Congratulations on your engagement! You probably haven’t arrived at this page if you weren’t already looking for a wedding photographer, right? The good news is – you’ve come to the right place. Many brides & grooms-to-be are so overwhelmed with the monumental task of the upcoming wedding that they forget to ask or don’t even know the best questions to ask their prospective wedding photographer. There are so many out there, how do you make the best choice? This list is meant to help make things much easier for you.
Here is a list of questions you can ask when choosing your prospective wedding photographer:
#1 What are your prices?
A good honest question, but this shouldn’t be the first … I promise to give you the best reason to ask this question after a few better ones….
#2 Experience: How many weddings have you photographed, been involved with, and how long have you been doing this?
This should be your first question. Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life, and you are paying and trusting someone to photograph the events as beautifully as possible to last you the rest of your life – and pass these images on to family far into the future. Do you want someone new to photography, someone who is an experienced amateur with cameras and photo editing, or a full-time professional? These days it can be confusing to tell them apart. Ask for a copy of their standard wedding photography contract – experienced wedding photographers will always have them ready, and will make the time to go over the contract line by line.
#3 Consistency: How long have you been in business? How long have you been shooting professionally?
Consistency is important here. Look at the photographer’s wedding galleries – does each wedding event your potential photographer produces look vastly different in editing style and final image? Amateurs tend to be more on the experimental side as they are learning new digital editing techniques while those who do this full-time for a living will show a steady style (that can vary sometimes based on client wishes and photographer’s willingness to adapt to styles outside of her or his own.)
#4 Finally! What are Your Prices? ….And what do I get for my money?
This is a strong point of contention among most photographers. Does the photographer post her/his prices on their website with a detailed breakdown of what is included in each package offering? Or do they try and start a dialogue with you once you contact them to try and fish out what you are able to spend then follow-up with the inevitable ensuing “sales pitch” once you are talking one-to-one? Is there an itemized list? Is there an à la carte list? Every photographer runs hers or his business differently, and don’t expect everyone to do things the same way when it comes to pricing your wedding.
#5 Confused now? You should be..there is a lot of competition out there. There are questions you can ask any photographer that will give you a quick answer as to their level of professionalism, commitment to their job, and track record – “Are you licensed to operate a business in this state? What is your license number? Are you insured? With who?
It’s your wedding. Are you looking for a professional photographer, or an amateur? It’s the same as hiring a chef, DJ, florist, officiant, live band or wedding planner – who all work with a license and an official state tax ID. Freelancer, independent, “just-starting-out” or any other description just doesn’t excuse the fact that without being registered, that person may not be qualified to do the job no matter who they say they are. These days, anyone with a brand new expensive camera might be a “professional”. In the past decade the ease of digital photography has enabled anyone with a camera to portray themselves as a professional business owner in a field that has no barriers to entry. Ask for documentation – it’s that easy. Any pro pays for the professional association dues, various municipal, county, state, and/or federal taxes and will have a business license number on-hand immediately upon request. It doesn’t hurt to ask – after all, you are the paying customer.
#6 Style. Does the photographer’s style match your own?
There are lots of great wedding photographers out there, and each one does things a unique way with their own personal flair. Find someone whose style you really like; don’t pick one and try to get them to work in a different style that might not be comfortable for that photographer.
#7 What is your budget? How much are you willing to spend to get the most for your dollar?
What exactly do you want from your wedding photographer? Prices vary rather drastically from one person to another because shooting a wedding also can cost the photographer a considerable amount of money out-of-pocket, such as hiring assistants, renting special equipment, and travel time. How many hours of the photographer(s) time is included? Is there a session fee? What are the à la carte prices if you want something outside of the wedding package you choose? Is a photography assistant necessary, and what will that add? Is there an additional fee if that time needs to be extended? Do I really need all the images on a CD, or is a web gallery or beautifully crafted wedding album enough? How about just a CD of images designed to share online? These are things you need to decide and talk about to your prospective wedding photographer. Just remember: You get what you pay for, and don’t get what you don’t pay for.
#8 Are your prices negotiable?
The other half of the pricing issue: of course prices are always negotiable – to a point. Depending on how much each photographer pays out to vendors, second photographers/staff and other charges, taxes and fees to do the best possible job at your wedding. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
#9 Understand the photographer’s policies
I can’t stress this enough.
What is required in advance to book the shoot?
What are the cancellation policies?
What if the date changes?
What happens to the digital negatives?
Can I print my own photos?
How long will my online gallery be live?
How many final images do I expect to receive?
Will the photographer re-edit any of the images?
The only silly questions are those not asked. You are paying, so ask away.
#10 Referrals – Ask for Referrals!
Most photographers these days have their company or services rated online through services like Google Places and LinkedIn that provide actual public references and detail about customer experience with them. Actual customer testimony and feedback will tell you a lot about the wedding photographer you are thinking about hiring. This should help make your decision for you as these public testimonies cannot be edited by the photographer.
I hope these ten questions help point you in the right direction for choosing the best photographer for your wedding. This list should make your choice easier and help you find a reputable professional that suits your needs. And again, congratulations on your engagement!
If you’d like to find out more about my wedding package offerings and availability, please visit my website at Leighton Photography & Imaging. I am based in Seattle, WA but regularly travel all over the United States. To keep my prices low, I like to stay active and busy. Book in advance!Rich Leighton May 31, 2013
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