Top 10 Must Ask Questions for Your Wedding Photographer

During every consultation with a potential client, the bride opens her wedding organizer and flips to her copy of the ten most important questions to ask a wedding photographer.

No question is a bad question. I’ll politely answer any question she asks. But these top-ten-lists printed in wedding magazines don’t go far enough. So, take your list of ten questions and add a few more that I’ve written in this article. They will greatly improve the information you get from photographers.

Do you accept family portrait lists?

Every photographer should accept this list. It’s essential to accomplishing the job you’ve hired him for. Write down the name of every family member to appear in each portrait. Review the list with your photographer, and he’ll tell you how much time will be needed to take every picture.

Do you carry liability insurance? Every wedding vendor should have a minimum $1 million liability policy. This insurance covers accidents or damage the photographer may cause while working. You don’t want to end up responsible for their damage. Protect yourself.

Will you make changes to the contract?

Many photographers object to changing their contracts for any reason. You don’t have to work with them. Never sign an agreement that you’re uncomfortable with. I suggest the following list of additions to every photography contact.

1. The photographer you are hiring should be named explicitly as the photographer who will photograph your wedding.

2. The contract should list any prepayment as a deposit. It should not say retainer. In some states, you may have a difficult time being refunded a retainer if the photographer fails to perform the contract.

3. You should provide limitations on things he shouldn’t photograph, such as the bride or groom undressed.

4. If you’re receiving digital negatives in the package, you’ll need the photographer to grant you a copyright license to use the digital files for unlimited personal printing.

5. The contract will have a “Failure to Perform” section. It should state that you are entitled to a full refund of all money paid, including the deposit, should the photographer not photograph your wedding.

How do you provide wedding proofs?

Few photographers provide printed proofs anymore. Every photographer I know posts the photographs in a private web gallery or mails a DVD to the client. I do both. The web gallery accepts print orders from the couple and their wedding guests, and the DVD includes all of the photographs in a printable format.

How long will the wedding photographs be online? Every service is different. They should be online for a minimum of one year.

What file format do you shoot?

Every professional photographer will use the RAW setting, which gives the client the best possible results. This file format captures 4,096 levels of color per channel. The JPEG format, used in every point and shoot camera, captures 256 levels. That’s a massive difference in the subtleties of color tone within an object.

RAW has the greatest dynamic range, which means you’ll see a lot of detail in the brightest and darkest areas of a photograph.

Does your rate include any photo editing?

Anything is possible when your photographer has great digital editing skills. But don’t count on it being free. Editing is a very extensive process that often costs more because of the time that is involved.

As part of the photographer’s day-rate, he should include a RAW conversion. This means that the photographer opens each RAW file and adjusts all of the settings to create a nicest printable photograph. It will improve the skin tones, contrast and sharpness of the photographs.

Many clients think the conversions look so wonderful that they can’t suggest any other changes. RAW conversions create proofs that blow away proofs made from film.

Your tab will start adding up when you ask the photographer to change things about your appearance. Want a different hair color? I can do it. Want a digital nose job? No problem. It’s cheaper than plastic surgery.

You can save money. Ask your photographer to provide free editing with your album order. I do this as part of my regular service. I will make any edit to an album print that the client requests at no additional charge.

Do you provide digital negatives?

Selling the digital negatives is a very contentious issue among professionals. Photographers never gave film negatives to the client without charging a bundle. Since digital files are the same thing as negatives, many photographers charge upwards of $1,000 for them. So, the couple is forced into buying an album or prints if they ever want to hold their photographs.

Younger photographers, including myself, realize that the market has changed. Wedding clients demand that they receive the digital negatives as part of the day-rate package. I agree with them.

I give my clients the digital negatives, and they still spend plenty of money on the new, innovative wedding albums and other products. My clients are happy, and my business prospers.

Do you grant a copyright license to print from the disc?

Why pay for the disc if you’re not allowed to use it? Ask to receive a copyright license to use the disc for personal use. Photographers won’t sell you the copyrights, but they will grant you the license to print from the disc. You could even choose to make your own album. I always give my wedding clients the license.

How long do you archive the client’s files?

Digital image files are huge. They quickly fill hard drives, and some photographers won’t spend the money to save years of photographs. The photographer should tell you how long he archives the files before deleting them.

Do you print on exclusively on real photography paper?

If you know nothing about photography and want a high-quality, life-long lasting print, then ask your photographer to print on Fuji or Kodak digital papers with a Lustre finish

These two brands of paper look identical. The brand you receive will depend on the professional lab where your photographer orders his prints. They will last for your lifetime. That’s much longer than your parent’s wedding prints, which have probably faded in their album already.

The Lustre finish has a fine sheen. It’s not glossy, nor is it matte. The colors really pop, and it resists fingerprints and water droplets. If you ever spill water on a print, drain it off and air dry. Don’t dab or wipe it, and you might save the print.

What is included in the album rate?

The price should include a fixed number of pages and photographs. The photographer should edit the photographs to your satisfaction.

If you’re receiving a coffee table book with a unique layout, you should request final approval before printing.

Don’t allow fake photo paper in an album. Albums with rigid pages most likely have real photography paper. If the album has flexible pages, then it’s probably a fake photo paper. This is nothing more than coated cardboard designed to imitate the real thing. It will fail in your lifetime. I’ve seen interior folds fade within a few months.

Many coffee table books, however, use real photo paper. Make sure the photographer knows what he is selling you.

Copyright Rich Dutchman 2010

Article may be reprinted in its entirety with proper crediting to the author.

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer

There are so many things that worth of preparing before your wedding day. Since I’m a photographer, I’d like to share some thoughts from a photographer’s view and cover this topic in several sub-topics.

1. How to choose your photographer.

View past work.
The first thing that comes to my mind when choosing a photographer is to view his/her past works. Photography is an art, not everyone with a camera can master it. Although, digital camera has revolutionized how photos are taken and gives more latitude for photographer to correct their mistakes after the shoot, photographers still need photographic skills and knowledge in order to capture the moments. That skills and knowledge can not be developed or acquired overnight. It takes time for a newbie to become a fully fledged artist. Regardless what the photographer states, if you do not like his/her past work, don’t work with that photographer. Remember, you are going to hire someone to record maybe the most important moments in your life. You do not want to regret after seeing the wedding photos that you are not happy with. Budget enough money and take enough time to find and hire a capable photographer that matches your style and taste.

Photography styles
Traditionally, wedding photos are mostly done inside studios with props and setups. Photographer often gives very specific modeling instructions and advice to brides and grooms. If the subjects know how to pose correctly, it can result in great photos that are sharp and well composed. Unfortunately lots of people are camera shy and don’t even know how to smile in front of a camera. Under this circumstance, posed shots may not be your best choice.

Photojournalistic wedding photography has gained its popularity during the past 15- 20 years. This photography style offers less formalized shots with much less posing requirements from the subjects. Photographer takes the shots without giving too many instructions and records raw and untarnished emotion. Sometimes, subjects don’t even realize that they are photographed. I personally prefer this approach for portrait because people look best when they are under their natural state. However, this approach can cause technical constraints with photographer. As lighting is one of the most important elements of photography, photographer may not get all the preferred lighting when he/she moves around like a journalist. Photographer really needs to rely on their knowledge and equipment to get the best shots taken.

Wedding is never a natural event; therefore, hybrid style is frequently used. Hybrid style photography is a blend of staged shots with photojournalistic shots. Photographer can ask group shots to be staged while take candid photo to show emotions or story.

Cost
This is the one question that’s asked most frequently. When selecting photographer, many brides put the price as the number one deciding factor. I believe that this is not the best approach of choosing the right photographer. Please remember, you are hiring someone to document the most precious time in your life. There is no second chance for photographer to ask you to re-do the ceremony or take the same photos twice. You really need the help from professional not some amateurs. Cost of professional photography has come down significantly due to popularity of digital camera and competition. Wedding photos used to cost $2,000-6,000, and most photographers charges between $1,000-3,000 nowadays. How much should a couple spend on photography services? I’d say, about 10-15% of your total wedding budget should be a reasonable allocation. I’ve seen amateurs advertised their wedding photography services for only $450 and offer to give a DVD disc to client right after the wedding. I believe that this is an irresponsible way of producing wedding photos. Good photos need to be created both during and after the shoot. What I mean is that post processing is also important besides good original photos. Post production can correct the color, create romantic feel, and add some nice touches to the originals. The wow factors usually result from post processing. Post production is time consuming and requires technical and artistic skills. Amateurs who provide DVD right after the shoot try to avoid the time spend on post production (or even don’t know how to do good post production) and time deal with client after the wedding.

They consider their job completed when wedding day is over. Brides who focus on saving money and hire this type of amateur photographer most likely end up having photos look just like the ones taken by their friends. This is not saving money, this is wasting money. If you do a simple math, taken the time that pro photographer charges for post production, the price you pay for amateurs and pros should be similar; therefore, you are paying pro price and got an amateur service. There is a reason for people who charge very low fees. All these amateurs care is money. Quality and customer satisfaction are not their main concern. Be aware! Professional photographers need to maintain certain price level in order to survive and make money because taking photos is all they do for living.

Most weddings happen during the weekend on Saturdays, thus there are only 4 weddings in a month. Even say photographer charges $1500 per wedding, that’s only $6,000 a month. After business expense, equipment depreciation, taxes, and other misc. expense, what’s left in photographer’s pocket should be no more than $3,500-4,000. It is not a lot of money, but that’s reality. In addition, winter months are usually slow or even without any business. If a pro wedding photographer charges less than $1,000 a wedding, it is hard for him/her to survive in at least Washington DC metro area, unless he/she can pull income from somewhere else.

Professionalism & Personality
Do you want to work with people who are negative and aggressive? Do you want your guess feel that the photographer is intrusive and unfriendly? I suggest that you at least talk with photographers a couple of times over the phone or have an interview with them before signing a contract. Do not just view the website and then decide who to use. Follow your instinct and use the one you feel comfortable with. The manner photographer answers the phone can also tell something about their professionalism. If a photographer never answers phone or only return your phone call or email days later, chances are they are not very good at customer services. Is the photographer on time for an appointment? This is extremely important and can be an indicator of his reliability because you don’t want the photographer show late (or not showing at all) at your wedding. Lots of good photographers work from their own home, and this should not be a judging factor of their professionalism.

Contract
A professional photographer should have a well drafted contract/agreement. If a photographer just promise to show up on your wedding date and does not want to sign a contract, don’t work with him/her. I had brides told me that someone took the deposit and simply disappear. Although, give a 50% deposit is common practice to secure your wedding date, ask for full amount of the service ahead of time is unreasonable.

The contract should clearly state photographer’s responsibility, duties, coverage time, deliverables, and any terms you’ve agreed upon. Read the contract carefully and see whether it is fair to both you and the photographer. Do not blindly sign the contract because the photographer tells you it is standard.

Referrals
Most likely the first person that you are going to ask for referring a photographer is one of your family members or friends. That’s a perfect way to get started. However, if the referred photographers are not available for your wedding date who do you turn to find the information? Go to local wedding vendors asking for referrals. Because vendors usually won’t recommend other vendors who provide bad service that can back fire their reputation, it is relatively safer than you look for a photographer on the internet. Check with the florist that you usually buy flowers from, your bridal gown maker, caterer who prepares your food or even wedding venues that you are interested to see whether they’ve got some photographers to refer. However, you still need do your homework of interviewing the photographer yourself. Once the photographer has gained your trust, you can sign the contract with him/her.

Timing
Photographers are normally booked weeks or even months before an event. Once you make up your mind, reserve the photographer right away. There are only 52 weekends in a year, so it is easy for others to book the photographer you like ahead of you. If you delay, you may have to start over the hunting process again. Don’t procrastinate because you feel that there’s plenty of time to find a good photographer.

I’m a professional photographer that maintains high standards both for my pictures and my services. To check out some of my past work, please click on the following link.

http://www.aperturephotoart.com

The 10 Secrets You Must Know To Choose A Good Wedding Photographer

Selecting your wedding photographer is not a difficult task. By learning my 10 secrets you will eliminate many of the pitfalls it is so easy to fall into. It is very important that you make your selection of photographer early on in your wedding plans. The best and most popular photographers get booked early, often a year or two in advance. So once you have set your date and arranged the wedding venue, the next thing on your list should be your photographer.

If you were getting married a generation ago in the 1930’s or 40’s, your choice would have been rather limited. In those days photography was still something of a ‘dark art’. Literally the photographer or his assistant would spend hours in the dark room developing films and making photographic prints by hand. Your options for the wedding day would have been limited. The photographer would usually turn up at the end of your wedding service and meet you at the church door. He would then take a handful of pictures on his large camera. Usually a full length picture of the couple at the church door, a close-up if you were lucky and then perhaps a family group or two. Colour pictures were a definite luxury in the 30’s as colour film was still in its infancy. A talented photographer might offer you hand tinted or coloured pictures which he would make from black and white originals, but these would be an expensive option.

It was not uncommon to take a trip to the photographers studio either on your wedding day or shortly afterwards. The whole business became quite an occasion. Posing in front of hot studio lights was something you only did on special occasions. It was the only way to get photographs of a reasonable quality. Simple cameras were becoming more available to the public, but they were very basic with few control. In those days the professional photographer still had a mysterious quality; part artist, part chemist and part magician. He could produce photographs you just could not achieve yourself with your ‘Box Brownie’ camera.

Today things are very different. Photography has been turned on its head. Gone are the famous companies like Agfa and Kodak. Film based photography has been replaced almost entirely by digital technology, the quality of which improves dramatically year by year. Most people now have a camera of some type and are happy with the pictures they take. Rapid advances in digital imaging have ensured that the ‘auto’ function on your camera will give you an acceptable image. Today you don’t have to worry about shutter speed and ‘f’ stops to get a reasonable picture. Point and shoot is the easy option. However, technical progress does not mean that everyone knows what they are doing.

Look in any Yellow Pages or any other directory, Google ‘wedding photographer’ for any town or city and you will find an ever increasing number of entries under the listing. Why is this? It is simply because technology has improved to such an extent that even the most modest and affordable camera is capable of producing great images.

Sadly you will discover that not every so called photographer is a professional photographer. Some work at it on a part time basis and might be a cleaner, taxi driver or office worker from Monday to Friday and a wedding photographer at the weekend. It has become a part time occupation for many keen amateurs looking to make some extra cash at the weekend.

The questions you must ask yourself are; would I go to a dentist if I wasn’t confident they had the training, experience and qualifications to take care of my teeth safely and hygienically? Would I trust a plumber to install a gas fire if he were not qualified and registered? No, it could be a matter of life and death.

Would I trust my wedding pictures to a photographer who might be working part time at weekends, shoots everything with his camera set to ‘auto’, promises me hundreds of pictures on a disc for a few hundred pounds? Sadly many people do!

The reasons for doing this are intriguing. Apart from the technology issue I have already mentioned, the other current influence is fashion. The current fashion in wedding photography can be described by the terms ‘documentary’, ‘reportage’, and ‘life-style’. In a nut shell, today it is cool and fashionable to have wedding photographs that look like snap-shots! Pictures that look spontaneous, which is not staged and capture the emotion of the day without being intrusive or formal in any way.

What does all this mean in reality? Firstly, it is assumed that to achieve this ‘documentary’ or ‘reportage’ look, all you need to do is to take an inordinate number of pictures and chances are that you will get some suitable ones in the mix. So snap away is the mentality of many inexperienced photographers. After all, after you have bought your camera and memory cards, the images are free. There are no processing costs as with film, if the image is no good just delete it, it costs nothing!

In reality, to take good ‘documentary’ images you also need other skills. You need to anticipate the action, be in the right place at the right time, know when to press the shutter to get that decisive moment, know how to cope with a variety of lighting conditions that will fool your camera, compose your picture correctly, and finally be able to control the guests in such a way that things you want to photograph happen naturally.

How do you avoid the pitfalls? It can be difficult, but here are 10 secrets that will help you when choosing your wedding photographer!

1. Looking in a directory will only give you contact details. Looking at a web site is a good start; at least you get to see some pictures. Today a good and well produced web site is within the budget of most people who want to set up in business. So you cannot assume that someone with a fancy web site is the best choice. He may have another occupation to pay the mortgage. Does the web site have a bio page? How much information does it give about the photographer, their experience and their professional qualifications? How long have they been in business?

2. Do they belong to a recognised professional photographic association, or just a camera club? Are they subject to a professional Code of Conduct? Will you have anywhere to appeal to if things go wrong? Sadly a man can go to town and buy a fancy camera with his redundancy money on Friday and call himself a professional photographer on Saturday. In the U.K. there is no regulation of photographers at the moment. Anyone can legally set themselves up in business as a photographer and they do not have to register with anyone. The public is not protected by any legislation. Over the years the major professional photographic associations in the U.K. have lobbied successive governments regarding this matter, but without success.

3. Is a postal address listed on the web site, or just a mobile number and email address? How will you find them if there is a problem? Not every photographer has a high street studio, much work from home quite legitimately. A reputable photographer will always publish an address.

4. If the photographer works from home he/she is unlikely to have a large studio unless it has been purpose built or adapted from a garage or other room. They are unlikely to be taking many portraits during the week. Can you arrange to visit them to view a recent selection of wedding pictures, or do they insist on coming to see you at your home? When it comes to looking at samples, albums containing a variety of weddings can look fine. Photographers always like to show off their best pictures. Always ask to see complete weddings from start to finish. That will give you a better indication of the photographers’ skill level, rather than admiring pretty pictures.

5. Are they qualified? I’m not talking of a degree in photography. To my knowledge there are no degree courses in wedding photography at any college in the U.K. There are degree courses in Documentary photography, but weddings or social photography are not covered in any depth. There are wedding qualifications awarded by the main photographic bodies in the U.K., such as the MPA, BIPP, SWPP. These are awarded by the submission of actual work that has been undertaken. So look for professional qualifications. There are three levels: the basic level being Licentiate (LMPA or LBIPP). This level indicates the photographer can produce work of a competent and professional standard. They will also have good business skills if they have achieved a Diploma in Professional Photographic Practice (DipPP). The second level of qualification is the Associate (AMPA or ABIPP). This indicates considerable experience and a talent to produce artistic and creative photography. The second level is difficult to attain, therefore there are fewer Associates than Licentiates. The top level of qualification and ultimate aim of all aspiring professionals is to be a Fellow (FMPA or FBIPP). To be a Fellow is a rare achievement. It indicates the highest level of competence, experience and artistry and indicates the photographer has a unique style. These are the top professionals who have been recognised as leaders in their field.

6. Who will be taking your wedding photographs? Get to meet the person him/herself. Many photographers rather than turn a wedding commission away, will sub-contract the work to an assistant, keen amateur, or camera operator. Always find out who your photographer will be and get to see their portfolio of work. The boss might take good pictures, but what about his assistant?

7. Ask what insurance they hold. Your ‘cowboy’ will not have Professional Indemnity cover if his equipment fails. He will not have Public Liability cover should a guest trip over his camera bag. If he says his camera is insured that’s not the same thing. That only covers him if his camera is stolen.

8. Don’t be fooled by statements like ‘award winning’. Always ask “what awards”! Are they recognised professional awards or something picked up at a Camera Club?

9. If you ask a technical question this will put everyone on the back foot. Ask if they shoot jpegs. If the answer is yes then beware! The vast majority of professional photographers worldwide will shoot RAW files in their camera, for maximum image quality. They will then spend time to editing these RAW files on a computer to produce jpegs. If your photographer argues that he doesn’t need to shoot RAW files because his jpegs are spot on… beware! Jpeg files produced directly by the camera are never as good as those prepared by editing RAW files manually, because the internal camera software always makes general assumptions on the subject and lighting conditions. The photographer who edits RAW files manually can make specific and individual fine adjustments to the exposure, white balance, tone & sharpness of each image, together with an array of other specific controls which will produce the highest quality images.

10. Ask what happens if they become ill the day before your wedding? What happens if they break a leg or are involved in an accident? What back-up is in place? A reputable photographer will have a network of qualified colleagues he can call upon either locally or via their professional association.

So now you have the 10 secrets to finding your wedding photographer. Always meet them face to face and discuss your plans in detail. He will probably know your wedding venue already and will be able to put your mind at ease should it rain on your big day. If you are interested in having some group photographs of your family and friends, make a list with names so that no one is left out or hides away. ‘Brides family’ is not very specific, list the people you want in the picture. If your dress detail is important or Aunty Betty made the cake, or you have a frail Granny who can’t stand up for long, you must tell your photographer so he can make allowances.

Your photographer will need time to take pictures for you, so it is important that you plan for and consider timings. If you really want a big picture with all the guests as soon as you get to the reception, it won’t work. Guests always arrive in dribs and drabs and someone will be missing. Rather plan for that picture to be taken just before you all go into your wedding breakfast. There will be more chance everyone will be present.

Once you have selected your photographer you will need to confirm your booking. Don’t leave it until the last moment assuming your kind photographer is holding the day for you. He/she has a business to run so expect to pay a deposit or booking fee to secure the day. When you book expect to sign a contract which simply states what will be provided and the fee expected. This is usual practice. Generally all outstanding fees are payable prior to the wedding. Finally, just to avoid surprises, ask about hidden fees. Is VAT included or are you going to get a nasty 20% addition at the end of the day.

At some stage you might ask the question “Who owns the copyright on my wedding pictures?” In the U.K. by law the copyright is owned by the photographer on the understanding that they will supply you with any images you require. If you are in China, Asia, India and many other countries in the world, copyright and intellectual property is another ball game and mine field!

In summary, the better you get to know your photographer, the better your experience will be. Many people say “Oh, I hate having my photograph taken”! If you choose an experienced photographer, he/she will put you at easy very quickly. If you have the opportunity, have a pre-wedding shoot. It is true that the more pictures you have taken of yourself, the more comfortable you will feel in front of the camera. A good photographer will give you tips on how to stand comfortably and how to make the best of your body shape. He will also explain exactly what he will be doing on your wedding day to get the best pictures for you.

The choices you make in booking your wedding photographer are very important. A good wedding photographer will act as your choreographer, be more useful than a bridesmaid and tell you what to do and when. He’ll have safety pins and a mirror in his bag just in case, and he’ll be the person you can trust to make sure everything flows smoothly, and ensure you have the best possible wedding day.