Welcome to Part Three of the series: What To Look For In A Wedding Photographer! Missed Part One and Two? Click here for What to consider when hiring a Wedding Photographer: Personality - Series Part 1 and What to look for in a Wedding Photographer: Price Reflects Process - Series Part 2
In this post, Mike outlines 8 important questions to ask your Wedding Photographer! It's important that you ask as many questions as possible so that you get a good feel for who you're talking to, here are some tips to help you out.
As always, over to Mike!
Questions you should ask your potential Wedding Photographer
1. Ask them if you can see a sample of a few weddings. Go beyond their front page portfolio. Be sure to see that their portfolio quality is the standard not an exception. Looking at sample weddings will show you a few things. Do they maintain good quality in every situation the wedding puts forth from a sunny day to a dark reception hall? Can they tell a story of the day? Are all of the pictures ones you’d want to show your friends and family?
2. Ask how many weddings they do in a year. This may seem trivial but it can tell you a lot, to little and maybe they are not full time and its more of a hobby, to many and will you get the attention you need to get quality? A good average for a photographer is 30-40 weddings a year. If all they do is weddings maybe 40-50. If they say they do 25-30 and they spend lots of time on each this is good! 35-40 and they also shoot family, maternity, and headshots. You might be one in a line of many and the quality will not be the same, this is what looking at full weddings is important.
3. Ask about their work flow, how many pictures do they edit and what program (s) do they edit with? A camera takes a picture when a photographer is inspired by the moment. This inspiration is an idea; there are controls on the camera that give the photographer the ability to begin to communicate this idea but it only just starts there. You will not find a photographer who will upload your pictures and give them to you at the end of the very same day, if they do, find another one - unless you have a prior agreement that we photographers usually call 'shoot to burn'.
Why shouldn't they give them to you right out of the camera? Because they need to edit them. The camera itself is limited if it wasn’t we wouldn’t have a such a wide variety of editing software out there making millions in sales if there were cameras that did all the work. They are just machines! So the idea begins on your wedding day with the click, it is then taken back to the digital darkroom and the photographer applies their special touch through programs like Adobe Photoshop, Gimp, Lightroom and so on. This aspect of photography is as vast and as important of the workings of the camera itself, it is only when they are put together that you get a good full package. Shoot to burn photographers aren't very common, but to put the importance of proper, professional editing into perspective, I will continue with the car metaphor by saying that a picture without editing is like purchasing a car without a paint job. It's still a car, it still works, it just doesn't look pretty. They'll still be pictures of your day, but they probably aren't going to look too pretty!
4. Ask about their equipment. Do they use a point and shoot? I hope not! A point and shoot is basic, a camera that does not have interchangeable lenses. It's important to remember that a camera is a tool. To illustrate, here is a little story about Ansel Adams, a very famous landscape photographer. When asked why he would give up composing music for photography, as it didn’t seem to communicate as much as music, he said, and I paraphrase. “I don’t think a camera can communicate very much, but I think a photographer can”. If your photographer is going to communicate your wedding properly they need the tools. Ask what they use, write it down and look it up to see if it’s suitable for weddings. Do they have off camera lighting, extra camera bodies and lenses if something breaks? However, Ansel Adams also said "There is nothing worse than a sharp photograph of a fuzzy idea” The tools are not the end all, do they have vision and ability to produce the idea. This means, having technical expertise and fancy equipment is one thing, but if they aren't an artist, then they're not going to have the innate ability to capture the beauty of your day. You'll be able to tell this by the emotions you feel when you see their art.
5. Ask them about their photographic experience. Where did they get started, how long have they been around cameras, why did they become a wedding photographer. And most important, how many weddings have they shot? A photographer may have 'been in business' for 10 years, but only have photographed 20 weddings!
6. Ask for a few references. All experienced photographers will have some past clients that you can talk to. See if they lived up to the standards they advertise by asking a client.
7. Ask about printing rights and watermarks. Do they require you to print with them? If they do how much does it cost? You could be confronted with some surprising back end prices if this is not considered. A watermark is the company name or photographers name placed onto the picture as a permanent mark and they may charge you a fee or printing fees to remove the watermark. We've 'front end loaded' our packages so that what you see is what you pay, and you can decide for yourselves which of the prints and extra's you'd like to purchase in the end.
8. Make sure the photographer you meet, is the photographer that will actually shoot your day. Here is a story that upsets me – and it happens more often than you’d think. Years ago my cousin walked into a home studio, saw good pictures, and signed the contract. After meeting with the photographer, he sent them on their way and she was happy to have her/him booked and went on with other things. Her wedding day came, the door bell rang. Someone yelled “the photographers here!” and she jumped up with excitement and went to the door. Who was there? The photographers apprentice. “Who are you?” she said. “I’m your photographer Mr Never-Done-This-Before replied. “Oh no you’re not” she said “yes I am… Mr Ripoff sent me” he replied. It was never mentioned that Mr Ripoff would not be there, but Mr Never-Done-This-Before, with his cheap camera from the 70’s would be. I don’t know if the contract said this was possible but it may have, so sit with your photographer and read their contract and ask about it. If they don’t have a contract, run. Contracts protect you as much as them! Luckily for my cousin, my older brother who is a very experienced hobbyist photographer was there, and his pictures grace her walls today.
We are happy to answer any questions you have about what you've read here, or maybe something we haven't addressed. We like to have a friendly relationship those who are getting married and with fellow wedding photographers in our community, so even if you do not end up as our client, we are committed to helping everyone get the wedding photos they deserve! Feel free to contact Mike at [email protected] or join us on Facebook!
Are you interested in having the team at Zekar Photography capture your special day? Contact us for our most recent Pricing Guide and let's get the conversation started!