What to ask photographers
As a wedding photographer, I meet with potential clients on a regular basis. These are brides and grooms who are looking for the perfect wedding photographer. And they want to figure out if it might be me. We typically meet in coffee shops or at bookstores. They sit across from me, and after some small talk, begin asking me a series of questions. Usually, the questions are pulled from a wedding magazine or a guide. And, typically among them are: Do you have insurance? When will we get the photos back? What kind of equipment do you use? These are all useful questions, but I’m not sure really help establish if I am the wedding photographer for them.
I do think it’s important for brides and grooms to interview numerous vendors, asking them as many questions as they can. I mean, this is their big day after all. However, I think there are often some essential questions that get left out, questions that should be asked.
So, I’ve made my own list. These are the questions I would ask, if I were sitting on the other side of the table.
What do you do in your spare time?
You might wonder: What does this have to do with being a good wedding photographer? Well, the truth is: Nothing. But the answer isn’t what’s important. What’s important is the conversation you begin to have once this question is asked. It doesn’t matter if the photographer’s answer is reading, or deep sea diving, but I do think it’s important that the perfect photographer for me would have an answer I could connect with. Remember this photographer is going to be with you all day. They are going to be directing your movements and organizing your family. You need to have chemistry. I would want to make sure we’d enjoy being around each other.
Have you ever made a photography mistake?
Let’s face it, everyone at every job has made a mistake. Your potential wedding photographer has, too. The perfect wedding photographer might even make a mistake with your wedding. The important thing isn’t whether they’ve made a mistake or not, the important thing is to hear how they handled a mistake.
Let me give you an example. When I first started shooting weddings, I had a filing system where I saved the upcoming wedding information by the groom’s last name. One year, within a one-month period, I was photographing the wedding of two brothers. One wedding was in the morning at 10 a.m. The other was in the afternoon at 3 p.m. Unknowingly, however, I had switched the folders. The day of the first wedding I was in the shower when the maid-of-honor called me at 10 a.m. asking where I was. I calmly replied not to worry, I would be there by 3 p.m. Turns out that was the day of the 10 a.m. wedding. I was mortified. I called my second shooter and rushed out the door. On the way to the wedding, I called another photography friend and asked her to shoot, too. After the wedding, I reimbursed the bride for the two missed hours, didn’t charge her for the third shooter, I apologize profusely accepting all the blame, and gave her a complimentary wedding album. Nothing I could do could erase my mistake, but to this day that bride is one of my biggest fans and has recommended me to numerous other brides-to-be.
Can I see the photos from an entire wedding you’ve shot?
It’s important to dig deep on this one. Most people can take a few good photographs, and professional photographers can probably take a few more than that. But what you want to know is how does this photographer handle low lighting at the reception? How do they take the group shots? How many of their total photographs do you like? The best way to get the answer to these questions is to see for yourself. If I were picking a wedding photographer I would describe my wedding and then ask to see a few complete wedding shoots they’ve shot that are similar to the one I have in mind.
How many weddings have you photographed?
While I agree that experience is important. There are some things to remember. Often, you can get a better deal if you use a photographer who used to be a second shooter and is now a lead shooter. In this case, experience might not be your deciding factor. Honestly, just because someone hasn’t been “lead” shooting for that long, doesn’t mean they won’t do a great job. Another thing to remember is that, while experience is good, overly booked is bad. You don’t want a photographer who is shooting three weddings in a weekend, because this means by Sunday they are going to be exhausted. An over-booked photographer is probably not going to get your images back to you on time either.
Who are your favorite wedding photographers?
You can learn a lot about someone by asking them who they admire. What do they like about these photographers? Look for a photographer whose answer is passionate and interested. When I give advice to new wedding photographers, I tell them to find three photographers they admire and to follow their blogs. I tell them to try and see if they can push themselves by emulating the style, ideas and feeling in the photographer’s images. This isn’t copying. That would be like saying reading great authors and then writing something afterward is copying. It’s what artists do. They learn from each other. Think of it more like developing your visual vocabulary. In case you were wondering, my three favorite wedding photographers are Lemon Lime Photography, Clayton Austin and Anna Kuperberg.
One last tip
Bring some photos you like, or make an online Pintrest Board, and ask the photographer what they think of your selection.
I love seeing images that brides and grooms love. I ask brides and grooms to keep a Pintrest board collection or physical collection of images that they are drawn to. Sometimes these are landscapes, sometimes they are black-and-whites and mostly they are wedding images. Be wary if sharing what you love intimidates a photographer, or if they promise to get every shot in your collection. The point isn’t to show a photographer how to do their job, the point is to have a conversation about what you love, so the photographer can be a better part of your overall wedding team.
Amanda Bastoni lives in Peterborough.