Wedding photography has been a subject that has created some really interesting converstations for me over the last few years. I get to hear a lot of really awful stories from members of the bridal party about the wedding photographer at the last wedding they attended. I get to hear an earful from the pastor about what “the last photographer” did during the ceremony. I think that more and more people enter the wedding photography industry with the idea that it is fun and only requires a nice camera. So as a result there are all kinds of things happening in this industry that result in a lot of people thinking negatively about wedding photographers.
So my point in writing this today is to give bride and grooms a few questions to be sure to ask your wedding photographer as you are meeting in this wedding booking season of 2010. I will answer these as well, so for bride and grooms that are interested in booking with me for 2010 or 2011 I guess I will leave our meeting up to just talking about the details of your wedding day. 🙂
What you should ask your wedding photographer…
1. How would you describe your style? This is really the first thing that should grab you when you go to a photographer’s website or view their pictures. Do you see yourself in them? Do you get the feeling of the emotion and connection with the people in the picture. I always love looking at other photographer’s work when I don’t even know the couple and yet I just feel as though I was able to connect with them from just looking at the photo. As far as style goes there are a lot of different angles on this. Posed traditional photography definitely has it’s place, as well as photojournalistic (capturing moments without intrusion) type styles. I find that my style is really a combination of both. I do shoot formals, but one of my favorite types of shots is being able to shoot with my 70-200 from across the room and getting a reaction from someone at just the right moment.
2. Do you have insurance? This is a must. This is usually something that a lot of beginning photographers don’t think about. They will either rely on their homeowner’s insurance to cover their equipment or even skip it altogether. The problem is liability. If someone knocks over your lightstand at the reception or you swing your camera around and knock someone in the head with your lens that spells trouble. Your homeowner’s insurance is not going to cover this. Many venues even require that you have your business liability insurance on file with them before you can shoot there. So definitely check with your reception venue on this to see if your photographer needs this on file with them before the wedding day. So to answer this question yes I do have insurance on my equipment as well as liability insurance.
3. Do you have backup equipment? What kind of equipment do you use? This is not going to be a Canon vs. Nikon battle. I am not talking about the kind of equipment as in brand. I am talking about quality and lens speed. The first thing is that you do need quality lenses to shoot a wedding. This is not the kit lens that came with your camera. Most churches will tell you that you are not allowed to use flash during the ceremony. So at that point you will need a lens that can shoot in the f1.2-f2.8 range. This is not always the case, but most churches are not filled with glorious light other than God himself. 🙂 So as a result you will be left with blurry, orangy, and dark pictures. Most of these lenses are in the $1000-2000 range. I usually shoot with the Canon 70-200 f2.8L IS, the 24-70 f2.8, the 50 f1.2L, and the 24 f1.4L or 135 f2.
As far as backup equipment goes I would suggest a minimum of two cameras. If you are only bringing one camera body to a wedding you are just setting yourself up for failure. For that matter if you are only bringing one of anything to a wedding that is the case. There is not enough time to go to the store to get another one. This is not a high school senior shoot that you can reschedule. This is going to happen on that day whether you are prepared or not. So the day of the wedding I usually bring four bodies. My assistant will shoot with one, so that leaves me with two and another one for anything else such as remote camera setups or something like that. This is the same with flashes and lenses. No I don’t bring a backup 70-200, but I have plenty of other lenses with me that I could complete the day without any problems whatsoever. The last thing you want on your wedding day is for your photographer to have to ask to borrow a guest’s camera to finish the day.
4. What do you wear to the wedding? This one is different for everybody. I have heard some stories about wedding photographers showing up in jeans, short skirts, or even loud print hawaiian shirts. This is totally unacceptable on any level. Some photographers go with more of a fashion look, but in my mind I am not there to impress anyone with my style of clothing. I usually dress in all black. I do this for a couple of reasons. I do this because if there is a wedding videographer there filming your day that you will see less of me and more of you and your guests. Black is less distracting and doesn’t draw attention to me. The other reason that is that black doesn’t show dirt. There are times that I shoot from the ground, so laying down on the cement, grass, or whatever is not going to show up. 🙂 This also allows me to be ninja like when it comes to shooting. If I am in all black there is less of a chance of you seeing me and changing your expression because you know I am about to take a picture of you. Watch and see how this happens. As soon as people see a camera they change…
5. Should the wedding day last longer than the contracted hours will you stay later? Yes. This is also something that you don’t want to have happen to you on your wedding day. I always check with the bride and groom before leaving to make sure that we have everything covered that we wanted on that day. There is an additional fee to extend the coverage, but this is always available.
6. Will my images be color corrected or are they straight out of the camera when you deliver them to me? There are some photographers who have a simple shoot and burn philosophy, so what you get is basically the files straight out of the camera to a disc. They might give you 1500 images or whateve huge number, but honestly after going through that many shots how many of them are going to be worth keeping or printing for that matter? The other problem is editing. Most people do not realize the time that it takes to color correct and process images. So having all these files might seem inviting with a small price tag, but there is a reason that it is that price. Shooting and burning means much less time and less quality as well. I usually shoot about 1500 images on the day. I deliver about 400-600 final images in your online gallery. This makes it easier on you to select your favorites. They are also color corrected/perfected as well. This also includes black and white, saturated, de-saturated, sepia processes as well. My feelings are that I want your pictures to stand the test of time. So the fact that some photographers pictures are heavy on the Photoshop color and processing might sting a little bit in the future when you look back at your photos. I guess I come from the simple and elegant (less is best) school of thought.
7. How many times have you worked as a wedding photographer? This is something that you need to ask in a specific way. If you ask how many years they have been in business this opens the door to mislead. If I have been a wedding photographer for three or four years shooting three or four weddings a year this leads me to shoot about 15 weddings total. This isn’t a bad number, but honestly this is really not a lot of experience. Over the last four years I have shot over a hundred weddings. Shooting a lot of weddings doesn’t make one a great photographer either, but it definitely helps in knowing the flow of the day and what to watch out for during the day. The experience of shooting weddings cannot be duplicated any other way. Workshops and conferences are great, but it is a different scenario when you start using real people with real situations that can sometimes get a little crazy. 🙂
8. Do you offer a Photobooth? This is something that Wise Photography is now offering to bride and grooms on their wedding day. This has been a huge hit with the guests and the bridal party. The information is here. Wise Photography Photobooth. Here is Matt and Lee’s Photobooth and Tyson and Tiffany’s Photobooth. Check them out!
9. Does your personality match up well with the bride and groom? This is something that is important on both sides. I have to say that I have worked with some of the nicest people on their wedding day. I have also found that the bride and groom need to realize that when they are booking their wedding photographer that this person will be with them most of the day. Are they going to be there when they need them or are they going to have to hunt them down for questions. Do they play well with others. This is something that I have found that this is not my day. This is the bride and grooms day. So no matter how important I think that their photography is I don’t want to jeopardize someone else’s sevice at my expense. The way your photographer works with your bridal party is also very important. Can they perform under pressure or are they going to start barking orders to your friends when they aren’t paying attention? So much of this goes back to word of mouth advertising. This is not usually something you can find out unless you know a past bride from you photographer, so if possible talk to someone who has used them before and see if they were helpful and great to around all day, or if they were ready to run the other way whenever they saw them coming.
10. Can you help me find other vendors in the wedding industry to plan my day? This is one thing that I love being able to do and that is to send my brides to great vendors from the DJ, the florist, the wedding planner, the cakes, and even down to the decorating. The wedding day for me is so much smoother when I know that all of the other vendors that are being used are going to do a great job for my bride and groom. I am always happy to share these with you even if you are not booking me for your wedding photography.