Updated: Jan 23
I like to start off all my client consultations with any questions that they might have for me. I do this because it lets me know what they're looking for in their photographer and helps give me guidance on where to take the consultation. More often than not couples don't have too many questions to start, but they think of them as we move through the conversation. Earlier this year my client consultations were packed with prepared questions from couples who were looking to hire me. But my past three consultations in a row all mentioned the same phrase:
"I don't know what to ask."
This is unsurprising, but a little worrisome. It's unsurprising because most people have never hired a wedding photographer, or if they have the photography industry has changed quite a bit since the last time. But it's worrisome couples aren't prepared with research questions because it's a big financial investment and a lot is at stake: this day only happens once so you need to know you're making the right choice with your investment!
So this post will address some of the big topics you should cover with your photographer in your interview with them before you sign a contract and hand over any money.
1. Artistic Style and How they Work
Every photographer has a style of working on your wedding day. Some photographers really take charge and direct the day down to the tiniest details. Others are more laid back and strictly observers. Others, like myself, are somewhere in between where they are observers for some parts of the day and directors for others. Personality is a key component here, too. You and your future spouse are going to be spending a lot of time with your photographer, so it's important that you all get along and like each other.
In addition to understanding their work style, it's important that you know about (and like!) their artistic style in capturing and editing the photos. Do they capture mostly posed imagery and heavily edit and retouch it? Are they into majority candid image captures with minimal editing? Be sure to review their portfolio and don't be afraid to ask to see a complete wedding gallery.
2. What Do You Get For Your Investment?
Just as there are photographers who run the gambit in how they manage the day, there are a variety of offerings photographers choose when they set up their wedding day packages. Some sell just their time, with the images sold separately either as digital files or prints. Others create bundles where their time and certain products are included. I'm considered an all-inclusive photographer, where the price you pay includes both my time, a small gift box of prints and the high-resolution images, but additional physical products are sold a la carte.
But more than understanding what is included for the price, is making sure it's what you want. Just because a photographer includes a whole bunch of large gorgeous prints with their package doesn't mean it's the right value for you if what you really want is an album and loose prints won't do anything but sit in a drawer. And a photographer who will only provide the digitals and has no means of providing any physical products might not be a good fit if you're the kind of person who will never get around to printing your wedding images yourself. No wedding photos should be lost in #digitallimbo.
3. Read the Contract and Understand the Terms
One would think this is a no-brainer, but it can be surprising how few people fully read a contract before signing it. Contracts are actually not scary, and well-drafted ones are designed for the protection of both the client and the photographer. It's basically going to outline the expectations of your agreement: Payment terms, the way in which the photographer will provide service, any work hazard stipulations, what happens in the event of a cancellation from either party, etc. Any photographer should be happy to talk to you about what's in their contract and answer questions, though few will be willing to change something. Often this is because their contract has been drafted and approved by a lawyer for the protection of their business, so changes could leave them at a huge risk. It never hurts to ask to amend a clause, but be prepared that it might not happen. The payment and delivery terms are especially clauses to take note of. These will outline when you need to remit payment and under what conditions you could receive your money back in the event of a cancellation, as well as setting the expectations for when the photographer will be delivering their end of the bargain to you.
4. Ask Them About Their Experience
Definitely ask your photographer how they got into wedding photography and how long they've been doing it. Then ask how many weddings they've done. Few years doesn't always mean less weddings and long years doesn't always mean more weddings. My first two years of business I photographed over 60 weddings, and now I take on less weddings per year. So the answers to these questions will not only tell you how much experience your photographer has but also how many other clients your photographer might be dealing with at the same time as you. And as I've mentioned in another blog post, don't be afraid to ask them how they will be handling your wedding-day data. Call me cheesy, but I love when clients ask me why I like photographing weddings, or what my favorite aspect of wedding photography is. It's an opportunity for me to show off my personality and connect with them a little more and I feel like I get to be different than other wedding photographers they might be meeting with.
5. Ask Them For Their Professional Opinion
This is two-fold. Asking the prospective photographers you're meeting with for their professional opinions about your wedding plans and how they would tackle the day is going to provide you with some options to think about as you plan AND it's going to give you a glimpse into what it will be like to work with them. I guess it's actually three-fold because it could also give you a window into how much experience they have with some of the situations they'll find themselves in with the wedding plans you have so far. Sometimes I have couples that ask about first look or no first look and I am always very candid and forthright about why I prefer first looks on a wedding day. I will never force a couple to do one (though some photographers insist on it), but it is something I have an opinion about. I think the couples that ask this question and book with me appreciate the honesty I show and the experience I bring to the table in being able to guide them through their unique day and situation, whether they choose to follow my preferences or not.
There are other things that should be covered in an initial consultation and the photographer might guide the conversation a little bit to cover them. For example, I always ask about the tentative timeline that's in the works so we can figure out what the best coverage options are we should be looking at. But these five topics are big ones that definitely should be addressed with every photographer you meet with.
For more great tips on hiring your wedding photographer or planning your big day in photos, download my free Wedding Photography Planning Guide and get instant wedding planning zen.
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