Your wedding day is a big deal and you’re looking for vendors who not only tell the story of your day, but help craft it into a memorable experience for everyone. So, in order to help you avoid the “oh no, what do we say now” realization as soon as you sit down with your potential wedding photographer, here are a few questions to ask. You probably have seen other lists out there, but from a wedding photographer’s perspective, these are the questions I would love clients to be asking.
Before you ask any questions
Remember, this meeting is really about impressions and personality. There is a lot of stuff about your day to cover but remember that you’re also going to spend all day with this person. More than any other vendor, you will hang out with your photographer for the whole wedding. So, make sure you like being around them as a person. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be best friends (though I am currently planning a vacation with a couple I met by photographing their wedding, so it does happen). Talk about your lives. Do you laugh at each other’s jokes? Do you have similar hobbies? Do you feel heard in these conversations? Start by being people first and then the business relationship will follow.
What makes you excited to photograph weddings?
Wedding photography is often a jumping-off point for many photographic careers. That is fine, but what makes them excited to be around on your wedding day? It might be something specific or a general thought about weddings. But, this is a job full of joy, how do they tap into that?
If you’ve photographed the venue before, what are some things we should be thinking about?
I get asked all the time if I’ve been to a venue before. I don’t think that is a very important question because most wedding venues I go to are new and that doesn’t have any real bearing on whether or not I do a good job there. That question doesn’t really say much as weddings can be completely different. If the answer is no, don’t take that as a reason not to hire someone. There are a lot of wedding venues and only so many weekends in a year.
But, I’d suggest asking this question if they have worked at a venue before. You’re not asking for them to prove to you that they know what they’re talking about, but use this as an opportunity to hear about the space. Maybe they have seen something you’ve never thought about. Maybe they have suggestions on things that didn’t work as well as planned. You’re working together to make the best day possible.
What are the factors in a wedding that most affect the quality and quantity of the delivered photos?
I don’t want to turn this article into a series of questions not to ask, but I want you to be warry of just asking how many photos you will get. This is a really hard question to ask because it depends on so many factors. Most people have a guess, but it’s the knowledge of what affects those deliverables that is key here. Does the photographer have a good reason why some weddings will get more than others? Will they deliver fewer detail photos if your family asks for a lot of combinations?
In this there is also the important question about what affects the quality of the photos. You are talking to a professional who could show up on any given day and take photos, but you want to hear that from them about what makes them do their best work.
Aside from weddings, what do you do to maintain a creative mindset?
Wedding photography is a funny space because it’s art on a schedule. Everyone will then spend some time on the more artistic side of the spectrum and other times on the business side. Though some might be interested to hear what business tools they’re using, what would be a more fun conversation for everyone is to what is driving their creativity.
What is this person doing to keep their work new and what are they excited to try out on your wedding day. I know that last sentence might feel a little odd. Are you thinking “wait, experiment on my wedding day?” You probably don’t want photos that are all pushing the boundaries. But pushing boundaries doesn’t mean doing that all the time. We aren’t talking about doing something crazy during the un-miss-able moments of the wedding. But, 95% of the work they do will be within the realms of what they know well. By always trying new things for that last 5%. That 5% might come out awesome or might be a learning for them. But, the reality is that the “safe” photos they’re going to take at your wedding were probably originally some strange idea they had and now have done enough that they’re just part of the norm.
Do you prefer to view a venue before the wedding day? What are you looking for or why not?
This question is kinda similar to the one about photographing a venue before and sending galleries. For some people, it might be helpful to see a venue in a situation that is different from the actual wedding, but for others, it isn’t. This isn’t a lazy thing. It’s just a question about the creative process. How does this photographer envision the photos they’re going to be making?
The first time I photographed at Swiftwater Cellars, it was in December and very snowy. When I got future inquiries about that venue, I had been there before, but there were other wedding experiences that I felt were more similar to the summer ceremonies the couple was imagining.
This ability to image similarity is good not for you to see what else the photographer has in mind, but it helps you see if they have your vision for the day. Do these other examples have the same vibe that you’re going for or do they feel different? That ability to translate feelings is a really important skill as you’re looking for someone to tell your wedding story.
How involved are you in scheduling the wedding day?
Unless it’s literally someone’s first wedding, they have done this before and therefore have thoughts about how a wedding should be done. In all likelihood, they have helped plan more weddings than you have. That is why you’re hiring a professional. Some photographers want to be involved in making the schedule. Others want to be hands-off. But knowing what you can expect is really important. You want to find that line between using their expertise and still having a day that happens in the way you envision.
What do you do to keep us on schedule on the wedding day? With that, if we get off schedule, how much does it cost for you to stay longer?
I love taking photos. I could do it all day. But, it’s also important to hear what the photographer does to keep things on schedule. That said, you are not asking them to be your day-of-coordinator. You should have someone whose sole job is to keep to the schedule as much as possible. But it’s good to hear what folks to do help that happens.
With that, it’s also important to know what happens if things run late. You don’t want an unexpected bill after the day or to have a vendor just head home before the event is over.
Is it ok if other people take photos during the wedding and wedding day?
The whole “unplugged wedding” idea is a good conversation to have. When you ask this, make sure you know what you want too.
Backups (people, cameras, etc.)?
Stuff happens. Have a plan.
When do we get to see the photos?
Your wedding was awesome. You’re going to want to see those photos. But beauty takes time. Every photographer’s Facebook group has memes of clients asking for their photos. I’m sure every client is sitting around wondering when they’ll see them. It’s just important to have good expectations on when stuff will happen.
Bonus: Here are a few questions that your photographer should ask you.
Which photo or photos drew you to my work?
This isn’t just stroking their ego. This helps the photographer know what you like. They need to know more about what you see in their work so that they can really maximize on those elements.
What is the moment in the wedding you’re most excited/anxious about?
They’re going to be with you all day. How can they be a good support in maximizing the excitement?