WHAT SHOULD YOU ASK YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER?
So, you've budgeted, you've made your shortlist based on how much you love their work, you've asked for quotes, and you've narrowed it down to just a few perfect photographers. Next, you're going to meet them, and it's hit you: at some point they're going to ask you if you have any questions for them - what are you going to ask? Here's a few really, really essential questions that should definitely be on your list; some good questions that are not all that important, but you may still like to ask; and things you don't really need to ask at all:
1. Do you provide contracts?
This is really a big question, and if the answer is no, you should really consider not booking them. A contract sets out in writing the agreement that you have with the photographer and what you can expect to receive when working with them. It would usually specify the amount of time a photographer will be with you, how many pictures you will receive and in what format, what happens if something goes wrong and most importantly, the full cost of their services to you and what they include. It should create a clear and easily understandable set of expectations that both parties can stick to, and acts as evidence of an agreement in the unlikely event that you (or they!) are not happy.
2. Do you have insurance?
This is a key question and is so important for a number of reasons. Firstly, many venues insist that your photographer has Public Liability Insurance so they are covered in the event of an accident. It would also do you good to know that if, in the unlikely event you are unhappy with their work or service, that they have a Professional Indemnity Insurance provider who will pay out to you should you bring a successful small claims case against them.
3. What happens if you're ill on our day?
This should be dealt with in the contract, but it is well worth asking. If something happens to your photographer and they are unable to make it, what happens? Do they send a replacement? How do you know if the replacement is any good? Is the replacement of the same photographic standard, etc.? Do they have the same style? Remember, photographers are human too, and get ill, break their legs, or have family emergencies that they may need to attend to. Knowing that if the worst happens, your day is still covered is a genuine relief, so make sure you ask this and that you're satisfied with the answer.
4. Do you back up your images?
Again, this should be in your contract, but it doesn't hurt asking the question for your own peace of mind. Cameras nowadays (for the most part) are all digital and this data can be lost. How will your photographer make sure that if they do lose your images, that they have backups somewhere that they can access to make sure you get your photos? Do they use a Cloud service? Do they make multiple hard-copy back-ups? Both? Make sure you are satisfied with their answer before booking with them.
5. Do you have back-up equipment?
This may not seem like any of your business, but it is a key question to ask. If your photographer drops a camera down a flight of stairs, or lets go by accident whilst hovering over that beautiful lake, do they have another one that they can use instead? That's definitely something I'd want to know!
6. What about copyright?
This is a pretty important question: Who owns the pictures and what can everyone do with them? As a matter of law, your photographer owns the Copyright to your pictures as they are the person that created them. This is much the same as an artist owning the copyright to a painting they created - when you buy a Van Gough print and put it on your wall, do you now own the Copyright to that image? No - it never ceases to be a Van Gough, but in buying that print, you now have rights to display and enjoy it. This is called a Print Licence. Wedding Photographers do exactly the same. They create, and therefore own the images, and provide a Print Licence to a client, which allows a couple to view, print, share and enjoy their images, but prohibits actions like re-editing, selling-on, or passing-off the work as their own. Lets face it though, what would you like to do with your images? View them, share them with friends and family in print or on social media, make canvasses and albums, and enjoy them for the rest of your life - a Print Licence lets you do all of this. It's really important that you understand this, and that your photographer does too, and can clearly explain it to you.
7. What will you do with our images?
Since your photographer owns the Copyright to your images, it may be worth asking what they will do with them - will they use them for advertising or display on their website or social media platforms? Or enter them into competitions? If this is something you'd rather them not do, then you need to discuss this with them, particularly as there are laws requiring photographers to get your permission to hold and use your personal data (which may includes photographs).
8. How many weddings have you shot?
This is a great way of finding out how experienced a wedding photographer is. The more weddings a photographer shoots, the more they get to know how an average wedding runs, the timings for certain events, the things that often go right, and most importantly, the things that can go wrong and how to deal with them. As a general rule, the higher the number, the better, but don't be completely put off by someone who has shot less than someone else, as they may still be an amazing photographer. If they have a diverse, amazing portfolio that tickles your pickle, then they should definitely be considered.
9. Can we see a few full weddings you have shot?
This is a great question to ask! Most photographers only publish their best and favourite images for the world to see on their websites and social media pages and this may lead you to think that every picture you will receive will be mind-blowingly epic. Viewing a full wedding collection gives you an opportunity to see what the overall standard will be, from start to finish, and whilst I'm sure they will still be pretty epic, it's best to get a good idea about this before parting with your hard-earned cash!
10. Do we need to feed you?
Wedding Breakfasts are expensive - should you be forking out another £xxx to feed your photographer? What about their assistant(s), second shooter(s), and videographer(s)?! It's easy to see how being kind and providing some grub to your hard-working suppliers can quickly become very expensive indeed! Maybe it doesn't need to be the same as your guests? Maybe a bar meal is fine? Maybe they don't expect you to feed them at all? It's helpful to find out what your photographer expects, just to be sure.
11. What will you wear to our wedding?
Shirt and shoes? T-shirt and trainers? Socks and flip-flops? You may not care about this at all, but if you do, it may be a good idea to ask.
12. What if it rains / gets dark?
Rain on the big day is quite high up on many couples nightmare list, but a good, experienced photographer should know how to handle both rain and low-light / dark environments. Ask to see some examples of rain and/or nighttime shots for your peace of mind, and make sure you're satisfied that the photographer knows how to handle it.
13. Can you talk us through a normal wedding day?
I'd expect that this would be quite high up on a wedding photographer's talk agenda when they meet you, but if they don't do this automatically, you may want to give them a nudge. It's very helpful for you as a client to understand how your photographer will work through your day and gives you an opportunity to discuss if you think it's going to be different.
14. How long have you been a wedding photographer?
On the face of it, this may seem like a good question to ask as it would imply that a photographer with many years behind them has lots of experience. In truth, length of service doesn't necessarily mean they have lots of experience. A wedding photographer that shoots 10 weddings per year will need to work for four years before they have shot the same number of weddings (and therefore gained as much experience) as a photographer that shoots 40 weddings in a single year. It's much better to ask "How many weddings have you shot?", above!
15. What equipment do you use?
This is a weird one for a client to ask unless they themselves are a photographer, or are interested in camera tech. Be prepared for a lengthy lowdown of mega-pixel counts and f-stop values if you do ask! In reality, if you love their work, you shouldn't really care if they use full-frame or cropped frame cameras, are Nikon, Canon, or Sony enthusiasts, or use an old Kodak!
16. Have you shot at our venue before?
This is not really a bad question to ask, but it shouldn't really make a difference to you. Most good photographers will visit your venue in advance of your big day, preferably with you, and will already have scoped out the best indoor and outdoor shooting locations, chatted with the wedding coordinator, have a plan, and backups, all mapped out, before you tie the knot.
17. Are you full or part-time?
In a similar vein to "How long have you been a wedding photographer?" You may think that a full-time photographer shoots more weddings than a part-time photographer, so therefore they are better, but this is a common misconception. There are many amazingly talented part-time wedding photographers, who shoot weddings on a pro-rata basis for many reasons - To spend time with their family; to undertake other types of photography (e.g. commercial, food, etc.); or to work another profession that they love. This doesn't mean that they are poor wedding photographers, or necessarily any less experienced. After all, a mother that works part-time isn't any less of a mum, neither is a part-time doctor, nurse or mechanic! Again, it's better to ask "How many weddings have you shot?", to get the best idea about experience.
TRUST YOUR GUT
These questions are useful in ascertaining if the photographer you are meeting has enough experience to do a good job, but they don't necessarily tell you that they are a nice guy or girl that you and your guests will get along with. As with all first dates, you need to trust your gut. You should leave the meeting with a good feeling - like you've clicked, like you've met a new friend, or found "the one". If you don't, then maybe consider parking your decision until you've met a few others. Just as important, always, always, always, read reviews from past clients before making any decisions - they may be absolutely lovely, be able to answer all your questions beautifully, but have rubbed up loads of past clients the wrong way, or not have delivered what they said they would. Past reviews would show this, so don't forget to dig a little.
Remember, a really good, really simple guide to choosing ANY wedding suppliers is:
- Love - do you love their work or what they do?
- Afford - can you afford them?
- Trust - Do you trust them to do a good job?
- Like - Do you like them as people?
I hope this is useful, and Best of Luck finding your dream photographer!