Wedding photographer here! First things first, ask to see a FULL wedding gallery from start to finish, and ask them how many hours of coverage that wedding was booked for. That will answer a lot of your questions right off the bat. It will show you their shooting style, what they were able to capture, and delivery of a final product. It eliminates to need to ask them “do you capture….” (insert laundry list of silly things like “the kiss” “the rings”).
I can tell you my biggest pet peeve question is “what is your style?”….and I urge people to stay away from that question. Have you seen my work? Do you like it? Yes? Ok, great….what does it matter how I classify my style?
The answers to questions will also vary a lot depending on how much time you’ve got your photographer booked for. For example, an average wedding requires 8+ hours of coverage to adequitely capture everything. Asking them what moments they cover….if you’ve only booked them for 5-6 hours means you aren’t getting the same key moments that other people are…like the getting ready process or a first look. Those are definitely things to take into consideration.
Aside from that some questions I’d ask:
- How many images can we expect? Industry standards are anywhere from 50-100 FINAL images per hour of coverage. That number varies greatly on the type of wedding. Weddings with little “action” or the same 20 people dancing the entire reception yield less images than a jam packed wedding.
- Do you have business & liability insurance, can you provide our venue with a copy? ANY photographer shooting weddings should have insurance. Period. No exceptions. They should also be able to provide you with a copy of that. Our insurance covers not only us but our gear.
- Do you have sufficient backup gear? A photographer should NEVER go to a wedding w/out comparable backup gear.
- What is included in the package? If you are unsure of what they tell you, ask them to clarify.
- What is the turnaround time on delivery of final images? Industry standards are anywhere from 6-12 weeks depending on the photographer. Prime weddings months (May/June & Sept/Oct) turnoud tends to be on the longer end simply due to volume.
Some other general info I feel it’s helpful to know:
I try to stay away from the Knot lists of what to ask a photographer. Things like “how many cameras do you shoot”…it’s sort of irrelevant. If they have sufficient backup, it really boils down to their own shooting style. I’m a petite photographer. While I always carry backup and it’s at a fingertip reach, I shoot primarily with ONE body at a time, changing lenses, because wearing two bodies + lenses is just not comfortable with me. Again, this ALL boils down to – do you like what you see with their work? Same thing for “what camear do you shoot with”. Any pro should be using pro-level gear. I do. However, I’ve picked up my SIL’s Canon Rebel with a basic 50mm lens, turned it to manual, and shot some amazing images when teaching her how to use her camera. Would I shoot a wedding with it? No, but I could. If you like what you see, image and quality wise, their camera doesn’t make a difference.
Second Shooters – Unless it’s a husband/wife team, most photographers contract second shooters for their weddings. It’s difficult to employ a full-time second shooter (and be able to pay them enough to make a living), and therefor, they usually work with a few different ones and contract out for weddings. Because of this, it can be difficult for a photographer to answer “who is your second shooter” because at the time you book they probably won’t have that nailed down. This goes back to seeing a full gallery – if you like the work you see, you’re most likely getting a comparable photographer.
CONTRACTS – Never hire anyone who a) doesnt’ have a contract, and b) has a small contract. Every question you ask a photographer, and every detail, should be outlined in the contract. My own contract is every bit of 8+ pages long. It covers everything from inclimate weather to illness, to when images will be delievered, what the package includes, etc.
Copyright – This is the #1 biggest miss-information area in photography. Any photographer who includes a “Copyright Release” is generally someone who is new to the industry or does not understand themselves – which is scary. The photographer ALWAYS retains copyright of the images, and should be providing the clients with a “Print Release”. By giving up copyright, the photographer no longer has any claim to using the images – not on their website, not for marketing, not for showcasing on their blog, nada. No legit photographer making a living is going to give up their ability to use the images to book future events. BUYING copyright is certainly an option, but it usually comes with a VERY hefty pricetag. Instead of asking if you get a Copyright Release, ask them at what resultion your images will be delivered and what kind of release is included.
At the end of the day, you just have to choose someone whos work you love, and trust them to do their job. It’s no secret money talks. A $1500 photographer is not going to be the same as a $3000 photographer. It all boils down to what you’re looking at – because again, the answers to most of these quetions will be vastly different depending on who you’re talking to.
Hope that helps! 🙂