What questions to ask a wedding photographer

Planning a wedding is a huge task. When Dan and I got engaged, it took us several months to really bear down and begin our wedding planning. After picking a date and booking the church and reception venue (which we did almost immediately), we took a step back, relaxed, and enjoyed our engagement.

Now, I definitely encourage all newly engaged couples to simply take in the joy of this moment. There’s no other time like it, and it will be over faster than you’ll believe. But I wouldn’t suggest you wait until just five months before your wedding date to get serious about the detailed work of planning. And, yes, I am speaking from experience!

So, starting with this blog post, I’m going to share tips on what helped us as we planned our wedding. We are going to cover questions related to photography, of course. But I’m also hoping to bring in tips and tricks that encompasses many additional aspects of the wedding day.

What to consider when choosing a wedding photographer

Questions for the bride and groom:

  1. How important is photography on your wedding day? Where does it rank on your list of wedding items?
  2. What photographic style best matches your ideal? (i.e. documentary, highly stylized a’ la fashion magazines, natural and real)
  3. What is most important on your photography shot list? (e.g. posed family photos, details, moments)

Questions for the bride and groom to ask photographers:

  1. What do you — the photographers — most enjoy about documenting weddings?
  2. What makes you different from other photographers?
  3. How do you handle tense family situations for the posed photos (i.e. divorced or separated parents)?
  4. How much editing/post-processing do you do to photos? In some cases, that costs extra. Our editing style is minimal and very natural, and is included in our packages.
  5. When can we expect the photos?
  6. On average, how many photos can we expect in the final, edited gallery?
  7. Do we have rights to print and share the photos for personal use? Some photographers require separate agreements to license and print photos, and require their clients to select each photo they would like to purchase from the full gallery.
  8. Will there be an archive for our photos? Also, how long does the photographer agree to maintain that archive?
  9. Does the photographer carry liability insurance? Many beginners and non-professionals don’t.
  10. When you shoot, how do you ensure that the photo files are protected?
  11. Does the photographer have the appropriate equipment to document a wedding? Your uncle Bill might be a wonderful enthusiast who enjoys taking pictures with a single camera and lens and an on-camera flash, but a professional wedding photographer brings multiple cameras to a wedding, multiple lenses, lights, light stands and other tools. The professional has backups in case something goes wrong. In our case, we spent the past nine years acquiring a comprehensive collection of gear that we know will help us do our job well on your wedding day.

Finally, ask to see a gallery of images from a single wedding. It is unlikely that you’ll want to look at an entire gallery from one wedding, because that would probably be in the 400-700 image range and would take some time to look through, however, getting a more comprehensive look at how the photographer works through an entire wedding day can be extremely helpful. Portfolios displayed on photographers’ websites are beautiful, but closely edited for impact, and won’t always give you a sense of what you can expect to see in a final, delivered gallery. Veteran photographers will have an edited gallery from a single wedding ready to go to share with potential clients.

The above are just the initial questions to consider as you start your search. In the end, though, the two most important pieces to consider with a photographer are these:

Do you like the photographers’ photos?

Has the photographer demonstrated an ability to capture a wedding from beginning to end to your liking? Don’t be afraid to ask to see an album or a full take from a wedding. That will give you a clear sense of how the photographer works.

Will you be comfortable around this person for an entire day?

There is no one else — no one — you will spend more time with on your wedding day than the photographer. You’ll likely even spend more time with the photographers than you will each other, so it’s important that you feel comfortable and relaxed. When you’re comfortable and relaxed to the point that you don’t even remember there’s someone there with a big camera photographing you, that’s a good sign. If the bride and groom feel that way with the photographer, it will result in better pictures.

For the majority of people, a wedding is the most they’ll ever spend on photography in their lives. Most will never again have a photographer trailing them for more than eight hours, documenting nearly every moment in their day. So be sure to hire someone who understands your needs and can capture this singular and beautiful day of your lives.

Anya Semenoff-Petty

Anya Semenoff-Petty

Anya has photographed weddings, events, editorial and commercial work for years, first at The Denver Post and then while running A&D Creative independently.

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