I highly recommend bringing a list of questions with you when you meet with your prospective wedding photographer for the first time, or even send them a list in a pre/post-meeting email exchange so you have everything in writing.
1. How long have you been doing wedding photography?
It goes without saying that the answer to this question should be in line with how much they charge. Newbies will be the cheapest, while high-end dedicated professional will charge you what they know they are worth. Just remember, you get what you pay for.
2. How many weddings do you average a year?
Wedding photographers are usually the busiest from May-September, but they shouldn’t be doing 2 weddings a weekend every weekend. You want to know they are in-demand, but also that they’ll have time to focus on & prepare for your special day.
3. What is your specialty?
Some photographer’s are a jack-of-all-trades, doing everything from family portraits to commercial shoots, and that can be great. But those who specialize in weddings will probably have more experience and be a little more prepared for your big day. They will also have the specialized equipment and lenses required to catch all the shots required.
4. What is your background/education?
Did they attend art school or take courses in photography or photo editing? Or are they self-taught? If you already know you love their style and they have an extensive online portfolio, this probably isn’t an important question to ask. But if they are new to the industry, their educational background might be more informative.
5. How much are your packages?
What do they include in terms of album, time and number of prints? Can packages be customised? Do they provide a disc of images or prints only? How much would it cost for additional prints/albums/CDs?
6. How many photos will I get?
You probably won’t get to see every single image your photographer takes, and you really shouldn’t. A good photographer will cull the photos down for you as part of their job so it isn’t so overwhelming when it comes to ordering prints or other products – you don’t need to see the ones where the groom’s eyes are closed & everyone is blurry.
7. Do you re-touch/edit photos?
Most photographers these days at least do minimal editing – skin touch ups, teeth whitening, etc. You want to look your best in your wedding photos, so this type of stuff should be expected. However, some will be able to do some more extensive editing or add their personal touch. If you ask for them to make you look 20lbs lighter or fix your groom’s receding hairline in every photo, expect some extra charges.
8. Will I be able to view my photos online after the wedding?
Some photographers have secret online galleries for you to view & order or even download your photos. Others prefer to meet in person and go over proofs, and some will just hand over a disc with all the images on it.
9. Do you have public liability and indemnity insurance? Are you a registered business?
This is a big one folks. Professional indemnity insurance would cover the cost of retaking photos if something goes wrong – like if their equipment broke, their memory card malfunctioned or they couldn’t make it, this would pay for you to re-stage the wedding or get them redone. This may also be covered on your wedding insurance policy.
10. Will you be my photographer on the day?
Always worth checking especially if they are part of a larger photography company. You not only want to make sure you love their personal style, but that you don’t have to deal with any personality conflicts on your big day.
11. What would happen if you are unable to attend on the day in the case of an emergency/sickness?
See if they have a few photographers they can call upon last minute in case of sickness or other emergency – I heard of one photographer who got stuck at the border on the way to a wedding in Canada – the bride was left calling around for replacement photographers in tears a few short hours before her wedding. Luckily she found someone local who could step in last minute!
12. Will you be working on your own or do you have a second shooter?
If you have a second shooter, your photos will include more angles (especially at the ceremony) & it’s great to have more than one point-of-view – especially if you want getting ready photos of both the bride & groom at different locations. But you need to pay more for a second shooter & provide an additional vendor’s meal – yes, you should always feed your photographer if they’re around for more than a few hours.
13. Do you charge extra for travel?
Most photographers have a zone they will travel to for free (within city limits or a certain distance) and then charge per mile/km if they have to travel over that distance. Expect to cover any meals or accommodations if they have to stay overnight.
14. What kind of equipment do you use? Do you have back-up equipment?
It’s a photographer’s worst nightmare to have their only camera stop working on your big day. I personally recommend that if they don’t own an extra camera, you should insist on them renting one for the day. Otherwise see point #7 about insurance.
15. How long will you be taking photos on the wedding day?
This should be covered in their package details. Do they show up early to take photos while the bride & groom are getting ready? Can they stick around for the reception/cake cutting/first dance? What happens in the case that they have to stay longer than the contract specifies?
16. What are the payment terms? When would I need to pay a deposit?
Most photographers require a non-refundable deposit to reserve your date. If you don’t pay the deposit, you could lose the date to the next bride who comes along.
17. Do you offer a pre-wedding or engagement shoot?
Many photographers include an engagement shoot as part of their packages. Be sure to take them up on this – it can help camera shy couples to become more comfortable in front of the camera and know what to expect.
18. What is the turn-around time for the final product?
Don’t expect to see your photos right away, it takes a lot of time for your photographer to go through them all & do their editing. A few sneak peeks are usually provided within a week or two, or even the next day if they aren’t busy, but the average turn-around for a wedding is between 6-8 weeks.
19.What are the terms of the contract? What is your cancellation policy?
You should read the contract thoroughly before you sign, it should explain copyrights, printing, and most everything I’ve mentioned above.
20. Do you have any current specials/discounts or preferred vendors?
They could have some excellent tips on locations or other vendors that you haven’t quite narrowed down. Or maybe they’ll throw in a free engagement or boudoir session. Doesn’t hurt to ask.