5 Real Questions to Ask When Hiring Your Wedding Photographer
There’s seemingly endless resources out there on what questions to ask and how to hire a photographer. Everyone from The Knot to your Great Aunt Betty is going to give you advice (right after they ask you what your date is, even if you only just got engaged. Can I get an Amen here? 😉 ). One thing most of these resources fail to do however, is first ask you what kind of photographer you’re looking for. Really, this is true of advice for any portion of planning a wedding. Take it all with a grain of salt depending on how relevant it feels to what you and your fiancé actually want.
Do you want a photographer who’s just going to hand you everything and leave all the hard work of post-production and album designing up to you? Or do you want someone who’s just as concerned about preserving your stories and legacy to share in the future as you are? I’m going to touch on the larger subject of budget in a coming blog post, but for today, here are what I consider to be 5 Important Questions to Ask Any Photographer. These are questions that I have never seen on any other list out there. They get to some of the nitty-gritty (aka totally nerdy) details and peel the metaphorical curtain back for a peek into the behind-the-scenes business decisions we all make. These questions assume you have already looked at a photographers work and decided you’d like that style for your wedding day (Hint: It doesn’t matter what name we put to that style. You don’t need to know the jargon of whether or not you want photojournalism vs. editorial or filters vs. traditional editing. If you like it, that’s all that matters). This also assumes you are comparing photographers who are all full-time professionals. Not sure? Ask them! Ok, now onto the questions… Spoiler alert: My favorite and most important question is first!
How many weddings do you shoot per year?
Why to ask it:
Weddings take a lot out of you. It can be a long, physically tiring day for both the photographer and yourselves. You want a photographer who has the experience, stamina, and positivity to not only make it through the day, but to excel in the environment. On the flip-side, you don’t want someone who spreads themselves too thin. For example, if your wedding is on a Sunday, and your photographer already shot a Friday and a Saturday wedding, you may find yourself with a photographer running on fumes…or a Trente triple-shot coffee!
RMP answer: No more than 20. This is my maximum number. It means I am active throughout the year, continuously improving my craft, shooting at new venues and meeting amazing couples. It also means that I’m not shooting 3 weddings per weekend. I say maximum because some weddings are more or less involved than others. If I’m traveling with your family for a week of events, I’m going to make sure to have plenty of preparation time beforehand and need to account for more time to process the images after. Working with no more than 20 couples each year also gives us flexibility for your engagement session. With the unpredictable nature of weather here in Chicago, if we look out the window the day of your engagement session and it’s an utter downpour with gail like winds, we just reschedule. It’s not going to be that easy if someone is working with 50+ couples.
Do you have a business license and insurance?
Why to ask it:
There is currently no barrier to entry into the field of photography, which makes it hard to figure out who is an official business. You want to make sure you are protected & the photography company is legitimate.
RMP answer: Yes, we absolutely have business insurance. Side note, another way many full-time businesses overtly set themselves apart from others in a field with no-barrier to entry is by their office. Are you meeting your photographer at their own office or at Starbucks?
When will we see the photos?
Why to ask it:
I for one am incredibly anxious to see the results after I’ve been photographed! Did I do that over-smiling thing again or can you actually see my eyes this time? How did my hair look? Was my dress as flattering as my friend said it would be? Gah! Having a clear date for when you will see your photos doesn’t making the waiting any easier, but at least you know. There are too many questions left unanswered in the response “within a few months” or “about 3 months.” None of that is specific and you are left wondering (and responding to all of your mom’s texts about when she’ll get to see them as well).
Our answer: We set the exact date before the wedding even happens. Photos are finished within 6 weeks of your wedding and the date is set prior because we host a party for you at our studio! On that exact date that we’ve already put on the calendar, you’ll come into the studio, enjoy a little bubbly and see your photos for the first time together. It is so much more fun to relive your day at the same time than exchanging screen shots over Google Hangouts while you are at work! This also ensures the two of you are the first to see the photos before anyone else. Only after your party will we release the online gallery for you to share with family & friends. Doing it this way also gives you the opportunity to choose to keep any photos private for just the two of you or hide any that you might like to surprise your loved ones with as a present.
How do you back-up the photos and/or keep them safe?
Why to ask it:
Any tech person would agree that when it comes to technology, something always happens. It’s not a matter of IF it will crash or break, it’s a matter of WHEN. There’s no need to take a risk with something as priceless as your wedding photos.
From the moment a memory is being captured, we are taking precautions. We always write to 2 memory cards in camera. Then, once downloaded to the studio, images are stored on 2 different external hard drives (along with 1 off site hard drive and 2 cloud based services). Once editing is complete and you have all of the photos, they are permanently stored on a separate hard drive dedicated to only the year you got married. We’ll keep them there for you forever (literally, even if – heaven forbid – RMP were to close doors, the hard drives are already purchased and aren’t going anywhere). The JPEGS are also backed up in a cloud-based system forever.
Bonus tip: This is why tangible artwork is the best!!! It’s never going to “crash” or be unusable because you updated your operating system.
Bonus: We don’t know all the specifics of our day. How much do we have to have figured out before reserving the date? Can we change our collection after booking?
Why to ask it:
How overwhelming is trying to make decisions on things you’ve never done before?! You’ve decided what photographer you want to work with but then they have all of these different packages with number of hours on the wedding day and different size albums and canvases and… We haven’t even taken any pictures yet! Your wedding is 9 months away, how are you supposed to already know the entire timeline?! You just want to know you have your favorite photographer for your date. Can’t we just figure out everything later?! (Does that all sound familiar?)
Of course! You should only make informed decisions and anyone trying to get you to do otherwise feels suspicious to me. It’s as simple as starting with what we determine, together, to be your minimum needs. That way you can get your date reserved without hesitation (because dates are first come first serve for all of us, so that’s the most urgent part). After that, you can always add hours or even upgrade to an entirely different package as you plan more of the day and have a clearer idea of your timeline (and we can help you build that timeline too!). We also offer album credits, which is a bit different than most other photographers. With credits, you know you have money set aside for an album, but the details of it – how many pages, what size, what kind of cover, etc etc – can actually be decided once you have your photos.
Your wedding day is too important for you to have to say “Well, I wish I’d known…” afterward. I encourage you to never stop asking questions! You should have a transparent relationship with the person you are entrusting to document your wedding day memories. What other questions do you have? Leave them in the comments below!
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