32 Questions to Ask Before You Book A Wedding Photographer!
From whether you need to provide them with food to when to expect your photos back, we've got all the questions you need to ask your potential wedding photographer (but might forget to)
The first thing you need to do when choosing wedding photographers, is to narrow them down into a shortlist – thankfully i have got you covered, I've got eight easy steps for you to follow. The next steps are meeting a few of your short listed wedding photographers in person, from here you can discuss what you want, find out more about their skills, abilities and work in general, and decide whether you gel with them. To help, I've come up with a list of 32 questions to ask your potential wedding photographers, This should help you decide if those photographers are a great fit for you and your guests before you book with them.
I have added a section of questions to ask yourself at the end. That’s because you will be spending 8+ hours with them on one of the most important days of your life, so how well you get along and communicate with them is paramount. Your first meeting with your photographer is as much about personality as it is expertise.
Firstly, lets get to the questions to ask your short listed wedding photographers;
Lets Start With The Basics
1. Do You Have My Date Available?
It's an obvious question, you’d think, but photographers can get booked up 12-18 months in advance as standard but the more high profile photographers can get booked up as much as 3 years in advanced. Ask in your initial enquiry email or phone call to see if the date is available and double check when you see them that someone hasn’t reserved that date. Check with them how far in advance you’d need to secure them with a deposit. This could save you a lot of time discussing your wedding photography to find out at the end they are already booked.
2. How Long Have You Been Working as a Wedding Photographer?
As Weddings are a uniquely busy, hectic once in a life time event. A photographer needs experience working in weddings to have mastered capturing all the standard shots and candid moments you’ll want. From capturing whilst getting ready and during the ceremony, reception, wedding breakfast, speeches including the laughter and tears this may bring to you and your guests, first dance as a newly wed couple or even the farther daughter dance, cake cutting and more. It really is a non-stop event and a wedding photographer who’s been doing it for a couple of years will know exactly where to be and when as they are read the scene and prepare for those special moments. This doesn’t mean you can’t choose someone new to the wedding business, but we know in the photography industry, it is very clear that you get what you pay for.
3. How Many Weddings Do You Shoot a Year?
This can help you work out if it’s a weekend job or their full-time business. Don’t dismiss a photographer if it’s not what they do full-time, but be aware that editing your photos is a long process, so you might not get your images back as quickly as a full time photographer, however this greatly depends on the photographers skill set with editing. Most photographers will state how long you should expect to get the images back. That said, a very experienced photographer can be more selective with their weddings as they’re in high demand, but you’ll know this from asking how long they’ve been in the industry. This will also give you an indication on if they are all in it for just the money by cramming in as many weddings as possible or are they in it for their passion for weddings and photography in particular.
4. Can I See Some Full Wedding Albums? Are All the Images Yours? How Recent Are They?
You’ll get a feel for their style from looking at the wedding photographers portfolio on their website, but these will only be a highlight reel. To really see if you like a photographer’s work, you’ll want to look through a whole printed album or online gallery. This should help you work out from your own point of view if the wedding photographers capture the story of the day, do you like how they take photos in different lighting conditions, and if they’re consistent with their quality and style. You’ll want the albums to be recent and to be seeing the photos your photographer took, not someone from the same agency as them or a second shooter unless its the same 2nd shooter as they work as a team on every wedding.
Ask yourself: is the composition look right in all the photos? Have they caught the key important shots like the first moment you see each other and your parents’ faces as you walk down the aisle? Do the photos shows the right details, for example, are the faces clear and the background not too distracting? Are the photos flattering? Does everyone look relaxed? Is there a good mixture of group shots with portraits and casual shots?
5. Have You Worked at Our Venue Before? If Not, Will You Visit Beforehand?
This is by no means a deal breaker, but if a photographer has worked at your chosen wedding venue before they’ll have experience of the lighting and the venue layout not to mention how the staff at the venue operate. They’ll already have scouted out where to take you off for your newlywed photos and the best spots to take photos when the night closes in. Even better, you’ll be able to see a whole albums worth of pictures they’ve taken there before! Your photographer should be willing to visit the venue beforehand if they haven’t shot there before. Your venue coordinator can arrange this with them, and this could be a great opportunity for an engagement session at the venue at the same time.
6. Have You Photographed a Wedding of a Similar Size to Ours Before?
This is essential if you short listed photographers don't offer a second photographer. A big guest list means the action will be split across various rooms and your photographer will need experience of navigating large events, arranging groups of people and following the action. Similarly, if you’re only a group of 20, you’ll need a photographer who understands that they need to be unobtrusive and blend in or they can disrupt the dynamic of the wedding.
7. What Wedding Packages Do You Offer?
The average wedding photographer costs £1,500 to £2,000+ and we have a full breakdown here of what to expect for that price. The general points to take from this one are "how many hours will the photographer be with you on the day?", What format will you get the photos back including if they come with either copy write or usage writes and if the images will have any water marked on them. Whether there’s an engagement shoot (see below for why that’s important) and if there’s a second shooter. Get in writing what is included in your package.
If your budget is tight, this is the place to negotiate – it could be having the photographer for half a day only, for example, as long as you recognise you’ll get less photos for that.
Checkout our wedding photography cost blog for more details into this part
8. What Information Do You Need from Us Before the Wedding Day?
Before the big day, your chosen photographer will need to know all the logistics: the exact time and place everything is occurring such as; your ceremony and reception; where you’re getting ready and what time you’re leaving in the morning; when the speeches and cake cutting will be; what time the first dance is due to kick off and what the lighting will be like. The more information they have, the better. During the initial enquiry stages, the basic timeline of the day should be enough, this most likely will be adapted as you get closer to the wedding day and if things should not go to plan on your day, your photographer should be able to juggle things around to and still get the important things.
9. How Would You Describe Your Photography Style?
There are three main types of wedding photography styles, Without going over the top on explaining them, in simplicity form, they’re reportage, which is candid and tells the story of your day; traditional, which focuses on formal, posed group photos and classic shots; and contemporary, which is more fashion-led and editorial.
Ask your photographer to show you their favourite wedding photo and you’ll get a good understanding of their vision and style.
10. Can I Speak to Some Former Clients or Read Testimonials?
With all good photographers, they will be happy to put you in touch with former clients as they know they’ll get great feedback on their work! If they try to put you off speaking to former couples or the testimonials on their website don’t match up with reviews on other sites, be wary. It is worth checking reviews on many different sites from the photographers own website to yell, Facebook and other online sources. Another way is to ask the venue if they have heard of the photographers you have short listed as if they have worked at the venue a lot they should know them well to give their opinions.
11. Will I Be Able to Give You a List of Specific Shots We’d Like?
A shot list is a list a couple gives to their photographer with the absolute must-have photos they need them to capture, like a special photo with your Grandma and Grandad. Most photographer should accept this no problem, although don’t request too many or it can take time away from capturing the candid moments of the day. If a photographer refuses, the day may be more about their vision than yours. I recommend around 5 group photo lists for around the register and up to 10 outside the ceremony is normally a good rule, however if time permits it, then nothing stops you asking your photographer on the day for a certain shot. The photographer is to serve your needs not their own.
12. Do You Offer an Engagement Shoot as Part of Your Package?
An engagement shoot is a brilliant way to get comfortable with your photographer and get use to being in front of the camera. You’ll get used to being directed and perfect your winning smiles along with any natural moments as you and your partner talk sweet nothing in each others ears. If an engagement shoot isn’t included with your package, it’s worth negotiating one in or paying extra for one. They can also be great to use images for the save the date cards, or have an image blown up and have it at your reception for guests to sign around the image on a white boarder so you have an alternative guest book and as it hangs on your walls, you will have an ever lasting memory of what signed your wedding image.
On the Day
13. What Time Will You Arrive at the Venue?
Get it in your contract whether your photographer will be there while you’re getting ready or they’ll meet you at the ceremony. Most couples will want the prep and journey to the venue captured as it’s such a special part of the day, but it can be cheaper if you’re on a strict budget to cut down on the photographer’s hours and not include these.
14. Do We Need to Provide You with Food?
It’s completely up to you whether you provide your photographer with food, but it’s the polite thing to do. They’ll be working 10+ hours for you and will need sustenance.
Ask your photographer what they’d like: you can arrange for them to have a plate and sit at one of the tables or somewhere else, or you can put money behind the bar or give them a meal allowance if they’d prefer to cater for themselves. They’re unlikely to be taking lots of photos during the meal anyway as no one wants the moment they stuffed half a chicken supreme in their mouth caught on camera.
15. Do I Need to Cover Travel Costs?
All this information should be clearly laid out in your contract to avoid unexpected charges. You’ll want to know if petrol or overnight accommodation need to be covered by you. Always expect that a destination photographer will require you to pay for travel and accommodation.
16. Will You Be the Primary Photographer on the Day?
National agencies have multiple photographers on their books so you want to know the person you’re talking to is the photographer you’ll get. Even if they are at the wedding in a second shooter capacity, make sure you meet the primary shooter in person before you pay a deposit.
17. What Will You Be Wearing?
Jeans won’t do at a black tie soirée. Your photographer should look professional and wear something in keeping with your theme that still allows them to do the job well.
18. What Time Will You Stay Until?
Weddings can be seriously long and your photographer is only human. It’s a huge ask to suggest they work from when you get your hair done at 7am to the last dance at midnight. Most photographers will leave after the cake has been cut and the first dance done, and will make their time scale clear in the contract.
19. Can We Pay an Extra Fee If We Require You to Stay Longer?
It’s always worth finding out how much it would cost for a bit more of the photographer’s time, if you want to capture a late evening sparkler send-off, for example, or just because the day runs over.
20. How Much is a Second Shooter?
More expensive wedding packages will often include a second shooter as standard. This is another photographer who is there to supplement the photos of the first, usually by capturing different angles or being in places they can’t, like the drinks reception while the group shots are happening. A second shooter is essential for a large wedding, and also means the morning preparations of both halves of the couple can be captured.
21. Can You Put Together a Slideshow for the Wedding Breakfast?
Some photographers will be able to very quickly pull together a selection of unedited photos and turn it into a slideshow to show during your wedding breakfast or later in the reception. If you’d rather not see any pictures until you can get the whole gallery, then wait, but it can be a lovely touch if your photographer is able.
22. Will Other People Be Able to Take Photos While You Are?
There’s so many benefits to an unplugged wedding where phones are banned. Even if you’re happy for people to take photos during the day, your photographer might request that guests don’t during the ceremony. No one wants their walk down the aisle blocked by Auntie Alice taking photos on her giant iPad.
23. What Is Your Back-up Plan If You Can’t Attend on the Day?
People get ill and family emergencies happen. Your photographer will likely have a network of fellow professionals they can call upon if circumstances change unexpectedly. Despite the best laid plans, it’s always recommended you get wedding insurance to cover for any last-minute disasters. Listen to your gut if they ignore the question – you’re only going to have one chance at this day and you need to trust they have you covered.
24. Do You have Back-up Equipment?
We don’t mean if their battery runs out (that’s just a bad, ill-prepared photographer), but sometime accidents happen: cameras break, lenses smash, external hard drives get damaged. Ask what they have to hand on those situations – a professional photographer will often carry three cameras with them.
25. Do You Have Insurance?
A professional wedding photographer should have both professional indemnity insurance and public liability insurance. Compensation cover should be between £2 million and £5 million, and they should be happy to show you their insurance documents if asked.
Packages and Payment
26. How Much is the Deposit and When Do You Need It By?
Much like the final payment, knowing when the deposit is due will help you budget for your wedding and secure your photographer for your date. All due dates for payment instalments should be given in writing.
27. Will We Receive Digital Copies of All Images – and How Many Will That Be?
Most photographers shoot with digital, not film, so you can expect a full set of edited digital copies of your photos as standard in wedding packages (usually 1,000+ photos). Get in writing in your contract the full details of what you’ll receive, including a personal use copyright license which allows you to print out your wedding photos.
28. Do You Offer a Printing and/or Album Service?
An album of photos may be included in more expensive packages. Otherwise enquire as to how much this might cost and ask to see samples. As you’ll have a license to print photos yourself, you might be able to create something more personal and in your style by printing them at a shop yourself.
29. Is Retouching Included in the Price?
Basic editing and retouching of your photos to remove shadows or strands of hair, etc. is usually included, but it’s worth checking. If you want to go beyond this – for example, editing two group shoots together to make big one of your family – this will cost you extra.
30. Can We Create a Bespoke Package?
For most photographers this shouldn’t be a problem and they’re happy to negotiate. If you’re going through a national agency, creating a bespoke package can be more difficult.
31. How Long Will the Pictures Take to Arrive?
Nowadays, your photographs will likely arrive in an online gallery between two and six weeks after the wedding. Most photographers send selected edited highlights as soon as they can – it’s a very exciting moment! You’ll want unlimited downloads included in your contract so friends and family can access the photos too and save them.
32. When Will We Need to Make the Final Payment?
Knowing how many instalments you need to pay and your final deadline can help you budget for your wedding. Remember that most photographers are independent small businesses and they need to pay the rent so avoid any delays. You may find that if you can pay your photographer upfront in one go when you book, they can give you a discount or throw something in for free – no harm in asking.
There are just a few questions you might want to ask yourself before you confirm your booking and pay a deposit:
- Do we have a good rapport with the photographer?
- Do we trust them to take the best pictures of our day?
- Will we feel comfortable with this photographer?
- Is the price and the level of service what we expect?
If your answer to these questions is yes then it’s likely you have found your wedding photographer. Now it’s time to take a look at our ultimate wedding photo checklist.