In writing my ultimate wedding planning guide for couples trying to find their wedding photographer, I thought back on all the questions I’ve been asked by prospective couples over the last decade plus of photographing weddings. And then I thought about the meetings where couples have turned up with PDFs downloaded from bride websites or ripped out of magazines and I don’t think they are necessarily the best things you can ask your potential photographer. So what are the real questions you should be asking your wedding photographer before you book them?
Can I see a whole gallery?
This is really the best way you’ll get a feel for the wedding photographer’s work and a great question to ask. If you have a coffee with me I’ll show you some whole albums of weddings, but I will also send you over a few full galleries of weddings.
When I do this I’ll try and find weddings in a similar setting; if you’re having a church wedding followed by a tipi reception then I’ll see if I have anything similar so you can visualise something similar. Obviously, it’s hard to match every single wedding but it’s more helpful to see a church if that’s your wedding style and so on.
While you’re there check and see if there are some reviews and testimonials from former clients on their site and make sure they’re getting great feedback. Are the things that are said are the kind of experience you want from your day too?
I hope that you’ve asked this before you meet up with a wedding photographer and you find that the photographer’s work matches your needs for your wedding and you can move on to what you want to ask in person!
Have you worked at this wedding venue before?
I’m going to add this one in just because I think the answer if useful for couple’s to hear.
I personally think the answer you get will be useful for you to decide what is important to you.
Early on in my professional photographer career I was turned down by a couple because they went with a wedding photographer who “knew all the spots to take couple shots”, whereas I’d not photographed at the venue before and that was important to them. I looked at his website and realised that all couples were getting photos in the same locations and that’s the opposite of what I want to deliver to my couples.
So for me, I love being asked this question, because although I have experience working at the same venues a lot of times I never give couples the same photos in the same places. I feel your photos should be unique to you.
And no, I don’t do venue visits before the day either. I used to but I’d get ideas stuck in my head about where group photos should be taken or where the best spots for couple photos were and it would complete stifle my creativity on the day if the light was different / it wasn’t the same exact time of day as the venue visit / the seasons had changed / it was raining etc.
Can you help me understand the how the day will work?
This is a big one! You need to make sure you understand exactly what your wedding photographer can offer you. I know that when we were building an extension it got tricky trying to figure out who was offering what… it’s a bit like comparing apples and oranges!
But make sure you understand exactly what the wedding packages offered by each photographer includes. Do they include a second shooter or is this extra? What will you cover on the day in terms of hours; will you leave straight after you sit down to your wedding breakfast, the speeches, first dance or stay till the wee hours?
If they plan to leave earlier than you’d like can you ask them to stay longer and is there an extra hours cost? Remember these photos are going to be the story of your day after your wedding is over so it’s important you think about what you would like captured.
Can we give you a shot list?
This is a good way to understand how your wedding photographer works.
Personally I don’t need to be given a list of specific shots apart from things that I wouldn’t know about otherwise. So yes, I absolutely need a list of what group shots you want and if there is anything that is unique to your day such as you have an heirloom hanging on a bouquet that you want captured etc.
Once I got given a list that was 5 sides of A4 that included requests for photos like ‘bride getting make up’, ‘bride walking down aisle’, ‘first kiss’ etc. These moments make up part of normal weddings and will, of course, be captured and trying to sift through a long list just slowed me down to find things I needed in the mammoth list!
Can we have an engagement shoot?
This is a great question to ask! An engagement shoot is a brilliant way to have a trial run with your photographer before the big day.
Because none of us are that confident being photographed in this way, it’s a great chance to get those camera nerves out of the way in advance as well as seeing how your chosen photographer works.
I personally feel that couples who have an engagement shoot benefit in three ways.
Firstly, they have an awesome time!
Secondly, they relax in front of the camera and around me which gives them better photos on the wedding day.
Thirdly, they get some awesome photos from their pre-wedding shoot too!
Questions that you can also spend about 2 minutes asking your wedding photographer!
If these things matter to you then crack on, but I don’t know of any professional in any field that wouldn’t have insurance for example. But the 50 point PDF in the magazines have these and about 500 other questions from different angles in them!
- Do you have wedding insurance? (Yes, it’s called professional indemnity and public liability insurance and it costs a fortune, ha!)
- Are you a full-time business? All magazines say you need to be asking this. Part of me wants to say sure ask this because I am full time so it goes in my favour, but why does it matter? If a part-time wedding photographer is able to do the time consuming work of editing photos around another job, does it impact you at all? Sure, if they’ve only been photographing a couple of years, you’ll probably ascertain that from your questions, the number of weddings they’ve photographed and their work. But we all start somewhere!
- Do you have backup equipment? I feel this is an obvious question and I hope all experienced photographers are going to say yes to this one!
- Do you have a backup plan if you’re ill? Again, any good photographer will volunteer this information to you before you even ask because I know it’s something that couples worry about! Most of us have a little list of photographers we can call on in worst case scenarios!
And the most important question you should be asking yourself after your meeting…
Do I like this person?
Your photographer is around you all day. You are trusting them to tell the whole story of the day, capture candid moments of the day that involve them being right in the action and be alone with you for couple photos. If you’re finding them in any way annoying over a coffee they aren’t the right fit for your whole day.
If you’re getting on well now, then there’s a good chance your day will go well too! You want to be around a friend with a camera!
What are the next steps?
If you like the photographer and feel your questions have been properly answered then maybe it’s time to think about booking! By now you should have double checked about what the terms of deposit and final payment and if there are any add-ons for travel or accommodation if you aren’t getting married locally. However all of these boring details should also be clearly laid out in the contract that your photographer will send over to you so you’ll get another chance to check through everything.
This contract will also lay out all the other obligations they have to you and your images like delivery times and so on. Please do make sure you have a contract in place as it can save you so many headaches in the long run and will keep your relationship running happily when you both know exactly what you can expect. (Seems super unsexy but it is important to have things written down).
I hope this has been helpful in understanding some of the REAL questions to ask your wedding photographer before booking. Sure you can ask about have you ever photographed a large wedding, whether you get a selection of unedited photos or how a photographer triple backs up your photos to what kind of storage (and ask these things too if they are of particular concern to you), but don’t be distracted by wedding magazines and wedding sites.
I once got asked about what camera apertures I used on a wedding day. When I asked the groom if he was a keen photographer and why he was asking me that, he said that a wedding magazine had recommended it as a good question. It’s such a bizarre question that tells a couple nothing no matter the answer I give! So make sure you are asking the questions that matter to you and the ones that will help you make the best decision for you about the photographer that will suit your day.