Couples should ask this question first. Know your budget and know what you want for a finished product. Knowing what you can spend will lead you to the photographer you can afford. Make the decision right away if having the best photographs is important. Ask if there are discounts for paying in cash or having your wedding on any other day other than Saturday. If you are getting married in any month other than one considered a popular wedding month, ask for a special discount. For example, in an excellent article by Susan Breslow Sardone, the most popular months for weddings to take place are, in this order:
- November/April (tie)
So don’t hesitate to ask, “what can you do for me since I’m getting married in April?” (Or any of the other less than popular months.) The best thing is to start with pricing questions and you will be ready to ask more.
2. Why You?
Hopefully you are asking this question looking face to face with your prospective photographer. As a photographer, I love the question, “Why should I choose you to photograph my wedding?” This question helps you discern what type of person he or she is and you will get a feel for his or her personality. You know how important first impressions are so trust your instincts and be sure to listen well.
3. Who is Coming?
Some photography studios have multiple photographers while other studios have only one photographer, so this is an important thing to know. Yes, many weddings are still photographed by one photographer. He or she might bring along an assistant, but if you want two photographers then ask for two. This may lead you to ask if there is an extra charge for two photographers. Regardless, you really need to know who is coming to photograph the wedding. For example at Liz Power Photography, you would ask, who will photograph my wedding? Will it be you and Terry? No extra charge?
Here is a great question not everyone thinks to ask, “If you are unable to photograph our wedding or if something happens to you, who will photograph our wedding?” By now you have been over the contract and you did not see any provision for a “substitute,” so this is a HUGE question. Will the other photographers in the studio photograph the wedding and if so, do they have a portfolio? Another good question is, “Will you have any other photographers on call and can I see their work?”
5. Experience on a scale of 1-10?
This may be the most subjective question and one that is difficult to answer. It is like asking, “just how good are you?” Experience counts in so many other professions, so what about photography? There is an “army” of wedding photographers out there and they are really very good but many of them are just getting started, so how can you know if they can handle doing the right thing when things go wrong? Questions about equipment, lighting, and posing are always good to ask. And by all means ask them to define their “style.” Are they photojournalists, traditionalists, storytellers, you get the idea.
“Are there brides who will refer you and are they open to me calling them?”
“Are there wedding vendors I can talk to who know how you work?”
It is perfectly okay to ask for information that will make it easier for you to contact the person being referenced. Keep in mind that you are like a prospective employer and the photographers are prospective employees so asking for references is okay, but once you hire them, consider them “friends.” This is probably true for all of the vendors you hire – they are technically your employees but if your treat them like the “hired help” you might have a mutiny on your hands.
You should want to know and not hesitate to ask the photographer how he or she works the day. “When do you start?” This is especially important if you have only hired them for six hours or some other set amount of time. If the package you bought has unlimited time, you have every right to set the times you want to start, especially if you want your photographer to be at the hair salon to take pictures there. However, listen to the “voice of experience” when your photographer suggests a timeline that is tried and proven. At this point, you might want to hear the pros and cons of seeing each other before the ceremony and doing all of your pictures then. But that’s a subject for another day.
8. When the Day is Over, then What?
“How long should I expect to wait until I see any wedding pictures? How will they be presented? Will my family and friends be able to see all of the pictures? Will I have to take orders for pictures from them and then collect money from them?”
These are just some of the questions to ask. As to when you ask them, that is up to you but it seems like you should get a general idea of how the post-wedding processing works. A lot of these questions can be clarified and details given once you have hired your photographer. Speaking of processing, you may want to ask who processes the images. Does your photographer edit the pictures or are they outsourced? Most photographers have become proficient in Photoshop and are very protective of what the image looks like, so that may be a deal breaker if the photographer shows little interest in the quality of the prints.
This may also be a good time to ask, “How many pictures will you show me,” because not every picture is a “keeper.”
“When will I be able to buy your images of my wedding?”
Asking the question this way really gets to the heart of the whole copyright thing. Your wedding, but they own the images. What? Yes, they have created a product that is protected by copyright laws so when you buy the images you are really buying the “rights” to make prints, post on social networks, give to relatives, and so on. Follow-up with the question, “how long do you keep the images?” And, “can I buy them three years from now at a reduced price?”
10. When do I know that I’m on your calendar?
The short answer is when the photographer receives the retainer. The “retainer” aka “deposit” is usually non-refundable. Don’t be afraid to ask about unforeseen postponements or delays or anything that might change the original wedding date. We had a bride change her wedding date and she forgot to tell us. Fortunately, when we found out from another vendor, we were still available for the “other” date. Don’t take any chances with the date of your wedding and wondering if your photographer put you on his calendar…communicate, communicate, communicate.
Okay, now you know at least ten good questions to ask when you meet with prospective photographers. Remember, they want to make a good impression too, and when you ask them questions they like to answer, you are all going to share in a great experience. Any more questions?