By: Nellamor King
A crucial part of wedding planning is getting to know your wedding photographer and developing a sincere relationship. When looking for someone to shoot your special day, there are a few essential questions to ask your wedding photographer – not only for practical business purposes but also to deepen your partnership.
Think about it: you will spend all day with your wedding photographer, longer than any other vendor. It is their job to capture all of the details of your special day so you can relive the feelings for years to come. You will potentially have more time with them than the time you have with friends and family. If you’re also hiring them as an engagement photographer, that is even more time spent together. The best way to get to know each other and sift through all the different wedding photographers out there is to interview them and see if you “click.”
Just like with anyone else you’ve ever met, you can just tell when someone has the same vision and passion as you. But, it all starts with the initial conversation. So, here are my top five questions to ask your wedding photographer:
Will you be the (only) photographer shooting our wedding day?
Some wedding photography companies are a collective made up of a group of photographers, so the person you initially speak with may not be the person actually shooting your wedding. Be sure to ask who will be taking care of your session (and that the person you want will be your wedding and/or engagement photographer.) If not, be sure to ask to meet them, either in person or virtually. You don’t want to find out on the day of your wedding that you don’t click! Awkward.
Also, ask if your photographer will be the only person shooting the wedding or coming that day. Weddings are large events with many special people and moments that you want to cherish forever. Sometimes one wedding photographer is not enough to cover all of the crucial details of your day and capture everything you need. For this reason, wedding photographers will often bring an assistant or a “second shooter” to help snap candids and details, provide backup for lighting, and assist with other crucial tasks.
However, additional help does come at an additional cost. So be sure you know what you’re getting and how much it will cost you ahead of time and that there aren’t any surprises later.
You’ll also want to be aware that your photographer might have a “non-shooting” assistant for the day. So, while you may see two people arrive, one may not be taking photos, but instead supporting your photographer in other ways. For example, assistants help gather those whose turn it is to be in front of the camera, relocate guests who may be blocking the perfect shot, or run to grab supplies if something else is needed.
What is included in your standard wedding photography package?
Every wedding photographer sets their rates and builds a wedding photography package unique to the services they offer. These prices and services should be transparent, especially since no two businesses are the same.
At the very least, the wedding photography package should state how many hours the photographer will work the day of and include an approximate range of the number of photos you will receive in the end.
Yet, the package may include more than that. For example, in the digital age, some photographers provide only digital photo files. Although, others, like me, believe in the unparalleled experience of holding those heirloom wedding photographs in your hands and seeing them displayed in your home. Find out what type of wedding photos you will receive. Will you receive only digital prints, or will you receive prints, frames or canvases? For instance, all of the wedding packages I offer include both digital files in addition to a stunning, professionally curated album to hold and treasure for years to come.
Many wedding photographers do offer a variety of tangible photo products. You’ll likely have a range of packages to choose from. What add-ons can you include with those packages, and how much will they cost? Can you customize your photo package? Is retouching and color adjustment included in the package price? Does the photographer charge a travel fee? If you want your engagement photographer also to be your wedding photographer, do they offer those services as a package?
All of these questions will help you figure out the nuts and bolts of your wedding photo package, so you know exactly what you’re getting and how much it will cost.
Do you have experience shooting diverse weddings?
Not all wedding and engagement photographers who have photographed many sessions have the same past experiences and backgrounds. If there are some sensitivities to be aware of, make sure that your needs are received comfortably to strengthen that working relationship with your photographer. As I mentioned above, you will be spending the major part of your wedding with your photographer by your side. You NEED to feel comfortable and confident that your needs are being met. For example, I am part of the LGBTQ+ community and want to be welcomed and affirmed. I strive to do the same for all of my clients.
My family is culturally diverse, and it is vital to my family that our heritage shows. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen some interesting editing choices that don’t show skin tones the way they should. You want your photographer to be knowledgeable when editing images to capture everyone perfectly, the way you know and love them.
Some of your needs may be different with physical or neuro diversities. You’ll know how relieving it is to have someone by your side throughout your day that will make yourself and your guests feel welcome, comfortable and a part of the celebration. Your day is meant to be enjoyed by all. An understanding photographer is pertinent to the success of your wedding photography.
I’ve also been asked, “How will you accommodate blended families?” If that happens to be a part of your family dynamic, make sure you ask that question of your photographer, as well. Their answer will likely let you know right away if you want to work together – or not.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask to see more of their work. If you have specific needs, I recommend asking the photographer directly about your needs. Pay close attention to their gallery. Always check the galleries! The galleries will show you what this photographer has done in the past and what they like and consider to be their best work. Do you have the same taste? Can they do what you’re looking for (and do it well)? If you don’t see it, don’t be afraid to ask.
You want your wedding photographer to have the sensitivity and sensibility to honor your day, your way, and not impose their personal version of “normal.” Equally Wed says it perfectly: “It’s not OK for the photographers to do this disservice to LGBTQ+ couples though (and straight people too, for that matter). Gender equality translates to all facets of humans, and most people could experience fuller expressions of themselves if society would ease up on expecting people to fall into an either/or category of gender as well as the typically associated stereotypical expectations of gender.” Are you or your partner nonbinary, transgender, and have a preferred pronoun? Make sure you work with someone that is welcoming of who you are.
One thing that you will hopefully notice about my work is that I don’t have images that are part of a generic list. I intentionally ask my clients very detailed questions to capture their wedding day in a way that is as unique as they are. I find out what makes them a couple, what they hold close, and what is most important to them. What made YOU decide to take this forever step? No two weddings are the same. It is my goal to capture yours uniquely.
Have you shot at our venue before?
Although it may be your goal to have a wedding at a unique venue, there are very few that a photographer has never shot in the past. With a myriad of wedding venues available (including parks, golf courses and other off-the-beaten-path locations), unless you’ve chosen a private family location, others have likely gotten married at your venue before.
A good question to ask your wedding photographer is if they have shot weddings at your venue. This question is essential because every event space has different lighting designs, floor plans, rules, and other unique challenges and rewards. The name of the game—the purpose of asking all of these questions—is to reduce unpleasant surprises the day of and plan accordingly. How will your photographer prepare if they have not shot at your venue before?
Heads Up: Be careful of some photographers that are not knowledgeable about flash usage. You might find yourself with washed-out or very grainy images if they don’t know what they’re doing—another good reason to check that gallery before hiring.
D.C. wedding photographers often have a list of traditional, grand sites around the city, but what secret, fresh, hidden place do only they know of for engagement sessions or photos before or after your ceremony? Do they have access to any of the usually restricted locations? Plus, are they willing and able to get the proper permits? You don’t want your day to hit a speed bump if your session gets interrupted by the park police. There are many ways to infuse originality and creativity into your photos, and your wedding photographer should help with that.
What is your backup in case equipment fails on our wedding day? Or if you cannot make it?
Not everything goes according to plan, but failing to plan is planning to fail, as they say. You and your wedding photographer will work together diligently to create a smooth plan to get the images you want, but ultimately life happens. First, ask about equipment backups in case of malfunction. Sometimes equipment like lights and cameras just decide to malfunction, and sometimes inclement weather like rain can damage equipment. Your wedding photographer will likely have additional cameras and other equipment with them, but don’t wait until the day of to find out that that isn’t the case.
Your photographer wouldn’t miss your wedding except under extreme circumstances. Although these cases almost never happen, they can. Find out about your photographer’s contingency plan. What if they are ill on your wedding day? Or what if they experience a family or personal emergency? If this plan includes a substitute photographer, check that person’s work, references, gallery, and reviews in the same way you did your first choice. You’ll also want to ensure that the sub-contracted photographer has the same style as the photographer you’ve hired. You hire a service, make sure you’re getting what you’re dreaming of.
Ask a D.C. Wedding Photographer
Planning a wedding can be a fun and exciting process if you consider these questions to ask your wedding photographer. As a wedding photographer in Washington D.C., Northern Virginia and Maryland, I’ve found these questions are the best way to ensure you’re getting the wedding photographs you want while also building a genuine relationship with the photographer. If you’re currently looking for a luxury wedding photographer in the area, I’d love to answer any questions you have! Feel free to message me directly and I’ll get back to you A.S.A.P.!