You're engaged, and wow, your checklist for wedding planning is getting long. You have started to narrow down venues and think you have locked in a date. Chances are, the next think on your list is to narrow down potential photographers.
You have a short list of photographers whose style and package options fit what you are looking for. So how do you decide? What are the must haves for a wedding photographer?
These five questions you should ask (and some ideas of the answers you should look for) to narrow down your list.
1. What happens if your camera malfunctions on our wedding day?
When talking with prospective photographers, this question is definitely one worth asking. Although you may not understand many of the technical bits about professional grade cameras, they should be able to explain some of the most important features of their gear to make sure they are properly equipped.
Firstly, they should bring at least two camera bodies and two (probably three or four) camera lenses with them for every wedding. Next, they should use cameras that have dual card slots. This means that the camera can write images on two memory cards at once. Although rare, a memory card can corrupt and images could potentially be lost. Having a camera with dual card slots creates a built-in backup for this risk.
If you have paid to have a second photographer, you should ask if they carry similar specs on their gear as your lead (two camera bodies, multiple lenses, dual card slots).
If you want to get really technical; ask if they shoot with full-frame cameras. This answer should be YES! For the shortest version of why this is important, full-frame cameras produce higher quality images and do much better in a variety of lighting situations.
2. How do you ensure my images are safe before I get them delivered?
I think every photographer’s worst nightmare is losing photos from a couple’s wedding day, and any professional wedding photographer should ensure an extensive back-up regimen to avoid this potential catastrophe. Your photographer should follow the 3-2-1 strategy that was developed by the IT industry. Three originals should be kept of your images. These should be kept on two different types of physical devices in addition to one copy off-site (most commonly cloud-based storage).
3. Do you use flash/artificial lighting?
All photographers should have the ability to use flash or artificial lighting as necessary. How often they use it can vary and is dependent on taste and desired style. Photographers who work in a more traditional portrait style will likely use artificial lighting more frequently, while photographers with a more modern look will likely use available natural light as much as possible, and do so effectively. Modern, high quality cameras are AMAZING in low-lighting situations, and a wedding photographer that has experience in different types of venues should be able to adapt.
Asking to see some full galleries from your photographer can help ensure that you feel like they will be able to capture your entire wedding day, both at your ceremony and at your reception site!
4. What happens if you get sick or have an emergency that prevents you from being at our wedding?
Life happens, and unfortunately, sometimes life events can be devastating. There is always a what-if and any experienced wedding photographer should have a plan in place if this happens. Ideally, photographers will have an associate or second photographer they feel confident in as a hypothetical backup. The next best option would be for a photographer to be a member of a local group of photographers (often times these groups communicate via Facebook groups). This community provides them access to an experienced photographer to take their place on shirt notice Often times, your original photographer will pay the replacement out of their pocket and still edit the images to match their style.
How an ordeal like this would be handled should be outlined in your contract. As a client, you might want to have the option of terminating the contract and finding your own replacement if it is a circumstance that you know days ahead. Having options if this big change happens is in your best interest!
5. What options do we have to print our photos after our wedding day?
This can vary greatly from photographer to photographer. Some photographers will grant you a print release so you can print photos, canvases, and albums wherever you choose (although where you print should be chosen wisely!). Others will require you to print from their designated printing lab or directly from your gallery. There are advantages and disadvantages to both.
If you required to print from your gallery through them, this can be expensive. Often times, photographers mark these up 2.5 to 3 times more than cost, allowing them an additional source of income. The advantage of this is that your photographer should ensure that the coloring stays true to the original image and you can likely get their input into what to order. Albums can be a daunting task to manage on your own, so having a photographer willing to put together an album is such a blessing. It is also very convenient to print your photos this way.
If you have a full print release, it can be much more cost effective when ordering prints, especially those large, beautiful prints or canvases to put around your home. When doing this on your own, however, make sure to research quality printing options that are available to you. You can also design an album exactly how you want, and many album printing services make it fairly straight forward. There are many professional-grade photo labs that are available to anyone online. If your photographer does give you a full print release, they make be able to suggest a few. My favorites for albums and prints are Mpix, Nations Photo Lab, and Artifact Uprising.
Don't be afraid to ask your potential photographers these questions and more! Photography is an investment and one of the most important aspects of your day!