Updated: Jan 30, 2020
I am a professional wedding photographer....now. But when I got married, I wasn’t.
I literally knew nothing about what to expect from a wedding photographer. I was just a bride trying to save money, find good vendors and pay for all of it at the same time without going into debt. You too?
I learned the hard way on what I should have asked before I hired my photographer. I made assumptions and you know how that goes.
Follow these 7 steps to make sure you don’t make the same wedding mistakes I did.
HERE'S MY TOP 7: ASK THIS, NOT THAT
#1 DON’T ASK: How long have you been a photographer?
DO ASK: How many weddings have you done as the primary photographer?
This question gets you more to the heart of a wedding photographer’s experience. I’m not saying you can’t hire a newbie, just understand that all photographers are not created equal. Weddings are a unique event, it’s worth making sure you have someone that’s seen it all. A person may have been a photographer for years, but they may be new to weddings specifically.
My mistake: My photographer’s portfolio was limited. I should have asked to see more work.
My answer: After doing hundreds of weddings, I have learned so many things along the way. For example, I now I know where I need to stand in a Catholic mass during the Ave Maria song or to be ready for the glass smashing 'Mazel Tov' at a Jewish wedding. I know that I can push my shutter speed to a low setting for a dim lit ceremony, but I better have it back up for the race back down the aisle. It's the little things you learn over time. :)
#2 DON’T ASK: Have you photographed my venue before?
DO ASK: What’s your approach to photographing a wedding?
No experienced photographer should have a problem shooting a wedding at a new place. I actually find my creativity is stronger on my first visit. Seriously!
You do want to know their approach to how your day will go. Will it be directed or documented as if the photographer wasn’t there? Will they pull you aside for an impromtu photo idea or just follow the timeline? All this is important to set expectations.
My mistake: I ended up creating most of my own poses for our pictures and I personally would have liked a little more direction/input/ideas from my photographer.
My answer: I do a little bit of directing, posing and candid. During getting ready pictures, I might tell you to move your hand a little or look in the mirror. Family pictures are always posed, so you can expect that. Bride and groom pictures are usually more directed like walk this way, look back at me, hug each other, etc. We will do a lot of variety and different areas, so you have a lot of different types of pictures to choose from. And then finally, most of your reception through the final exit is documented as it happens.
#3 DON’T ASK: Will I get all my photos on a USB?
DO ASK: How many photos can I expect to receive on my USB?
This can vary widely. In my circle of photographers, I know many firmly believe in delivering a set number of images and others give a range. Who knew? When I got married, I was naive and thought I would get it all!
My mistake: This was the biggest one for me. I received 200 images. I know there were more and I wished I got to see them.
My answer: I typically deliver about over 100 images per hour. So a typical 6 hour wedding will regularly receive over 600 images. I've had couples with really long weddings receive over 1,500 images. I would never dream to limit the full extent of what I captured. It’s all yours.
#4 DON’T ASK: Can you work with a dark venue?
DO ASK: What type of lighting do you use during a wedding?
Truth is, most wedding receptions ARE dark. I know there are natural light photographers that are terrified of using flash or working in this type of setting. You want to find out if your photographer knows how to use flash to bring light in where it's needed most. Make sure your photographer has a plan for lighting your venue and that it doesn’t involve a pop up camera flash. This will ensure that your reception is lit with dimensional, interesting light that lets you relive exactly how the wedding felt.
My mistake: Our ceremony location was extremely backlit and my photographer didn’t have the lighting capability or experience to overcome the silhouette effect.
My answer: We use the highest level full frame cameras, lenses and off camera lighting to make sure light is never a problem, no matter the venue. We typically set up 1-2 off camera flashes on stands around the room to get the light coverage that is needed. We will also use on camera external flashes to fill in the other remaining dark spots. Off camera lighting is essential for getting unique night portraits!
#5 DON’T ASK: How much are your packages?
DO ASK: Do you have any current specials?
Most photographers will have their wedding packages and pricing on their website. If not, usually they will list a range. I personally believe in full disclosure and so what you see is what you pay, complete with specifics on what you will receive. It’s so funny how many people send a message from my site asking for pricing when it’s all on there. Photographers, can you relate?
After you browse the wedding packages, then, ALWAYS ask what the current specials are. They may seem like they are out of your budget, but you never know unless you ask!
If you have a special scenario like a weekday wedding or you’re a veteran, it never hurts to ask if there is a discount for you.
Pro tip: Love their work, but not the price?
Ask if they can adjust a package to remove something and lower the cost.
My mistake: I went with the cheapest photographer instead of one who I loved and was confident in their portfolio.
My answer: More often than not, I have specials going-- anything from a discount for weekday weddings, deals for my sisters of Kappa Delta Chi or just a general discount for a limited time. I get couples all the time that see my site and think my prices are out of their range and never contact me. But the ones that do, most of the time we can create something that fits us both perfectly. I offer regular discounts for states/countries that are new to me, veterans, and teachers. Ask.
#6 DON’T ASK: Do you edit the photos?
DO ASK: What’s your process for our processing our photos after the wedding?
You want to make sure you receive edited photos and this takes time. Believe it or not, there are photographers that shoot and deliver without even editing a photo. And then there are others that over edit like a crazy Instagram filter.
Make sure you look at their portfolio and it has an overall look that you like. What you see is what you are going to receive.
If you want a bright and airy style, mention it up front. If you’re looking for dark and moody, make sure it’s something they can do. Ask specific questions about photos in their portfolio that you like and if they can be recreated.
My mistake: My photos were edited with unnatural colors and vingnettes when I wanted more classic.
My answer: I edit them all, literally all of them, in a very natural way. My normal processing style is generally colorful, but I have also edited weddings in a airy or trendy dark style by request. I edit in both Lightroom and Photoshop and I can remove your pimples too. Just call me Dr. Pimple Deleter. LOL.
#7 DON’T ASK: What’s your photography style?
DO ASK: Can you show me some galleries of full weddings from beginning to end?
You will certainly be able to tell a lot more from seeing a full wedding from beginning to end --the type of photos you receive, how details are handled, what family pictures look like. If someone explained their style as fun, timeless or classic, it will be less clear than seeing a group of silly groomsmen or an elegant bridal picture.
With a full gallery, you can see lighting, style, the posed/candid ratio, and the overall emotion from the day. And it’s definitely bonus if you can see a complete wedding from your actual venue which will really help you to visualize your own day.
Every wedding photographer and venue put their best highlights on their websites, so it is good to see what the rest of the moments look like as a part of a full package.
My mistake: I only saw a handful of images from my photographer's portfolio, so I didn't realize I needed to see how she handled the whole day.
My answer: I am happy to send you my full wedding gallery site so you can view away.
Other Great Questions to Ask
Do I get printing rights?
What happens if you are unable to make the wedding?
Do you offer a payment plan?
Can you help me plan my timeline?
How much time is needed for pictures after the ceremony?
Do I need a 2nd photographer?
How long will it be until I receive all my edited photos?
Do you charge a travel fee?
What is the deposit to reserve my date?
Can you help with videography?
Can we meet?
Tiffany Hopwood Photography specializes in wedding and destination wedding throughout the US and the world. www.TiffanyHopwoodPhotography.com