped and enhanced individually. This can be a significant expense after your wedding or may limit the number of photos you have "finished". Many packages only include a select number of corrected images. Be aware of how many your package includes.
- It is important to have your high resolution files but look out for watermarks and file types that you cannot print from. You also want to be aware that an entire wedding in full resolution would only fit on a DVD if the number of photos is limited. What you truly want is a Flash Drive with all of your images.
- Copyright release-Everyone wants the copyright release as well they should! Watch out for time delays. Some will give you a copyright release to your engagement session but wait till your wedding to give it to you. This forces you to order prints through them when you are most likely to use them. You will also sometimes get the same issue with your wedding photos having a year delay on the copyright release. Often it’s an upcharge or only included in the more expensive packages.
- Hours/Time line: Few couples really understand the amount of time they will need in their package. If you are headed to a park, then a ceremony site, then the reception and want your photographer to get any candids at your reception, expect to use 8-10 hours or so. The last thing you want is to be rushed through your day because of your photographer’s package.
- When looking at albums, make sure to look for additional charges such as: Charges for number of photos included, revisions to the initial design, cover upgrades, custom work, or anything that is "special or unique". Chances are if there is something the photographer loves, it will cost you extra.