Important Questions to Ask Photographers Before You Book

Before you hire a shooter, quiz possible pros on these important points.
Black and white exit photography
Photo by Allison Kuhn Photography

Once you've narrowed down your short list to two or three potential photographers, meet with each in person (or by video chat if logistics are tough) to see if you feel comfortable around them. We can't stress enough how important this is—almost as crucial as their skills behind the camera. You'll be spending your entire wedding day with this person and if you're at ease, you'll not only enjoy yourself more, but they'll also get better shots. Win-win! Aside from your gut instinct, ask these questions before choosing a photographer (since they're a little lengthy, email some when you're deciding with whom to meet):

What style(s) do you specialize in?

Why you want to know: Most shooters use a blend of several different styles of photography, but you'll want to make sure they shoot portraits, for example, if they're important to you. You wouldn't ask Monet to paint you a Picasso, right? Going with the style a photographer likes to shoot best (and has the most experience shooting) will give you the best results.

Will the photos be retouched and color balanced? Is that done before I see the proofs?

Why you want to know: These are the techniques magazines use to make pages look perfect. Some photographers will polish all your photos, while others will show you untouched proofs and work their magic only on the images you order.

How many weddings have you shot, and how many do you do in a year? Also, what's your favorite part of a wedding day, and time of year to shoot?

Why you want to know: You only have one chance to get amazing wedding photos, so you'll want to hire someone who knows how to get those shots under pressure (read: someone who shoots weddings for a living, not your old college roommate who takes pictures as a hobby).

Do you shoot both digital and film?

Why you want to know: While digital is more common today, film has had a resurgence. If you want the latter, be sure your photographer has the relevant experience and skills required to execute this old-school format. If you're obsessed with the dreamy quality of film, go with a pro in this medium. In addition to asking how many weddings they've shot in total (see above), let them know how many you want taken with film.

If you shoot film, do you usually shoot in both color and black and white? If you'll do both, what percentage of each do you recommend?

Why you want to know: These days, most shooters will do a mix of both color and black and white. You'll get a sense of their style and how your album might look by asking what balance they usually go with.

What exactly is included in your packages?

Why you want to know: When comparing fees, check whether prints, albums and proofs, as well as extra coverage such as engagement shoots, are covered. They can all alter the costs significantly. It's not necessarily a bad thing if, say, your album isn't included—you can always make this on your own or buy it à la carte—but you want to be sure you're comparing apples to apples to get the best value. If you're having your shooter use film, also ask about film costs and processing fees.

How many hours of coverage do we get? What is the charge for overtime?

Why you want to know: If overtime is going to cost you a ton, you'll be able to plan their hours accordingly. For instance, if you have six hours of coverage but your photographer charges a huge hourly rate for overtime, you might have them leave after you cut the cake instead of after the last dance. Or, you may opt for a longer package to pay a little more up front (and avoid the larger hourly overtime rate later).

What is the deposit and total fee?

Why you want to know: In addition to this bottom line number, you'll also want to ask when it's due.

Will you be my actual photographer, or will it be one of your associates?

Why you want to know: Don't assume Bruce of Bruce Photography will be taking your photos. That doesn't mean Bruce's partner Frank is subpar, but you'll want to meet with him (and see his photos) in order to make an informed decision.

Do you have backup photographers who will shoot the wedding if you're sick?

Why you want to know: If you're going with a company that employs a team of photographers, you'll have a built-in backup. But if you're going with a solo shooter, ask if they have colleagues on call in case of an emergency.

Will there be a second shooter or any assistants? Is there an additional fee for each (if applicable)?

Why you want to know: Second shooters can cover more ground and can give you two perspectives on major moments (for instance, one can shoot the groom's face when he first sees his bride and the other can photograph the bride as she walks down the aisle). But this may cost you extra.

How long after the wedding do we get to see the photos?

Why you want to know: You'll want to see photos ASAP, and the wait can be pretty agonizing (it can take months!). But if you know in advance, you can manage your (and your mom's) expectations.

How do you coordinate with my videographer? How do you envision working together?

Why you want to know: This pair will need to coordinate and stay out of each other's way— easier to do if they have a good rapport. If you haven't hired a videographer yet, ask them for a suggestion.

How many weddings do you do a weekend?

Why you want to know: If your photographer is shooting an afternoon wedding before yours, you'll need to work out a plan if the first event runs over.

Have you ever shot at my venue(s) before?

Why you want to know: Your shooter should be aware of any lighting needs or issues specific to the space. If they haven't ever worked in your venue, they should be willing to check it out beforehand.

Will you follow a shot list? Or do you prefer to have free reign to capture the festivities how you see fit?

Why you want to know: Most photographers will welcome a (short) shot list to make sure you get the specific pics you want. But don't overwhelm them with hundreds of requests—if you hire a good pro, you're hiring them for their eye as well as their experience creating amazing albums, so let them do their job.

What type of paper will you use for the prints and album?

Why you want to know: The answer should be acid-free, archival-quality paper, which will stand the test of time.

What are the restrictions for sharing photos online or for publication? Do you own the copyright to the photos?

Why you want to know: If you're a Facebook and Instagram addict, not being allowed to share some of your wedding photos online may be torture—better to know about this ahead of time.

Do you bring your own lighting?

Why you want to know: Not only will you want to determine if you'll need to supply additional lighting (either hiring a lighting designer or having the venue supply it), but you'll want to be sure the equipment they bring won't be too bulky or obtrusive.

What will you wear?

Why you want to know: Discussing their wedding day wardrobe will allow your photographer to plan to match the style of your wedding. Most will be happy to blend into the scenery (for instance, wearing black for an evening loft event or lighter hues for a daytime garden party).


> Need more advice on wedding photography and videography? Find it here!

> Choosing your wedding photography style? W'eve got the breakdown here!

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