I LOVE talking to new clients. Luckily, I’m in the right business as I do this a lot! Usually couples will chat with a short list of photographers before choosing one they trust and connect with. The goal is always to get to know each other and see if you click together – when the conversation flows smoothly and you feel comfortable with each other’s answers, you’ve found the right vendor! However, sometimes a prospective client of mine will end up reading from a list of formal questions someone on our consult call. Questions like “how many weddings have you photographed”, “what equipment do you use?” and “can you describe your style?” are always on it. I get it – you want to be assured you’re hiring an experienced professional. I think these questions are well intentioned, but miss the mark of getting to know each other, and while I fully stand by my answers (over 100+, I’ve lost count; Canon professional cameras, lenses, flashes etc; and ‘colorful, candid and creative’ respectively) it didn’t tell them what they really needed to know: Can this photographer photograph my wedding well? Do I like all of their work? Are they a professional, experienced business owner? I don’t think the number of weddings I’ve shot is as important as the quality of the photographs I took at my most recent five weddings – after all, those are far more representative of my style than knowing that I shot weddings back in 2011. The camera is a tool that I use, but the brand shouldn’t and doesn’t matter to you, my client, I promise! So please, put away the pinterest list of 30+ questions and stick to the ones that will really tell you what you need to know to decide on who to hire to photograph your wedding! (Also, I’m skipping the question of “Are you available on my date” because if you get the chance to ask these questions, you’re hopefully beyond that point!)
So! Here are my Five Questions you actually need to ask your wedding photographer!
1. Can I see a full gallery?
This is so important for everyone to ask, which is why it’s at the top of my list! Whether your budget is $1,000 or 10,000 for a wedding photographer – you NEED to see a full gallery from your short list of prospective photographers. Seeing a full day – not a portfolio of greatest hits, not the sunset portraits where the lighting is perfect, and not a styled shoot or set up fake wedding, but everything that a past couple received – is ideal for setting the right expectations. Some photographers struggle with cramped or dark prep rooms, blank canvases, or dark outdoor or indoor receptions and you will learn a lot about what your wedding photos could look like by checking out a full gallery. And it’s the best way to judge if a photographer is a seasoned professional – by their images, not the numbers. Anyone who won’t show you a full gallery is probably not experienced and should be avoided! This is especially important if you are considering hiring a friend or acquaintance – but more on that later**.
Lucy’s answer: YES! I pride myself on photographing every part of the day well, with professional and flattering lighting even in dark spaces. I’d be happy to share a full gallery that matches your wedding, whether it’s the same venue, season, or altitude.
2. What happens if my date or location changes?
It’s smart to ask all of your wedding vendors what happens if you need to reschedule or move your location – especially in 2020 and beyond where planning is SO tough on everyone. When you sign our contracts, expect to be held to their terms (after all, that’s why we have contracts.) so be sure you are ok with your photographers’ policies before you sign. A great contract is a sign of a seasoned pro. For those of us small businesses in the events industry, available dates are our inventory, so when we sell one to you, it often can’t be changed even if your guest count is decreased. Your retainer is used to exclusively reserve us for your date, and we must turn away other couples who ask about it, so be empathetic with those vendors who can’t change dates once reserved.
Lucy’s answer: I’m doing everything I can to accommodate couples whose plans are shifting. I am offering couples who booked before the pandemic 1 free reschedule to any date I have available within 12 months of your original date. Location changes and guest count changes have no bearing on my ability to work for you that day – so no matter what, your photos will be amazing so you can share them with everyone who couldn’t be there. If you cancel altogether, you lose your retainer.
3. Do I have to pay to download or print the photos after you take them?
MOST photographers these days will include the rights to print all your images with your wedding package, but some folks have a different business model that involves selling you your favorite images after they’ve been taken (So you only pay for the images you love.) This is an important distinction so you know what to expect after the wedding is over. It would be an uncomfortable surprise for all if you thought you were getting to print your photos yourself, only to find you have to pay more for them!
Lucy’s answer: All shoots of any kind: proposals, engagements, elopements and weddings always include all the digital images for you to print and post. You get your image files. Do what you like with them!
4. What sets you apart from other photographers?
Maybe your photographer will say “I take a lot of candid photos of guests.” and that’s exactly what you’re looking for! Maybe they do really great night photos with stars. Maybe they direct you to read their online reviews from past clients (which you should read no matter what!) and you see that their customer service and client experience will have you feeling like you’re relaxing under a palm frond eating grapes. Every photographer is also a human with strengths and vices, and this is perhaps the greatest opportunity to connect with a prospective photographer.
Lucy’s Answer: I think my goofy personality sets me apart – I’m not afraid to be myself and that means you’ll never be the most dorky person in the room. I make it easy to feel comfortable in front of the camera, be yourself, and have as much fun as possible! You’ll also see bright colors and creative portraits throughout my work. Double exposures and tiny planets are my signature images.
5. What ideas do you have for great photos?
Come at me with your wedding photo ideas for sure. I LOVE to incorporate my client’s passions and personalities into their images, and getting to know you and listening to your desires is SO IMPORTANT! But I’ve also got a list of things I’m dying to shoot myself, like a hot air balloon engagement, a campfire wedding, a fog machine first dance, etc. All it takes is one question to see what new, creative and different ideas your photographer will have to make your wedding photos unlike any you’ve seen before. Who knows, you might love their ideas and really connect over a paddleboarding engagement session, or a gondola ride to your first look, or a top-down view of your grand entrance.
Lucy’s answer: Sometimes I plan images at my client’s weddings months or years in advance, depending on their location. I have so many ideas, it will be hard to choose! I always tell people “great photographs come from great moments, so we make sure there are a lot of those.” I am a hype woman for anything that makes my client’s day FUN. I’ve also got tips and tricks to make your wedding timeline run smoothly that I love to share, so we can focus on the fun part. And I’m still waiting for that couple to come my way with a fog machine..
I’ll also ask questions to get to know you. I like to ask how you met, what made you choose your location, and what ways you’re planning to personalize your wedding to make it reflect your own unique brand of weirdness. Interviewing a photographer is far more about connecting as humans than completing a checklist of questions. Placing your trust in your photographer helps us get the keys to your life for a day, so we can catch those authentic moments before they disappear. So read up on a photographer’s public reviews (not just the ones on their websites), view a full gallery, ask about their policies and backups, and then let’s just talk! **These steps are extra important if you are considering having anyone you know socially to shoot your wedding. A family friend, a photography student, an up and coming amateur may all have a great camera, but you should absolutely check in on their credentials, experience, and body of work. Simply because.. if their photographs don’t meet your expectations, your relationship with that friend could be irreparably damaged. Yikes!! Hopefully you found this insider’s guide helpful – share this with someone in your life who is planning a wedding or elopement!