Choosing a wedding photographer is hard enough -- These questions might help make your decision a little easier!
That's me and Ashley and Kevin at the end of an absolutely EPIC wedding night! Photo By: Alex Lee
Let me first preface this post by saying, if you are looking at hiring me, then you can stop reading here! I'll go over ALL of this in our phone conversation/in-person meetup. That could be you in the photo above! It's always fun to grab a quick one at the end of the night <3
Also, even if you are considering hiring me, you'll see my answers below to all questions :)
One last thing to remember when reading through these questions is that it is important to gain the actual information provided, but also feel out how the photographer responds quickly and professionally to determine how you think they might act and behave before, during, and after your wedding!
The question will look like this
The reason for asking/what to look for in response, will look like this
My answer will look like this!
So let's go! (In no particular order)
1. What kind of equipment do you use?
You're asking this question to gage two things: how serious they are in general, and that they have backup equipment. If they say something like "How in-depth do you want me to get?" or they just list it all, you're in good hands. If they say "I shoot with a Canon and some lenses" you may want to probe further to fully assess their professionalism. The important takeaway, is the actual gear listed isn't important, you just want to assess how well they know their gear
I typically say "Not getting into too much detail, I use Sony professional cameras and lenses, lots of different lights, and modifiers, and I have backups literally everything (even some lenses)".
A more detailed inventory of my gear is coming soon -- I'll link to here though!
2. What do you wear when photographing weddings?
Again, the actual content isn't really that important (like brands, colors, etc.). What IS important, is do they dress for the occasion? Or do they kinda slum it? If you don't care, then this questions isn't that important. But most people just want to have a heads up if their photographer is going to wear jeans and a t-shirt (not that there is anything wrong with -- especially if MY wedding photographer, Tom, is reading this!)
Most often you'll find me wearing what I'm wearing in the above pic (black shirt, black pants,). Sometimes I wear a white shirt or blue pants, but the goal for my clothing is to BLEND in like a guest, so I wear long sleeves and pants all the time. I have also been known to wear a cool-ass Maryland Flag bow tie (or miscellaneous other bow ties).
3. How many photos will we get?
You want the real answer on this one! You want to know how many you can expect. The exact number will always depend on the number of guests, number of locations, amount of down time (ie. travel), and amount of action going on!
I usually deliver around 700-1000 photos in a digital gallery format. I will usually shoot about 1500-2500 photos in a given 8 hour wedding day. Most of those photos are duplicates of the exact same moment (just hoping to capture the very best instant!).
4. What is the photographer's editing turnaround time?
This can vary wildly from photographer to photographer. This information will almost certainly be contained in the contract, but it's good to double check. The most common turnaround time is 4-6 weeks. That amount of time can vary if you get married on a Sunday (and the photographer may have a Friday and Saturday wedding to edit before yours, so it could be longer). Even if they are longer, you want to know they will be communicative about the process with you!
I try my absolute best to make sure that my clients have their wedding photos within 4 weeks. Very rarely do I go much longer than that, and I have NEVER gone longer than 6 weeks. However, if anything were to happen to me (say I get into a car accident and can't use my hands for weeks), you'll be notified that your photos are safe, but your photos may be a bit delayed. I assure you that no matter what, you'll be fully aware of any hindrance if it goes longer than 4 weeks.
5. What is your system to secure our wedding photos?
One of the main reasons wedding photography is so expensive, is because we need to have LOADS of backup equipment, and backups of your digital files. Film is a different story! You can tell how serious they are by the depth of explanation, or the amount of duplication. Because with any other photo shoot, you could always redo it, or lost photos are not as dire. With a wedding... there is no redoing that bad boy!
I photograph all weddings using the Sony A9. This camera is equipped with two memory card slots, that I write wedding images to simultaneously, that way if there is a corruption on one memory card, there shouldn't be on the other. When I get home (before I even go to bed), I import your wedding photos onto my computer, a separate hard drive that is backed up to the cloud, and a third hard drive, separate from everything (this I never touch, but it has literally EVERY SINGLE IMAGE I take). Once I deliver the edited photos, I store a raw duplicate of the wedding gallery, and a secondary jpeg backup as well. In other words, your photos are HELLA SAFE!
6. How long will we have access to the online gallery? Can we download them all at once?
Some photographers will put time limits, and download limits on your photos. That's not to say this is a shady or abhorrent practice, but you just want to know what you're getting yourself into! Some photographers may have your digital gallery site available for 1 year or less. Others will allow it stay up forever. But in keeping with the backups and duplication discussion, you need know you can get them if your computer or jump drive ever fails! And make sure you have the license or right to download them all! And will they be hi-res, and without a watermark?
I still have my first wedding I ever photographed available for download by my clients (thanks Amanda & JC for trusting me photographing your wedding with no prior wedding experience!). I have two cloud-based web gallery services I use. You will receive a link through Pic-Time, but I have another backup on a site called Smugmug (and again, I keep all the photos anyway!). The gallery is available forever, and you can download them all (high resolution, no watermark).
7. What happens if your photographer gets sick?
This is a big one. It's definitely one of the biggest fears any wedding couple has. It is possible that the lead photographer is unwell, usually in dire condition, and you might have to get the understudy! Make certain this language is your photographer contract, because you absolutely do not want to be stuck on your wedding day with no one!
I never get sick, and my bones are made of Adamantium (like Wolverine). So I'm good. But seriously, if I am sick, odds are I'm going to your wedding. For me to not be there to photograph your wedding, I would need to be physically handicapped, and the venue isn't ADA compliant. Pretty much anything else, and I'll be there. I have been sick, I have received news of a loved one dying while working, and I have made it through. I assure you that getting creative photos that you hired me for, is my sole priority and I will do what it takes to make sure that you get it.
In the EXTREMELY UNLIKELY CIRCUMSTANCE that I cannot photograph your wedding, I will turn to an experienced photographer friend and peer who has a similar creative vision and level of experience as I have. They will photograph your wedding, I will then edit the photos with my colors and my personal touches, then you'll get them. And IDEALLY, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference (not that us photographers are interchangeable!)
8. Can we see a full wedding gallery?
This one is pretty obvious. It makes perfect sense that you'd like to see a link to an entire gallery. One word of caution however, you may think you really want to see it, and you'll love looking through someone else's wedding photos, but you probably will get bored quickly!
Here is what to look for in a full gallery (if you don't want to go one image at a time):
Go a little slow, you might miss a really cool creative photo if you scroll to fast
Details: You want to see photos of little details (flowers, menus, etc.)
Moments: Make sure you find some great candid moments (if that's important to you)
Formal photos: These are the "every standing in a neat line looking at the photographer". These are actually really important, because you will likely order prints of these photos!
Reception photos: Just see if you can picture yourself having as much as they did!
Oh yeah you better believe you can! Just ask, and I'll send you a few. I send a fave, and one that's more in line with your venue environment!
9. Do we get color versions of the black and white photos?
This one isn't one I would say is a 100% deal breaker no matter what, but it is nice to know if your photographer will do this because it shows a sense of leniency and professionalism. Some photographers might give off a "no. I'm an artist and you get what you get". That's okay, but it's helpful if they are least open to it. I photographed a wedding that used ALL COLOR photos for their photo album, and I don't begrudge them at all!
Also "Yeah! Eric, WTF is with photographers doing black and white photos anyway? Aren't they all in color to begin with?" They certainly are all in color when captured! But sometimes colors are a mess (think of a photo of your face being lit from the bottom like a flashlight, but it's green, and from the side with yellow -- you might look like a jaundiced Wicked Witch of the East, but in black and white you look super good!
I include a color version right next to every single black and white image I send. You have options! Although, if you see an image in black and white, it is because I thought it looked best that way, but you're not required to use only the monochromatic image!
10. Who owns the copyright to our wedding photos?
You may think that because you're the one paying all this money, and it's a private event between you, your friends, family, and acquaintances; that the copyright should lie solely with you, and if you are one of those people, there are ways to get that. But typically photographers retain copyright to the images they create, but will grant you the license to privately distribute the images. Again, this one can be more of a barometer of how open they are to discussion.
Per my contract, if I take the photo, or someone hired as a subcontractor for me takes the photo, the copyright lies with Modern Frames Photography. If you are uncomfortable with that, let me know, and we can work it out! It's all about getting to the root cause of the request. For instance, working in the DC area, I get a lot "there will be drunk federal judges" or "my uncle is CIA", and that's totally fine. I just won't share photos of them if that's cool with you. If you do decide you want full, 100% copyright ownernship of the images, there is an additional cost, and we cross that bridge when we come to it. But I have needed to go that route just yet! I need to be able to use the photo for promotion and for my website! How will anyone know how good I am? (sarcasm. I'm humble, I swear!)
11. Do we have the right/license to distribute or print the photos?
Make sure you can do this, or not! Almost all wedding photographers will happily permit private distribution and printing. That means that you can send the photos to friends, family, coworkers, driving instructors, baristas, etc., just as long as you (or any of them) don't share it publicly.
Definitely! I permit all my clients to share the photos with anyone they deem deserving. I have three basic rules that I think everyone can get on board with:
No selling any of the photos.
No claiming you took the photos.
No sharing of the photos with the public without my prior consent. (But if you want to share it with a wedding blog, or anything like that, I'm likely going to say hell yes!). I just want to be certain of the publication before I give the okay!
I do have the option of buying prints directly from the online photo gallery (wall prints, albums, calendars, thank you cards, etc.), and I work with an extremely skilled group of printing labs, none of whom accept orders from the general public. The sad truth is, the best quality prints, don't come from Shutterfly, Snapfish, or any public facing print company. Ask your photographer if they partner with a bomb-ass printer!
12. What is the payment process like?
This is one critical to have each and every detail. You want to know when payments are due, and how much each payment is. Most photographers will require a retainer fee to guarantee the booking. This means that you are locked in and that money is not refundable (because the photographer is providing the service of not booking other clients on that date). You also should know if there is a laddered process of payments every few months, or if it's just retainer + the rest.
My payment process is designed to be super easy!
25% retainer due at contract signing to secure the date. A signed contract is nice, but it's not locked in until that retainer fee is paid. It's nothing personal, but I gotta go with whoever is ready to pay first!
The remaining portion is due by the wedding date. You can even pay after the wedding if you want. The only caveat is that I will not send the full edited gallery until the balance is paid in full. If you can agree to that, then we are cooking with gas!
And for Modern Frames Photography it's cash or check please <3
13. Do you offer any discounts?
I understand why you may want to ask for discounts. After all it makes perfect sense to not fully trust that a figure someone is proposing is the photographer's true, non-inflated rate. It's perfectly acceptable to ask for a discount, in fact I encourage it, I think it helps self esteem to ask for something you really want, but social norms may make you feel it's uncomfortable to ask.
That said, I do not believe most wedding photographers offer discounts, and if they do, it's likely in exchange for compromises most of you reading this may not be able (or willing) to make. The most common form of discount is for weekdays (meaning Monday through Thursday for most wedding vendors). I have also heard of discounts for couples where at least one provides some sort of public service, or even for "off season" whatever that may be in your location. You can also shave a few dollars off your final invoice if you nix add-on services, or limit total coverage time (like 6 hrs instead of 8)
I offer ONE discount! My base package price is my absolute-non-inflated real base price. I don't add any extra to be able to negotiate down to what I really want.
My one discount is $100 off of your total invoice for each person that is teacher. I find that teachers tend to be dramatically underpaid for the work they provide, and the service they are doing for our future, by molding young minds and spirits. Seriously, if you're a teacher. Thank you so much for choosing to do that!
THE BONUS QUESTION!
14. What do like most about wedding photography?
You may not care about this answer, and if you are that type of person, I get it! It's not REALLY relevant to you, and it could even come off as bragging! The benefit of asking this question, however, is that you get an insight into the true human that is behind the lens on your wedding day. Don't forget we're all people! Whatever the answer, I think it will help you ultimately decide on who to hire.
WARNING: This is kinda sappy, a little interesting, and possibly lame!
First of all, I genuinely love going to weddings. It's where you (hopefully) get to see two people living out their best day of their lives (so far), it's an EPIC party (catered meals, live music or a personal DJ), and everyone gets dressed up to the nines. That's awesome!
Now for the sappy stuff. I married my wife, Alisa in September 2014. It was absolutely one of my favorite days ever. I remember all of my friends and family all around having fun, there was beautiful speeches, embarrassing moments, and we all just had the best time. But sometimes, after you've been married for a while, small things can begin to frustrate you, and they shouldn't. It's nice to have a reality check and remember that being late to Downtown Abbey Movie isn't going to make or break your day. But sometimes it can feel like that, and it can be kind of hard to dig yourself out of those bummed out feelings.
I absolutely love my wife. She is the best thing in my life. Sometimes if I am upset or down about anything at all (not even anything related to our relationship), simply having her nearby can alleviate and cure my stress or anxiety.
... and by being present at YOUR wedding, I get to be around those same friends and family sharing inside jokes, being truly happy (ugly crying and all), and just enjoying one of the best parties and events in their lives. And I love that. I genuinely cry and choked up from time to time during wedding ceremonies and speeches (and dances). I'm just a big softy I guess.
So the reason I love wedding photography, is I get to be the one to create the visual storybook of that day where all your friends and family celebrated you and your love. So when you're maybe having a bit of a down day, you can pull up a few photos of you hugging your grandmother, or your modest aunt having shots poured directly in her mouth, or just a super nice photo of the person you married, and remember that it truly ALL GOOD.
There you have it. That's a little rambly, and will likely get edited, but that's why I love wedding photography, and why I want to be at YOUR WEDDING <3
Here is Alisa and I on our wedding day, dancing to "The Luckiest" by Ben Folds
(Photo credit Documentary Associates)
**Also this was one of the last days I was baby-faced. I think we can all agree the beard was the way to go!
Thanks for checking out this long-ass post. I hope you enjoyed it! And if you think you might want to entertain the idea of hiring me, I'd sure love to talk to you about it more!
Peace! AND CONGRATS!