It is that time of the year again, when wedding season is starting to get in to full swing, and one of the many things the happy-couple has to arrange is the photographer. This can be a daunting task, as the photographer has such an important role in capturing the big day, and gets so involved in every moment; but most people do not have experience of hiring a photographer. We had this nervous adventure ourselves for our own wedding!
Below are 50 questions that you must ask any wedding photographer, a carefully thought-out list from our professional experience. From personal experience of hiring our wedding photographer, we have identified what we think were the nine most important ones to us – they are highlighted in bold font (although all of them are must-ask questions).
1. Do they use an assistant?
This can help if you plan to take group shots, or if you will be taking photos in a dark room or at night.
2. Do they have a second shooter?
A step up from a photographer’s assistant – a second photographer to double the opportunities for capturing special moments.
3. Do they shoot candid or posed photos?
Are they a “documentary” photographer, or do they pose a lot of shots?
4. Do they use natural light or flash?
A good photographer will be comfortable with both. If your ceremony is in a place of worship, consider whether flash is even allowed.
5. Do they have any “signature” shots?
A photographer probably won’t guarantee a list of poses or shots as a lot can happen unexpectedly at a wedding. They may, however, have a certain shot or two that they always make sure to get.
6. How would they describe their style?
Have the photographer explain their style, then compare it to your own description of what you are looking for. They have had plenty of experience of the final look that they deliver to clients.
7. Will they recreate a certain photo you have seen?
If you have your heart set on something you have seen, maybe a photo from your parent’s wedding, your photographer might not be comfortable “copying” another photographer’s work. Some photographers love it if you make a Pinterest board showing the kind of shots you expect, whilst others will expect you to be looking at their own work to make your decision.
8. Have they shot a wedding before?
Do they know what they are doing? A wedding is a lot more full-on than other shoots, as the photographer cannot set the pace or call a time-out. Your photographer should have done this at least once before, but don’t pin too much worth on them having shot dozens of weddings – check out their full portfolio for other photo shoots, see if they have good overall work and style, and just remember, Prince Harry and Meghan’s official wedding photographer was a fashion photographer by trade!
9. Have they shot at your venue before?
If they have, they will already have spent a day checking the best spots to take photos. They may also have a relationship with the manager, which can help things run smoother.
10. Have they shot a ceremony typical of your religion before?
If you have any special traditions or events specific to your religion, do they know what to expect? Oftentimes you can find photographers who specialise in weddings for particular cultures, especially Asian weddings – but this isn’t to say that you have to hire one. An experienced wedding photographer should be able to walk through your plans for the big day and work out their own strategy to photograph it, regardless of what it is you are planning.
11. Can they show you a complete set of pictures from one wedding?
What is better to judge the quality of a photographer? Seeing the single best pictures from 100 different weddings, or 100 pictures from a single wedding? You are paying to receive the latter, don’t be tempted by photographers who can only get one or two amazing shots and show you only these. When we hired our own wedding photographer, we sat down with him and went through physical photo albums from previous weddings so we could see what we were likely to receive ourselves.
12. Can you meet them to look at their material and talk face to face?
A pre wedding meet is the ideal time to make sure they are the right fit for you. Remember that you are hiring them to be in close proximity to you on the biggest day of your life, possibly for more than 12 hours. If you don’t like them as a person, then you aren’t going to be happy with them following you around and getting on your nerves.
13. How do they behave whilst they are working?
Are they silent and inconspicuous, or are they loud and push people around to get the shot? This has to tie-in with what you are expecting the final product to look like. If you have a large family and you are looking to get a lot of posed group shots, you probably need somebody bold and with big presence. If you want candid documentary style photos, big presence is bad news.
14. What happens if there is unfavourable weather on the day?
Can your photographer set up a group shot indoors if it rains? Do they have nice, white umbrellas? Are they comfortable shooting your brilliant white dress in the bright midday sun?
The End Product
15. What is included in the price for each package?
Does the photographer offer set packages, let you build your own package, or give a simple upfront price. Just be careful to understand what it is you will be paying for, as there is no standard way for different photographers to price their services. It isn’t unheard of for a happy couple to think they were getting something specific included when booking, only to realise later that it is actually an extra few hundred pounds when they ask why they didn’t get it yet. If you aren’t sure, always ask!
16. How many final photos will be delivered?
This is usually a big factor in setting prices. The more photos you want delivered, the longer your photographer must spend editing…usually longer than they spent actually at your wedding! Typically, 300-400 photos can cover most aspects of your day, but the photographer might have taken literally thousands if you really want to see everything in detail – just be prepared to pay extra for the additional images.
17. How will the final photos be delivered?
Will you get a USB, CD, online gallery or prints? Typically, photographers are using online galleries to deliver the final images now. Gone are the days of waiting for the post to arrive with a USB stick containing your memories, unless you specially order a personalised USB stick with a display case for an extra fee – nothing wrong with wanting something physical to hold, you just need to ask!
18. Will they give you the RAW files?
If you are an amateur photographer, you might want to get the raw files to edit in different styles yourself. Don’t expect your photographer to agree to this, as they will want to preserve their style and brand, and letting an amateur or enthusiast perform their own editing can damage the brand image they have spent years curating. You can ask, and you might find the odd one or two who will agree – but go in to this one expecting to get rejected.
19. Do they offer prints?
If you want prints to frame or gift to guests, the best quality will be to get them direct from your photographer. They may include prints in their packages. Also check if they can provide an online service where guests can order their own prints and have them delivered directly.
20. Do they offer an album design service?
If you have 300 wedding photos, the best way to display them in your home is with an album (unless you have a LOT of walls to hang photos). Your photographer will have a lot of experience in the design and layout of the album, and will have a tried and tested supplier that they trust enough to associate their livelihood with.
21. How long will it take to receive the final photos?
After your big day, you will want to get your hands on the photos right away out of curiosity. Be mindful that your photographer was up late too, had to travel back to their studio, might have another shoot the next day and the day after that, and there will be literally thousands of photos to sort through. A reasonable expectation is to have the photos around 14 days after. If you are having your wedding in the June-August “wedding season”, or you are hiring a highly sought-after photographer, it is not unusual to be waiting for several months to get your photos!
22. How much retouching or editing do they normally do?
Discuss how much editing you are comfortable with. Your photographer might want to keep it very natural, but maybe you have a scar or mole you want removing from photos of yourself – just set expectations as it can be very time consuming and cause tension in the relationship if the photographer has to go back and redo a large amount of work because they did or didn’t do something specific.
23. Do they outsource their editing?
A lot of photographers outsource editing to India. You will probably get your photos back faster, and the photographer can spend more time shooting and making more money. However, the photos won’t have as much care and attention spent on them, and 400+ photos might be split between multiple workers causing inconsistent edits. In any case, this might not be a problem, so long as you adhere to tip number 11 and see a consistent level of quality.
The Legal Stuff
24. What permission will you have to use the photos?
UK law states that the photographer owns all the copyright to the photos they take, even if they are photos of you. Make sure you understand what written copyright release you will be provided with. You may be restricted with what you are allowed to do with the photos. Most photographers should be reasonable and let you share them with friends and on social media with little restriction, drawing the line at anything which will see you making a profit from using the photos.
25. How will they use the photos?
A photographer markets their business by sharing the great photos they take. They will probably want to put the photos on their website and social media, and no doubt there will be a clause in the contract for this.
This is a topic that has caused a lot of debate in the photographic industry in recent times, as couples sometimes think nothing of it until it comes to actually seeing their photos online, at which point they realise they don’t like their day being shared. If you sign a contract that says the photographer is allowed to use the photos for marketing, you cannot later tell them not to – yes, you are paying for their services, and yes they want to make you happy to get a good review and referrals; but you signed a legally binding document, and there are no two ways about it. There have been several cases where unscrupulous wedding couples have threatened legal action, only to have the photographer successfully sue for disparagement compensation and still get to use the photos per the original contract anyway! Of course, this is rare; the point is if you don’t want to have your photos used for marketing, be upfront and make a deal to remove this clause from the contract before signing it.
26. Do they require you to tag them in social media posts?
In addition to the last two points, your contract and release form is likely to stipulate that you have to tag the photographer on Facebook and Instagram if you post a photo that they captured. It is quite unreasonable (but not unheard of) for your photographer to expect you to tag them in 100s of different photos,; just make sure you clearly agree what you are willing to do – maybe one post that highlights who your photographer was and how others can get in touch with them, or possibly you agree to share a post that the photographer makes directly from their own business account.
27. Will they sign a non-disclosure agreement?
Do you have a celebrity attending your wedding? You might want to get the photographer to sign an agreement that they will not share photos of a certain person.
28. Do they have insurance?
Your venue likely requires your photographer to have insurance to be allowed to attend, in case they cause damage or harm. It might even be in your contract with the venue that it is your responsibility to ensure that any third party contractors which you hire (including the photographer) have insurance, and if they cause damage and don’t have insurance, you are liable to pay the venue for the repairs yourself! And it isn’t just physical damage; consider if the worst were to happen – your photographer is travelling home and their camera bag is stolen, losing all of your photos. You might want to claim compensation for this, and a good insurance policy helps avoid nasty legal action.
29. How much is the deposit and when are payments due?
Make sure you understand when payments are due. Your photographer should give plenty of time and notice for payments, but your contract will likely specify a late payment penalty if you miss the generous deadlines.
30. How far in advance do you have to book and sign the contract?
Make sure your photographer doesn’t get snapped up by somebody else because you took too long to sign and return the contract.
31. What is the cancellation policy?
Maybe you found another photographer you like more, or you have had to reschedule the wedding for some reason – maybe the band you want was not available that date. Your photographer will have a policy about when it is too late to cancel or reschedule – because wedding photographers are usually booked months in advance, a short notice change of date might not be possible, and a short notice cancellation will result in the loss of your deposit to cover lost earnings.
Logistics and Timing
32. Will they travel to your destination?
For a wedding, a photographer may be willing to travel even to another country – this is a great thing to showcase on their resumé to show they are in demand and popular.
33. Do they require food or lodging?
Some prefer to bring their own food, others prefer to have a sit down meal at the same time as the guests (they won’t be taking photos of people eating anyway!). Some prefer to go home at the end of the night, others prefer to know they can kick back in a local hotel.
34. How many other weddings are they shooting around your date?
If they are shooting ten other weddings that week, it may mean they are popular, but it also means their attention is divided among many people, and they are not focused on you.
35. What gender are their assistants or second shooters?
The bride may be happier and more relaxed getting made-up in front of a female photographer, for example.
36. Are they flexible with over time?
What if there is a delay on the day, something doesn’t go as planned, or your party is in full swing and you don’t want the photographer to leave yet? Understand whether your photographer will disappear when the time limit is hit, or they are flexible to stick around.
37. What happens if they are ill or unable to arrive on the day?
Your photographer should know a great wedding photographer friend who can step in if they are sick or cannot attend.
38. What will they wear on the day?
You might want your photographer to wear something formal to fit in, but your photographer probably wants something practical for bending over, lying on the floor, climbing on chairs etc to get the best shot. Discuss the dress code beforehand to find a mutual balance. We’ve even seen photographers who refuse to wear anything but a track suit!
39. What happens if their equipment fails on the day?
If their camera stops working, or they drop and smash a lens, will they bring backup equipment?
40. Are they attending any wedding fairs near you?
If a photographer is from far away, they might be going to a wedding fair nearby so you can meet them in person.
41. Can they recommend a good band/DJ/makeup artist etc?
Photographers meet a lot of other wedding professionals, and the photographer literally spends the whole wedding observing everyone. They see everything that happens – which makeup artist makes the bride relaxed, which band gets the crowd dancing, which florists go the extra mile etc.
42. What information do they need from you?
A good photographer will make suggestions and ask you lots of questions. If they don’t, they will probably turn up on the day without all the information they really need.
43. Do they have a photo booth?
A great way to break the ice and get photos of guests who may be shy and stay away from the photographer.
44. Do they have a 360 camera?
A candid 360 photo can be a nice extra or alternative to the typical posed group shot.
45. Do they have a drone?
Do you want to get some aerial shots of your guests or venue, or maybe you have an extra large number of guests to squeeze in to the group photo.? Be sure to check whether your venue allows this and whether your photographer has the required permits.
46. Do they do video too?
If you want video as well as photos, your photographer may be able to do both, or they can recommend a videographer.
47. Do they offer a pre or post wedding shoot with just the couple?
Your wedding day will be fun and exciting, but you can be under a lot of pressure too. You might also find it hard to spend time with your partner away from the guests. Having a post wedding shoot a couple of days after the wedding, you can be relaxed and alone.
48. Do they offer a dress-fitting shoot?
Fittings are an overlooked opportunity to get great shots of the bride with close family and friends.
49. Will they offer a package deal on an engagement shoot prior to the wedding?
A great way to announce your wedding plans is with an engagement photo shoot to share on social media.
50. Do they offer referral discounts?
Have you got a friend in need of a wedding photographer? You may both get a discount if you refer them, since photographers love word-of-mouth bookings as it cuts their paid advertising costs.