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Ask This, Not That: Don’t Hire A Wedding Photographer Without Asking This

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

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?