Booking your wedding photographer is one of the biggest decisions you can make when it comes to wedding planning. Not only will that individual be responsible for capturing the images that forever document your special day, but you also have to spend a lot of time together (oftentimes you spend more time with them than your spouse!).
While I can’t tell you what kind of personality will work best between you and your future photographer (you should be able to tell from their website, social media and getting on the phone with them!), I do have some questions listed that you should ask when booking your wedding photographer that will determine if you’re working with a seasoned professional or amateur.
1. HOW MANY IMAGES ARE INCLUDED?
This is important to ask because you want to make sure you won’t be charged additional fees later on when it’s time to receive your final gallery. The industry average is 75-100 edited images per hour.
So, for a typical 8-hour wedding day, you can expect to receive between 600 and 800 images. If you include second shooter coverage, you can expect that number to go up anywhere between 100-300+ images– this varies from photographer to photographer.
This is my approach, although I like to tell folks that the goal is always to tell the story of their wedding day. If there are more than 800 great images from their wedding day, I’m going to include them without an additional fee.
2. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SHOOTING WEDDINGS? HOW MANY?
These questions are the equivalent of reviewing years of experience on a resume. In my opinion, folks should shoot at least 30 weddings as the lead before calling themselves a seasoned photographer. You want an experienced professional who has seen and shot in it all– in rain or sunshine, indoors or outdoors, with huge bridal parties or separated families– because nothing prepares you for any of these scenarios quite as well as experience.
3. WHAT’S YOUR EDITING PROCESS?
This question is important because it dictates what your final images will look like! You want to make sure that whoever you book understands color correction and appropriate exposure. They may have taken great images in camera, but they’re far from complete!
Also, make sure you like the editing style of whoever you’re hiring! This is where the artistic side (and presets) of every photographer truly comes out. My goal is to edit with colors and lighting that are true to real life rather than using a filter that makes all your images look the same. Independent of color corrections, my typical lighting edits include an increase to image brightness and contrast (because I just love light & color).
Check out the two images below; the first is straight out of the camera (SOOC), and the second is after being edited.
4. HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO RECEIVE OUR PHOTOS?
You don’t want to be stuck waiting 4-6 months to receive your final wedding images. Make sure to ask photographers if they offer previews, and how quickly after the wedding (you need to have a few photos to share on social media!). Also ask about the timeline that will be put in your contract for when you’ll receive your images (4-8 weeks is the industry average).
5. WHAT’S YOUR BACKUP PROCESS?
Okay, this one is big. Everything about your wedding day may be seamless and everything you dreamed, but what if you don’t end up with your final images? What if your photographer’s camera malfunctions mid-ceremony? What if one of the SD cards is corrupt? Can your photographer ensure that you’ll end up with all of the images from your wedding day?
BACKUPS. BACKUPS. BACKUPS.
(say it louder for the people in the back!)
I’m going to give you a bit of inside scoop on this so that you know what kind of answers to look for after asking this question:
- Replace your SD cards regularly. Sadly, they just tend to fail after a certain amount of use.
- Come prepared with backup equipment. I have three cameras and at least 5 lenses on hand when I’m shooting a wedding.
- Write images to two memory cards. Higher end DSLR cameras have dual-writing functions. I like to think of this as insurance in case one of the cards fail.
- Backup your wedding images at least 3 places. As soon as I get home from a wedding, I immediately upload my memory cards to my Mac desktop. And an external solid state hard drive. And cloud storage. I keep all original images on the SD card until the final gallery is delivered.
6. WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU GET SICK AND CAN’T SHOOT OUR WEDDING?
If you haven’t been asking this question, I can see the “oh shooooooot” look plastered on your face now! Not every photographer has an associate that he or she can point to as a backup for these rare circumstances, but it’s very important that you’re satisfied with whatever answer he or she gives you to this question (most of us would have to be on our deathbed to miss shooting a wedding). Also, make sure that this is covered in your contract.
7. WHAT’S YOUR CANCELLATION POLICY?
Not a fun one, but should you find yourself in a situation where you need to cancel your photography coverage, it’s important to understand how this works before you sign a contract. Typically if you cancel within 3-6+ months of the wedding date, you’ll be out your retainer, but that’s about it.
9/10 your retainer will not be refundable because the photographer has marked your wedding date as unavailable to all of the inquiries being received. When folks cancel their wedding, this is a source of revenue that photographers are now missing out on that they could have had otherwise. Retainers help offset this and provide financial consistency throughout the year.
8. HOW DOES PRINTING WORK? DO YOU PROVIDE A PRINT RELEASE?
Most professional wedding photographers deliver images via online galleries that also offer printing (and, shameless plug, your photographer will get a cut of profit on these prints). These will be high-end and high quality photos, not your Walgreens grade of photo prints (you know, the ones with an occasional streak through the middle and incorrect coloring).
However, if you would still like to have a print release so that you can print your images locally, ask your photographer if this is something he or she would be willing to provide and make sure that you have a written agreement from them to do so before you sign a contract.
9. HAVE YOU SHOT AT OUR VENUE BEFORE?
If they have, great! Ask them to send you a complete wedding gallery (or two!) from that wedding. If they haven’t, this really shouldn’t be a deal breaker (just ask for a gallery from a wedding with a venue that’s similar to yours!). Seasoned photographers won’t have a problem with shooting in a new environment, but you do want to make sure they’re prepared.
10. CAN WE SEE FULL GALLERIES FROM YOUR RECENT WEDDINGS?
Think of Instagram as a highlight reel. It’s where the photographers put their best foot forward, showing you the best of the best. It’s highly curated (as it should be!), but it doesn’t give you a full scope of a photographers skillset. Maybe she nails the couples portraits, but the family photos aren’t great. His reception photos are FIRE, but the detail photos should be set on fire. You won’t know any of this until you look at a few full galleries from recent weddings.
I genuinely hope you and your fiancé feel equipped to book the right wedding photographer for your upcoming wedding after reviewing this resource. You got thisss. Go get ‘em!