On the internet, you will see a lot of articles with endless checklists “Questions to ask a wedding photographer”. Many of them aren’t written by photographers and won’t give you any defining information. They just will make you and your photographer confused.
This article will not only help you to prepare the right questions to ask a wedding photographer, but it will also explain why some questions are not necessary to ask. Such questions you will find at the beginning of the article and toward the end, we will talk about really important issues.
Besides, an interview with thoughtful questions is important to make good contact with the person who will stay with you all your wedding day. Your photographer will be closer to you than any other wedding vendor. The conversation with him will be the first step to build cooperation, comfortable for both sides. (Next big step can be an engagement session, but this is the topic of another article).
Table of Contents
How will you as a photographer describe your shooting and editing style?
This is exactly the example of the questions “to ask a wedding photographer” which will not give any important information. Because most photographers probably will give their answer based on the current trend. Nowadays it’s, for example, rustic, and a couple of years ago it was photojournalism. Secondly, the style of a photographer usually is clear from his photos as well as the artist’s particular style is seen in his paintings. You don’t need to ask something that you already see from the photos. And if you don’t guess the style, maybe it just means it is not a decisive factor for you in choosing a wedding photographer. The better question you can ask is the next one.
Could you share an online full day album of a previous wedding? Can I see at least 2-3 full galleries that you have delivered to clients?
It’s a very important question that is rarely asked. This is the basis on which you will make your decision. It’s not a problem for a photographer to demonstrate to potential clients the most impressive photos of every wedding. But only viewing the galleries of 2-3 weddings will give you an understanding of his professional skills. Whether he can manage effectively the wedding timeline, deal with low light or other difficult situations, or able to handle the problem if something disrupts. Care to see first and foremost full wedding albums of a photographer you’ll choose.
How many weddings have you done? Do you specialize in indoor or outdoor events or both?
This question is logical as any of the clients expect to have an experienced photographer who has made more than 5-6 weddings: the more, the better. Is there a difference between a photographer with 30-40 weddings and someone who made 300-400? Yes, there is. The photographer who shot more than 300 weddings is not only stress-resistant. He knows the secret of timeless pictures. He knows how to make your photographs never outdated. An experienced photographer has faced all the possible difficult situations starting from the failed backup and ending with overly stressed family members. He hardly will be surprised with any disaster that may happen and usually is ready for anything. Hence, my advice is the following: by choosing between two experienced photographers both with more than 300 weddings, just rely on your budget, not on the quantity of the weddings they made.
As for me, I made more than 500 weddings in the past 8 years and most of my weddings were outdoors.
What’s your favorite part about photographing weddings?
I suppose that this question as well will not help a lot to make your choice. However, it can bring a friendly informal touch to your conversation with a photographer.
I personally don’t have preferable wedding parts. At a wedding, I like to catch some unplanned non-posed moments which are close to candid photography. Over the years I have developed my personal small tricks that help me to lead a couple to such moments and successfully capture them on my camera.
The secret here is if you just stay there and wait for it it may never happen. You have to direct it, you have to as a photographer to organize it. As a photographer you have to have full control of the situation. You have to say “ok guy, after the ceremony when you walk down the isle please do not look down, look at your guest, look at each other, somewhere in the middle lift your hands in the air, you can also stop and kiss… same for getting ready shots, you have to make some sort of small entertainment to create a moment and then capture it. Otherwise it’s not happening. And also photographers have to know he’s limits. Fill it. My bride and the groom are not here to work as models 8 hours a day. When I see resistance I step back a little. No one tells you about it, you have to fill it.
What type of equipment do you use? Do you provide your own lighting?
If you are quite well versed with photography technical equipment this question will be good to ask. Otherwise, it will not be very helpful, it’s better to have a look (again) at the photographer’s full albums to understand that the tools he uses are good for you.
As for the lighting equipment question, it can be pretty important. You may face situations at your wedding when the natural light will not be enough for quality photography. It happens often at late evening outdoor receptions. Surely, it’s good to know if your photographer will use additional equipment and in this case, it makes sense to ask about it.
I always use additional lighting if it’s necessary. More about it you can read for example here.
Still, I believe that to have good natural light is more important than to use any expensive equipment. Photography is more light painting art than high technology 🙂
Do you shoot digital, film, or both? JPG or RAW footage? What is the file format & resolution of photos we will receive?
I work with both digital & film. In my opinion, there are some essential differences between these two types of photography. And that’s not the quality of photos. Digital photography is just safer and cheaper: the captured images can be copied to a hard disk, stored there or discarded and it will literally cost nothing. A film can easily be damaged. Besides, it costs more: with every press of the shutter button, you will have to pay for the roll of film, for developing the negative, and for printing the photo.
That’s why I advise to book a film option additionally to the main package just in case you need more romantic shots. Usually it will be not more than 5% of the whole material an experienced photographer will make.
As for the footage format, we talk about JPG when it comes to the budget-price segment of wedding photography in Southern California — under $1,000-$1,500. Most photographers (and me as well) work with RAW as with JPG it’s not possible to do a proper color correction.
And the last point is really important to discuss: the resolution of the photos you will get. Some photographers, as I’ve heard, give the clients low-resolution photos by default, while high-resolution photos have to be paid additionally. Make this point clear from the very beginning to avoid unpleasant surprises after. I personally don’t support such services and give the JPG photos in the highest resolution to my clients without an additional fee.
Do you have any assistance? How are the responsibilities divided?
In my case, it depends on the package the couple choosmates for my services. In its turn, the package depends on the size of the wedding.
- If it’s a package with less than 8 hours, I don’t use the assistance of the second photographer. Usually, it’s a small intimate wedding, and assistance is hardly needed.
- If the package includes 8 or 10 hours of photography, I work with one assistant photographer.
- If it is the 14-hour package, I will have two additional photographers because in this case, the expected guest count is usually at about 500 persons. At such weddings the assistance of additional photographers is inevitable. Every photographer has his field of responsibilities (one shoots bridal preparation, another one — groom’s preparation, etc.) so that by working together the team will cover all the wedding parts, details, and faces.
Do you produce color and black & white photos?
Yes, I can make both types according to the wishes of the client. From my side, if I decide to make black & white photos, I will keep color copies of them. Never it will be only black & white ones.
Package and Payment
Price package: What is and isn’t included in the package?
All these things I usually write in agreement with the client. But if you find that something important is not mentioned in the agreement (for example the resolution of the photos from the question above) don’t be shy to write it down with your own hand or add it as a comment to the electronic form. I believe, during the conversation with a photographer, you will get the understanding if he is flexible enough to meet the needs of the clients even though it is not fixed in the contract. Rely on your impressions and don’t hesitate to ask.
Can we exclude anything from the package if we don’t need it?
In my packages, there is an option of customizing and you can exclude or include the services you wish. The last 5 years show me that my packages cover the needs of 95% of customers. Still, I totally understand the necessity to customize offers. Some photographers don’t offer this option and it is up to you if you accept it or not. My preferred way to deal with customers is flexibility.
If my event lasts longer than expected, will you stay, and what is the additional charge?
Personally, I stay as long as necessary. Last year our extra hour cost $280 for two photographers. (From my experience, the customers usually prolonged two photographers, not one). If in the middle of celebration it becomes clear to you that you need a photographer for an extra hour or two, etc., let him know it unequivocally, loud and clear. After the celebrations, you will not be surprised by the last payment for the reason that your photographer didn’t understand you and stayed more than supposed. From my side, if the coupe asks me to stay longer than planned, every hour I check with the wedding planner whether I have to stay extra time or not.
How far in advance do I need to book with you?
In my opinion, if you like the photographer and his work, book him immediately, don’t postpone. If anybody will come after you and pay a deposit, your promise to book somewhen will not count. My average booking period that I figured out after many years in photography is 13 months before the celebration date.
What’s the payment schedule? How much of a deposit is required and when is it due?
My schedule is the following: firstly, you pay the 30-percent deposit while booking. Secondly, the rest of the payment you can pay on any day before your wedding day. As you see, the date of the last payment is discussable, still, I prefer to get the whole amount before your wedding. You can also choose any way of payment: Paypal, Wema WebPay, etc.
What is your refund/cancellation policy?
In case of the cancellation not less than 3 months prior to the wedding date, I return back the full deposit. It happened to me only twice during the entire period of my work. In both cases weddings could not be postponed, they were really canceled for personal reasons and I returned the paid deposit. Once I had an extraordinary case that the wedding was canceled 10 days before the celebration date. Unfortunately, it was a big and unexpected disturbance for the couple as well and although due to the contract the deposit has not to be returned, I gave it back just not to make the situation more unpleasant.
Generally speaking, I am aware of other reasons why this question could be particularly interesting for a couple. Some customers may pay deposits to several photographers. When the couple finally makes her choice, they withdraw deposits from others. For such customers, it’s a kind of “Amazon-style-refund”. In that case, the period of not less than 3 months before the date suits us all.
Do you have liability insurance?
Yes, there is. Most venues require wedding vendors to have liability insurance. The venue will not allow them even to step foot through the door without insurance. I am not an exception and yes, I have it.
Another thing is that this insurance didn’t help me much when I really needed it. Once I unintentionally broke an hourglass at the venue where the bride made her preparation. I informed the staff of the venue about this awkward moment and brought the bill to my insurance company to cover the costs. As a result, I paid that cost out of my own pocket as the insurance stated they will not cover such a small amount (about $300). If next time I would like to break something and make them cover the expenses, it has to be something more expensive and in large quantities. Yet, I haven’t had a chance to check it.
Do you have a travel fee?
I don’t charge anything across California. By booking my services in other states, the client is expected to pay at least for my tickets. Other expenses may be discussed individually based on many factors including my personal intention to stay at the destination more than planned. For example, I was booked for a wedding in Florida and stayed there 5 days more after the celebration finished combining my work with the vacation. The newlyweds covered only my tickets. But in Pennsylvania, the client paid for my tickets and lodging accommodation that was quite short: I left immediately after my work was finished. (Sorry, Pennsylvania).
On the Wedding Day
What info do you need from me before the wedding day?
The most important information I need from the newlyweds is their wedding timeline, a thoughtful and detailed one. How to make an ideal wedding timeline you can read here and here. This brings us to the next question:
What kind of wedding timeline do you as a photographer prefer to work with?
In short: detailed. I need to know what time I should arrive and where. The same information is needed for assistant photographers. In a good timeline we expect to see:
- starting time & address for every vendor,
- time & address of bride and groom preparations,
- starting time & duration for every wedding part (first look, ceremony, wedding party photography, etc., including the shots that will be captured).
Actually, making a timeline is the task of a wedding planner. However, it happened to me more than once or twice when I and my client together were creating a timeline that had to keep us both sane and happy on the wedding day. It usually takes several hours by skype but by the end, it’s always worth it. Help in creating a fail-safe wedding timeline is also a part of my work reality.
Have you shot at my venue before? If not, do you plan on visiting to get a lay of the land?
This question I already answered in detail in my article about the wedding timeline here. In short: on a wedding day, I come to the venue (apart from whether I was there before or not) one hour before my appointed time to check the area and plan in advance how the photoshoot will go.
Do you accept must-have photo checklists?
As for me, I do accept it and it’s absolutely possible. But these must-have shots you should include into your timeline in advance: not only the description of them but the starting time & duration. It’s very important: without this, it will be very hard to realize your wish. Why it is so you can read here.
How do you handle the reception where lighting can be tricky?
Good lighting during the wedding photo shoot is the privilege of the first look, maybe ceremony and for sure sunset photos. Some reception can really have some lack of light that will be immediately reflected in the photos. In such cases, we bring all the necessary lighting equipment with us and leave no room for dim unimpressive shots. Lighting is one of the important things at weddings that I, as a photographer, can control and improve.
What happens if something happens to the couple on their wedding day and they can’t make the photoshoot?
During my work as a photographer, this never happened with the exception of the cases I described above. However, any worrying situation can be discussed, and if something, we can find a solution that would suit both sides.
What really happens quite often on large traditional weddings concerning this question is the lack of time for couple portraits. On such weddings (that last many hours, with 500 guests and complex numerous rituals, etc.) the newlyweds sometimes have no time to breathe not to mention making the full photo session. They really can’t make the photoshoot with only them two. In such situations, I suggest they make an additional couple photo session on any day after the wedding celebrations. They can put on their traditional attire and accessories and in this case. I don’t charge anything for it, it’s already included in the price of their package. By the end, I have a totally satisfied client, good reviews and reputation points. Doubtless a win-win situation for all 🙂
What is your emergency plan if anything happens to you?
I have a professional team of photographers and in this case one of them will be the first photographer at your wedding instead of me. As a rule, it will be an experienced (and equally skilled) one that has shot with me at least 20 weddings. The quality of the pictures or customer services will not be changed.
How do you deal with the backup and data storage process? How do you save images from the wedding day through delivery?
After the Wedding Day
Do you provide photo corrective services (retouching, color adjustment, etc.)? Is retouching included in the price?
Yes, I do. Actually, it’s an important question to ask a wedding photographer. Let me explain a bit more how the editing process is going in my photo studio.
From approximately 7000 photos done by our photographers on the wedding day, we will choose about 1000 really nice shots. In its turn, about 15% of this photo material will be close-ups that with high probability may need retouching. There can also be big scenery pictures on which we may correct some unwanted details. From 1000 carefully chosen pictures absolutely all will have color adjustment. As you see, corrective service is the integral part of our work and it’s included in the package.
What is an approximate time to have everything finished? When will we have our proofs, album, etc., be ready?
In the contract, the schedule of producing and delivering your pictures is 8 weeks. In fact, I take approximately 3-4 weeks to send pictures to the client. As for albums, it takes more time due to approving the template by the client, printing and etc.
We would like to have the RAWs, do we get those?
Yes, of course. I just upload these photos to the client’s HDD and he can make with it what he needs.
However, as far as I know from my customers personally — with many of them we maintain friendly relations long after the celebration — none of them used the RAWs and in fact, it didn’t come in handy.
Do we own full printing and reproduction of the wedding photos or does the photographer retain ownership? Do you have a photographer’s watermark stamped on?
Yes, you do. I don’t have any watermarks or other stamps on my photos as well. I totally support my clients by giving them a copyright release and full access to the photos to do what they want with them. Just in case of commercial use, it can be agreed additionally. But if you use these photos on your personal blog, just don’t forget to make a link to my page 🙂
How will images be delivered? Will the photos be available on a server/secure website for a period of time after they are ready?
Photos will be available on the server that I use for this purpose. At the moment, it’s prepaid until 2025 and the client gets access to his pictures by a link I’ll provide. In case I will change the server to another one, I will inform my clients in advance.
This way is safer than delivering photos on USB flash drives. Unfortunately, a flash drive can be lost easily when people move or make renovations. The server has proved to be a more reliable way to store pictures.
Do you provide a print release (assuming digitals are included)?
Again, if we are not talking about a commercial print release such as using the photos for giant billboards in Manhattan or something like this 🙂 in all other cases, the client has from me full permission to do what he wants with his wedding photos.
By thinking about questions to ask a wedding photographer don’t forget: you ask him not just to make your questionnaire done but to have an impression about his personality. How he appears to you and what is his approach to certain points will give you much information as well. By the end, you will understand what is most important for him: money, his vision of photography, or clients’ satisfaction. Based on it you can judge objectively whether you are “on track” with him or not.