Real Questions you ask a wedding photographer and real meaning of the answers
Lately I have been getting a lot of enquiries from couples asking me questions like “What camera do you use? Are they mirrorless? What type of lighting do you use? Can you describe your style? etc.” Wow, these questions are a bit senseless and I wonder, do couples really know what they are asking about?Do the groom and bride know how the model or brand of a camera impacts the final results? Honestly, do they understand the pros and cons of various lighting approaches? So, in response to a couple of brides asking me couple of these questions, I asked them why they were asking me?… Guess what, those questions came from wedding blogs, magazines and other wedding photographers as some kind of ‘recommended things to ask wedding photographers’… Eeeeek!
So to all wedding photographers, wedding bloggers, wedding magazines and generally the entire wedding industry – why on earth do you write the same articles guiding brides and grooms to ask questions like this, they don’t even fully understand them? You’re just wasting everyone’s time!
To set things straight and to stop this madness, I will write yet another article listing these questions you ask a wedding photographer and what the answers really mean, to help you understand them. After you read this article you will know all the answers and you will decide what questions ask your wedding photographer or not, which one are important to you, which are NOT. The list might be a bit long because: First, I’m trying to nail all questions; Second, I will also provide the basic background knowledge for couples, to help explain them what the answers of these questions truly mean to them. Furthermore, I will be leaving the comments section below this article open to discuss more about questions that are posted for those who need a little more explanation on some of the answers. So, here they are, all questions nailed with the real meaning of answers:
Can I see a full wedding set?
This is a must ask question! Actually, you should ask to see a couple of full wedding sets of pictures. These days it’s very easy as most professional photographers are using online galleries or cloud file hosting like Dropbox etc. If possible, you could ask to see weddings in similar venues to yours like: barn venue, dark indoor venue or open space venue. You also want to know that your photographer can work with any body type, not just “pretty-model” types of couples, so ask if they can share with you, weddings of people who look similar to you (ie: if you’re a plus size bride or if there’s a huge height difference between the bride and the groom, etc.)
What kind of lighting do you use?
If the photographer says “3 Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT controlled with pocket wizards or Canon ST-E3-RT” would that mean anything to you? I don’t think so, and that’s why this question drives me a bit crazy! Plenty of photographers call themselves “natural light photographers”. There’s nothing wrong with that, but usually this is a way of masking the fact that they have no idea how to use flashes. So the rationale behind this question is this: a great wedding photographer should be flexible in every situation. If it starts raining in your lovely park or field and you need to use some dark indoor location for photos, you need to be sure that your wedding photographer is able to shoot there too. If your photographer uses one flash only that is mounted to the camera, their photos may not be “wow”. If your wedding photographer can and knows how to use multiple flashes properly, definitely you will get more of a ”wow” in your pictures.
Have you ever shot in ‘my venue or location’ before?
Decent wedding photographers have the great skills and equipment to shoot at any location at any time. To be honest, as a wedding photographer London, I find I’m actually more creative and inspired when I get the chance to shoot in a location that I’ve never been to. However, in case you’re worried about your photographer not knowing the area, you could request that they scout it with you before hand – they may be doing this regardless. There is no need to waste yours and their time, so if you are one of those couples who insist that they will only hire a photographer who has been to the wedding venue before, please ask your photographer this question before your in-person meeting. If you ask this question a destination wedding photographer the chance that they shoot in your venue or location before are close to zero. They are shooting worldwide…
How many weddings have you shot so far?
Dear bride and groom, there is no magic wedding amount that makes a wedding photographer deserving of your business. Each photographer works in different ways, some of them shoot only 15 weddings per year and do their own editing, while others can shoot 50 or more weddings and pay someone else to edit their pictures. Two different business types can’t be compared. This is like comparing melons to grapes – simply doesn’t work. But if you really want to ask this, you could do it in a different way. Simply engage a wedding photographer in a chat and get them to tell you more about the previous wedding season: what it was like, what locations did they shoot and what challenges were there, what kind of clients did they work with (plus size, shy, etc.), what workshops they attend, etc. This will definitely give you an idea of how balanced they are as a business person and an artist.
What editing do you do on the pictures?
This is a question where the couple doesn’t realise what they are actually asking about. Many brides ask if the pictures will be photoshopped or edited? Those are two different things – editing and enhancing. Most wedding photographers do classic editing on all the pictures. Photoshop/enhancing is usually reserved for printing or special requests because to do that on a single photo it takes anywhere between 20 minutes to a couple of hours. Don’t be fooled, if a wedding photographer tells you that they will smooth your skin on every single photo, it is either a lie or they are working for pennies per hour because it will take a very, very long time to do that in a professional way.
Do you edit wedding pictures yourself?
Well, regardless of who edits pictures, always ask your photographer if the images that you see on their website portfolio are these kind of what you will receive because sometimes you are seeing awesome photoshopped pictures on the photographer’s website which may not be representative of the pictures you will receive. These days’ standard edits like exposure, colour grading, contrast, shadows, etc are sometimes outsourced to another company specialising in images editing. Some companies do a decent editing, others are a mainstream and do a so-so job. Of course those who do a great job charge more for their services because they have better staff to do this. Editing by cheaper companies can be reflected in the quality of pictures that’s why it’s good to know if your pictures will be these kind you see in wedding photographer portfolio.
Are the photos we see on your website will be similar to what we’ll get?
As mentioned above. More and more wedding photographers no longer do their own picture editing. If your photographer is outsourcing their edits out to third party company or gets a different person to do the editing, then there is a chance that what you’re seeing on their portfolio or sample albums is a somewhat enhanced version of what you will actually get.
Do you have a contract?
This is obvious! If your wedding photographer doesn’t have a contract – please RUN! Remember that no contract means bad news!
Have you ever shot a Nigerian or Greek or Indian or etc. wedding before?
Just because a wedding photographer hasn’t shot a specific type of wedding before, doesn’t mean that they don’t know how! Of course different cultures have different traditions on the wedding day, but a great wedding photographer will shoot with anything they are given. Again if you are a couple who insists on having a photographer who has shot plenty of Indian or Nigerian etc. weddings and this is non-negotiable, then ensure to ask about it in your first contact with the wedding photographer. Keep this in mind: wedding photographers specialise in weddings – despite the cultural background of the clients and traditions that will happen on the wedding day.
Can I see your portfolio?
I’m surprised that this question is included in a leading magazine for brides and many “question to ask your wedding photographer” articles. I’m so glad none of my couples asked me that question! I think that every half-decent wedding photographer has a website portfolio or a blog. Simply do your homework and check a photographer’s website, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Most photographers upload “sneak peek” pictures on their Facebook pages sometimes within only a day from their most recent shoots.
When are the payments due?
Those dates should always be in your contract for your protection. The most common practice is to ask for full payment before the wedding day, so you shouldn’t be surprised. Some photographers ask for a final payment on the wedding day. It’s better not to try and negotiate your payment dates as it makes you look as if you have no funds. This might cause the wedding photographer to not take you on as a customer. However, you can always discuss a monthly payment plan or special arrangements with your photographer.
Can we use our pictures to make our own album or prints if we want?
This is simple but be smart and make sure you get it in writing, allowing you to reproduce images in your wedding package. No written release – no deal!
Will you give me the raw files?
Most photographers agree with me when the couple ask this question, the interview is over. Why? Because asking this gives the photographer the impression that you underestimate their artistic souls. Do you even know what a RAW file is? If yes, why do you want them? Do you want to do the editing by yourself? If yes, why do you want to hire the wedding photographer in the first place?
Is this your full-time business?
This question can mean distinctive things so ensure you know what it is you are asking for. There are photographers who, lets call it “specialise”, in everything: weddings, fashion, families, newborns, events, boudoir, maternity – an endless list! So if you notice this list on the photographer’s website make sure you ask them what percent of their clients are wedding couples. Just because the photographer is a full time one, it doesn’t mean they shoot weddings full time. This question helps to dispense part-time and dedicated photographers but honestly, you can see someone’s level of professionalism from their website and social media engagement.
How soon will I see my photos?
At best your wedding photographer will give you a rough estimate and this is absolutely normal. This will vary based on photographer and seasonal workload. Don’t compare turnaround time for photographers if you don’t know which one does their own editing and which ones outsource this. Some wedding photographers will show “sneak peek” images shortly after weddings.
How would you describe your style?
Really? You know what the photographer’s style is, you have seen their portfolio. Honestly, don’t ask this question
Will you be the one photographing the wedding?
Now that’s an important question! Many studios have more photographers working for them so always make sure you talk to the photographer who will be shooting at your wedding and make sure that you see their portfolio. Trust me, you don’t want to fall in love with the work of the photographer “AAAA” but only photographer “BBBB” will be the only one available for your big day.
Why are you a wedding photographer?
Prepare for a waste of your wedding planning time and many answers like “I just love love love to shoot people in love” etc. Simply if your photographer loves their job you will be able to tell after the interview. If secretly not, it will be known loud and clear during the interview as well as level of creativity and enthusiasm.
What will you wear on my wedding day?
Most wedding photographers wear subtle colours, something darker. A shirt and slacks…don’t expect your wedding photographer to wear a suit or dress with heels. We will be working hard all day and must keep a balance between functionality and look.
Will you be working with an assistant?
Assistants were more common in the days of film photography. In dslr cameras era, none of them are necessary as photographers have more light and portable gear, we don’t need to go around and take various meter readings or help to carry heavy bags as modern gear is lightweight. Don’t confuse assistant with second shooter and always get your wedding photographer to clarify in the contract exactly what the definition of the second person involved is.
To make it simple and clear – an assistant is there to do the “dirty work” for the photographer like carrying bags, holding reflectors etc. NOT for the bride and groom. An assistant does NOT take pictures and in most cases does NOT have any photography knowledge. It can be a friend of the photographer who wants to earn a couple of pounds.
A second shooter is a real benefit to the bride and groom. This is a professional person who has high-end photography equipment and their job is to capture additional moments for the couple. Typically, you will pay £300 or more for a second shooter. If you are told you will get a second shooter for free, be sceptical, because you are probably getting a student or a ”very new” professional building their portfolio.
Are all the photos on your website portfolio from real weddings?
Sometimes wedding photographers hire a model dressed as a bride, sometimes there is a groom too, and take pictures of them for portfolio and commercial purposes. It’s called a styled shoot and it’s totally different from a real wedding. The huge amount of time spent on the styled shoot and the result of this can NOT be compared to a real wedding. Also, most real couples don’t have posing experience like models, so the best you can do is ask the photographer if the people in his/her portfolio are real brides and grooms or models. Before you fall in love with a wedding photographer’s work always ask if the pictures were shot on the actual wedding day because sometimes couples choose to take their wedding portraits before the actual wedding (sometimes after).
Do you have a photography degree?
Sadly, a diploma isn’t something special when it comes to photography. You can have a fantastic wedding photographer with an amazing portfolio who started out as a second shooter, then you can have another photographer with a diploma and photography degree but their pictures are so-so…I bet your photographer can provide you with recent reviews.
What kind of camera do you use?
My brain explodes every time I hear that question. Why does it matter to the couple? Are they Nikon people and therefore will only work with a photographer who shoots on Nikon? Will they refuse to work with a photographer who has a Canon 5D Mark II and only work with a wedding photographer who shoots on the Canon 5D Mark III? Seriously, equipment as well as talent and editing skills contributes to the final result. Some photographers can shoot a great picture with a cheap dslr camera. Of course it may be because they took that awesome picture in the optimal lighting and weather conditions. As we know, in the United Kingdom, wedding days vary like crazy and there is no guarantee that you will have optimal conditions for taking pictures. Like I wrote, your photographer is only as good as their equipment, talent and editing skills together. If you take out one of these elements the end result will be off-balanced. Simply, a professional photographer should have professional equipment and backup gear if they want to contribute to the best possible final result.
What is your cancellation policy?
If your wedding photographer has a proper contract it will be there. The cancellation policy should be clauses about: the photographer cancelling, the couple cancelling before services are delivered and after some services have been delivered.
Do you have a backup equipment?
If the answer isn’t “absolutely yes!” – RUN as fast as you can! I’m not kidding, your wedding photographer should have at least 2 camera bodies, backup lenses, backup flashes, twice as many memory cards and batteries as they think they need and not only one but TWO separate external hard disks on which they backup your files post-wedding.
What happens if you’re sick?
A million pound question! Your wedding photographer should definitely have some kind of a plan “B” and even “C, D, E…” etc. Usually have a network of fellow photographers. Let’s face it, even if your wedding photographer has a large network of friend photographers, there is still the risk that none of them will be available on your big day. If a wedding photographer can’t cover your wedding day due to an accident or emergency, they should be providing a full refund regarding cancellation policy and it should be included in your contract as “cancellation by the photographer”. Now I know it would really suck if your wedding photographer won’t show up because of a car accident on the way to your wedding. However, the chances of a wedding photographer being ill or getting into a car accident is highly unlikely! A true professional won’t miss the event because they have sniffles, this day is as important to him as it is to you! They take their cold & flu medicine and keep on working but genuine and inevitable emergencies can happen and are dealt with in the most professional and possible way.
If my wedding day runs late, will you stay longer? And how much will that cost me?
Don’t let photographers play around with that – get a clear answer. The contract should state what additional time is defined as and what it will cost. If your photographer does charge for extra hours, make sure you know when you have to pay them the additional time and have cash or card available on the wedding day if need be. Some wedding photographers claim “full day” packages but, in the small print, describe full day as meaning up until 9pm or so. That’s not really a “full day”, is it? Always read your contract.
How far in advance do I need to book with you?
Book your wedding photographer ASAP! Even if the photographer may offer to temporarily “hold a date”, you need to remember that they are running a business and it would be foolish to turn down a client who showed up with the deposit in hand. Most wedding photographers work on a first booked first served basis. This means that your date is secured when you have paid a deposit and signed a contract.
What are your packages?
I may get some criticism from other photographers because here is a little secret. In most cases the reason a photographer doesn’t show their prices online is because they want you to get in touch so they can surround you with prints, photos of their best images and then work their magic in order to get you to book, throwing some extras for “half price” like prints, engagement sessions, etc. In my opinion, there is no reason for a photographer to NOT showing their services and prices on the website. If prices are not listed on their website, you can simply request them via email. If a wedding photographer isn’t keen on sending you prices via email straight away, it’s probably because they want to use some high pressure sales techniques. Always make sure you see all prices, especially for extras like prints, albums, additional time, high resolution images etc. Also make sure you know if the price includes taxes or not.
How many pictures do you take on the wedding?
It’s hard to estimate how many photos a photographer is going to take, the amount of pictures taken can vary. It’s based on the amount of action at the wedding, the length of coverage and the length of time available for formal pictures. The point is quality over quantity! Would you rather have 550 amazing photos or 3,000 “so-so” photos?
Do you help pose us during the photo session?
Nice question to check their level of involvement in posing during the formal photo session. There are wedding photographers who are strictly focused on photojournalistic style and do only a little bit of posing and rely on the bride and groom to choose their best poses. Other photographers, especially those who have a fine-art approach, will be much more focused on posing a couple and taking care of all the details.
Do you have a physical location for your business?
Owning or renting a studio is expensive, that’s why not all wedding photographers (especially London wedding photographers) have a studio. Working out of a home office does NOT make your wedding photographer any less professional, especially since wedding photographers have no need for a physical studio. All of our work occurs elsewhere. If your photographer has a studio, you are pretty much guaranteed to be paying more as they have an additional bill for a studio to be covered.
Like I’ve promised at the beginning of my article. I am leaving the comments section below open to all of you to discuss more about all questions that are posted and should be asked for those who need a little more explanation on some of the answers. You are more than welcome to discuss, go ahead!