12 interview questions to ask wedding photographers (and two to ask yourself)

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  1. Do you have my date available?

Obviously, you needn’t go any further if she or he is booked! If you love their style though, ask for a referral. Photographers generally have a pool of other togs they love shooting with and that deliver similar styles.

2. Are you the photographer that would shoot our wedding?

If you are inquiring with a group, then you would want to meet with the specific photographer who will be handling your wedding. Related, you will want to ask, “what happens if you get sick or can’t make it?” Contingency plans are 100% necessary here.

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3. Can you describe your shooting style?

Even if you don’t know the terminology (traditional, photojournalistic, creative) you probably know from viewing the photographer’s webpage whether your photography styles are aligned. Hopefully, there is a consistent portfolio that will help you understand the photographer’s forte. What is probably less clear is how the tog got the shot.  Is he a documentary ninja that you barely see throughout the day? Is she a lifestyle photographer that tweaks poses and set-ups so that the images look refined but still feel authentic? Is he an old-world traditional portrait photographer that sets up artificial light and pristine poses that mimic a royal painting? Don’t be afraid to ask your potential photographer to walk you through their process.

4. How do you handle shooting in {insert your venue here}?

The worst photography question I see on all those bridal guides is “What gear do you have? Or what camera do you shoot with?” Unless you are a photographer, the model number of the camera or maximum aperture of a lens is probably not going to give you much insight. Instead, what you really want to know is if that tog can handle shooting in less than ideal conditions: rain, a barn, a dark church, mountaintop at high noon, etc. When she’s explaining the game plan, do you feel like she can confidently handle your concerns? If she has a plan of attack (back up camera, flash, reflectors, umbrellas, assistants, open shade, shooting wide open, etc.) – that is what matters. To quote Ansel Adams, “The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it.”

Side note: photographers that invest in gear and education for shooting in dim locations usually carry a higher price tag. If you are comparing bargain-priced photographers, make sure you understand their limitations so you aren’t disappointed once your images are delivered.

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5. Can I give you a list of specific shots we would like?

A wedding photographer should go over a shot list with you about a month prior to your big day to cover family formals and the like. We spend a lot of time prior to the wedding planning out when and how we’re going to get the shots. We end up coordinating with the weather, officiant, caterer, DJ, and sunset. If there is something specific you want, lead time is important. So yes, talk to your photographer about specific shots.

Additionally, if you have a Pinterest board, share it now, not the day of the wedding.  The board might inform the photographer that your styles don’t align.  If you want moody, contrast filled photographs and this photographer specializes in light and airy images, she can point you in the right direction. Or if there’s a shot that a newer photographer can’t handle, say one that requires some level of skill in flash or photoshop, he can address that during your consultation and see if it’s a deal breaker.

6. Do you have a full wedding I can view?

A photographer’s website is a highlight reel of their favorite images. Blog posts can help a couple view a wider sampling of that photographer’s work- but we usually don’t include images that we don’t love. If you want to see what kind of coverage a typical wedding includes, ask to see a whole wedding. You can also ask for a list of references.

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7. Were all the images in your portfolio taken by you?

I hate to even mention it because it leaves a bad taste in my mouth, but unfortunately there are some scam artists out there who post photos from other photographers and claim credit. Now, if you ask to see a full wedding and a second photographer’s images are included in the gallery, that is fair, but saving and reposting an image from the web is straight up thievery and just plain icky. If your gut tells you a photograph doesn’t look like the rest of the photographer’s body of work you could always do a reserve image search on Google, or ask to see the full gallery from that particular session.

8. Money questions.

Ask about the extra costs that might not be included with your base coverage price. If you want the digital files, make sure they are covered in your contract price. Do you want an engagement session? Is it included or separate? How much does retouching cost? How much is the deposit, when is the whole amount due? What is your cancellation/rescheduling policy?

It’s not unusual in the industry to charge for travel, a hotel room the night following the wedding, etc, but you’ll want to know these expenses from the get-go so to avoid breaching your budget.

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9. What happens if we run over?

This kind of piggy backs off of the money questions above. In some cases, a photographer might have a hardline quit time- if you haven’t cut the cake by 7:30, it’s not going to be on film because the photographer has to get home and relieve the babysitter. If so, you need to be on top of your timeline and maybe delegate a coordinator or a pushy cousin to keep the DJ and caterer moving.

Usually the photographer can touch base with the couple and say something like, “Hey guys! This has been really great- we have about ten minutes of coverage left, is there anything else specifically you want me to get?” Wherein you can say, “We need a shot with Nana!” or “Crap! We wanted to get the first dances with our parents but bustling my dress took twenty minutes! Can you stay another half hour?” You should have it in your contract how much an extra 30 minutes will run and maybe add that cushion to your budget, just in case.

10. What is the ordering process? How and when will our images be delivered?

There’s no right or wrong answer here, but it’s good to have expectations aligned. Those that have never had professional pictures made sometimes expect overnight turn around, however professional culling and editing takes longer than the shoot itself. Knowing what to expect will keep you and your photographer happy.

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11. Do you design albums? Can we see a sample?

Album design is in and of itself a whole other skill set. It takes a lot of time and talent to curate a beautiful album and they are worth their weight in gold in my totally biased opinion. One of the great benefits of meeting your potential photographer in person, is to hold one of their albums in your hands, flip through the pages, and see if its something you want to invest in (or register for as a wedding gift.)

12. When will I receive a written contract?

If you are ready to book, it’s time to sign! And never never never book a vendor who won’t provide a written contract.

The most important question is one to ask yourself. Did you feel a connection with this photographer beyond her photos? Are your personalities a good match? You will spend a lot of time working with your photographer both before, during, and after your wedding and should feel comfortable with him or her. After all, on your wedding day, you will probably spend as much time with your photographer as you do your spouse!

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Claire Watson is a Wedding and Lifestyle Photographer based in Martinsburg, WV; she joyfully serves clients in West Virginia, Northern Virginia, and Maryland.