Posted on 8/8/2012

What To Ask Your Wedding Photographer

Being that the Outer Banks is among the best wedding destinations in the U.S., we at Southern Shores Realty want to keep you informed as you make difficult planning decisions. Not getting married on the OBX? No worries, these tips will be useful where ever you say "I do". Weddings are beautiful and magical, but planning them can be complicated and stressful. One of the those stressors is who's going to capture your special day? Most couples will spend anywhere from 7% to 15% of their total wedding budget on wedding photography. This is often a key part in planning, because your wedding will be relived forever through these photos. So how do you decide on a wedding photographer? Even on the Outer Banks, where there are currently more than 40 photographers listed with the Outer Banks Wedding Association, it can be a challenge to figure out which is best for you. There are many possible questions you can ask a wedding photographer, but this list is not designed to be comprehensive or exhaustive. Rather, this list is designed to get you to ask the fundamental questions to determine whether the photographer is a good match for you.

Basic Questions

  • How far in advance do I need to book with you? Most photographers will warn you to book as soon as possible if you want to lock in your date in with the photographer of your choice, and they are right. You should expect to book a quality, experienced photographer at least 8 months in advance.
  • Can you show me a copy of your business license? So many brides never stop to consider this one, but you really need to make sure your vendors are legit. Just because they own a website that doesn't mean they are a legal business. One of the awesome things about the Outer Banks Wedding Association is they require all of their vendors to show proof of their right to do business here.
  • Do you have liability insurance? This is as much for your protection as it is for the photographer.
  • Will you be shooting my wedding or will someone else? It is of the utmost importance that you get to meet your wedding photographer so you can gauge his or her experience and walk away knowing if you are comfortable with this person being in charge of the biggest tangible memory of your wedding daybecause you will be with this person the entire day!
  • May I have a list of references? The photographer should not hesitate to provide this, although many aren't carrying their references around with them. What you're more interested in here is their willingness to share them, not so much their content. I would also encourage you to do some online research to see what people are saying about the photographer.

Gauging Your Investment

A more experienced and seasoned wedding photographer will charge more while amateurs, and less experienced photographers, trying to get into the wedding business usually are the ones charging less, although sometimes there are other reasons of why they are less. Use these questions to gauge their experience so you can determine whether or not you are being asked a reasonable rate for their services.
  • How long have you been in business? Any photographer that has been in the business for more than 5 years should be at the average cost for the area, while a photographer who does not have 5 years yet should be below the average. I can't stress enough how important it is to have experience under your belt.
  • How many weddings have you shot? Again, this is another question about experience and I would say this question is more important than the previous one. A photographer that has been in business for 8 years may have only shot 2 weddings. On the other hand, you may have another photographer that's only been in business for one year, yet they have shot over 30 weddings.
  • Can I see an entire wedding, not just a small portfolio? Seeing a complete wedding, with all the pictures the photographer gave a past client, can tell you a lot about what you would be receiving. It will also show you whether the photographer can consistently take great photos or if their great photos are hit and miss.
  • What time will you arrive at the site and for how long will you shoot? Some photographers are hired by the number of hours they will be present, but some dont. Make sure you know the specifics of this.
  • How old is the oldest picture in your portfolio? Your goal here is to see what their recent work looks like. A photographer mostly displaying 3-year-old work as their best should concern you whether they can still produce the same quality today.
  • What kind of equipment do you use? This can be a pretty vague question simply because creativity comes in many different forms and that creativity directly impacts what kind of equipment a wedding photographer will carry. But one thing you can take from this is the model and make of the camera and lenses. In todays world, if the camera body and lenses arent valued at $1,000 or more each then theyre not working with the best equipment required to capture a wedding (although there are a few rare exceptions). Equipment can easily end up over $8,000 just for one camera body and one lens combined, but most are in the $3,000 to $4,000 range.
  • Do you provide retouching, color adjustment or other corrective services? Can you show me a before and after example of your editing? You need to see whether or not the photographer knows how to properly remove blemishes, arm flab, and correct colors the camera sometimes incorrectly reads when the shot was taken. This question should have nothing to do with a photographer's editing style.
  • What do you do if your camera breaks in the middle of the wedding? Do you have backup gear? Equipment malfunctions are a little too common to ignore a big question like this one. A professional should have backup gear that is just as good as the primary gear.
  • Have you ever worked at my wedding site before? If not, do you plan to check it out in advance? Photographers who familiarize themselves with a location ahead of time will be prepared for any lighting issues or restrictions, and will know how best to incorporate the sites architectural elements into the photos.
Check out Part Two with questions concerning artistic preferences, contracts, and responsibilities, and personal questions to ask yourself before making the decision of whether to hire or not.
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