Bride Guide | Questions to Ask Your Photographer

Choosing a wedding photographer, for many, is a big deal and a big investment.  Your options can be very overwhelming and sometimes it's not so easy to figure out who the best photographer is for you and your wedding.  Here is just a quick list of ten questions you can ask your photographer to help you determine if they are the one for you:

1) Are you available on my wedding day?
-This one kind of sounds silly, but I've had a few instances where I've spent a lot of time talking to a bride at a bridal show or even over the phone without either of us thinking to ask this question.  If your chosen photographer isn't even available on your wedding date, there's not much point in spending a long time getting to know them and interviewing them.  So next to finding out if they fall into your budget

2) Are you within my budget?
-Most of the time, you will know this answer without really having to ask as most photographers at least have a "Prices Starting At..." price point on their websites.  Not all do, however.  So feel free to include in your introductory email or phone call what you budget is.  There's no need to spend any additional time on a photographer that isn't going to fall within your budget.

I should note that some photographers are worth spending outside your budget if you really love them.  So don't automatically discount a photographer if they are outside of your budget.  If it's possible to re-arrange your budget or pay for them in some other way that may make your dream photographer a possibility, even if it didn't seem so in the beginning.  However, obviously, if you are on a tight budget you probably won't want to spend too much time talking to someone you cannot afford.

3) What is your wedding experience?
-While it's not important for a photographer to have 20 years of experience under their belt, you should know whether you will be their first, fifth, or hundredth wedding.  Depending on what your budget will allow,  you may not be comfortable with someone who has never captured a wedding before.  Just don't discount someone because they have only been capturing weddings for a year.  If you like their style, and trust their abilities, go ahead and hire them!   This is just a great questions to get you going on other conversations with your photographer.

4) Can I view an entire wedding gallery?
-Anyone can take 3,000 images and produce 20 great shots to show on a website blog.  Remember, on a blog, you are typically seeing the best of the best and not much in between (depending on how the photographer displays their images).  Seeing an entire wedding gallery will help you to see what the photographer will likely produce for you.  I know many, many upset brides who don't like certain aspects of their wedding photography (like candid images) who then admit that they never saw any candids on their photographer's websites.  If that's something that's important to you, make sure your photographer has the talent in that area, and seeing an entire wedding will help with that.  But note, they may also be showing you their favorite/best wedding so still make sure you analyze their work to see if it meets you desires.

5) Are you insured?
-Being insured is good for you and the photographer.  If something were to happen, both you and the photographer have a resource to turn to in order to settle disputes.  Even the best photographers will have a bad wedding somewhere (lost cards, errors, omissions, fire, weather damage, etc.), and I hope it's not yours!  But if it is, a photographer with good insurance will be able to offer you compensation.  This won't make up for your lack of images, but it may help a little.  Also, some larger venues require that photographers and all other outside vendors be insured.  Be sure you find out from your venue if there is some sort of regulation like this before you hire your photographer!

6) Do you have back-up gear?
-In my opinion, this is a big one.  A good photographer will be able to take a fantastic image with virtually any camera you put in their hands.  So the TYPE of gear isn't as important as the AMOUNT of gear.  If you like the work and variety you see on the photographer's website, assume they know how to use their gear and use it well.  But bad things happen all the time.  A photographer going into a wedding with just one camera or one lens or one flash is asking for trouble.  Cameras can fail or be dropped and damaged in a second.  If your photographer doesn't have the ability to grab a back-up camera instantly and keep shooting away you may find yourself with a large gap of your wedding missing as they try to fix the problem.  Imagine what would happen if the problem wasn't able to be fixed.  You'd be out a photographer at any given point in your wedding (and then refer to question #4).

7) Do you have a back-up plan if you can't make it?
-I call this the "Appendix Plan".  A few days before a wedding out of the country I thought my appendix had burst and I put my back-up plan on hold in case I needed her.  In the end my appendix was fine and I made the wedding, but that was the day I realized how important it was that I had that back-up options available to me (and my brides and grooms).  While not all photographers will have a specific person in mind in case they can't make it for any reason, they should have a back-up plan in mind.  Hearing what that plan is can help you decide if they are the right photographer for you.

8) How do you back-up my images?
-I know what you're thinking at this point: Why so much back-up?  Well, it's important!  There are many types of back-up options that all have their pros and cons, but the important thing is that your photographer does back-up.  That means that your images exist in at least two places, just in case something happens to one.  Some of these options include backing up on portable hard-drives, discs, thumb drives, cloud-based storage sites, etc.  Of most concern is what would happen if your photographer's office/storage space burned down.  Are your images anywhere else?  If they store your images on a computer and a portable hard drive, but keep both in the same room you need to decide if you are comfortable with that or not.  A follow-up question to this one would be "how long do you back-up images for?".  Many photographers do not have infinite back-up periods.  Many will clear out past client images 2 years, 1 year, or even a few months after a wedding.   Do not assume that a busy office only backs up for a few months and don't assume that a small boutique studio backs up longer just because they do fewer weddings.  I often find the opposite to be true.

9) Why are you a wedding photographer?
-I personally love when I get asked this question, and I don't get asked it a lot.  In fact, in all of my years of wedding photography I've had a grand total of three brides ask this.  The answer to this question can vary widely and there is no right or wrong answer, but you may feel you are more inclined to choose a photographer whose answer you mesh with.  It's a fun "getting to know you" question that may lead to more questions and conversations with your photographer.

10) What is your style?
-I put this question very low on my question list for a reason- you should be able to figure this out on your own.  Plus putting a label on a style can be difficult for many who don't feel they fall into a single box.  At the same time, I like hearing the answer to this questions because it's fun to hear what different photographers say.  Usually they explain their "style" and why they like it.  I see this more as another "getting to know you" questions more than an important decision making question, but if you are the type who hates posed portraits or don't want many candid images you may find yourself not liking a certain photographer's "style" and going in another direction.

Obviously this list is not all-inclusive and there what answers you are looking for is 100% up to you and your priorities.  I do think it's important to have a list of questions ready for your photographer so that you get all of the information you need from your first meeting with them, as you don't want to book and then be surprised by some of the answers to these questions.

Good luck with your photographer hunt!