Congratulations, dear newly engaged couples! The holiday season may have brought you the most precious gift of all—engagement! As you bask in the warmth of your love and start planning your dream wedding, one crucial decision awaits: choosing the perfect wedding photographer. This decision will shape the memories you cherish forever. To guide you through this exciting but often challenging process, we’ve crafted a comprehensive guide with 30 essential questions. To make these questions more relatable, we’ve sprinkled in some “real-life stories” to illustrate how they can make or break your special day.
This may seem like an obvious question, but ensuring that your photographer is actually available on your date and isn’t booked is the first step in the process. Even though your wedding may be 12+ months away, most photographers are booking 12-18 months out! Imagine the heartache of falling in love with a photographer’s portfolio only to find out they’re booked on your big day. Ensure their availability early on to avoid disappointment.
Real-life Story: A couple in Richmond, Virginia fell in love with a photographer’s work, but they neglected to ask this crucial question before emotionally investing in their online portfolio. They had to decide whether they wanted to change their date, or pick a new photographer!
Each photographer has a unique style, from classic to artistic. To align your vision with theirs, understanding their style is crucial. Unlike most photographer out there, we actually customize our shooting and editing style to reflect our couple’s preferences… But we’re the weird ones! Most photographers will not shift their style to match your vision as they work in a style specific to them. So please make sure this aligns before you book as it won’t be changed after the fact.
Real-life Story: A couple who adored dramatic, cinematic photography hired a traditional photographer without discussing styles. Their wedding photos, while technically flawless, lacked the epic feel they’d envisioned.
Your photographer’s portfolio is a treasure trove of their artistry. Dive in to witness their talent, consistency, and creativity. But beyond just their portfolio online, make sure you ask to see a full wedding gallery as well. This will reveal more about their skill and what you can expect your full wedding gallery to look like!
Real-life Story: Sarah and Jake, a couple from Lynchburg, Virginia, were impressed by a photographer’s online presence but forgot to ask for a full gallery. On the big day, they discovered the photographer’s style didn’t match their expectations, leaving them disappointed.
Experience is key. An experienced photographer knows when to anticipate moments and capture them beautifully. Experience will also give them a broader understanding of all the things that could go wrong or unplanned so they are prepared to handle them professionally!
Real-life Story: Emily and Michael, who planned their Richmond wedding, hired a novice photographer without inquiring about experience. Sadly, they received blurry, underexposed photos that didn’t do justice to their magical day. They assumed a higher price tag meant experience, when sadly it did not!
5. What is Your Post-Wedding Backup Plan for Images?
If you don’t take anything else away from this list of questions, this is the one to make sure you lock down. Does the photographer backup the images to a hard-drive? Do they back it up to the cloud? It’s our policy to never delete photos and always double-back-up wedding day images.
Real-life Story: Victoria and Alex, a couple tying the knot in Roanoke, Virginia, were relieved to know that their photographer had backed up their images to a digital cloud drive online. The photographer’s computer crashed, wiping the entire hard drive clean, but the backup in the cloud saved their images.
6. What Packages Do You Offer?
Photographers offer various packages with different services and price points. Explore these packages to find the right fit for your needs. Also make sure you know what is included with each one, and if there are any hidden fees or expenses not listed.
Real-life Story: Jessica and David, planning their Charlottesville wedding, selected a photography package without closely examining what it included. To their surprise, they didn’t receive the engagement session they’d assumed was part of the deal.
7. Can I Customize My Package?
Flexibility is vital. Ensure your photographer can tailor a package to match your unique vision and requirements. Shockingly, this is another area that we’re actually a bit unique. Most photographers do not personalize package offerings, so you may end up paying for more than you need, or not being able to add on something specific.
Real-life Story: Lisa and Mark, a couple from NOVA, were delighted when they found a photographer willing to customize their package. This allowed them to include extra hours of coverage for their lively reception, and even a “next day” couples session on a nearby mountain top!
8. Do You Have a Second Photographer?
Two photographers can capture more moments from different angles. It’s for this reason that we make this our default option for traditional wedding days. Ask if a second photographer is included in the package if it isn’t already mentioned.
Real-life Story: Laura and Kevin, who planned their wedding in Washington DC, were grateful for their photographer’s second shooter. While the primary photographer focused on them, the second captured priceless reactions from guests, and intimate moments that would be cherished forever.
9. What Equipment Do You Use?
Knowing the gear your photographer uses ensures they have the tools to create stunning images. And while you may not need to know what brand they’re using, ensure that they’re using cameras that “dual record” to two cards at once. Most professional digital photographers will have this functionality, and it ensures that the image is recorded twice as an instant backup.
Real-life Story: Samantha and Daniel, hosting their Maryland wedding, learned the hard way when they hired a photographer with subpar equipment. Part of their wedding day was corrupted when the single card camera malfunctioned.
10. How Do You Handle Different Lighting Conditions?
Light can vary from bright outdoor sun to dimly lit indoor venues. Inquire about their approach to handle various lighting situations, and make sure you ask to see “low-light examples” if your venue has a dimly-lit atmosphere.
Real-life Story: Rebecca and Thomas, a couple hosting their destination wedding in Italy, were impressed when their photographer showed expertise in handling the shifting sunlight during their outdoor ceremony, and then their moon-lit reception with candlelight.
11. What’s Your Backup Plan for Equipment Failure?
While it’s highly unlikely that your photographer’s camera will cease working on the wedding day, a true professional will always carry and bring backup equipment for such an event. Inquire about their backup equipment and contingency plans so that you aren’t worried about that possibility!
Real-life Story: Clara and James, planning their Scotland wedding, faced an unexpected camera malfunction during their ceremony. Thanks to their photographer’s preparedness, the backup camera seamlessly took over, and no one ever knew.
12. How Do You Work with Other Vendors?
Collaboration among vendors is crucial for a smooth wedding day. Ensure your photographer can seamlessly work with your wedding planner, videographer, and other vendors.
Real-life Story: Maria and Antonio, hosting their England wedding, had a dream team of vendors. Thanks to excellent communication and coordination, their day flowed flawlessly, with every moment captured beautifully.
13. Can I Provide a Shot List?
If you have specific shots in mind, ask if your photographer is open to receiving a shot list to ensure your vision is met. Again, this is an area that we may be a little different than your average photo company. We actually send out a questionnaire that includes a checklist of things you can mark as preferred images, and even have a space for you to link your Pinterest board, if desired. Some photographers, however, do not ask for this (and some don’t want to see it). So make sure you can share your specific vision with your photographer team before the big day. Another important step is to narrow down your family shot list, so that you aren’t guessing on grouping day-of!
Real-life Story: Kimberly and John, a couple celebrating their NOVA wedding, provided a shot list that included a special request for a candid photo of Grandma during the ceremony. The photographer made room for the couple to list out shots like this, and is a cherished memory for the couple.
14. What Is Your Approach to Posed Photos?
Posed portraits are an art. Learn about their approach, whether they guide you through poses or capture candid moments. Again, each photographer has their own unique style, so this is something you want to hone in on. Unlike other companies, we actually modify our shooting style to match your specific vision on this through our customization process.
Real-life Story: Emily and William, planning their Virginia wedding, appreciated a photographer who expertly guided them through poses. The resulting portraits looked effortless and full of genuine emotion.
15. How Soon Will I Receive My Photos?
Anticipation is part of the post-wedding excitement. Know the timeline for receiving your photos to plan your celebrations accordingly. The average can vary greatly. Those who are not very booked may only have a couple weeks turn around. But the photo teams with a full schedule could have a 3-month waiting period. The editing process takes time and ensures that the images you receive are worthy of cherishing for years to come.
Real-life Story: Emma and Chris, hosting their Richmond wedding, received a beautiful sneak peek of their photos within a week. This quick turnaround allowed them to relive the magic while still on their honeymoon, and as they waited for the full gallery of over 1,000 images several months later.
16. Can I Order Prints or Albums Through You?
If you desire physical copies of your photos, ask about their print and album options to keep your memories tangible.
Real-life Story: Megan and Daniel, celebrating their Roanoke wedding, opted for a photographer who offered stunning albums. The tactile experience of flipping through their wedding album brought tears of joy.
17. How Many Photos Are in a Gallery?
While some photographers limit the amount of images, we actually deliver everything that is worth sharing. Make sure you know how many images to expect, and if the photographer limits the quantity.
Real-life Story: Sarah and Brian, a couple from Charlottesville, expected to receive all the candid moments and little details of the day, but failed to realize that the 500 image policy meant some of those details weren’t included in the final gallery. They ended up paying extra for the rest of the images from the day.
18. What’s Your Cancellation Policy?
As we’ve seen in the last few years, life can be unpredictable. Understand their cancellation and refund policies to prepare for any unexpected twists. Some photographers have a fee, and most will not refund the initial retainer.
Real-life Story: Samantha and James, planning their Washington DC wedding, faced a sudden family emergency that forced them to postpone. Their photographer’s understanding and flexible rescheduling policy eased their stress during a challenging time.
19. Do You Have Liability Insurance?
Protect yourself from unforeseen incidents by ensuring your photographer has liability insurance. This is also something that most venues will require, so make sure you understand your specific venue’s needs.
Real-life Story: Lisa and David, hosting their NOVA wedding, were surprised when their photographer didn’t have liability insurance, and their venue refused to let them shoot their day. Last-minute day-of insurance was purchased, but this added extra unneeded stress in their wedding planning.
20. Can You Share Testimonials or References?
Hearing from previous clients can provide valuable insights into your photographer’s work and professionalism. This shouldn’t be a question you really have to ask the photographer, but should easily be found online. If there aren’t any visible reviews, this may be a red flag that the photographer is not very experienced, or that they have hidden negative reviews.
Real-life Story: Michelle and Robert, planning their Maryland wedding, were reassured by glowing testimonials from past clients. The positive feedback echoed their own exceptional experience.
23. How Do You Handle Unpredictable Weather?
Mother Nature can be fickle. Ask about their strategy for dealing with adverse weather conditions to ensure your photos shine even in less-than-ideal conditions.
Real-life Story: Alex and Nicole, planning their wedding in France, faced an unexpected rainstorm. Their photographer’s creative use of umbrellas and the dramatic rain-soaked atmosphere resulted in unforgettable, magical photos.
24. Can You Accommodate Special Requests or Cultural Traditions?
Ensure your photographer is open to accommodating unique customs or traditions that are essential to your wedding. If you know you are having an event with special cultural events, make sure you make your photographer familiar so they are prepared.
Real-life Story: Maria and Carlos, celebrating their wedding in England, had a blend of cultures and traditions. Their photographer embraced these differences, capturing each with respect and artistry.
25. Do You Have Experience with Destination Weddings?
For those planning exotic destination weddings, ask about their experience in different locations and cultures. For us, we make sure we use team members familiar with the region so that our couples get the best experience possible with photographers who know the local area and best locations.
Real-life Story: Rachel and Mark, a couple hosting their wedding in Scotland, were relieved to know their photographer had prior experience at their chosen destination. This expertise allowed them to capture the beauty of the Scottish Highlands seamlessly, with some special local spots they never knew existed.
Below are five more questions that are a little more unique, and different from the standard ones. They might help you understand what your photographer feels for the process, instead of just the technical aspects.
26. What Is Your Favorite Wedding Photography Memory or Moment?
27. How Do You Ensure That We Feel Comfortable in Front of the Camera?
28. Can You Share Stories of Challenges You’ve Faced During Weddings and How You Overcame Them?
29. How Do You Balance Capturing Moments and Being Unobtrusive During the Ceremony and Reception?
30. What’s Your Preferred Method of Communication During the Planning Process?
We hope these questions have helped you feel more prepared as you navigate the wedding planning process. If you’re considering us to document your wedding day, please reach out and see if we’re available on your date!
And congratulations on getting engaged!