14 things to ask your potential wedding photographer before hiring them

April 1, 2019

Choosing a wedding photographer is no easy task. As a wedding photographer, who is not married even, I get a bit sweaty-palmed thinking about how I will pick my wedding photographer!

I wanted to put together a helpful list of questions that you can ask your potential wedding photographer to help you decide who will be the best fit for you; who will back up your images with care; who will have the expertise and knowledge to deliver you the best wedding photos you can have.

These questions are not the end all and be all,and the responses are my own.. everyone runs their business differently, and these responses are based on how I run mine! Let’s get going…

1.) How long have you been shooting weddings and how did you start?

I am a big believer that anyone shooting a wedding should have some…errr…. a lot of practise as a second shooter. It is never a good idea to try out wedding photography or to learn how to be a wedding photographer on someone’s wedding day. You want someone who has shot with other photographers. Who has, perhaps, mentored with another established photographer and has shot weddings as a lead photographer.

I began my first 2 years shooting under some pretty established wedding photographers before I made the move to shoot weddings on my own. I knew what was expected of me, about the various lighting conditions I could expect and how to work alongside other vendors for a smooth day. I began shooting weddings in 2012.

2.) What kind of camera gear do you have, how many cameras do you bring to the wedding?

This is a biggie folks. You really, truly want a photographer who has back up . gear. I am not so stuck on what camera/lens combo a photographer uses but am really firm on hiring someone who has back up equipment. You want at least 2 lenses and 2 camera bodies. Things happen.. we drop things, we fall in waterfalls, we shoot in the rain and really humid weather….. things get stolen and generally electronics malfunction at the worst time ever. I want you to take comfort in knowing that if something happens to your photographers camera during your wedding that they can simply switch to their other camera with ease.

3.) Do you always use a second shooter?

Yes, yes, yes! 99% of the time. The exception is elopements and really small weddings. I do this for you, but I always do this for me too. When I book your wedding I also book a second shooter. Someone who I am completely confident could shoot your wedding on their own if an emergency arises. If I have a family crisis, if the day of your wedding I am super sick, we have ease of mind knowing there is someone else booked who can cover your day just as well as I can. Thankfully this has never happened but life can throw curve balls at us and I want to be prepared. Bonus is you get extra images from different angles, we can split up… meaning you don’t need that extra few hours of coverage and your day will run more smoothly as there will be 2 of us there. For example family photos are quicker as one of us is posing and directing guests and one of us is shooting.

4.) What is your posing/directing style?

Every photographer will have their own style of posing/directing. Some folks feel better being completely posed, some feel better with a more lifestyle ( candid, prompt based) approach to their sessions. While neither is better or worse I feel like it definitely changes the look of your photos. I use a good mix of directing/posing and action based prompts. We need those classic traditional posed shots, but what really gets me pumped is the real moments, the giggles, the looks and smiles at each other between the shots. I really feel like my clients relax more and the magic happens when I use prompts to guide you rather than when I simply just pose you.

5.) How many photos will I receive?

This is a tough question to answer! But a super important thing to ask. Every photographer is different. Some photographers will give you a set amount of images and then the option to purchase the rest, some will only give you low resolution (non printable mages) and you will have to buy all your prints from them, some give digital hi resolution (printable images) with printing rights.

I believe that wedding photography is costly enough, I believe that these memories are yours and my packages are priced so that you get all of the workable (quality) images. We typically deliver 30-50 images per hour. These images are digital images that you can print until your heart is content.

6.) Do you have an overtime charge if things run late or I would like extra coverage the day of?

Most photographers will have an over time fee listed in their contract and will have no problem staying an extra hour or two if needed/wanted. I only book one wedding a day and would be happy to stay a bit longer if that is what you want.

7.) Are your packages flexible? What is your retainer/booking fee?

My packages are fairly flexible, within reason. I have to keep in mind my cost of doing business and paying my second shooter while still making a living wage. I try to cut costs wherever possible but sometimes I just can’t meet your budget. My retainer fee, also known as a booking fee is typically 50% of your package. Although I have never turned down a payment plan when folks have needed it. It is a non-refundable retainer. You are paying to retain my services. Once I book your date I take it off my availability and I book my second shooter. If the wedding gets cancelled or something happens where the date changes I will gladly accommodate you if I am not booked. If the wedding is cancelled the fee is non-refundable, as I have often turned down other couples for that exact same date and most likely will not fill that date. If I am able to rebook your date I will gladly refund you.

8.) Will all of my photos be edited? Can I edit my own photos or have raw images?

Most photographers will only ever give away edited photos. The way a photographer edits a photo is essentially their brand. And like an artist painting a masterpiece they will not give away a half finished painting. It states in my contract that the photos I give to my clients can not be further edited. Yessss that even includes your favorite insta filter you always use! Sorry kids! I personally have a preferred style, a way I edit my photos that gives them a unique look that sets my photos apart from the next photographers and by re-editing an already edited photo you are reducing the quality of your photos. I have heard it being compared to painting over another artists work.

9.) Will you be shooting my wedding, or will it be an associate?

Many photographers who run a photography studio will book more than 1 wedding a day and will hire an associate to come shoot your wedding. This isn’t awful, but I personally would want to meet my photographer face to face before we work together. I am a sole proprietor of my business. I am the only one who shoots weddings for my business so it will always be myself and a second shooter who will document your wedding. By the time its wedding day we will have already met a few times and of course be best friends by then H

10.) What is your turn around time?

Turn around time is how long it takes the photographer to deliver the finished product. Each photographer will have a different turn around time. There are many factors to consider… does the photographer have a second job or do they do wedding photography full time? How many weddings they book in a year/month? Do they outsource their editing (hire someone to do it for them) or do they edit themselves? I edit all my weddings myself, as stated above I truly believe your editing is your brand. My turn around time is appx 4-10 weeks. Although in my contract I state 4-12 weeks, I do this for a bit of buffer time just in case – 12 weeks is during peak wedding season (Aug/Sept/Oct) and I always strive to get them finished well before the contracted times.

11.) Can I provide you a shot list?

For family photos.. yes absolutely. Experienced wedding photographers know what to shoot. They make a point to get all those must have shots wherever possible. Weddings happen quick and the last thing you want is your wedding photographer pulling out a shot list and missing an important moment. However, with saying that if a client shows me a photo or 2 that they would like to remake I am not opposed to it and will always do my best to make it happen. (real talk – a red flag for us as wedding photogs is when a client brings a binder of Pinterest photos to a wedding consult and says ” I want my photos to look like this” I do however always ask my clients for a shot list for their family photos so that I make sure to grab shots of all important family members.

12.) Do you have a contract I can see?

This is a BIG one. Do not book a wedding photographer who does not send you a contract. This is not a good sign. EVERY professional wedding photographer will always send you a contract, walk you through it if you have any questions and clarify anything you are unsure of. Run away if they do not have a contract to send you. Contracts are legal agreements and you won’t have any legal ramifications if you do not get the services you hired them for without a legally binding contract.

13.) Do you have travel fees for weddings outside of London Ontario?

Most photographers do. I have a travel fee for weddings 100 kms outside of london. I require an Airbnb or a hotel room for weddings more than 200 kms outside of london. For weddings out of the country I require all travel costs incurred (gas, car rental, accommodations and food).

14.) Can I split up my package? Do you take breaks?

Most photographers will not split up their packages. The hours are consecutive. However an extra hour or two can always be added to a package to meet your needs. I typically do not take a break however, in my contract I require a sit down meal for anything booked 6 hrs and over. If no meal is provided I do take a 60 min break to refuel. This is a paid break, meaning my time doesn’t stop for breaks. Weddings are physically exhausting and it is really important to take time for a proper meal and to stay hydrated. Often we are grabbing a breakfast and hitting the road, cramming down lunch on the way to the second location and refilling our water bottles every chance we can get. By dinner time we are famished. I ALWAYS recommend we get fed by our clients as we can still work during the dinner time shooting speeches, details and the meal itself.

That’s all folks. To recap there’s a few deal breakers in here for me… no contract, no experience shooting a wedding on their own and no second camera/back up.

Have fun, and happy wedding planning,

xo Ruth