How to Select Your Wedding Photographer With Confidence & The Right Questions to Ask

Let’s begin with some helpful advice on the best way to schedule your special day to get the most out of your photographer.

In the past, it was always highly recommended that the couple personally meet with several photographers before making a commitment. Today, however, interactive websites and high quality slideshows allow people to review a photographer’s work without ever making a personal appointment.

If you are taking that route and not meeting with your photographer, have an in-depth phone interview and make sure to communicate with couples that have used his services in the past. Do obtain at least three references and make sure that you have a good rapport with the photographer. If, after having an in-depth conversation with a prospective photographer, you feel that your personalities do not click, then do not hire this person! Not having a good relationship with your photographer will affect the quality of your pictures!

Before choosing a photographer, determine what photography style you like best. Nowadays, the two main trends are traditional and photojournalism. Photographers working in traditional style focus on taking posed, formal portraits, while photojournalists concentrate on taking artistic candid shots. They document the “story” of your special day. If you prefer photojournalism but worry about the lack of family portraits, bring this issue up with your photographer. Most photojournalists understand the importance of family portraits and will leave a time slot for a formal photo session.

When deciding on the best times for ceremony and reception, most brides do not take into consideration the time that the photographer needs to take your wedding pictures between the end of the ceremony and beginning of the reception. You’ll be spending a lot of money on your wedding photographer so you’ll want to make sure you make time for him! For example, a common situation is to have the ceremony scheduled from 2:00 – 3:00pm with the reception starting at 3:30pm. THIS IS A NIGHTMARE FOR MOST WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS, especially if the ceremony and reception are in two different locations.

Even if they’re not, this still leaves very little room for the much-needed time it takes to obtain some really special portraits of the two of you. A much better schedule would be to have the ceremony from 2:00pm – 3:00pm, with the reception starting at 5:00 or even 6:00pm. If you’re fortunate enough to find a photographer that gives you unlimited coverage with your package, then you can space the events out as much as you feel comfortable and won’t have to worry about paying your photographer anything extra. Not that it would take that long to get the shots he wants, but why rush it? Your day and your wedding photography will be much more relaxed and memorable if you space things out and allow yourself to enjoy every aspect of the day, including your unrushed photo shoot.

There are other very important factors to consider when selecting your photographer. Please envision the following scenario which is based on many a true story:

You’ve spent months preparing for your perfect wedding. You’ve selected everything, including your photographer, whose selection of work was outstanding and the photographer’s personality was also wonderful. You really clicked with him (which is very important!) and felt very comfortable with your decision of hiring him. You really looked forward to interacting with this person throughout your special day because you got along with him so well. A huge weight has been lifted from you because one of your biggest concerns was being able to find a photographer not only whose work you loved, but whose personality clicked with yours as well. After all, you want to be as comfortable with this person as possible since you’ll be dealing with him throughout your entire wedding day!

So, the big day comes and you’re nervously getting ready. Suddenly, there’s a knock on your door. ‘Oh, that must be my photographer!’ you exclaim excitedly. With a smile from ear to ear you rush to the door excited to greet this kind person with whom you’ve meshed so well during your many conversations over the past several months. You open the door and greet… a strange looking unshaven man in rumpled clothing that you’ve never seen before in your life! “‘Hello…’ he spews, ‘I’m your photographer!’…” There’s really no need for us to continue with this very true horror story. The scene just gets more ugly from there, and yes, this has happened more than once! So right now you’re probably thinking ‘But she didn’t hire HIM! Where’s her knight in shining camera equipment???’

Sadly, there are way too many photography companies that run their businesses this way, and believe it or not, completely get away with it. These companies contract out their jobs to freelance photographers, or sometimes they have many wedding photographers working for them and just neglect to inform brides of this oh-so-important fact. What does this mean? It means that the wonderful photographer you spoke to most likely had no intentions of photographing your wedding. (That is IF he was even a photographer at all. Sometimes they are just the salesperson for the company!) But there’s more! It also means that his beautiful work and photography style that you fell in love with was most likely a compilation of work from the many different photographers they employ!

So in our above scenario, how many of this unknown photographer’s wedding pictures did this bride actually see… IF ANY? We can conclude that there’s really no way of knowing for sure. So what could she have done to prevent this from happening? The answer: HER HOMEWORK! Don’t be a victim of this kind of photography nightmare! BE SURE TO ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS WHEN SPEAKING TO POTENTIAL PHOTOGRAPHERS!

Unless this type of company can show you several weddings from EACH of their photographers and then YOU get to pick the photographer you want, then we suggest staying right away from them. The chances of finding a photography company that will allow you to do this are slim to none. We recommend searching for a photographer that shoots all of his weddings on his own, or better yet, a two-person team that will photograph your wedding together so you get 2 photographers for the price of one! They’re hard to come by, but they’re out there. The great thing about a two-person team is that you get 2 separate points of view of your wedding. Some photographers offer strictly traditional photography, while others offer strictly photojournalistic wedding photography. That’s fine if you’ve decided that you only want one or the other, but most brides prefer a variety and feel they are getting the most for their money if they can find a photographer that offers both. Additionally, traditional photography is usually what the parents prefer, while most couples tend to prefer photojournalistic wedding photography, so finding a photographer that does both is definitely a huge plus. These versatile photographers are also hard to come by, but again, if you do your homework you can find them.

Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer

Are you the only photographer in this company? If I hire you, am I guaranteed that you will be the one showing up to shoot my wedding? If yes, can I get that in writing? Is the work that I am seeing all yours and only yours or is it a compilation of work from more than one photographer?

Can you show me 3 or more complete weddings you’ve done? (By complete I mean that I’d like to see at least 3 different wedding albums or slideshows, each one consisting of at least 50 images from one event.)

Do you offer traditional wedding photography? Photojournalism? Or both?

Is color, B/W and sepia photography included, or is there an extra fee for B/W and sepia?

Do you offer special effects, digital color separation and retouching? If so, are these services included or do you charge a fee for these services?

Is unlimited coverage included in your packages or is there an extra fee for all day coverage? Are you willing to come extra early to get shots of us (the couple) before the ceremony if we choose to do that? Would there be a fee for this?

Do your packages include one or two photographers and is there an extra fee for a second photographer?

Do you work with an assistant?

How many and what kind of cameras do you use? (Do you have backup equipment if something breaks?) Do you use film based or digital cameras or a combination of both?

How far will you travel to a wedding before charging a travel fee?

Do you charge a fee if the wedding and reception are in more than one location? What if we want to go to a third location for pictures? Is there a charge for this?

Do you offer a website and CD of my images? If so, is this included in the packages or this is an extra fee?

If you don’t have a package that works for me, would you be willing to try and customize one that suits my specific needs and is within my budget?

Do you offer only traditional albums, or do you have a wide variety of options to choose from including any coffee table-style books?

Your Wedding Photographer – The Perfect Fit

Photography, to me, is the most important vendor for your wedding. Yes, of course, you need the florist, the venue, the videographer, etc. but to me, photos are the only part of the wedding that will last! Besides the marriage of course:) Your flowers will die, you don’t get to “keep” the venue… you know what I mean. So when choosing my photographer for my own wedding, it was very important to do my research and make sure I found the perfect photographer for me!

Yes, I repeat, it must be the perfect photographer FOR YOU. Because there are many different types of photographic weddings styles, do your research and find out which type of photos you want to be left with after the wedding! But we will get to this in a little bit!

So, I have compiled a list of what to ask and look for in a photographer to make sure you are making the best decision FOR YOU!

What type of photography style do you prefer?

This is EXTREMELY important and, to me, the most important question to ask! Of course, if you take a look at their website you will be able to figure it out too! Now there are terms to describe the photographic style – illustrative, artistic, natural light, photo journalism, traditional – but I personally do not think it is necessary for you to memorize these terms and definitions. So just do some browsing on the internet and figure out the styles you like the best!

Do you like the candid photos? Or the more traditional photos?
Do you like the photos that seem to tell a story?
Do you just want to repeat all of the photos you see on Pinterest and Instagram?
Do you want to have bridal “portraits” of you and your groom?

All of these questions will ultimately lead you to the type of photography you will want and ultimately, if you love the photos on their website, then you must love their style!

May I provide you with a shot list?

Most photographers work from a shot list that they will request from you in advance. They want to make sure you get a shot with each family member and all of the “must-have” moments. This includes the first kiss, the exchange of rings, the cake cutting, the first dance, etc. While an experienced photographer will not need to be reminded of these shots, there may be shots you have seen online that you would like to take! For me, one of my requested shots was the boudoir shoot before I put on my dress! I sent a little “sneek peek” to my fiance (at the time) without showing my face!

How many images will I receive from the wedding?

Each photographer is generally going to take between 1,000 and 2,000 images throughout your event. However, this does not mean you will see all of these! But don’t fret, each shot is going to include 2-5 of the same shot so your photographer will go through all of the shots and only keep the best ones – that way you don’t have to sort through them all! On average, they are going to provide you with around 500 images but this will vary depending on the photographer so make sure to ask!

How many images will you edit?

Yes, the lighting should be fixed on all of your images before sending over to you and this is not a tough job for the photographer, as most will be perfect just the way they are! However, your photographer is not going to fix your makeup and do Photoshop touch ups to all 500 images! If a book is included in your package, then they will absolutely (or should absolutely) edit all of those images before sending over to printing! If you would like a specific image edited, your photographer will have no problem doing that for you!

Is an engagement session included?

Many photographers include an engagement session but may not include the digital files, and this is totally normal! Whether or not it is included, I would ALWAYS do an engagement session with the same photographer who will shoot your wedding. This gives you a chance to get to know him or her, and will allow he or she to understand who you are and will better capture that personality and the relationship the two of you have!

Do you provide a wedding album?

Some will include the album in their packages and some will not. But if you are getting your album from your photographer, ask to see samples to make sure you like their style! That’s all there is to that one!

How many photographers will be present the day of my wedding?

This is something that does, in fact, add some $$ to the package price but to me, is something that is extremely important. I am sure you have seen those photos many times with the adorable groom seeing his bride for the first time as she walks down the aisle, and that beautiful bride next to her dad with the biggest and most genuine smile you have ever seen! Do you want both of these shots? If you answered yes, then it is great to have two photographers present!

One of the moments at my wedding that I LOVED and really captured the moment was during the cake cutting! If we had only had one photographer, we wouldn’t have gotten these amazing reaction shots!!

How many hours are included in my package?

This question is very important!! You will want to make sure you get the “getting ready” shots as well as all of the “activities” throughout the night! So in theory, you will need your photographer there two hours before the ceremony begins, and they can leave an hour and a half to two hours before the reception ends! Just make sure you get everything included in your timeline for the photographer to photograph – this is something your event coordinator will plan for you!! If you don’t feel this is enough time, you can always add time at an additional cost!

Will I have full rights to my photos?

LISTEN UP!! This is IMPORTANT! And this is the most important part!! If you do not have the rights to your photos, you can never print from Costco, CVS, or even at home! If you attempt to print the screen on the computer, all of your photographs will have the photographers watermark on them! Yes, you can always get them printed from your photographer but this can get extremely pricey!

When posting on Facebook or any other social media site, INCLUDE THE PHOTOS WITH THE WATERMARK. Photographers work through referrals so including those photos that will advertise the great work he or she did, is the least you can do! If you are printing for at-home use, then of course use the ones without the watermark!

Have you shot a wedding at my venue?

Yes, photographers are extremely creative and will have no problem finding unique places to photograph at your venue. So just remember, this is not a deal breaker AT ALL! If you photographer has already been there, then great! And if not, it would be a great idea to visit the site before the wedding with him or her so they can get a feel for the site and get some ideas ahead of time! If you are able to, it is also a good idea to have the catering manager at the venue show the photographer around to the places others generally photograph. This will give them a way to see those hidden spots or come up with even more unique ideas for the places brides and grooms generally take their photos!

When choosing your photographer, just make sure you do some research on their package pricing and take a good look at all of their photos displayed on their website! You don’t want to waste your time meeting 10 photographers who aren’t what you are looking for so just make sure to do your research!!

A 4-step Process to Select the Right Wedding Photographer for You

Choosing your wedding photographer is one of the key decisions you will make
in preparing for your wedding. In your preparation, it is important to find a
photographer that is providing the package that will best meet your own
personal requirements. It is useful to focus on 4 key areas in your selection:-

  1. Quality and Styles of Photography
  2. The Photographer’s own Style and Rapport
  3. Any Additional Services required
  4. Your Budget and the Photographer’s Price and Package Details

By working through the following questions and options, we believe you will be
better prepared to make the right choice.

1. Quality & Style of Photography

What type of photographs do you want?

Formal Photos.
Most couples want some formal family and group shots of their wedding. They
are often the “set pieces” of the day (Best man and bridesmaids, Brides family,
Grooms family, Confetti shot, Cutting the wedding cake etc). These, if you like,
are the historical record. For some couples this may all that may be required.
For others these shots may be a small part of the photography, and the couple
may want to keep them to a minimum.

Candid, Reportage, Informal Photos.
These are much more relaxed shots, catching the bride and groom and their
guests during the day. The shots aim to build a story of the day, and to get
pictures of the wedding couple and their guests as themselves and enjoying the
day.

Creative, Artistic shots.
The wedding couple may want to hire a photographer who can also add an
artistic, contemporary style to some or all of the pictures. This may include
fashion magazine type shots, or adjustments to colour and contrast.

How much coverage do you want?
Do you want your photographer to be with you from the moment you rise until
the last dance or do you only want them at the ceremony or until the first
dance? Most photographers will have a range of packages to suit your needs,
ranging from ceremony only to full day coverage (and some will even go
beyond that if required and join you on the stag night or include some studio
or on location engagement shots in the package).

Check photographer capabilities.
The internet gives you a great opportunity to view the work of a wide range of
photographers and help you to build a shortlist of the photographers you
would like to go to see. Most photographers will have an on-line gallery which
will give you a good indication of the type of photography they like to do. When
you meet with a photographer, ask to see further samples of their work, and
look for examples of a full wedding rather than a “Best of..” compilation culled
from a number of weddings. (If you want a candid photographer, do the
example pictures tell the story of the day? As a quality test, do the photos show
the subtle details of the wedding dress). Does the photographer have
Professional qualifications (not just memberships)? Has the photographer won
any awards for their wedding photography, or do they have testimonials from
previous weddings?

Does the photographer’s style match your ideas?
Does the style of photography match your own ideas on the resiults you want
to see in your wedding photographs?

Time, Location and Advice.
Has the photographer worked at the Church/Reception you are using? Does the
photographer have ideas on good location shots either at the Church/Reception
or close by to get the best results? Do your wedding timings(season/time of
day) enable the photographer to get the results you are looking for? If the
photographer is pro-actively giving you sound advice on how to get the
pictures you want, or offering options you have not considered, it is a good
sign that you will end up with good results.

2. Photographer Style & Rapport

Meet the Photographer.
It is fundamentally important to meet the photographer that would actually do
your wedding. You need this to be confirmed to you. Check that the work you
see is the individual photographer’s work, and not examples from the company
he/she works for.

Do you like the photographer?
If you like the photographer (and he/she has met your criteria for the quality
and style of work you want done), you will have a much better wedding day,
and get much better results if you enjoy being with the person who will take
the pictures.

Will the photographer take time to build a rapport?
What pre-wedding activities does the photographer offer to provide? For
example: Pre wedding run-through, Site visits together, Studio portrait
session.

3. Additional Services.

Do you need any additional services?
If not, then it is important to make sure that these, if stripped out of a package,
are not included in the price. If you do want additional services, identify those
that are important to you and test the photographers capabilities in these
areas. For instance:-

  • Advice and range of Wedding Albums
  • Advice and range of picture frames
  • Uploading images to the Web
  • Providing pictures on CD
  • Providing pictures on DVD with/without music.
  • Digital manipulation/compilation.

4. Package and Price

Decide your budget for photography.
There is a wide range of cost and levels of service in Wedding Photography and
you need to have a clear budget in mind before establishing your photographer
shortlist.

Check what is in the package and what is not. It is important to spend time to
understand what exactly is in the package you are signing up for. This can
avoid dis-satisfaction from misunderstandings later. Some points to consider:-

  • How many prints (and what size) are included in the package?
  • What is the cost of extra prints and reprints?
  • Is a wedding album and/or folder mounts included?
  • Who has the copyright to the pictures?
  • Are additional services (e.g Web upload) and miscellaneous expenses (e.g.postage, travel costs) included or not.
  • Back up and Insurance. What happens if your photographer is ill and is unable to photograph the wedding? What happens if the images are lost or destroyed during processing?
  • Does the photographer have professional indemnity insurance?

The photographer is an important part of your wedding in that they not only
provide a lasting record of the people, events and emotions but thay are also
an integral part of the structure and organisation of the day. A photographer
who can work quickly and easily and who you feel is someone you can rely on,
can make a big impact on your enjoyment of your wedding day. It usually pays,
therefore, to invest in a photographer who has the experience to deliver the
pictures you want and to work with you to make the day a success.

Good luck with your search and have a great wedding day!