I'm guessing you stumbled across this blog post because you're looking for a photographer. Am I right?
I bet you've looked at twenty different websites, browsed so many images your eyes burn, and are no closer to knowing if any of the ones you've looked at are the "right fit" for you.
How can you make ABSOLUTELY sure that you don't wind up with a horror story like this one?
Your options are only limited by your budget and your imagination. The possibilities are endless, in the world of creatives and artists with cameras in-hand ready to capture your big day - But how do you choose? Light and airy, dark and moody, local or outsider?
Of course, first make sure that they have your date available – if the answer is no, there’s no need to schedule an in-person interview. But if they do have your date available, meet for an interview — and have a good sense of what questions to ask a wedding photographer.
Before you make your decision, be sure to ask your photographer these ten questions.
1. Do you have examples of your work that I can view?
Guys. I cannot tell you how many times I've heard the story: A bride meets a photographer at a wedding expo or finds them on Facebook, and their marketing material is BEAUTIFUL - but they bought those photos from a stock site and the photos they take look nothing like that. Ask to see a portfolio. Reputable photographers have samples of their work running out of their ears - on their websites, on their phones, heck, they might even carry some in their wallet. And they'll be DYING to show you.
2. Are you the person who will be taking the photos on my big day?
It's going to be a rude wake-up call if you meet Sally of Sally's Creative Whatever, fall in love with Sally, get to know Sally, but on the day of your wedding, Sally's associate Barb is assigned to do your wedding. Even if Barb is just as good, she's not Sally. There are photography groups out there that are wonderful and reputable, but you don't want to be caught off-guard and have a stranger show up to shoot your wedding. Make sure that you know who's gonna be in the room with you when you're putting on your ruffles and frills. Your photos will be WAY more authentic and organic if you're comfortable.
3. Do you have a backup shooter/second shooter just in case?
If you're going with a company that employs a team of photographers, you'll have a built-in backup. But if you're going with a solo shooter, ask if they have colleagues on call in case of an emergency. If you're going with a large traditional wedding versus an intimate affair or an elopement, you'll also want to make sure your photog has a second shooter, because he or she can't be in two places at once. You don't want to miss any of those important moments.
4. How many weddings do you typically shoot in a weekend?
Asking this question will give you an idea of how much of your photographer's attention and time you will have on your big day. If he or she is shooting an afternoon wedding before yours, you'll need to work out a plan if the first event runs over. It’s essential for a photographer to have good time management skills and to be able to create a photography timeline that will work for your big day. Do they prefer to do portraits before or after the ceremony? How flexible are they to hearing your ideas and vision of your day? Will they be able to attend the rehearsal? Their ability to stay on schedule will affect how your wedding day plays out.
5. How will I receive my images?
There's a lot of variance in the photography industry on this topic. Some photographers will willingly hand over the rights to your photos so you can have copies printed at will, while others prefer you to purchase your reprints directly with them. Find out your potential photographer’s policy prior to signing a contract. Some photographers will hand you a CD, some photographers provide a digital download. There are also photographers that will not release any digital files to you whatsoever. Find out if you will be buying your images from your photographer AFTER you've already paid for them to take the photos.
6. Are you insured and able to provide us with a contract?
If you think you’re ready to move forward with a photographer, ask to see his or her contract, read it carefully, and follow up with any additional questions you may have. A reputable photographer will be insured and able to provide legal documents that protect both them and you. Contracts will provide you with pricing information, what to expect, and any rules and regulations that your photographer has placed on the images. Side note: If you're a Facebook and Instagram addict, that contract may restrict you from posting your images. Not being allowed to share some of your wedding photos online may be torture—better to know about this ahead of time.
7. How many images should we expect to receive?
This may be covered in the contract. Lay these expectations out ahead of time. If you want more images, you may need to pay for more time. You may not have time or interest in having 3,000 pictures from your wedding, but you also want more than 50, right? Talk openly about your expectations, and what things you really want captured.
8. How much is the deposit and total?
Your photographer will require a certain amount up-front to hold your date. Talk with your photographer about package deals, to include your bridal portraits and engagement portraits, and potentially save by bundling. Make sure there are no hidden fees, and be sure to get invoices and receipts for your records. In addition to the bottom line number, you'll also want to ask when it's due. Most photographers will require payment in full before the ceremony.
9. What style do you specialize in?
This might be the most important question to ask wedding photographers. Most shooters use a blend of several different styles, but you'll want to make sure that their work is the type of work you want to hang in your own personal living room. You wouldn't ask Monet to paint you a Van Gogh, right? Going with a photographer who's style resonates with you will give you the best results. Ask your photographer about editing, if you will receive any black and white images, and how much retouching he or she plans to do.
10. What makes you different?
In a world where anyone with a camera can call themselves a photographer, set up a website, and take your money, it's important to connect with your photographer and be sure to find someone who you WANT to spend all day with. Let your photographer tell you what they bring to the table, and who they really are. Listen to their stories about their favorite wedding EVER. See if their eyes light up when they talk about their work. Look at their reviews on their site or on Facebook. Anyone can take a picture, but you're looking for the ONE.That person who's going to tell your story in pictures so well that every time you look at them, you'll be able to smell the wildflowers, taste the sea salt, feel the chill in the wind.
By the time you've answered all of these questions, you will probably know whether or not this is the photographer you want to hire. Your photographer is going to meet your mom, you know? They're probably going to see you in your underwear. And most importantly, they are going to be responsible for documenting some of the most important moments of your life. Don't pick the cheapest photographer (or the most expensive) or the first one you find. Ask the questions. You'll know.