Questions To Ask When You're Hiring a Photographer
As a photographer who has interviewed with tons of potential clients, I'm used to having a lot of questions thrown my way. I've heard everything from "How many weddings have you photographed?" to "What sort of equipment do you use?", and the big one, "What are your prices?" And while all of these are valid questions, these are NOT the important questions that you should be asking your photographer!
Your connection with your photographer should be stronger and more personal than your connection with any other vendor on your wedding day. I always tell my clients "If you don't really like me during a meeting, then you DEFINITELY won't like me following you around for 8+hours, no matter how good my prices are!" So to prepare you for your upcoming meeting with a potential photographer for your big day (maybe me?!) here are some questions that should be at the top of your list!
How would you describe your style of photography and editing?
This is very important for you and your photographer to see eye to eye on. If you enjoy candid photography without a lot of staged poses and very minimal post-edits, but the photographer that you hire is all about setting up a ton of lights, using props, and editing with heavy filters, then you are not going to like the final images no matter how great of a price their packages were. The photographer you hire should have the same sort of style as you visually and personally. If you are a laid-back couple with casual, simple style, you want your photographer to be able to capture those traits in a way that compliments who you are. It goes the same way if you love dramatic lighting, heavy vignettes (dark edges around the frame), and glamour shot portraits. Do not hire a natural light photographer with a light and airy style if that isn't what you are looking for. Do your homework! What style of photography fills you with emotion and translates to how you want to be seen on your wedding day.
Side note: Just because a photographer doesn't offer the style of photography that you are looking for, it doesn't mean that they can't do it or that they have less education. It simply means that their heart and passion are not connected with that style and asking them to create something that they can't get excited about will result in a crappy image.
What does the payment timeline look like?
When it comes to budgeting for a wedding, the numbers that are thrown at you can be incredibly intimidating. "How are we supposed to pay for all this?!" is probably running through your head behind all of the excitement. But fear not! We don't expect you to sign a contract in blood and hand over thousands of dollars at the drop of a hat. That's where payment plans come into place. I can't speak for every photographer but the way that I set up my client payment plans allows for the couple to have some breathing time before each payment needs to be made. A non-refundable deposit holds the wedding date, then a 2nd payment is made at the midway point from when the contract was signed to the wedding day, and the final payment is due 2 weeks before the wedding. So if you book your wedding photographer far enough in advance, you can go months without having it looming over your head that you owe more money so quickly. I even have a couple who booked 2 years in advance and basically is only making 1 payment per year!
Do you do other styles of photography then what we see on your website?
This one sort of goes hand in hand with the first question. When photographers create our websites, we put the images that speak clearly about our brand and style right up front. I promise, I am not hiding any tricks up my sleeve or off in a secret portfolio that only some clients will find out about. I'm not a Starbucks secret menu. If you don't see a photo of a wedding party running from a Photoshopped T-Rex on my website, you can rest assured that it's because I do not offer that kind of work.
Do we have the rights to the photos we will receive?
Every photographer's packages are different so when you are going over everything with them, make sure to get a clear and concise explanation of what you can and cannot do with the images you've been given. Some photographers, like myself, give full print rights to our clients with every package. This means that the client has the go ahead from the photographer to bring the files they've been given to an outside company to make prints, albums, coffee mugs, you name it. You do not OWN the files (the copyright always remains with the photographer) but if you want to make a calendar with photos from your wedding for your mom's birthday--go right ahead!
Other photographers offer digital download packages in addition to the price you pay just to book them, or they only offer prints without the files included, or you can only order prints directly through them. So it's really important to know exactly what you are getting right off the bat so that you aren't caught off guard after you've already paid.
What do you focus on when photographing a wedding day?
Of course the number 1 answer will be YOU! But some photographers will spend a lot of time on details photos (the rings, invitations, flowers, table settings, etc) while some may not take photos of that stuff at all. I've had brides in the past say "eh don't worry if there's no time for photos of my shoes. I don't really care about that" because having me spend 45+ minutes on their shoes and hair pins just doesn't matter to them. Some of you may gasp at that but that's exactly why you need to ask about it. Ask your photographer what they like to focus on throughout a wedding day. If you want photos of all of your details, make sure that photographer has photos of detail shots from previous weddings to show you. If you don't care about that and would rather they focus on the people, make sure the work they show you has emotional moments of guests and the couple instead of what their napkins looked like.
DIG DEEP when it comes to choosing the right wedding photographer for you! Don't just spend your time on the surface questions (how much is the price/how many photos do I get/how long will you stay). Find out why your photographer shoots in the style that they do, what makes them excited to photograph weddings, and what you all have in common. Start an actual relationship with your photographer. You'll enjoy your final images so much better knowing that they came from someone who understands you, makes you feel comfortable, and who honestly cares about your happiness as you take the next steps in your relationship.