By, Jessica Davies from Jessica Davies Photography
As a bride, you are planning out every detail of your wedding. You may have even been planning your dream wedding for years. You are spending time carefully picking out colors, flowers, cake, décor, dresses, and even make-up and shoes to make your day perfect. When your wedding day finally comes, it is often so hectic and busy that you will only have foggy memories of how wonderful it was. Of all the vendors you use for your wedding day, your photographer is one of the most important. Your pictures are the only thing that you will have forever to remember your wedding day. While we all have different budgets and everyone can’t always afford a top of the line photographer, it is important that you know exactly what you are getting with any photographer you hire. We have all heard horror stories about wedding photographers who have lost images, don’t show up on the wedding day, or show up and have to take pictures with their cell phone because their equipment isn’t working. Below is a list of important questions to ask before you hire a wedding photographer. Finding a photographer who is a good fit for you is a must for your special day!
What is included in your pricing, and what is an additional cost? Most wedding photographers will offer wedding photography packages, or will customize packages for your wedding photography needs. Be sure to find out what is included in each package. Hidden fees, taxes, travel fees, and fees for prints are sometimes added on after the wedding, so be sure you know exactly how much it is going to cost to get your images.
Do you have a contract? If so, do I get a copy? Make sure you keep a copy of anything you sign for future reference. Most wedding photographers will have contracts, and they are designed to protect both the photographer and you. If a photographer doesn’t have a contract, make sure you get an agreement of what you are receiving in writing.
How does payment work? Each photographer is different, so make sure you know how their payment policies work. Most photographers will charge some sort of retainer to reserve your wedding date. Find out how much is due up front, when the rest is due, and what happens in the event that your wedding is cancelled or postponed.
Can I see an example of a full wedding day? Always ask your photographer for sample wedding days. If you are doing engagements and bridals through them, ask to see a sample of those as well. You want to know exactly what you will be getting for your money. A portfolio online is great to give you a general idea of a photographer’s style, but it can vary greatly from the finished product that a photographer might provide for a full wedding.
How many weddings have you shot and how much experience do you have? It is important to know how many weddings your photographer has shot, and how much experience she has shooting various wedding situations. Not all types of photo shoots are the same. A photographer who takes great images in a controlled environment (ie- a family or child photographer who can always control the lighting situations she is shooting in) might not be familiar enough with the variations and difficult lighting situations that weddings can have. Be sure your photographer is charging the right amount for their experience level. Even if the most experienced photographer isn’t in your budget, your photographer should disclose if she has only shot one or two weddings. You should be able to make an educated decision about the quality and experience of the photographer.
Have you ever shot a wedding at our venue, or in similar lighting? If your photographer hasn’t shot in your venue, will they take the time to check it out before your wedding so they are prepared on your wedding day?
Are you the photographer that will be at our wedding, or will another photographer be there? Some photographers will contract out their weddings to other photographers, or have photographers that shoot under their company name. Be sure that you are meeting with the person who will actually be there at your wedding.
Do you schedule any other events the same day as my wedding? You might not want your photographer to schedule a family shoot right before and right after your wedding. You want a photographer who will take your day seriously and not shortchange you because they have overbooked.
Do you bring a second shooter, or do you provide it as an option? Second shooters are secondary photographers who come to weddings and shoot under the direction of the primary photographer. There are a lot of benefits that come from having a second shooter, especially if you are having a large wedding. If your photographer includes second shooters in their pricing or provides opportunities to add a second photographer to your wedding package, it is something you should consider. It is usually worth the splurge!
If my wedding lasts longer than expected, do you stay? Do you charge extra? Weddings hardly ever start on time, and brides usually pack more things into their day than they have time for. Most weddings do go over the scheduled time frames, so it is important to discuss what will happen ahead of time. You don’t want your photographer to pack up and leave before special moments, and you don’t want to find out later that they stayed longer and are charging a $500 overtime fee. It is also a good idea to ask your photographer when they start calculating their time. This is especially important for LDS temple weddings. Is your photographer counting your time from the beginning of your sealing time, even though you aren’t out of the temple yet?'.
Do you allow friends and family to take pictures at my wedding? Photographers will vary greatly with this. Some photographers will not allow anyone to take pictures of posed shots, while other photographers don’t care. Most photographers do not want other pro or semi-pro photographers shooting at weddings (unless they are a second shooter for the photographer) because it can hurt the quality of the images that you will receive. This is also a great time to discuss the possibility of having an unplugged wedding with your photographer.
If you become unavailable on my wedding day, do you have a back-up plan? Any photographers shooting weddings should have a Plan B in the event that they get sick, or have another emergency that keeps them from getting to your wedding. If your photographer can’t make it, they should have a prearranged back up to make sure you will still get great images of your special day.
Do you have back-up equipment and what do you do to make sure my images are kept safe? Wedding photographers should always have back-up equipment, and they should back up your files. While there is always a risk with technology that something weird can happen that causes you to lose your wedding photos, photographers should have a plan in place to make that scenario highly improbable.
Will you be posting/sharing my images online? As photographers, we love sharing our work. Know what your photographer plans to do with your photos, and make sure you are okay with it. If you are an extremely private person, be sure your photographer allows you to opt out of online sharing.
How many images can I expect to get for my wedding day, bridals, and/or engagements? This can vary widely from one photographer to the next, so it is important that your expectations match what your photographer typically provides. If you are expecting 3,000 images from your wedding day, and your photographer typically provides 30, then you want to know about it beforehand. You should also find out if you have the option of purchasing additional images, and what the cost for those images will be.
Do you give digital files, prints, or both? Some photographers provide high resolution digital images, while other photographers will provide low resolution digital proofs, and still others exclusively provide prints. It is important that you know exactly what you will get from your photographer. If your photographer provides digital files, you should also ask if you are allowed to print those images yourself, how large you will be able to print them, and if you will receive unwatermarked copies. You need to also ask your photographer how the images will be delivered. Is it an online download? CD? USB? Photo album?
How long is your turnaround time? Find out how long it will be before you can expect to see your wedding day images. If you are okay with your photographer posting online, also ask how long it typically takes to see sneak peeks and other online images.
Do you retouch and color correct your images? You need to know if the final product the photographer is delivering to you will be edited, or if you will need to pay extra for it. Also, find out what type of editing is included and what isn’t. Most photographers will provide color correcting and minimal editing free of charge, but for more time consuming editing, there is sometimes an additional charge. I have also seen wedding photographers who provide no editing on their images. Take that into account when deciding who to have as your photographer. Also, be sure their editing style is similar to the look that you want.
Will you need me to provide food for you? It is generally expected that the client provides food for the photographer, as well as other vendors who will be with you most of the day. If you aren’t able or willing to provide food, it is important that you allow the photographer a break to eat. Most photographers will assume that they are allowed to eat unless it is otherwise noted.
What can I do, as a bride, to make sure I get the best possible images for my wedding day? There is a lot you can do as a bride to guarantee that you get beautiful wedding day images. Everything from the venue, wedding colors, and time of day can affect the quality of your images. Your photographer, if experienced in shooting weddings, can be a valuable resource to help you get the best images possible. They can help with everything from color selections, outfit choices, locations, the venue set up, and wedding day time lines. They are invested in helping you get great images, and are usually more than willing to share their ideas if asked.
By asking your photographer these questions before you book them for your big day, you will ensure you find the best photographer for you! Your wedding photographer will be following you around all day. She is usually the only person that gets to spend time alone with you and your husband on your wedding day, so you should make sure it is someone who “clicks” with your personalities. You want a photographer who will not only give you beautiful images to always remember your day with, but who will make your day more enjoyable to remember!