As a photographer, it’s my job to make sure my clients are as comfortable as possible with me and my process and have complete confidence that I can produce what they are looking for. I’ve heard way too many stories of people who have dealt with photographers that either didn’t produce the work they said they could produce, or didn’t provide all the services they said they would, or some combination of both. I really don’t like to bad-mouth other photographers but hearing stories like this REALLY ticks me off because what often ends up happening is the photographer that dropped the ball ends up making ALL of us look bad. People don’t deal with photographers as often as they deal with the drive thru person or the gas station attendant so it’s even MORE important that we provide the best experience possible so that our clients can spread the word about the awesome experience they had with that photographer. Negative experiences spread like wildfire and a photographer that is comfortable having negative experiences spread about them might as well just not be in the business because they wont last long. To make sure things get off on the right foot, here are a few questions that you as a potential client should ask every photographer you consider hiring (including me). I got this list from theknot.com and I believe that the questions listed are spot on so I wanted to pass it on.
What style(s) do you specialize in?
(Most shooters use a blend of several, but you’ll want to make sure they shoot portraits, for example, if they’re important to you.)
Why you want to know: You wouldn’t ask Monet to paint you a Picasso, right? Going with the style a photographer likes to shoot best (and has the most experience shooting) will give you the best results.
Will the photos be retouched and color balanced? Is that done before I see the proofs?
Why you want to know: These are the techniques magazines use to make pages look perfect. Some photographers will polish all your photos, while others will show you untouched proofs and work their magic only on the images you order.
How many weddings have you shot, and how many do you do in a year? Also, what’s your favorite part of a wedding day and time of year to shoot?
Why you want to know: You only have one chance to get amazing wedding photos, so you’ll want to hire someone who knows how to get those shots under pressure (read: someone who shoots weddings for a living, not your old college roommate who takes pictures as a hobby).
Do you shoot both digital and film?
(While digital is more common today, film has had a resurgence. If you want the latter, be sure your photographer has the relevant experience and skills required to execute this old-school format.)
Why you want to know: If you’re obsessed with the dreamy quality of film, go with a pro in this medium. In addition to asking how many weddings they’ve shot in total (see above), let them know how many you want taken with film.
If you shoot film, do you usually shoot in both color and black and white? If you’ll do both, what percentage of each do you recommend?
Why you want to know: These days, most shooters will do a mix of both color and black and white. You’ll get a sense of their style and how your album might look by asking what balance they usually go with.
What exactly is included in your packages?
Why you want to know: When comparing fees, check whether prints, albums and proofs, as well as extra coverage such as engagement shoots, are covered. They can all alter the costs significantly. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if, say, your album isn’t included — you can always make this on your own or buy it a la carte — but you want to be sure you’re comparing apples to apples to get the best value. If you’re having your shooter use film, also ask about film costs and processing fees.
How many hours of coverage do we get? What is the charge for overtime?
Why you want to know: If overtime is going to cost you a ton, you’ll be able to plan their hours accordingly. For instance, if you have six hours of coverage but your photographer charges a huge hourly rate for overtime, you might have them leave after you cut the cake instead of after the last dance. Or, you may opt for a longer package to pay a little more up front (and avoid the larger hourly overtime rate later).
What is the deposit and total fee?
Why you want to know: In addition to this bottom line number, you’ll also want to ask when it’s due.
Will you be my actual photographer, or will it be one of your associates?
Why you want to know: Don’t assume Bruce of Bruce Photography will be taking your photos. That doesn’t mean Bruce’s partner Frank is sub par, but you’ll want to meet with him (and see his photos) in order to make an informed decision.
Do you have backup photographers who will shoot the wedding if you’re sick?
Why you want to know: If you’re going with a company that employs a team of photographers, you’ll have a built-in backup. But if you’re going with a solo shooter, ask if they have colleagues on call in case of an emergency.
Will there be a second shooter or any assistants? Is there an additional fee for each (if applicable)?
Why you want to know: Second shooters can cover more ground and can give you two perspectives on major moments (for instance, one can shoot the groom’s face when he first sees his bride and the other can photograph the bride as she walks down the aisle). But this may cost you extra.
How long after the wedding do we get to see the photos?
Why you want to know: You’ll want to see photos ASAP, and the wait can be pretty darn agonizing (it can take months!). But if you know in advance, you can manage your (and your mom’s) expectations.
How do you coordinate with my videographer? How do you envision working together?
Why you want to know: This pair will need to coordinate and stay out of each other’s way — easier to do if they have a good rapport. If you haven’t hired a videographer yet, ask them for a suggestion.
How many weddings do you do a weekend?
Why you want to know: If your photographer is shooting an afternoon wedding before yours, you’ll need to work out a plan if the first event runs over.
Have you ever shot at my venue(s) before?
Why you want to know: Your shooter should be aware of any lighting needs or issues specific to the space. If they haven’t ever worked in your venue, they should be willing to check it out beforehand.
Will you follow a shot list? Or do you prefer to have free reign to capture the festivities how you see fit?
Why you want to know: Most photographers will welcome a (short) shot list to make sure you get the specific pics you want. But don’t overwhelm them with hundreds of requests — if you hire a good pro, you’re hiring them for their eye as well as their experience creating amazing albums. Let them do their job!
What type of paper will you use for the prints and album?
Why you want to know: The answer should be acid-free, archival-quality paper, which will stand the test of time.
What are the restrictions for sharing photos online or for publication? Do you own the copyright to the photos?
Why you want to know: If you’re a Facebook and Instagram addict, not being allowed to share some of your wedding photos online may be torture — better to know about this ahead of time.
Do you bring your own lighting?
Why you want to know: Not only will you want to determine if you’ll need to supply additional lighting (either hiring a lighting designer or having the venue supply it), but you’ll want to be sure the equipment they bring won’t be too bulky or obtrusive.
What will you wear?
Why you want to know: Discussing their wedding day wardrobe will allow your photographer to plan to match the style of your wedding. Most will be happy to blend into the scenery (for instance, wearing black for an evening loft event or lighter hues for a daytime garden party).
This is a very solid list of interview questions to ask a photographer you are considering. This list should also clue you into the fact that it is IMPERATIVE that you have a consultation with a potential photographer before booking. I actually will not book a client without having a consultation first. Not only does the consultation answer the key questions above and many more, it also gets the client and photographer comfortable with each other’s personalities and familiarizes them on a more personal level, which I feel is important. If you have any questions about the photographer hiring process or you can think of any other important questions that should be added to this list, feel free to comment on this post.
Before I go, I must ask my readers for a favor. Tell people about my blog. Yes it does help my business but I also try to make informative posts that help both potential clients and other photographers so please share my blog posts on social media platforms and tell other people to stop by. I want to help familiarize the world with how photography really works. As always, thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you next week.