10 things to ask a wedding photographer before you book
Your wedding photos should be one of the most important things to get right on your wedding day. After all, you'll want to look back on the day with fond memories and browsing through a beautiful set of wedding photos will work every time! You may have a vision in your head how you want your wedding photos to look and you want to make sure it all goes to plan on the day. To help achieve that vision, you may want to ask a wedding photographer these questions before hiring them for that all important job.
I could probably list another 10 or 20 questions you should ask and maybe I'll do a part two sometime, but for now these are the 10 that came to mind. Some questions are fairly obvious. 'Are you free on my wedding date?' 'How much are your packages?' Both of these questions are definitely important, but here are some of the things you really should be asking.
1. How would you describe your wedding photography style?
You should be able to tell just by looking at the photographer's website galleries and slideshows whether you like their photography style or not. But how do they describe their style and will it actually work for you on the day? Many photographers say they shoot a wedding in a documentary style (often referred to as 'reportage' or 'photojournalistic'), but what does that actually mean? To me, it means telling an honest story as it unfolds through pictures I take on the day. To be honest, most, if not all of my brides ask for 'natural documentary' photos as their preferred style. Some documentary photographers like the discrete approach to shooting and keep a low profile throughout and you will hardly notice they're there. Other documentary photographers may get slightly more involved and chatty with you and your guests. On the odd occasion they might take charge and gently prompt 'moments' to happen to achieve a shot, as well as capturing all of those other natural moments.
Of course, photography style can also be defined by the way the photographer processes your digital photos after the wedding and presents them to you in an album or on a disc. Some documentary style photos are processed in black and white, which is a personal favourite of mine, this gives the photo a 'timeless' quality, others can have a slightly vintage tone look, which has been particularly popular in the past few years. Whatever style of photography you choose make sure you and the photographer are compatible so you're not left disappointed with the resulting style after your wedding day.
2. Can I see photos of a complete wedding you've shot?
When you look at the gallery pages on a photographers website you will see all his or her best photos beautifully displayed for your viewing pleasure, but that doesn't tell you the complete story of the day. These days anyone with a digital camera can get a few 'wow' shots at a wedding, but what about the rest of the day? How well are the bridal preparations and the ceremony captured? What about the family group shots and the evening celebrations? The advantage of seeing a full day of photos is you get the 'overall' picture of how the photographer captures a typical wedding day and you are hopefully re-assured they are as good as they say they are! It also allows you to imagine what your wedding day photos will look like. You can view complete weddings I've shot in my blog pages.
3. Are you fully insured and do you have back up equipment in the event of a mechanical failure?
This is one of the most important questions to ask any wedding photographer and will hopefully allow you to separate the good reliable honest photographers from the bad ones who are just out to make a few quid without really knowing what they are doing!
It is incredibly important for your photographer to be fully covered for any possible damage they cause or accidents that may occur by having Public Liability Insurance cover. Occasional mishaps can and do happen at weddings, such as someone tripping over the photographers bag and breaking an ankle, or the photographer knocking over an expensive antique vase at a venue whilst trying to get an important shot, so it is vital your photographer is fully covered for such events.
Can you imagine what would happen if your photographer didn't have a back up camera and other equipment and his camera failed on your wedding day? Borrow one of your guests point and shoot cameras for the rest of the day probably? Not really ideal is it? It is hugely important your photographer carries back ups of everything he carries with him as this can happen. I even carry three cameras in case my back up fails!
4. How far in advance of my wedding should I book you?
If you want the best wedding suppliers for your special day, it definitely pays to book them early. As soon as you've booked your venue and have a date set, you should book your photographer next (well what would you expect me to say!). For instance, I only have a couple of free saturdays available for bookings in 2014 from April to October. Quite often the best suppliers are booked up well in advance, so don't miss out, book early.
5. What happens if you are ill on the day of my wedding?
Most photographers will have a network of local experienced wedding photographer friends they can count on to cover them in the event of them being ill and unable to attend your wedding on the day. However, not all wedding photographers do, so make sure you ask this question.
6. What happens if it rains all day and we're unable to go outside for the formal photos as we'd planned?
Unfortunately it does rain from time to time, no matter how much we all hope for fine weather on our wedding day. This is the UK after all! Ask the photographer what they would do in such cases. Making sure the photographer has a 'plan B' is definitely crucial and you need to find out exactly what that plan is. It could be a nice picturesque location indoors for the family formals or even bringing along a couple of large umbrellas for some bride and groom photos in the rain! Timing is key on any wedding day and you don't want the photographer wasting precious time scrambling around looking for an alternative location for you photos if you get a sudden downpour.
7. What do I actually get for my money if I book one of your packages? Are there any hidden costs?
This is something you need to be 100% sure of, especially before you hand over any deposit money. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting for your money. If something is not clear to you, be sure and ask the photographer to clarify it for your own piece of mind. The last thing you want to be told after your wedding is that your disc of photos will come at an additional cost because you didn't read the small print or you didn't ask. One way around this is for the photographer to have a photography contract explaining everything you're getting for your money. This will ensure that all the details and terms of services your photographer offers you is clear for both parties. When you meet your photographer to discuss hiring them, be wary if they don't have a contract in place for your wedding photography.
8. Can I put forward some ideas for photos I would like on the day?
Some photographers may be willing to accommodate your ideas and suggestions for any photos you would like captured on the day and others are not too keen and prefer to work the way they do without interference. Either way it is your wedding day, so why not suggest a few ideas. It's also a good idea to give a list of shots you require for the family formal photos too. This way, the photographer is prepared and doesn't miss any of those precious shots of your family and friends.
9. Are you familiar shooting weddings in difficult lighting conditions?
You may be getting married outdoors in the midday sun, or indoors in a really dark location with little or no available light. Make sure your photographer has experience shooting a wedding in various lighting conditions similar to how you've planned yours. You should even ask to see a set of photos from a previous wedding they've shot to see how they handled it.
For instance, shooting outdoors in bright sunlight can be quite tricky to get right. You don't want to see your wedding photos with horrible harsh shadows falling across your guests faces or you and your groom squinting into the camera due to the sunlight. Likewise, in darker low light conditions can your photographer use flash properly and if they are not allowed to use flash, do they have the right cameras and lenses to still achieve great results? You only have to do a Google search for bad wedding photos to see what can go wrong in these types of situations.
10. How long do I have to wait to see my photos after my wedding?
Most photographers will say between 2-4 weeks, but depending on the time of year, especially during the busy summer season, it may be even longer. If you're having an album printed as well then expect to wait up to a few months. Either way, it's a good idea to ask!
And finally, one last thing to ask yourself!
Can I work with this photographer? Do I actually like the person? Do they have a kind, understanding and considerate personality and do they make you feel comfortable and relaxed about shooting your wedding? Of all the wedding services and vendors you hire for your special day, it's the photographer who you'll be spending most time with, so make sure you actually 'like' the person you hire. In my experience as a wedding photographer, when I get on really well with a couple they tend to relax and feel comfortable around me on the day when I'm taking photos. This definitely makes for better natural photos on the day, which is what people want. As I said, the photographer will be present at all the key moments throughout a very long day, so it pays to get along with them! Best of luck!