What to Ask When Hiring a Wedding Photographer
I feel it is important for all couples to have the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding their choice of wedding vendors. This list of questions was created in an effort to make the process of choosing the right photographer for your wedding a little bit easier, and possibly to provide some valuable inside information about the world of wedding photography.
Do you work with a second photographer or an assistant?
This is a very important question. In years past, wedding photographers usually came to the wedding alone with a few rolls of film and took mostly posed formal portraits. Today most wedding photographers work with a second photographer or an assistant, or at least have the option of adding a second photographer to the wedding package. It is important to ask if this second person will be an assistant (who carries things, straightens dresses etc.) or a second photographer who is an experienced photographer who also shoots photographs at the wedding, usually from a different angle with a different approach. This second photographer may offer another perspective to your wedding day and catch little details that may not be possible for a single photographer to capture. Although the main photographer should always have the ABILITY to shoot a wedding alone, it is often an added value to have a second photographer there as well. At Aura Marzouk Photography, each and every wedding package includes a very talented and capable second photographer.
Are all of the photos on your website taken by the business owners?
This seems like a given. If a wedding photographer has a website advertising their services, all of the images should have been taken by them, right? Not always. I have first-hand knowledge that this is not always the case. Sometimes if a photographer hires a second photographer or outsources a wedding (which we will address later) the first photographer will take images by the second one, affix their logo to them, and post them on their websites and even in print ads. Sometimes these second photographers are interns, apprentices, or other small business owners who are looking to fill some calendar dates or make some extra cash. This is an issue I take very seriously, and I never, under any circumstances, use another photographer’s photos on my website, or print ads. Every photo used to advertise Aura Marzouk Photography was photographed by Aura Marzouk.
Who will be shooting my wedding?
Well, that seems like a no-brainer. I hire Jane Doe Photography; Jane Doe will be there, right? Not necessarily. Read your contract, and ask questions. Just because the photographer’s name is on the website doesn’t mean he/she will be working it. Many photographers have begun outsourcing their weddings. What does that mean exactly? Well, you book them, they sign a contract with you, and then hire another photographer to shoot the wedding. Now we all have backup plans— someone we trust and can count on if an emergency arises to step in and shoot the wedding. What I am talking about is outsourcing: double-booking dates and sending someone else out to shoot the wedding. Sometimes you pay big money for a great photographer and end up with something average or maybe even less than average. If you see a photographer you love, make sure you are getting THAT photographer. I personally never outsource or double book. Unless there is a life threatening emergency, I will be there.
What type of lighting experience do you have?
This is a huge one! Photography is all about light! Make sure your photographer has experience with your type of lighting situation. For example, are you having pink up-lighting, a sparkler exit, maybe a dark church where flash is not allowed? So many lighting obstacles are overcome by wedding photographers every day. Knowing how to photograph in various lighting situations will make all the difference in your photos. Make sure your photographer has experience with your lighting situation, and ask to see some examples to make sure it fits your vision for your wedding.
How large is your light setup?
I feel this one is especially important to ask for one huge reason. You have spent a lot of time, and a lot of money to decorate your reception. Everything is perfect. You walk in and want to see the table decor, the chandeliers, the hundreds of peonies you had shipped across the country at great expense. The last thing you want is a giant piece of photography equipment right there in the middle of the room, (or worse 3-4 of them) constantly blasting your guests with the light of a thousand suns all night long. Nothing is worse than a seizure inducing flash storm. I joke, but it really isn’t pleasant in a dark, candlelit reception. I have worked for many years to perfect my light setup to not only be effective at capturing the look and feel of your carefully thought out mood lighting, but also is small and compact enough to minimize the look of cluttered equipment all over the room. I am strategic about my placing and always keep the comfort of the guests in mind.
Can I see a full edited wedding?
So many photographers post beautiful bridal portraits on their websites—gorgeous bride, lovely venue, perfect image. Well, what did the rest of the wedding look like? Make sure that your photographer doesn’t just take nice pictures of pretty brides, but can competently cover the whole wedding day. Ask to see a full wedding package that was delivered to a customer. I always offer to show my potential clients a full wedding day. By showing exactly what I produce, from the start of the day to the exit, my clients can make an informed decision about hiring me.
Do you have backup equipment?
All professional wedding photographers should have lots of backup equipment and should be insured. Imagine on your wedding day: a camera breaks and a photographer comes to you and says, “Sorry, I can’t shoot your wedding, my camera is broken.” What a nightmare! All quality professional photographers know how important backup equipment is, and if photographers you interview reply “no” to this question, it is time to show them the door. I carry insurance, and every photographer is equipped with plenty of backup equipment.
Have you ever lost images from a wedding?
Not a question you think you need to ask, but please do! A seasoned professional photographer will always make sure this is not an issue. Every photographer should have the latest equipment with a feature allowing us to backup all images onto two cards at the same time. This way, if one card fails, which in a world of imperfect technology is always a possibility, there is a second card with all of your images intact. Also, a true professional will immediately backup all of your images directly after the wedding. I keep files in two locations on separate hard drives at all times, and a third copy in cloud storage so you never have to worry that your wedding photos will be lost.
Where will the photographer be during the wedding ceremony?
If having a nice intimate moment during your vows is important, ask this. Please, please ask this! There are two main approaches a photographer can take when photographing the wedding. They can either be right in your face, with, (what they imagine) is ninja like photo taking ability, (spoiler alert: it’s not) or they can be nearly invisible. And the thing is, the nearly invisible will almost always get the better shots. Because the guests don’t look annoyed that someone is taking the 100th photo of them that day. And bride and groom are looking at each other without being distracted by the photographer standing 5 feet away clicking the shutter constantly. We recognize that this is an intimate moment. This is a life event. This is not an 8 hour photo session. It is the day you join lives with your best friend while the people most important to you come in love and support to witness, and then proceed to eat, drink, and have an amazing night of dancing and fun. Every moment of this day needs to be documented, and can easily be done without nearly tripping over the train of the dress to catch the kiss. I utilize the right camera gear to capture that moment without being the center of attention. In fact, I’ve had many clients comment later that they never saw me and were surprised that I got all the moments without being in the way.
How many hours of coverage do I need?
This one depends on you, but make sure to get advice from your photographer. I have learned that many brides think they need only 6 hours of coverage in their package. Sounds like a lot at the time, but it’s not. Wedding days are very busy, and time goes by so quickly. If you plan to get photos of the getting-ready process, the dress before it’s put on and while it’s being buttoned, all the way to the exit you will need a lot more than 6 hours. I have discovered that 8 to10 hours is usually closer to the amount of time for an average wedding. Always overestimate the time you may need, and ask for your photographer’s advice.
I was at a wedding last year and waited half my life for the wedding party to get back so we could eat and I nearly ate the floral arrangements because it took so long. How can you prevent that from happening?
Funny, but I get this question a lot from strangers and new brides all the time! My answer, make sure you have a photographer who is efficient and understands this is a real life event and not a fashion shoot requiring 2 straight hours of photographing a tired and hungry bridal party while everyone is waiting. Formal photos should never extend beyond the end of cocktail hour in a normal situation. Things do occasionally come up to prevent the couple from entering on time. (A wardrobe malfunction, a transportation delay, a temporarily missing member of the bridal party) But, the photo taking itself can be done quickly and perfectly with the right experience, technique, and planning. I always work with the clients and all of the vendors to make sure everything is captured, and everything starts in a timely manner. And if there is ever something that comes up outside of my control, it is always communicated to the catering staff, DJ, planner, and any other vendors to ensure everything is timed just right upon entrances. There is a lot going on at every wedding to make sure the transitions are flawless and the food is served while it's nice and hot!
Hopefully these questions help you make an informed decision about how to hire to shoot your wedding. I would love to chat over coffee about your big day and am always willing get together to answer all of your wedding questions!
Aura Marzouk is a full-time professional wedding photographer based in Greensboro, NCwww.auramarzouk.com ~ (336)899-8919 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org