Congratulations! You’ve found a photographer with a portfolio you love, now what? Here’s ten questions to ask during your initial meeting that will ensure they’re the one for the job.
1: “Do you have a contract?”
-This one is a dealbreaker, even if you are having a friend photograph your wedding, a simple document that outlines the expectations of each party involved will go a long way to ensure everyone gets what they want out of the deal.
Some things to review in particular:
*When will they arrive, and how long will they stay?
*How/when will photos be delivered?
*What rights to photos do you have?
*Where and how will images from the wedding be used by the photographer?
*What is the retainer fee, and under what circumstances is it refundable?
2: ”What happens if the photographer can’t come for some reason?”
-Having a backup plan for as many things as possible is critical to wedding photography. Your photographer should be able to articulate what action they would take in the event they were unable to attend your wedding on short notice.
3: “What is your experience with weddings?”
-There’s a lot to unpack here, so bear with me. Number of years photographing weddings is not nearly as important as the actual number (whether the main or second photographer) that your photographer has worked, and neither of those things are as important as the training and time your photographer has put in to learning their craft. Which leads me to my next point. Website portfolios are great, especially when they show a variety of photographic situations. With that said, I would suggest you view at least one full wedding before making your decision. Make sure to ask if images on the website are from real weddings or from styled shoots, which are much more forgiving environments to create great work in.
4: “Can I customize a package?”
-Some photographers have multiple packages with every different combination of features possible, while others have a single all-day , all-inclusive package listed. Chances are, if you know what you need, the photographer will be willing to make a package specifically for you…but it’s best to ask.
5: “How long do you retain my images?”
-Let me lead with this; BACK UP YOUR IMAGES WHEN YOU GET THEM. Seriously, seriously…the most important thing you can do is back up your files in multiple locations, preferably at least one cloud-based. That said, your photographer should keep your images safe for some length of time after they are delivered to you, find out how long that will be. (Pro-tip: most photographers never delete data on purpose…however, all storage eventually fails. If you ever lose your wedding images, its worth reaching out to your photographer to see if they still have them, there may be a charge to unarchive them depending on how long ago the wedding was….but it’s worth a try.)
6: “What are your policies for cancellations and reschedules?”
-It’s 2020 and coronavirus is an unfortunate fact of life right now, weddings are being cancelled or rescheduled at a rate which I have never personally experienced. Generally speaking, most photographers are extending an abundance of grace with respect to rescheduling weddings, so long as they have the new date available. There might be a fee to move the wedding, this is something to work out ahead of time. As far as cancellations go, the retainer fee that you pay to book the wedding is almost universally not refundable in the event that you have to cancel.
7: “Do you offer prints or albums?”
-If your photographer offers albums, the two most important factors for longevity of the prints are paper and ink type. Specifically, look for terms like “archival” and “acid free” when referring to paper, and “lightfast” or “archival” when referring to inks. These prints will be significantly more expensive than the ones you may be used to from the local drugstore, but they will maintain their quality for generations if they are properly stored and displayed.
Something to consider, in some states, such as Florida, if a photographer provides a physical product to the client as a part of the wedding package, they are required to charge sales tax on the entire contract. For this reason, some photographers, like myself, recommend that couples create their own prints and albums using Mpix.com, which has high quality and reasonably priced prints, in order to save them potentially hundreds of dollars.
8: “Do you offer video, or partner with any videographers?”
-Having photography and videography teams that work well together will help keep the whole day running smoothly and efficiently, it may also save you some money if you book both services at the same time.
9: “Should I do a first look?”
-This is a personal choice for you and your future spouse to make. When I’m asked for my input, I always suggest doing a first look because it will free up some time after the ceremony, giving you the chance to spend a few minutes alone together to celebrate, or gets you to the party sooner!
10: “Will you be my actual photographer?”
-Some photography companies have several photographers who work as associates under one brand, generally all of these associates are of a similar style and skill level, but it is important that you get to meet your photographer before you spend your whole wedding day with them.