I’m not sure why I took this much time to address some of these questions, but I feel like a lot of these lists are not necessarily the best or most relevant information you can be asking photographers. I bolded my thoughts on some of this stuff.
1. Do you have my date available? NOTE: Obviously, if the answer is NO and you’re not willing or able to change your date, don’t bother asking the rest of these questions.
That’s pretty basic, however if you do not have a date set yet unless you are booking a photographer based on their availability you’ve contacted them too early.
2. How far in advance do I need to book with you?
This question is just downright silly. If you have a photographer you want to book, book them. Unless you are getting married on a weekday it there is a good chance that your date can be booked at anytime. Sure you might get lucky, but the longer you wait the more chances someone else has to book your photographer on your date.
3. How long have you been in business?
Experience can be extremely useful when it comes to dealing with weddings. Sometimes is a very distinct advantage one photographer might have over another. It’s not everything though.
4. How many weddings have you shot? Have you done many that were similar to mine in size and style?
Again hiring someone who is seasoned isn’t a bad thing. Experience can be helpful, but a lot of photographers can be most inspired by new experiences and situations.
5. How would you describe your photography style (e.g. traditional, photojournalistic, creative)? NOTE: It’s helpful to know the differences between wedding photography styles so that you can discuss your preferences with your photographer. For descriptions of the various styles, see the next page.
I can literally yawn at this question. This is the question to ask if you have never seen any work by the photographer you’re talking to. But if you haven’t throughly examined their website and portfolio- why are you talking to them?
6. How would you describe your working style? NOTE: The answer should help you determine whether this is a photographer who blends into the background and shoots what unfolds naturally, or creates a more visible presence by taking charge and choreographing shots.
A better question might be to ask them to describe a typical wedding from the time they arrive to when they depart.
7. What do you think distinguishes your work from that of other photographers?
The work should speak for itself, the experience is what sets photographers apart.
8. Do you have a portfolio I can review? Are all of the images yours, and is the work recent?
It seems like most of these questionnaires floating around were created when people found photographers through the yellow pages. Let’s hope you’ve sen their website. Asking them if the images they are can definitely be relevant, especially with a photographers who has associate photographers or numerous second shooters. Is the work recent? A photographer should have a blog! That should answer how fresh the work is. A photographer who hasn’t updated their blog in the last 6 months might be a warning sign.
9. What type of equipment do you use?
I don’t think this question is relevant. It’s like asking a contractor what sort of hammer he or she is going to bring to build your house. If you’re worried about equipment the relevant question is do they have backups, and are their lenses fast (f/2.8 or faster).
10. Are you shooting in digital or film format or both?
NOTE: The general consensus seems to be that either format yields excellent photos in the hands of an experienced professional, and that most people can’t tell the difference between film or digital images anyway.
In 2012 this is almost a silly question. Photographers who shoot film will specifically advertise that they do.
11. Do you shoot in color and black & white? Both? Infrared? NOTE: Photographers who shoot in a digital format can make black & white or sepia versions of color photos.
99.9% of digital shooters are going to shoot in color, and process the images based on lighting conditions or their artistic eye. Some of us have specific processing techniques for black and white versus color, so multiple versions of the same photo are not always presented. Infrared is extremely rare.
12. Can I give you a list of specific shots we would like?
Aside from family photos, a competent photographer should be open to your ideas, but not working off of a clipboard at your wedding. You will get better results when you trust the professional you’ve hired and don’t try to control every aspect of the experience.
13. Can you put together a slideshow of the engagement session (along with other photos the couple provides) and show it during the cocktail hour? What
about an “instant” slideshow of the ceremony?
This is actually something that DJs are usually responsible for. Some photographers do provide same day edits where they might show a few photos from the beginning of the wedding.
14. What information do I need to provide you before the wedding day?
This is a good question, every photographer will have a different way of going about collecting the info they need.
15. Have you ever worked with my florist? DJ? Coordinator, etc.? NOTE: Some vendors have great working relationships that help things go smoothly. It’s especially helpful if your videographer and photographer work well together.
Some vendors do work better together I suppose. You might consider asking your photographer for recommendations depending on what stage in the planning that you hire them. I’ve shot a lot of weddings, and only a small percentage of them have had videographers present. Most professionals can work together, but you should definitely alert your photographer that you are going to have a videographer there so they have the opportunity to make contact with each other pre wedding.
16. May I have a list of references? NOTE: The photographer should not hesitate to provide this.
Think about this for a second. If you ask any vendor for references they are going to provide you references from their A+ former clients who will advocate them. That’s totally fine, but if you are really looking for a bigger picture you should look for reviews on Google, Yelp, and Wedding Wire.
17. Are you the photographer who will shoot my wedding? If so, will you have any assistants with you on that day? If not, who will be taking the pictures and can I meet them before my wedding? NOTE: You should ask the questions on this list of whoever is going to be the primary photographer at your event, and that photographer’s name should be on your contract.
Hopefully you go with an independent photographer or small studio, versus a big studio experience like Bella. You should know who your primary photographer is. Keep in mind that assistants are not photographers, and unless it’s a husband and wife team there is a very small chance that you will actually be able to meet with the second shooter before the wedding.
18. Do you have backup equipment? What about a backup plan if you (or my scheduled photographer) are unable to shoot my wedding for some reason?
Everyone should have backup equipments, and backup plans. Keep in mind that even the best networked wedding vendors are running small businesses, and they will not be able to guarantee they will be able to provide another photographer in an emergency. They should certainly try, but there won’t be a guarantee. Even large studios attempt to book all of their photographers out on key days so there truly are no guarantees. If this is a big worry of yours, stick with a husband and wife team, or two photographers who work with each other in a partnership.
19. If my wedding site is out of your area, do you charge a travel fee and what does that cover?
20. Are you photographing other events on the same day as mine?
This question is kind of weird, as a photographer I’m not sure how it’d be possible to shoot multiple weddings on the same day.
21. How will you (and your assistants) be dressed? NOTE: The photographer and his/her staff should look professional and fit in with the style of your event.
This isn’t a question you should have to ask a full time professional, or a photographer who isn’t starting out. Of course that’s personal opinion, but you should get a sense of style from your photographer during your meeting.
22. Is it okay if other people take photos while you’re taking photos?
It ought to be, it’s your wedding! Most photographers will require that there be no other photographer hired on to document your day. And obviously if guests get in our way, shots get ruined. Few photographers will have any rules against your guests though.
23. Have you ever worked at my wedding site before? If not, do you plan to check it out in advance? NOTE: Photographers who familiarize themselves with a location ahead of time will be prepared for any lighting issues or restrictions, and will know how best to incorporate the site’s architectural elements into the photos.
A photographer should be concerned with what the lighting conditions are going to be like so they will be prepared. They may not have time to physically visit your site, but if the venue doesn’t have a website with good photos you should be able to describe where the ceremony and reception will take place. If it’s outdoors you should mention the time of day and what you expect the weather to be like. If it’s indoors the color, height, and pitch of the ceiling can be factors.
24. What time will you arrive at the site and for how long will you shoot?
Well you’re hiring them… what time do you want them to arrive?
25. If my event lasts longer than expected, will you stay?
The correct answer should be, “sure!”
Is there an additional charge?
Most photographers will give you 15-30 minutes of grace period, but be expected to pay an hourly rate after that.
26. What packages do you offer?
Most have 3-5, or they may do custom packages based on the information you provide them.
27. Can I customize a package based on my needs?
If they have packages they will likely have an a la carte menu as well.
28. Do you include engagement photos in your packages?
Hopefully you look at the packages before asking this one.
29. What type of album designs do you offer? Do you provide any assistance in creating an album?
Most photographers do their own album designing.
30. Do you provide retouching, color adjustment or other corrective services?
Never assume a photographer does any retouching. Always ask if this is important to you.
31. How long after the wedding will I get the proofs? Will they be viewable online? On a CD?
It’s good to have a reasonable expectation of when the photos will be available.
32. What is the ordering process?
33. How long after I order my photos/album will I get them?
34. Will you give me the negatives or the digital images, and is there a fee for that?
Negatives are a film term. I personally hate the term “digital negatives” because it should be synonymous for RAW files, but it’s often used in place of “high resolution file,” or “proof.” All of these terms have different meanings. Most photographers will offer full resolution files, and web ready files. Only the web ready files should have a watermark on them. Also keep in mind that some photographer will provide images suitable for printing to a certain size. Know all of this stuff before you book.
35. When will I receive a written contract? TIP: Don’t book a photographer—or any vendor—who won’t provide a written contract.
You should have a signed contract either before or at the same time money is exchanged.
36. How much of a deposit do you require and when is it due? Do you offer a payment plan?
Good to know.
37. What is your refund/cancellation policy?
Good to know.
38. Do you have liability insurance?
The answer should be yes.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
1. Do I feel a connection with this photographer as well as his/her photos? Are our personalities a good match?
THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION TO ASK YOURSELF.
2. Am I comfortable with this person’s work and communication style?
Good to know.
3. Has this photographer listened well and addressed all my concerns?
Good to know.
Check references. Ask the photographer for at least 5 references, preferably of couples whose wedding was similar to yours in size and/or style. Getting feedback from several people who have actually hired the photographer in question can really help you decide if that person is right for you.
Again if you are looking for more unbiased information look up reviews instead of asking for references.