Questions to Ask Photographers Before You Book

Questions to Ask Photographers Before You Book

Photography Questions from TheKnot.com's "must ask list"

QUESTIONS TO ASK PHOTOGRAPHERS BEFORE YOU BOOK

Before you send out that wedding-industry-propaganda list of questions to a professional, let's make a few considerations... There are a few good & relevant questions on this list, but that doesn't mean you get a free pass to not do your own homework. 

In answering these questions, I hope you will take a way why you should be asking certain questions if you have not decided on a photographer for your wedding day!


What you should know!

What style(s) do you specialize in?

Every photographer strives to shoot in a certain style. Their photographic style is what crafts their images. What's more important here is to ask how they handle situations on your wedding day.

In Review: 

1. Ask to see a gallery from one or a few weddings. Do you see what you're looking for? 

2. Decide if you like the images you see in their portfolio--that is the essence of their photographic style. Words are just words, trust the results, or photos in this case. 

 

Will the photos be retouched and color balanced? Is that done before I see the proofs?

This is a particularly great question! Bravo theKnot for asking something that clients need to know. 

Ask how the photographer defines 'retouched.' For me, I straighten (because I am perpetually crooked), crop when needed, color balance, adjust overall exposure/contrast/shadows/etc... to ensure your images are as consistent as possible. 

How many weddings have you shot, and how many do you do in a year? Also, what's your favorite part of a wedding day and time of year to shoot?

The first part of this question is viable if you think the photographer is inexperienced. Most photographers will shoot between 15-35 weddings a year, but does it really matter if they do quality work?

Part two of that question, 'what is your favorite part of the wedding day and time of *DAY to shoot?' -- That is a good question.

Do you shoot both digital and film?

This question and their reason why is utter BS!  You can't let your photographer know what medium to shoot what in... THOU SHALT TRUST YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER.

Dear client, can you tell what I shoot? (For the record, I do shoot both.)

No--great, do your homework and make sure the photographer is qualified, enjoy your images. 

Yes--you're likely a photographer or have a really discerning eye. We'll be fast friends. Enjoy your images.

If you shoot film, do you usually shoot in both color and black and white? If you'll do both, what percentage of each do you recommend?

Why this is a bad question: When a photographer shoots film, they are constantly adjusting for their light sources. Different films do better in various conditions. Again, THOU SHALT TRUST YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER.

What to make sure you know: When an image is shot on black and white film, it cannot be converted to color. Several types of black and white film lend themselves to darker environments; that is why you might see more black and white images from a reception.

I like light and color, and most of my images are color, but when the light calls for it, I will happily break out the black & white film and rock that stuff!

 

What exactly is included in your packages?

Read over the packages and consider any needed add-ons. Do your homework.

 

How many hours of coverage do we get? What is the charge for overtime?

This is a great question; I highly suggest asking about this, just in case you end up needing more time on your wedding day!

 

What is the deposit and total fee?

Another brilliant question. This information is ALWAYS covered in contract. Personally, I charge a 30% non-refundable retainer to hold any wedding date; the remainder is due 30 business days prior to the wedding. That is the industry standard!

 

Will you be my actual photographer, or will it be one of your associates?

That depends, are you hiring me or one of my associate photographers. You'll know this up front! We do have associate photographers who's packages might be more budget friendly. 

 

Do you have backup photographers who will shoot the wedding if you're sick?

YES. I personally have never had to use any of these extremely talented people in my place but I have worked with them, and I know if anything were to happen to me, that you'd be in the best hands!!

 

Will there be a second shooter or any assistants? Is there an additional fee for each (if applicable)?

We highly suggest having a second shooter; you do not get to choose this person as we have to vet their work to ensure that it is up to snuff. Almost all of our packages include a second shooter.

 

How long after the wedding do we get to see the photos?

It usually takes somewhere between 3-6 weeks to get photos out to our couples. We don't want you tortured with a long wait!

 

How do you coordinate with my videographer? How do you envision working together?

This is a great question! We always try capture your wedding without them in your images; we will make every possible effort to ensure your images are timeless and well composed. 

I envision this person doing their job and not getting in my shots--and they envision the same thing...don't ask that second question, okay?! 

 

How many weddings do you do a weekend?

Why this is a dumb question: How many weddings I shoot per week or weekend is of no consequence. An inexperienced photographer may try to shoot an event before your wedding...that is very ill advised.

What to ask instead: Do you shoot more than one event on any wedding day?  -- My answer is no, NEVER. I am solely focused on your wedding on your wedding day.

 

Have you ever shot at my venue(s) before?

Good question...the answer isn't always yes, especially with an increasing number of destination venues available these days, but luckily a quick internet search of the venue &/or consultation with the event coordinator there,  will yield photos that give a good photographer clues about any lighting challenges! We're pros; don't worry, we've got this!

 

Will you follow a shot list? Or do you prefer to have free reign to capture the festivities how you see fit?

TheKnot's answer is actually good on this one; I'll second it and leave it right here...

Why you want to know: Most photographers will welcome a (short) shot list to make sure you get the specific pics you want. But don't overwhelm them with hundreds of requests -- if you hire a good pro, you're hiring them for their eye as well as their experience creating amazing albums. Let them do their job!

We do use a shot list, for family formals, to ensure we don't miss any important people, but aside from that, I do not follow a shot list. 

 

What type of paper will you use for the prints and album?

Please ask this question if you are purchasing products. These images are your family's first family heirlooms. We do source acid-free, archival-quality paper, which will stand the test of time.

 

What are the restrictions for sharing photos online or for publication? Do you own the copyright to the photos?

Nice question; if your package come with print rights, you have the right to share you images on your personal social media. There's a caveat...do NOT filter or edit these images ever. Your photographer lovingly hand color corrected your images to ensure your skin looked human vs. ummpa-loompa orange. Editing or filtering your images is VERY insulting, not to mention, depending on your photographer...it might break your agreement!

Almost all photographers, me included, retain the copyright to their images; you are licensed to use and enjoy them. 

 

Do you bring your own lighting?

Why this question is bullshit to a professional photographer: Hm, did you see my portfolio?! Yes, I bring my own lighting; I carry a Mary-Poppins style bag full of tricks to ensure I can do my job. And by-the-way, did you see those gorgeous reception images I sent you in that full gallery... Let's TRUST the photographer if I like those images and let her use her tools to ensure you get great photos.

What to ask instead: Tell your photographer if you know your venue is particularly dark, if you are getting married and your dance floor is in the middle of a dark field, etc... They may need to bring extra gear to make sure you get good quality images.  

 

What will you wear?

Southerner's love tradition; my grandmother would probably drive down here and take a switch to me if I didn't dress the part for whatever event I was attending. I dress as if I am going to the wedding as a guest; time-of-day dress is very appropriate. I do not wear a uniform. 

Questions theKnot.com says to ask:

What style(s) do you specialize in?

(Most shooters use a blend of several, but you'll want to make sure they shoot portraits, for example, if they're important to you.)

Why you want to know: You wouldn't ask Monet to paint you a Picasso, right? Going with the style a photographer likes to shoot best (and has the most experience shooting) will give you the best results.

 

 

 

Will the photos be retouched and color balanced? Is that done before I see the proofs?

Why you want to know: These are the techniques magazines use to make pages look perfect. Some photographers will polish all your photos, while others will show you untouched proofs and work their magic only on the images you order.

 

 

How many weddings have you shot, and how many do you do in a year? Also, what's your favorite part of a wedding day and time of year to shoot?

Why you want to know: You only have one chance to get amazing wedding photos, so you'll want to hire someone who knows how to get those shots under pressure (read: someone who shoots weddings for a living, not your old college roommate who takes pictures as a hobby).

 

Do you shoot both digital and film?

(While digital is more common today, film has had a resurgence. If you want the latter, be sure your photographer has the relevant experience and skills required to execute this old-school format.)

Why you want to know: If you're obsessed with the dreamy quality of film, go with a pro in this medium. In addition to asking how many weddings they've shot in total (see above), let them know how many you want taken with film.

 

If you shoot film, do you usually shoot in both color and black and white? If you'll do both, what percentage of each do you recommend?

Why you want to know: These days, most shooters will do a mix of both color and black and white. You'll get a sense of their style and how your album might look by asking what balance they usually go with.

 

What exactly is included in your packages?

Why you want to know: When comparing fees, check whether prints, albums and proofs, as well as extra coverage such as engagement shoots, are covered. They can all alter the costs significantly. It's not necessarily a bad thing if, say, your album isn't included -- you can always make this on your own or buy it a la carte -- but you want to be sure you're comparing apples to apples to get the best value. If you're having your shooter use film, also ask about film costs and processing fees.

 

How many hours of coverage do we get? What is the charge for overtime?

Why you want to know: If overtime is going to cost you a ton, you'll be able to plan their hours accordingly. For instance, if you have six hours of coverage but your photographer charges a huge hourly rate for overtime, you might have them leave after you cut the cake instead of after the last dance. Or, you may opt for a longer package to pay a little more up front (and avoid the larger hourly overtime rate later).

 

What is the deposit and total fee?

Why you want to know: In addition to this bottom line number, you'll also want to ask when it's due.

 

Will you be my actual photographer, or will it be one of your associates?

Why you want to know: Don't assume Bruce of Bruce Photography will be taking your photos. That doesn't mean Bruce's partner Frank is subpar, but you'll want to meet with him (and see his photos) in order to make an informed decision.

 

Do you have backup photographers who will shoot the wedding if you're sick?

Why you want to know: If you're going with a company that employs a team of photographers, you'll have a built-in backup. But if you're going with a solo shooter, ask if they have colleagues on call in case of an emergency.

 

Will there be a second shooter or any assistants? Is there an additional fee for each (if applicable)?

Why you want to know: Second shooters can cover more ground and can give you two perspectives on major moments (for instance, one can shoot the groom's face when he first sees his bride and the other can photograph the bride as she walks down the aisle). But this may cost you extra.

 

How long after the wedding do we get to see the photos?

Why you want to know: You'll want to see photos ASAP, and the wait can be pretty darn agonizing (it can take months!). But if you know in advance, you can manage your (and your mom's) expectations.

 

How do you coordinate with my videographer? How do you envision working together?

Why you want to know: This pair will need to coordinate and stay out of each other's way -- easier to do if they have a good rapport. If you haven't hired a videographer yet, ask them for a suggestion.

 

 

How many weddings do you do a weekend?

Why you want to know: If your photographer is shooting an afternoon wedding before yours, you'll need to work out a plan if the first event runs over.

 

 

Have you ever shot at my venue(s) before?

Why you want to know: Your shooter should be aware of any lighting needs or issues specific to the space. If they haven't ever worked in your venue, they should be willing to check it out beforehand.

 

Will you follow a shot list? Or do you prefer to have free reign to capture the festivities how you see fit?

Why you want to know: Most photographers will welcome a (short) shot list to make sure you get the specific pics you want. But don't overwhelm them with hundreds of requests -- if you hire a good pro, you're hiring them for their eye as well as their experience creating amazing albums. Let them do their job!

 

What type of paper will you use for the prints and album?

Why you want to know: The answer should be acid-free, archival-quality paper, which will stand the test of time.

 

 

What are the restrictions for sharing photos online or for publication? Do you own the copyright to the photos?

Why you want to know: If you're a Facebook and Instagram addict, not being allowed to share some of your wedding photos online may be torture -- better to know about this ahead of time.

 

 

Do you bring your own lighting?

Why you want to know: Not only will you want to determine if you'll need to supply additional lighting (either hiring a lighting designer or having the venue supply it), but you'll want to be sure the equipment they bring won't be too bulky or obtrusive.

 

 

What will you wear?

Why you want to know: Discussing their wedding day wardrobe will allow your photographer to plan to match the style of your wedding. Most will be happy to blend into the scenery (for instance, wearing black for an evening loft event or lighter hues for a daytime garden party).