Choosing someone to photograph the most important day of your life is a daunting task. Search through Google and everyone has a fancy website and the social media accounts all full of beautiful images. How on earth do you make a decision?
You will only know which photographer is right to capture your wedding when you meet them. The main purpose of meeting potential photographers is to make sure that you will be able to trust them and feel comfortable around them. In the digital age it is easy to send an email, but nothing beats meeting face to face. One thing we like to remind couples is that you will spend almost as much time with your photographer during your wedding day as you will with each other, so make sure you both get on with them.
You will already have questions to ask them, but is there anything technical you might need to know? Is there something that will mean your images are better protected?
Here are our top five non-technical, technical questions to ask your potential wedding photographer.
Are all of the images on your website taken at actual weddings?
Why do I need to know this?
You know that gorgeous image on a photographer’s website? That one that is the first that you see and makes you go “Wow”? Dig deeper into their images and these photos somehow feel out of place. Many photographers do styled shoots. This is where wedding creatives come together to create images for marketing purposes. Whilst it obviously shows skill, remember that it is much easier getting that gorgeous bridal portrait when there are no family and friends to chat to, no time limit to get the shots and no pressure from a real wedding situation. Also these photos will have a level of retouching that isn’t generally offered in wedding packages. Whilst these shoots are by no means a bad thing, make sure that you ask your photographer about this.
The obvious follow on to this is can I see a full wedding? This will let you see actual photos taken on a wedding day and will give you a more rounded view of the photographers work. Remember, every portfolio is the best of the best. Seeing a whole wedding gives a more honest view of what you can expect if you pick them to shoot your wedding. Every good photographer will be happy to show you a full wedding, if they don’t, the alarm bells should start ringing.
What you want to hear: A good photographer will be honest and open to you about whether any of their portfolio is from styled shoots. They will send you access to some full weddings so that you can see how they capture a full day. By doing this it will give you a more realistic version of what you can expect to receive.
What you don’t want to hear: The warning sign here is if they will not show you a full wedding they have shot. If this happens, it’s time to run away!
What is your backup plan, should your camera break?
Why do I need to know this?
Technology breaks. It is that simple. What is not so simple is what your wedding photographer has in place for this. Every reputable photographer should have back up camera bodies and lenses, etc. Some cameras are able to record to multiple memory cards at once, so that there is another layer of protection in case a memory card fails on the day. Whilst it may be highly unlikely that a camera will break during your wedding, it can and does happen. The best photographers will have a plan that means you will never notice, even if it does.
What you want to hear: They will talk about extra equipment (camera is essential as these are the most likely to break) they have in case of a failure.
What you don’t want to hear: If the worst comes to the worst, I’ve got an iPhone.
How will you store my images? How are they backed up?
Why do I need to know this?
This is the most essential thing from your perspective. Everyone has lost an file at some point, but your wedding is a one off and the last thing you want is your images disappearing into thin air. Every professional photographer will have a backup plan in place to make sure that if something happens, there are multiple backups of your precious photos. Many will do offsite backups (where a hard drive with your images on is kept at a different location in case of things such as theft or fire) and the modern trend is online cloud storage as a further backup. Good photographers will have at least two different backups of your images, one being offsite (or in the cloud).
Also, when you get your wedding images on USB drive, do yourselves a massive favour, back them up! Whilst a photographer will usually keep an archive of your images, what happens if they move away from the area? Or from the photography business? Google drive or Dropbox is a great cloud based, consumer friendly option.
What you want to hear: They will be explain their backup strategy. The best photographers tend to get a bit nerdy over this.
What you don’t want to hear: It’s OK, I’ve got a mac and they never break.
How will I get my final images and what rights do I have to them?
Why need to know this?
This is a question that you need to ask, but there is so much confusion over this issue that it is difficult to know what you are looking for. Let’s make one thing clear, YOU DO NOT NEED THE COPYRIGHT TO YOUR PHOTOS. I have seen many photographers offer this and even some wedding blogs say that you should insist on this. You do not need it. You need a license to print and use the images.
This allows you to make prints for yourself, your family and friends, but it means the photographer still owns the image and can say that they took the photographs. This means he/she can use them in their portfolio and submit them to wedding blogs and magazines. Good photographers are proud of their images and want to be able to say they took them. If they give away copyright, they simply cannot do this.
If you really do not want your images sharing online or on blogs, etc., please speak to your photographer. Almost all photographers will ask the couple if they are happy for them to submit the images to blogs, and will respect the clients’ wishes.
Unless you are Kim & Kanye, you will not be able to sell an exclusive on your wedding images, so it makes sense that you need a license to the use and print the images. Anyone offering copyright to the images in their packages should be a red flag. It may mean your photographer has limited understanding of copyright and licensing laws and if they don’t know this, what else do they not know?
What a good photographer should say: They will explain their licensing to you in simple terms.
What a bad photographer will say: Yeah, you get full copyright.
What type of editing do you do to the photos?
Why should you ask this?
This is a question that can be confused with “do you Photoshop all images?” Editing and Photoshop are very different things. Editing of an image will involve correcting the colour to look natural, adjusting the exposure and contrast and sharpening. This means that each image is tweaked to make you look your best. This is what you are to expect. To you, the photos will look like all other work by the photographer. Unfortunately for us photographers, it takes a lot of editing to get it looking this good.
If you like black & white images, most photographers will happily convert images as requested, so it is worth asking. Photographers tend to have their own editing style which they take pride in. Be careful of asking for hip effects and Instagram style filters though: they are popular now, but will date very quickly. Just Google 80’s wedding photography for evidence.
Now, this question gets confused as some people may expect higher end retouching. This includes skin smoothing, spot removal and basically the editing that is done to an image that will appear in a fashion magazine. This type of editing will generally not be included (unless agreed beforehand) due to the complex nature and the amount of time required per image. This type of retouching may feature in images on a portfolio, but again, ask to see a full wedding.
What a good photographer should say: They will explain how they adjust each image to look its best, they may even talk of their signature style.
What a bad photographer will say: We don’t edit our photos as they’re perfect, we just put them on a pen drive for you.
Hopefully these questions will prove helpful to some of you when you are meeting with potential wedding photographers. As a bonus, there is one technical question that we would avoid asking.
The one question NOT to ask.
Are you a member of any professional organisations?
Why shouldn’t we ask this?
Whilst you may see a photographer belonging to an organisation as a badge of approval (and some of them are), there are many professional organisations that allow anyone to become a member. All you do is pay your subscription fees and you can proudly display that you are a member of “XYZ Society of Wedding Photographers”. It is not a sign of a good photographer. In many cases, it simply means the person pays a yearly rate to put a logo on their website.
Also, when you see “award winning photographer” on a website, check what it is that they actually won. It could be international wedding photographer of the year (good) or it may be they won the best photo at their local garden fete (not so good). Many of these competitions charge large amounts of money to enter, for example one well known photography competition asks for £65 per entry. Whilst some see value in this, there are many amazing photographers who will not enter these competitions.
Personally, we have to say we’re with Groucho Marx, “I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”
All images used in this feature are by 166 Photography, from Rebecca and George’s beautiful brewery wedding in Lincolnshire. Discover more from 166 Photography here: