How to choose your Wedding Photographer
There have been so many studies done on wedding planning. The Knot and Wedding Wire both do big ones. According to these studies, the thing that has changed most over the last 5-7 years is the reliance on online reviews and word of mouth marketing. Young brides are either reaching out to their friends for vendor suggestions or Googling online reviews. In both cases, however, I highly recommend doing a little more investigating before booking a vendor. For catering, you will want to taste their food. For venues, you will want to tour the location. For DJs, you will want to know how they run a reception. Well, for photographers, there are lots of things you need to know that you might not know to ask. So, here is a list of 10 technical questions you need to ask a potential photographer before you make your final decision!
- Does your camera dual record? In most professional level DSLR cameras, there are two slots for memory cards. Often, one slot is for an SD card, and the other is for a CF card. In dual recording cameras, you can record two copies of every image you take. That means that at any given time, there is already at least one backup of your wedding images. Sometimes, in really crazy situations cards will corrupt. It’s nothing that the photographer has done. It’s nothing that the camera has done. It just happens sometimes. We don’t know what causes it or how to prevent it. Sometimes, you can recover the data on it, but sometimes, you can’t. With dual recording cameras, assuming the photographer has it set to record two copies of each image onto each of the cards, you do not have to worry about card corruption. Hence the reason it is so incredibly important for your wedding photographer to have a dual recording camera!
- Do you have backup equipment? Another important question. Just like how cards will randomly corrupt, sometimes gear can randomly stop working. Right when the Canon Mark IV came out, photographers everywhere had strange malfunctions with the software and firmware of the camera. Just like when a new iPhone comes out and has quirky things go wrong on it until the software update is sent out. Again, it is nothing that the photographer has done or can prevent. Or in rare and unfortunate situations when a camera is dropped or spilled on…you want your photographer to have backup equipment. And you want that backup equipment to be just as good as their primary equipment.
- What is your backup process for the images? Okay, this is a biggie. If they have dual slots discussed in question one, that means that there are immediately two copies of your images as soon as they’re taken. Then, what happens after the day is over? Does the photographer keep two copies at all time? Does she download them and then erase both cards? I would expect a professional photographer to have two copies of your cards at all times, and ultimately, have three copies when it’s all said and done. For example, at the wedding I have two copies. When I get home, I download all the images to my computer, which is automatically backed up to a cloud storage, and I leave a copy on my SD card. Then, after they are edited, I upload the edited images to your online gallery, still have them backed up on the cloud storage, and have a copy on my hard drive attached to my computer. At that point, I will erase the SD card to reuse at other sessions. If the photographer doesn’t have a good backup system, I would definitely go a different route!
- Do you have business insurance? This is important for two reasons. 1) Some high-end wedding venues require proof of insurance from your photographer before they are allowed to shoot there. So, if you book someone that doesn’t have business insurance, and your venue requires it, they may not be allowed to shoot your wedding. 2) It is a telltale sign of how professional they are. Business insurance isn’t something that most people get right out of the gate. Normally, they start shooting, then start charging, then upgrade their equipment, then get a business license, and somewhere after that maybe get business insurance. So, if you are looking to hire someone who doesn’t have business insurance, it might mean they aren’t as professional as they come across online. They may have pretty pictures, but you also want someone with experience enough to know they need business insurance. Especially for weddings!
- How long do you keep the photos after the event? Some photographers will only keep photos for 30 days after the event. Some only have a live gallery link for 30 days but keep the photos on a hard drive for a year. Some…like me…keep a copy of your images forever. Even when your gallery expires in 10 years, I still have a copy on my hard drive. This isn’t SUPER critical because you will likely download your images to a thumb drive, but what if? What if your new labradoodle eats that thumb drive? What if your toddler flushes it down the toilet? There may be an emergency where you need your photographer to have a copy, and if there is, you want to know that they do!
- Do I get high-resolution copies of each image? Is it limited to a certain size? It’s pretty industry standard in the wedding photography field that high res copies of your images are given to you as part of the package. They may come in the form of a download or a thumb drive, but either way, you have them. Did you know that photographers can limit the size you can print those high res images? This would likely be stated in the contract or on your print release. Some photographers want you to print larger prints through them so they’ll limit your high res images to only print up to an 8×10 or 11×14. Now, the reason behind this is because a professional printer really should print photos of a certain size for SO MANY REASONS, but many don’t require it. So, double-check if this is important to you!
- How do you handle the ceremony? Many of you have seen it. The photographer who is right up in your business during the ceremony. They are just feet from your face, blocking the view of almost every single one of your guests, making circles around you and the officiant. It’s distracting, irritating, and just plain rude. While you’re at this question, go ahead and ask it to your potential videographer as well. I have literal horror stories of the videographer standing directly behind the officiant for the ENTIRE CEREMONY, and they are in almost every ceremony photo. Or walking backward in front of the bride as her dad escorts her down the aisle completely blocking her view of her sweet groom. So, make sure you ask both the photographer and videographer how they handle ceremonies and how they get good shots without being intrusive!
- How do you run family formals? This is a big one that can make or break the amount of time it takes to get photos after the ceremony. Some couples will choose to do a first look and do ALL of their photos beforehand, but most, even with a first look, will still do family photos directly following the ceremony. For the most part, these photos can always be done in 15-30 minutes depending on the size of the family. There is a very specific way to make it as efficient as possible, and that is having a shot list. Shot lists do lots of things. 1) It educates your photographer on peoples’ first names. So, instead of saying, “Mom…where’s mom?” and 5 different moms respond, she says, “Jane? Where’s Jane?” and now all of a sudden Jane is right there ready to go. 2) Allows you to think through all of the different combinations you could want and who you want to be present BEFORE the wedding day. That means when you’re in the middle of family photos, you don’t have to be thinking about the different combos you want because you’ve already thought through them all and passed them on to your photographer. Now, it’s her job to make sure that you get all of them! 3) Allows the photographer to put them in an efficient order. Instead of having your grandparents get up and down and up and down, once they get up, they will do ALL of their photos to prevent them from going back and forth to their seat. Also, doing all the extended family members first and letting them clear out, and then, going through all the bride’s side, some of both sides together, and finishing with the groom’s side. Every single thing on a wedding day is about efficiency!
- What do you use for lighting at dark receptions? This one is a hard one for you to ask because you don’t necessarily know if their answer is good or not. They could say, “Oh, I use a video light,” and you wouldn’t know that is totally not good enough lighting. Or they could say, “My camera is so good that I don’t need flash,” in which case you should RUN the other direction. There’s really no way for you to know without knowing camera gear, but here’s what you want to hear that is consistent across all brands of camera equipment. You want them to have a Speedlite and know how to use it. One Speedlite would suffice, but if they’re really good, they have multiple Speedlites and use some kind of off-camera flash setup.
- How long have you been shooting weddings as the lead wedding photographer? The important word here is lead. If you just ask a photographer how long she’s been shooting weddings, she’ll probably tell you when she started second shooting weddings. Not every time, but a lot of times photographers will start out as second shooters and learn the ropes before they graduate to shooting their own + second shooting. So, if you don’t specify, they’ll tell you when they started second shooting, which is a whole other ball game in comparison to being the primary shooter. Then, depending on their answer and what you’re looking for, you may want to hire them or you may want to keep looking. Experience does a LOT for a photographer. Just having more weddings under your belt means you’ve encountered more weird circumstances and learned the best way to react and handle it. Experience can increase a photographer’s value so much because there is no way to prepare for some of the things that happen on real wedding days until they happen and you are there to handle it.
There is my list of the top 10 interview questions you should bring to your photography conversation. It is absolutely a thing of you get what you pay for type situation. Every now and then you’ll come across a young bloomer who is just PHENOMENAL and has gotten all the right things in place but isn’t charging a ton because she’s new and is just trying to get her name out there. But, for the most part, a low price tag = not great answers to the majority of the questions above. Sometimes, that’s all your budget can handle, and that is a-okay. Search hard until you find the young bloomer who is awesome but cheap (because they are hard to find), but if you can allocate a little more to photography and a little less to something else, I promise it will be worth it.
I’m a Knoxville Wedding Photographer that loves to travel…I shoot anywhere! Click here to contact me with any questions you have about pricing or booking! If you liked what you saw above, go ahead and follow me on Facebook or Instagram to see my daily updates of the latest sessions!
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