10 better questions to ask your wedding photographer
& ones that aren’t worth it
Weddings. Lists, lists, and more bloody lists. If there’s a question on your mind about weddings, someone’s written a list of more questions. Type “questions for a wedding photographer” into Google and you’ll see. Reams of advice. Some good. Some so bloody ridiculous that if you were to go to a wedding photographer and ask it they’ll probably have to collect themselves for a moment before coming back to you with an answer.
Trust me. I’ve been asked some of them.
And I’ve asked some of my wedding photographer buddies how these weird questions make them feel and it’s unanimous – like everyone is wasting each others’ time. So in a bid to be helpful, I’m going to tell you which questions are worth asking, which questions we like answering, and what to avoid asking altogether (even if a list makes you feel like you should ask it).
Let’s start with….
Questions that Aren’t Worth Asking A Wedding Photographer
These are the pitfall questions. The ones that make us feel like we’re being interviewed for a job, or made to deliberately trip up. The fact is that most of us are self-employed, and corporate style questions aren’t really appropriate (even if corporate style websites make you think they are). We understand why you’d ask these questions, but your energy is better spent elsewhere, on the questions you should be asking.
What do you charge?
This is a really important question, no doubt. But opening with it? That’s outright telling someone who produces art that the only thing that matters to you is the cost. Some photographers won’t even answer an enquiry that starts with this. Most of us have our prices on our websites too, so please have a good look around before shooting this message. If they don’t display their prices, please ask other questions along with asking for a pricing brochure.
tip: look at their packages. Tell them your budget.
Have you shot at our venue before?
A favourite of wedding advice blogs the world over, this question is absolute horse poop. Some venues have preferred suppliers, and photographers on those lists might shoot the same venue up to a dozen times a year. Do you think that they’re looking for new and interesting things to do each time they shoot there? Maybe. Equally possible is that they’re bashing the images out because they’ve not got any desire to explore it with fresh eyes.
No two weddings are the same, so revisiting venues once or twice each seasons means you’ll be sure to getting photos that look like your wedding, that suit you. But being there lots isn’t going to be conducive to creativity. If this is something you value in a wedding photographer, then this question is meaningless.
Ask this: have you shot a barn/tipi/country house/festival wedding before? Do you have examples we could see?
What qualifications have you got?
Most of the photographers I know have worked as teachers, done accounting, been police officers, solicitors, worked in shops and bars, and done all that while shooting as a hobby. They’ve then turned their hobby into a job by seeking days of training and going on workshops. I can count on one finger the photographers I know who actually studied it at uni. I used to manage a wine shop, and before that I did Classics at university.
Qualifications, schmalifications. They just don’t matter. You could get a qualification in photography and then carry on developing and learning afterwards, so by that point it’s pretty meaningless. The same goes for awards (people pay to enter them, and sometimes it can look like a popularity contest rather than a judgment on customer service and ability) and professional bodies, which are really just paid membership thingies.
tip: ask how they got into photography.
Can we contact previous clients for references?
Under GDPR and generally decent work ethics, no. I personally will not be handing out contact information for any of my previous clients, and I wouldn’t ask them if they’d be happy to be approached by an interested couple. Instead I’d point you to the many positive reviews on my Google listing and my Facebook page.
Just imagine you’re that couple getting pimped for positive feedback to another couple. Wouldn’t you feel even a tiny bit put out by that?
tip: google their business name + reviews.
What do you shoot on?
I use a Fujifilm X-T3 and a Fujifilm X-T2, because I like them. I used to shoot on a Canon 6D and one day I just switched because I wanted to. No one noticed.
It doesn’t matter. It’s just a tool.
Ask: do you have backup equipment?
What will you wear to our wedding?
(I haven’t been asked this, but it is on a few lists!)
I will wear clothes. Yes your guests will see my tattoos. I will wear something I can move in and be comfortable laying on the ground in, because that happens. I will not be bearing my arse or anything else I’d rather keep private.
tip: in my opinion, this doesn’t matter.
Here’s a list of 10 better questions to ask a wedding photographer. Ones we like to answer.
Asking these questions will yield real information that can help you decide on the right wedding photographer for you. Not every photographer is right for every couple, so it really is worth probing the ones who catch your eye.
Can we see have a skype chat?
Too bloody right we can! It’s important to get to know each other first and check that you’re happy in your decision. Ideally I’d meet every couple in person to go over things, but often there’s just not enough hours in the day! However a half hour Skype or Facetime chat, or good old fashioned telephone, is something I can absolutely do. And any photographer should be prepared to make time for this, in my opinion.
Can we see a full gallery?
The photos we share on Instagram or in blog posts are a small snapshot of a day. They’re not the full story, by any means. Ask to see a few full galleries rather than an album so you can get an indication of what your final gallery will look like.
Whenever a couple enquires with me I send them 3 or 4 recent galleries that are all different. My style and approach is consistent but the weddings themselves represent different choices the couples have made, so you can see how my work looks in different situations and environments.
We’re awkward in front of the camera. How will you handle that?
I never tire of answering this question. It’s just so important to know how your wedding photographer will set you at ease. Some people want to be posed and perfected, and others prefer a pure documentary approach to the entire day. There’s no right or wrong way, and every photographer will handle couples differently.
Ask this question to make sure you can get along with your photographer on the day. If you want posed couple photos, say so. If you want daft couple photos, look for that. If you don’t want any set up photos then find a purely documentary photographer.
Will we own the copyright to the photos?
Usually the photographer retains the copyright and you get a license to print and share written into your contract. Even if you prefer to keep your photos private, you won’t own the copyright unless you buy it. Different photographers might have different answers to this question, but in the UK this is generally how it works. Ask what rights you have.
How many weddings do you shoot in a year – and why?
Some photographers take on 10 weddings a year and some take on 60. There’s no right or wrong. If their bookings are at the lower end of the scale it could be that they have family commitments they aren’t willing to compromise on, or they have a part time job they really enjoy. If they shoot loads it could mean that they do a lot of elopements, or they have associates and farm them out.
Don’t just ask for a number and judge it at face value, because we’re all different and we all have different ways of working.
Do you have insurance?
If you’re chatting with a wedding photographer and they don’t give you a satisfactory answer to this question, then run. Every photographer needs personal liability insurance and professional indemnity insurance. If they’re bringing a second shooter or assistant then they need it too, even if they’re there working for free.
Don’t be afraid to ask this question. It protects all parties in case something goes awry and, together with a proper contract, is a good indicator that the person you’re working with is a professional, and not just someone playing with cameras.
How do you choose your second shooters? What do they get out of it?
I have a bunch of associates that I love to work with and trust to have alongside me at a wedding. I see second shooters as equals, and allow them to use the photos they take on the day.
However, not every photographer is like me. Some will source seconds they don’t always know, and will treat them more like assistants. It depends what they need from their second shooter – for some it’s genuine responsibility and a second pair of eyes, and for others it’s carrying an enormous umbrella light stand contraption around for the main photographer to get the shot (NB: this will not be fly-on-the-wall type stuff).
What if you have an emergency/illness on the day?
Photographers should always have contingency plans and emergency cover options in place to reassure their clients that, if something bad happens, they can always get someone there. Sometimes this takes the form of sending a different photographer on the day and the primary photographer doing the editing, and sometimes it means handing the whole contract over to someone else. Ask about their contingency plans for your own peace of mind, and know the protocol should you have to use it.
Having said that, most of the photographers I know, myself included, would fight hell or high water to make it to a wedding.
How do you handle bad weather?
Weather happens. Especially in the UK. Some wedding photographers will prefer to stay indoors while others embrace the weather and just get on with it. I think this is a really good question to ask, because it’ll give you a glimpse into their personality. If you click on this then you might be on to a winner!
How do you choose how many images to include?
This is a great alternative way to ask how many images to expect in your gallery – which is a how long is a piece of string type question. Generally if there’s a lot going on and there are a lot of people at a wedding, the gallery will be bigger. Some photographers try to keep their galleries to a certain size, considering other ones to be ‘bloated’, whereas others deliver every photo they like, except for those with missed focus, unflattering angles/facial expressions (everyone looks shit when they’re eating) or duplicate images.
Hopefully you found this useful as a load of questions to ask your wedding photographer, and the pitfalls to avoid in focusing on the wrong questions. If you’re looking for a photographer then I’d love to chat with you!