So, the moment is finally here; a big old rock on your finger and a whole heck of a lot of planning to do. One of the first vendors you should secure ahead of time is your wedding photographer. With so many talented photographers to choose from, it can be overwhelming and you might lose sight of what you were actually looking for in a photography vendor. This is why I have compiled a list of the top ten questions you should ask photographers while on a photography consult call with them; most of which I make sure to go over on the phone with all my couples.
#1. What packages do you offer?
Budgets are a big part of narrowing down a photographer. Pricing isn't always transparent on a photographer's website and different packages can suit different needs. If you are prioritizing photography, you may want to see what package gives you the most bang for your buck. Other things like travel fees, retainers, second shooters and complimentary engagement sessions are things to consider in the overall value of the package as well. Always remember; you do get what you pay for. Professionals have overhead such as websites like this one, equipment, advertising, accountants, bookkeepers, and the tax man. If there is a cheap price and no contract; chances are your photographer isn't legally operating or professional.
#2. What is your turnaround time?
So the big day has come and gone and you totally forgot to ask your photographer how long before you receive your entire gallery. A turnaround time is what a photographer's workflow usually entails. For example, I always post 24 hour sneak peeks so my couples have something to look forward to, almost like instant gratification. Then I make sure to put it in my contract that my couple will receive their photos within 6-8 weeks. If you message your photographer too soon asking for your photos, you might add some added pressure to their life. A good photographer will keep you updated as the deadline approaches. Make sure the turnaround time is in your contract!
#3. Have you shot at my venue before?
While it isn't necessary for a photographer to have shot where you are getting married, it does help quite a bit if they already know the light at the venue and the staff. They can help you answer questions about great first look locations or where to do couples portraits on the property or off site.
#4. Can I see a full gallery?
This one is super important. A photographer only wants to show their absolute best shots on social media and their websites. But in low light situations, they may not know how to artificially light a space or utilize flash in the way a professional should. Seeing a full gallery gives you a glimpse at how your reception photos will look and what story the photographer is capable of telling throughout the day. It also shows you what that final product will be.
#5. How does a typical wedding day work?
I always like to go over what a typical wedding day is from start to finish within whatever hourly coverage they choose. Basically, we go over a light timeline. While you might be early in planning, you want to know how your photographer operates and how they formulate their timelines. I always put an emphasis on how I handle situations, as well as when I check in and plan engagement sessions.
#6. How many years of experience do you have?
Again, while not necessarily vital, you might want to know how many weddings your photographer has shot and how long their business has been operating. While I have been a photographer for 15 years, I didn't professionally and officially start Thistle and Pine until 2018. With many years under a photographers belt, you can google their reviews and see much more of their portfolios. A seasoned photographer also has a lot more networking connections and handles weddings with ease.
#7. What do couples love about you the most?
This question forces a photographer to turn inwards and really think about what their shining qualities are. Google reviews are so important but also a photographer knowing what they bring to the table means they know what their value is. You want a photographer who has the personality you want by your side on the biggest day of your life. Someone who is genuine, someone who can handle pressure and someone who is funny (okay, that might just be a quality on my list of must haves....)
#8. What is your shooting style and camera set up?
Is your photographer into editorial posing? More traditional looking-at-the-camera posing? A mix of both? Do they edit true to color or dark and moody? Are their photos sharp? Most of my couples don't have a photography background, so they might not notice these things. But they are all important for printing and enjoying your photos. Make sure your photographer shoots with more than one body (you always want a backup), has full frame cameras, and secures your photos with hard drives. I shoot film, so I like to explain a little more about the analogue that ends up in the galleries too.
#9. What happens if you can't shoot the wedding?
I am one employee. Mandie Roberts is Thistle and Pine and that is it. So what would happen if I got food poisoning the day of your wedding or couldn't make it due to an accident or act of God? Life is unpredictable and you want to make sure you have coverage even if your photographer can't make it. It should be written into your contract that if for some reason your photographer can not make it to your wedding, they have a list of trustworthy and equally talented associate photographers who would take their place. This means the associate takes over the body of your hired photographer, hands the cards to your hired photographer and has a contract in place with your hired photographer as a contracted employee. You should not have to pay for this; associate shooters receive payment from your photographer.
#10. How do I secure you?
That is. The phone consult went better than expected, you are fan-girling over your wedding photographer's portfolio and personality and you are ready to cross this vendor off your list. Now is the time to discuss how to secure your photographer. Most times a non-refundable 50% deposit is required and the day is yours; but make sure to sign your contracts, read your proposals, figure out a time for your engagement photos and ask any questions you might have before you commit. I have had to cancel proposals due to non-payment or ghosting. If you decide you don't want to hire that photographer and haven't committed, please, always let us know.
Mandie Roberts is a seasoned yet laid back professional wedding and elopement photographer specializing in destination weddings. Using a mix of film and digital seamlessly, she incorporates her love of nostalgia and anything vintage into dreamy portraiture. Based in Colorado, New England, the United Kingdom and Ireland.