My Brother-in-law is getting married soon and since I won’t be photographing the wedding, I’ve created a list of things for him to look for while interviewing other photographers. Hopefully these hints will help you, too!
Always ask to see a complete wedding. Not a complete wedding album, but a complete wedding. As in, what can you expect to receive? If you are getting a set of 400 proofs, ask to see a set of someone’s 400 proofs. This is incredibly important because anybody can piece together a “Best of” album, a nice portfolio, or even a decent wedding album. But, what you want to see is that the photographer you are hiring is able to handle any and all lighting situations that may occur throughout the day. Did they miss any moments, or maybe they had a few really intimate moments that just didn’t make the cut to the album? Seeing the entire set will give you a more well-rounded idea of what your photographer is capable of, what they are likely to shoot for you, and a much better idea of what their style is. It might even give you a chance to see what their images look like pre-Photoshop.
Hint: Ask to see an entire set from the same location that your wedding and reception will be held. This will give you a good idea of what to expect, and show you that your photographer isn’t just showing you a wedding with an impressive venue.
Ask about the lighting. This is one of the most important aspects of photography, if not the most important, and yet it’s almost always overlooked by the client. Maybe you know it looks good, or it looks bad, but you probably don’t know why. It’s usually the lighting! So, ask how your photographer lights each aspect of the wedding! During the formals, does he/she use studio strobes, off camera flash (Speedlights), or on camera flash? If your photographer uses the flash that “pops-up” on their camera, run the other way! Don’t walk, run! If your photographer uses a flash that sits on top of the camera, it’s important to note the difference in quality. There will likely be harsh shadows, loss of detail in the highlights, unflattering shape to faces, a possibility of red eye, and the list goes on. Using a flash off-camera will allow the photographer to control and manipulate the lighting in a flattering way, which shows more details, is softer, and offers much more depth to your images.
When it comes to your reception, these same rules apply. Portable flashes are a little bit more of a hassle and usually mean an assistant is necessary. This is all part of what you are paying for when hiring a professional, so when looking at prices, remember that you usually get what you pay for. A cheap photographer probably doesn’t have a second shooter or assistant and probably is very limited to the amount they can do with their lighting. Is it worth the extra money? Well, that’s up to you to decide, but I can say that I really prefer my reception images look lively and not washed out with a dark background!
Hint: Look for shadows. Do they flatter the subject and provide more detail, or do they look like black outlines on the walls?
How much guidance is given during posing formal portraits? You may think you want the more modern looking, non-posed portraits. But don’t be fooled- even a lot of the the candid-looking portraits were guided by a pro! Professional Photographers are trained to know how to flatter your figure. Things like the “S” curve, “breaking joints”, and camera angle, all have a HUGE impact on how you look. Asking a group of bridesmaids to put their weight on one foot and point the other toe not only makes the group look uniform, but also takes the pounds off! So ask yourself, is it worth the extra effort (on the photographer’s part) to do this kind of posing? If you’ve been worried about how your figure is going to look in your wedding gown, this is a step you don’t want to skip! Save the candid “formals” for candid moments and make sure your photographer formally does the formals! (and more importantly, that they know how!)
Hint: Look at the wedding party and see if the groomsmen have their hands in the same direction. If the photographer is paying attention to detail, they will be uniform. If they’re hurrying through, you’ll likely see men with hands crossed in different ways and women with bouquets held in various places.
Are you buying the files? Ok, then, how are you getting those files? CD/DVD? Are they downloadable? Are they coming to you on a flash drive? Each has their pros and cons, but the most important part is that you know that you need to BACK UP your files in another format when you get them. Disks can and will eventually go corrupt. I’ve seen it happen in as little as a few years, using professional quality discs. It’s very, very important that you have a good back up storage method in place and print your favorite images as soon as you get them! It is not your photographer’s responsibility to store your images for a lifetime, so if you feel that purchasing the files is more important than investing in an album, please realize that it comes with a huge responsibility. It’s also a really good idea to ask if your images will come “Photoshopped” or if they will be as-is. You will likely notice a price difference in photographers that give you images “straight out of the camera” versus photographers that spend the endless hours editing out your blemishes, fixing stray hairs and removing glasses glare from your Dad.
Hint: Ask if you will receive a copy of both High-res and low-res. It’s easier for your photographer to resize them if you want to share on social media. If you feel lucky, you can also ask for images that have been Photoshopped as well as those that haven’t. Styles change, after all!
What are the album and print options? Gone are the days of our parents’ leather matted album, replaced with awe-inspiring custom albums. Metal, glass, acrylic, silk, panoramic, square, Press-Printed, Photo-Printed…. you name it, the options are endless. Find out exactly what you like, what the value of each is, and what you feel is worth investing in. Does your album have a slice down the middle of the spread, or a crease? Which do you prefer and can the photographer offer the other? If you can’t afford a high quality Photo-Printed album, a more affordable option may be a Press-Printed album. Make sure your photographer isn’t charging Photo-Printed prices for a Press-Printed quality.
Hint: Make sure you ask about the designing process. Do you get unlimited design revisions, or not any at all? Do you have to pay for those revisions?
Does your photographer offer a complimentary engagement session or bridal session? Maybe a friend offered to do your engagement portraits, or maybe you’d prefer to decorate your walls with wedding portraits. But don’t forget about the most important aspect of an engagement session- getting comfortable with your photographer! I have always told my brides, honestly, “If you don’t like my personality, don’t hire me! I’ll be spending more time with you on your wedding day than any other person, including your fiance´!” How are you supposed to be comfortable in front of the camera if you don’t know the person behind it? So, for this reason, I suggest you always get an engagement session done with the photographer that will be there on the big day. If you don’t like the time you spent with that photographer, or how the images turned out, you’ll have a chance to find a better fit!
Hint: Most photographers will include this in their collections, but if they don’t, add it on to the total price and look at it as a whole. If you’ve already had a session taken, ask your photographer about doing a fun, custom themed session!
Does your photographer ask you about the timeline of your day, or are they just there as a witness? The best answer to this question might really depend on if you hire a wedding planner or not! If you do not have a wedding planner, Professional Photographers are usually the person taking the bull by the horns. We keep the ball rolling in the right direction, not by force, but just by nature. It’s something that most couples don’t realize but it’s true! When the reception starts, the DJ is the man in charge, who keeps things flowing through the dinner, into the cake, dances and so on. It’s important to find a photographer and DJ with experience so that your wedding flows. (You don’t want your guests to run out bored, right?! I didn’t think so!)
Hint: Think through your day and what you hope your timeline looks like. Make sure you are leaving your photographer enough time to take formals and if they have requested a certain amount of time, give it to them. They know how much time is needed to be comfortable. If you give them less, you will get less images or less creative images in return. A good DJ or band will entertain your guests during the cocktail hour.
Where does your photographer stand during the ceremony? Where do you want them to stand? I make it a point to ask all of my couples what their comfort level is on how visible I am. Some photographers will stand right up on the alter and the couples love that they are getting intimate images! Other couples may feel horribly embarrassed or distracted! I think there’s a great balance to be had and I would never embarrass myself (or the couple) in order to get a photo. The point is that you want to be on the same page as your photographer! If you want them to go get that shot, make sure they know it! If you want them to be very discreet, make sure that’s clear, as well. A good photographer can go unnoticed and not miss a beat. I can tell you that a great compliment from wedding guests is hearing, “I never even noticed you taking photos!”
Hint: Ask what the photography rules are at your ceremony site, as well as the Pastor marrying you. (They may have different rules.) Some will not allow flash during the ceremony and some won’t even allow the photographer to be anywhere but the balcony. These restrictions will push the photographer’s equipment, so this is one of the few times that nicer equipment matters.
I know you have plenty of other questions that you will ask your photographer, but I hope you take some of these into consideration as well! If you have any other unusual questions that you suggesting asking, feel free to leave a comment!
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