Ok, so you're searching on line and there are LITERALLY (read like Chris Traeger) thousands of photographers. They come in every area, price point, and varying styles. You may have also heard horror stories from some friend of a friend who read a blog about this girl who's photographer was horrible and you don't want that to be you. You've finally decided to chat with a few of them, but you don't know what to ask.
Here are a few questions that will help you sort out hobbyists from professionals as well as help you feel comfortable and confident with your choice of the person to capture one of the most exciting days of your life.
1. Do you have a business license*?
This is a yes or no questions and shouldn’t take long to ask. It may even be in their FAQ page if they have one. However, it will sort out the hobbyists from the professionals.
2. Do you have insurance*?
Another simple yes or no question that will help you sort out professionalism of any vendor. This is also a great question because many venues will require a photographer to have insurance.
3. Is this your full time job? / How long have you been in business?
If the answer is no, that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good photographer or aren’t professional, but it does mean that their time may be limited and scheduling meetings or engagement sessions, and response time to emails may prove to be a little more difficult. Asking how long they've been in business may also provide you with an opportunity to hear more of their story and how their business got started as well as giving you confidence that they've been through this process many times before.
4. Can I see a full real wedding gallery?
I’ve seen many photographer’s websites that only contain images from styled shoots. While these images may show off what a photographer can do, a styled shoot is nothing like a real wedding day. At a styled shoot, you have plenty of time to photograph every aspect of the shoot and shoot it multiple ways. You may be using models who don’t need much direction. There may even be a stylist who has arranged all the details for you and has created a table with far more detail than you might see on an actual wedding day. Don’t get me wrong. I love styled shoots, but if you’re a client, you need a realistic expectation of what your day might look like. Most brides are not models, the details are often arranged by the photographer. Styled shoots also don’t offer you the ability to see what family photos or dancing at the reception might look like. Many photographers may be like me who’s favorite photos are those with the bride and groom and so we over show those photos and forget to show the actual reception. As a potential client, look through the gallery not at whether or not you like the details in the photos, but if you like how they are composed, the coloring, how their photos with flash look, etc.
5. Lastly, ask any clarifying questions you may have and get to know you questions.
This could be be anything from how do you do family portraits? What does a timeline look like? What does “retainer" mean? Most likely you’ve never been married and this may all be brand new to you, but your photographer and other vendors have been a part of many wedding days and would be happy to make sure you feel comfortable. It also may not hurt to ask some questions about them and how they got started or even what they do when they're not photographing weddings. You will be spending a lot of time with this person on your wedding day so make sure you hire someone who you puts you at ease.
*Note to Photographers:
If you’re making money or intend to make money shooting weddings, you need to have a business license and insurance. Weddings are a big liability and you need to protect yourself as well as your clients. If you want to be a legitimate business this also means paying taxes. If you need any help to get pointed in the right direction, I’d love to meet with you. If you don’t have a full real wedding gallery because you’ve only been second shooting, that’s fine! Be open and honest with your clients. They may be able to get a great deal on their wedding photography because they are willing to take a risk with someone who is newer. I'm so thankful for those first clients of mine who took a risk and allowed me to prove myself.
If you're a photographer or vendor, I'd love to hear what other questions you'd suggest couples ask before hiring a wedding photographer. Leave a comment below!