Be careful out there….
There has never been anything written that gives you, the bride, a true guideline as to how to select the one person who could supply you with a heart full of memories to last a lifetime. With that in mind, what are the right questions to ask the wedding photographer, to help select the right one for you? Think about them carefully and get answers before placing your trust and faith in someone who might later disappoint you with results that are less than what you had hoped. The following advice comes from a photographer with deep experience in the wedding industry – forty years and counting. He has been influencing wedding photography all over the world for the last twenty years through my seminars and publications and knows the business from the inside out!
First of all, undoubtedly the best way a bride has to pre-judge the competency of a wedding photographer is to have a recommendation from someone whose opinion she trusts. If she has more than one recommendation that is even better, especially if the same photographer’s name comes from different sources. Next, a phone call is appropriate. The conversation should begin with the availability of the studio to cover the wedding on the specific date. You should learn the name of the photographer who would be taking the actual pictures and at least a rough estimate of the costs involved. An appointment should be made to meet with the photographer who will be assigned to your wedding, see his work and discuss the details. Without doubt, this meeting should include the bride and groom as well as the bride’s parents, if feasible.
A Second Best Man/Woman at the Wedding
At the meeting, the first assessment you should make is whether you feel comfortable in the presence of the photographer. If you are going to spend a good part of the most important day of your life with this person, it should be someone with whom you know you will enjoy sharing that time. Then, you should see some of the photographer’s work. If you see a picture, or a series of pictures, that you really like, you should ask:
- Who are these people?
- Did you, personally, take these photographs?
- May I call these people for a personal reference?
After all, it is one thing to see some beautiful pictures, but it is equally important to find out if the bride and groom ENJOYED working with this photographer. It is also a way of knowing that the photographs you are being shown were actually taken by the person with whom you are speaking. You want to be sure that the work you are admiring was made by the photographer who will be at your wedding. Another result of this meeting is to allow you and your photographer to begin a one-on-one relationship. In that way, neither of you would be strangers to each other on the day of the wedding and you will be more relaxed in front of the camera.
Now the Fun Begins
For the most part, when prospective clients come to a studio, their questions pertain to prices, sizes and numbers. Often that is because they have never thought to consider some of the more important questions, such as:
- How do you feel about the bride and groom not wanting to see each other before the ceremony? What are the alternatives?
- How will the various plans effect us on the day of the wedding?
- Do you have any goals for approaching each wedding? Any long-term goals for yourself as a person, as a photographer?
- How long do you expect to be with us on the day of the wedding? Beginning at what time? Until when? Is there an extra charge if the wedding runs a little overtime?
- Whom would you include in the photographs? Where and when would they be taken?
- What can I do to help you perform your duties to the best of your ability?
See A WHOLE Wedding
If you are still interested in the photographer’s services at this point, ask to see a complete coverage of a single wedding. That is a lot more important than seeing a selection of beautiful highlights from many different weddings. When looking through the album, evaluate the work by placing yourself in the position that this could have been YOUR wedding . Ask yourself if the photographer has actually considered the individual characteristics and personality of each of the persons in the photographs to come up with these pictures. Then, you might follow up with some of the following:
- Considering my facial features, physical attributes in general, what angles of my face would you consider to be better than others?
- Have you noticed any expressions or mannerisms of mine that you might want to try to capture or avoid?
- How did you get qualified to take professional wedding pictures?
- What kind of educational background and/or experience have you had in developing your techniques?
- When and with whom was it last updated?
Now, let us get down to the nitty-gritty. Too often important details that you had never before considered come back to haunt you later:
- How will you be shown the pictures for selection?
- Will you be helped in the selection of the final pictures?
- How can people who live out of town be accommodated with ordering, paying and delivering?
- What are the costs of the various styles of coverage? Are there different degrees of coverage? What is included in each?
- How much for the extras? Duplicates?
- Ask to see the specific style of album you will be receiving.
- Are alternate choices available? At an extra cost?
- What kind of time frame are you looking at for preparing the pictures for my selection?
- Are you providing me with proofs, slides or what?
- How much time do I have to make up my mind as to which pictures I want and how many?
- Are the “proofs” for sale?
Look to the Future
- How much money would you expect me to eventually spend before you think I would be completely happy with my wedding coverage?
- How much money would you WANT me to spend in order for me to make it worthwhile for you to give me your full attention on my wedding day?
- How long have you been in business? How long do you plan on staying in the business? In other words, what kind of guarantee comes with my hiring you and/or your studio?
Wrap it up Intelligently
Finally, let us consider a few topics of conversation that could/should help you make your decision.
- Do you have any particular philosophy about your approach to photographing weddings?
- What would you plan to do at my wedding that would make my wedding photographs unique and personal to me? Can I tell you who I want in my pictures? How will you find them?
- How can I be certain that YOU will be taking the pictures?
- With whom will I be dealing after the wedding?
- What is your payment policy?
- Do you give any guarantees on your services and photographs?
Make a Commitment!
By now, you have probably spent a good deal of time with the photographer. His/her time is money, the same as yours. Realize that in the long run someone has to pay for the hours each photographer spends as a consultant. Keep his/her (and your) expenses to a minimum by going to the meeting with the photographer prepared to leave a deposit to confirm the date. Before you do, however, you may want to assure yourself of a few more last-minute details. Find out the photographer’s policy if the date of your wedding is changed and he/she is not available on the alternate date. Find out, too, what the policy is for an unanticipated cancellation of the date. At this stage of the game, if you have really taken the time to get into some of the above questions, you HAVE to know whether this photographer is for you. If the photographer is for you, if the photographer is available and if you are convinced that it is worth the price…then make the commitment and rest assured that this is undoubtedly one of the best and most intelligent decisions you have make in planning your wedding!