I drink too much coffee. Not because I need it, but because it is socially awkward not too. See, it is booking season for wedding photography right now, which means I am meeting with three to four brides a week in coffee shops to talk about their wedding. I suppose I could switch to decaf…
One of the things I notice when I meet with brides and grooms is that beyond their excitement, many have no idea what makes a good photographer. Can you blame them? I think we have all seen the Dove commercials that depict the Photoshop transformation of a woman into a Barbie-like bikini model. Pictures can be deceiving. Photographers, websites, and businesses can too. That is why I require brides to meet with me, so I can educate them on the wedding market and the way I run my business. I want them to be both comfortable and confident in their decision, whether or not they decide to book with me. During our consultation, if a bride doesn’t ask these questions, I make sure to bring them up and answer them anyway because, I feel, these are things that can make or break a decision in who you will have photograph your wedding.
What kind of gear do you use?
Sometimes I get this question and I warn them that I am about to nerd out on them. I love talking about photography and when someone can appreciate the investment I have in my tools, I feel like I have better earned their respect. The answer you are looking for is two full-frame cameras and lenses with an aperture of 2.8 or less. You may also hear them say “prime” lenses. Those fall into the “2.8 of less” category. Both answers deal with light. Full-frame cameras are more sensitive to light, which is important when shooting in a darker church when you can’t use flash or in a dimly lit reception hall. The lower the number in aperture, the more light it lets in (and gives you that dream-like blurry background). If you hear the words “kit lens” or “a lens that came with the camera,” RUN!
Who will be our photographer the day of the wedding?
Some businesses advertise beautiful, magazine quality wedding photos on their website, promise you prints, albums, and digital files, and even their firstborn child all for a below market price. How can they do this? Volume and incentives. These businesses have teams of photographers they pay a few hundred dollars per wedding, charge you the going rate, and keep the difference. The photos you see are taken from a pool of thousand and thousands of photos that were probably not taken by the random photographer that was assigned to you. Do you really want to trust your wedding day to someone whose only incentive is a few hundred dollars at the end of the night? Personally, I wouldn’t. For me, the correct answer is “I will be your photographer. Here is my email, number, Facebook, and blog. Call me, text me, contact me, reach out to me, and leave me feedback. This is my business and my reputation. I will be sure to give you an experience that won’t diminish or tarnish it.”
Have you photographed there before?
Whether a photographer has or has not photographed there before doesn’t really matter as long as they are willing to scout it out before the wedding. If I haven’t shot there before, I will make the drive the week of the wedding, at the same time of the wedding, to look at lighting, create a vision, and come up with a game plan. Most weddings run late and the first person to lose time to do their job is the photographer. Having a game plan and a back up plan is critical in making sure your wedding day runs smoothly and you get the photos you deserve.
Do we receive print rights to the images? Are they full resolution? When do we receive them?
I may get voted off of the professional photographer’s island for answering this one…this is a very popular topic due to the nature of our business. Back in the days of film, it was completely understandable that you had to pay for prints. Now, in the days of digital, when everything is shared for free, photographers are split on how to run their business. For me, I stick to two main premises – keep it simple and put the couple first. When you book me, you book me on my time and talent. As soon as I am done editing your portfolio, it is burned onto DVDs and is shipped to you as full resolution Jpegs with printing rights. The whole process takes about two to three weeks. If a photographer holds onto it for six months or a year before they release them to you, often times they are going to try to sell you prints or have you pay for the DVD. Be sure to ask the specifics and expectations of the digital files and their delivery.
There are so many questions you could ask but these are some of the most important. Unfortunately, I have heard so many horror stories and stories of regret from people who had a bad experience with their wedding photographer. A little bit of knowledge can prevent that from happening to you.