These days, everyone who owns a smartphone thinks they’re a photographer. Just aim your iPhone at something, add a filter and a few hashtags, and you’re Richard Avedon.
Why bother hiring a wedding photographer at all?
(Sigh.) Look, we feel like we’ve been over this already. You hire a wedding photographer because you are NOT Richard Avedon. Even if your Insta is impeccable, and you have a million followers, you are not a professional. A professional will make your wedding look better than you remember it. Your iPhone will not.
How to find the right photographer? Well, you’ll need to interview them. Which means you’ll have to ask them questions. Ask these now, or things will get unhappily complex on your big day.
1. What kind of styles do you shoot?
Obviously, you’ll get a sense of this when you look at their portfolio (see #3 below), but it’s good to get a photographer’s take on their own work. You’ll get a sense of what they consider their strengths, a sense of their personal aesthetic, and a sense of whether you actually like their personalities. If your candidates are pros, they’ll have an answer at the ready.
2. What kind of packages do you offer?
Don’t ask your photographer for their prices. The question gives them too much leeway to quote you something that seems low but offers less for the money. Instead, ask about package deals. Details include how many assistants can hire for the job; the number of prints they’ll create for you; online viewing options for guests; and special portrait and album deals.
3. Do you have different samples of your work?
This is a rhetorical question because of course they have samples of their work. In fact, if they haven’t already directed you to an online portfolio, that should raise at least raise one red flag in your mind.
4. How long will it take to deliver the goods?
You have a whole lifetime together to enjoy your wedding photos, but you shouldn’t have to wait until half that lifetime is over to see them. Be sure to work out a schedule for when you’ll see selects, and when the final prints will be delivered. Times may vary depending on the types of package you ordered and how much editing is needed. Unless you insist on actual film photography, the photographer will be working in digital–so the turnaround time should be a couple of weeks. At most.
5. Can you give us your references?
Talk with some of the people who’ve worked with this photographer in the past, and find out what he or she is like to work with, both during the wedding and afterwards. Were these past customers satisfied? We assume you’ll do a search on sites like Yelp, but there’s invaluable intel to be gleaned from actual conversations with other human beings.
6. How long have you been photographing weddings?
You’re not just looking for an amazing photographer — you’re looking for an amazing wedding photographer. Knowing how to capture the right shot at the right moment takes skill and experience. Their work in other areas of photography–photojournalism, digital editing–may bring an added quality to the work they do for you, but it won’t matter much if they don’t know how to work a wedding. Remember, this is going to be a big event with a lot of moving pieces, so you don’t want to have to micromanage a photographer while it’s going on.
7. How well do you know my wedding venue?
If the photographer has shot in your venue before, they’ll have a huge advantage. They’ll know the logistics, and where they can get the best shots without disrupting the ceremony or the reception. If they know the venue staff, it will make things run more smoothly as well–and could even save you money in the end..
8. Is everything we want in your contract?
It goes without saying that you’ll sign a contract–as much for the photographer’s protection as yours–so make sure it includes everything you need, as well as everything you need to know. Study every detail and clause: Don’t make the mistake this couple did