Are you getting married and wondering what questions to ask your wedding photographer?
It happens often that I stumble on articles that suggest to the bride and groom what questions to ask their wedding photographer, so I thought I’d write something on this topic, too. I would still be in good company and among everything ever written and published, the risk of coming up with the worst post on the subject – I’m safe to say – would be quite remote. Then of course I can’t resist the temptation to get my own 2c worth out in between that of many improvised on the subject and very often totally misleading. Your typical article on the topic, which seems to be most popular during the winter months of preparation for the wedding season, seems to bring it all down to a procurement checklist, like it was providing advice to buy a used car or a cow at the cattle fair. Basically, something that you are not familiar with or that you haven’t got any clue of.
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How do you measure Wedding Photography?
So here come the shopping lists of questions to ask your wedding photographer: ‘how many photos will you deliver?’ ‘how many photographers will be covering the event?’ ‘which type of cameras do you use?’ ‘mac or windows?’ ‘do you deliver the RAW files?’ and so on an so forth. But is this truly about the technical aspect of taking pictures or measuring quantities of whatever you’ll be taking delivery of? Are you going to buy your wedding photography by weight? All this emphasis on the technical part is probably only going to make any bride that has little knowledge of that feel out of place and increase her sense of discomfort and inadequacy. Also, if we sit in front of a bad photographer wanting to cheat, it isn’t by faking an improvised proficiency on the technical stuff that we are going to prevent him from cheating. Fortunately, though, it’s not about any of this.
Couples decide based on their own taste, not by taking measurements
In truth, a couple has all the means to choose their wedding photographer consciously, independently and with complete control over their own judgment, without any checklist. For one simple reason: what they really buy with their wedding photography is nothing tangible. The value lies not in the type of cameras that the photographer uses, nor in the number of photographers who will cover the event, nor in the number of photographs that will be delivered to them, nor in their format. Wedding photography can’t be bought by weight because its true value can’t be quantified in numbers, nor in pounds. The real value bought by a couple with their wedding photographs is their emotional memories. The opportunity to relive the excitement of their wedding day inside the pictures that their photographer will be able to produce. This is the heart of the matter, everything else comes a distant second. What a couple is buying are the images and the emotions that these images will be able to give them. Everything else they can probably do without, if the images aren’t giving them goose bumps. Who cares about a nice album of bad photos?
Okay, but then how do I choose my wedding photographer?
To begin with, my advice is to acquire a taste for wedding photography. Actually, better would be to acquire a taste for photography in general, but starting to look at your wedding photography service as an opportunity and not as something you do because everybody does would be a great step forward. The memories of your wedding can be wonderfully enhanced by beautiful photographs that satisfy the eye and warm the heart. For anyone associating wedding photography with those ugly, posed and a little tawdry pictures that we’ve all seen too many times, please be informed that wedding photography has made leaps forward in recent years and that you’ve been missing out on it. Wedding photography should no longer be regarded as a minor form of photography: wedding photographs from some good wedding photographers are downright great photographs in their own right, period.
Also, developing an appreciation for anything that you’re interested in buying is the only way to get your money’s worth, as if you do not appreciate the value, you’re always paying too much whatever the price.
Then, once it’s ascertained that great wedding photography can indeed represent an enduring value for you as a married couple, my advice is to look at the photographer’s work again and again, to understand his or her style. Ask yourself if you’d like to see you in the photographer’s pictures: do you want your pictures to look like that? Tuning into the pictures of a particular photographer is to empathize with the person, because a photographer takes pictures for who he or she is. Photographs mirror the personality of the photographer who takes them. For a couple, looking for photographs to match their taste is a way to find a photographer akin to their personality.
Yes, but in the end what are the questions to ask your wedding photographer?
When you get to this point, my suggestion is to get in touch with the photographer: email, call, or even better make plans to meet. Are the feelings that you get from him or her the same that you get from his or her photographs? If that’s the case, you’ve probably found your wedding photographer. Then you should just make sure to get a few things right beforehand. Nothing technical, just common sense. My personal advise would be to make sure that:
1. the photographer is a professional (no kidding: you don’t want a weekend warrior to capture your memories), preferably with affiliations to professional photographers associations, preferably specializing in weddings, even better if with international affiliations
2. his/her work his widely recognized (awards, published work or trusted references from other couples)
3. his/her work is consistent: everybody is able to put together a gallery of 20 good pictures taken from 20 different weddings (1 good photo per wedding, come on…). More important is to understand if this photographer is able to produce consistently good work wedding after wedding, with many great pictures at each wedding.
4. the photographer you’ve chosen will actually cover your wedding. If you’re dealing with a studio with more photographers make sure to have certainty about which photographer will cover your wedding: do you know him? Do you like his style? Do you get along with nicely?
5. the budget (and subsequently the contract) is detailed and includes whatever is part of your service, including the guaranteed hours of coverage, and what is not part of your package but you’ll may want to buy at a later date as extra
6. any release for the use of your wedding images for promotional purposes (the photographer may legitimately want to post some of your images for self promotion) is explicit in the contract
7. the photographer has a backup strategy for your files. Today everyone uses the digital format and you’ll want to make sure that your photos are safe with an appropriate backup strategy, for as long as it’s necessary.
Any other questions to ask your wedding photographer, I don’t think I need to be telling you. If a professional can reassure you on the above points, then he or she is probably worthy of your trust. Talk to him, ask the questions that come to your mind, make eye contact and discuss. Think it over one more time and in the end take a gut decision 🙂
You may also want to take inspiration from these other types of practical questions when it will come down to discussing the details.
Happy choosing wisely!