By Leah Langley of Leah Langley Photography
Congratulations! You're getting married! Now comes the super fun (and/or seriously daunting) task of hiring multiple vendors in industries which may not be very familiar. Nuances and details that may not seem significant can be vital to having the experience and outcome you're expecting. When hiring a wedding photographer, there is so much to consider beyond their Instagram "highlight reel." While this list could easily be 30+ questions long, I tried to consider questions that don't often appear on other blogs. Also, I tried to select questions that will help you find a photographer who's running a business, not a hobby, and help you consider aspects that may not seem apparent. Most of these questions should be answered within the contract, but they are great to know beforehand. Here are 14 questions for your wedding photographer before you hire them:
1. Do your wedding collections include images?
It can be easy to assume that this question would be answered with a "yes" by the photographer. Make sure you are very clear about what is included in a wedding collection or if it is just coverage of the day. Sometimes the images aren't included to keep the initial price down. It may seem like a fantastic photographer is priced very favorably, but you might not be getting the same deal as another photographer who's priced higher.
2. What are the file quality of the images?
Sometimes images are included, however, the images are only "web-friendly" sizes, and/or only printable up to 5x7s. An additional fee might be required to receive higher resolution images. Sometimes prints must be ordered through the photographer.
3. What is your turn around time for my images?
This again is great to know just so that everyone is on the same page. There are some photographers who turn around consistently within 2 weeks, and others who take 3 months. While there are some exceptions, you should have your images by the four month mark. My contract says seven to nine weeks. Sometimes I am able to turn around faster, but usually the full gallery is delivered within 6 weeks. During those first few weeks, I post some of my favorites on Instagram and usually do a blog post for the eager couple.
4. What kind of ownership do I have of my images?
Usually the photographer maintains full ownership. If images are included for the client, then they receive a conditional print release for personal use only, not full copyright. If your photographer takes an amazing image of your wedding and a company wants to use or buy that image for their use, that authority rests with the photographer to grant, not you. If you wanted to print 200 4x6s for thank you cards for your guests, then you're okay to do that. However, you couldn't legally make cards to sell without your photographer's permission. If you want to buy full copyright to your images, be prepared to pay a large sum. Having print release also doesn't allow for the images to be additionally edited by anyone other than the photographer. Print release does allow you to print wherever you'd like. The only print quality a photographer can guarantee is through his or her professional lab.
5. How do you edit my images?
The photographer's editing style is should be consistent and in line with what you imagine your images to look like. I remember reading a photographer's experience photographing a wedding with only black and white film. It made an artistic statement, but the couple was very disappointed. The occasional black and white photo is to be expected. There are some photographers who exclusively deliver only black and white images. This is their art. If it is perfectly inline with your style, that's a great match!
6. Does the "complimentary" engagement session include the images?
Back to the subject of images, if the photographer's wedding collection includes an engagement session, make sure to ask if the images from that session are included. If not, ask how much it would be to add in the images.
7. Do you have experience photographing the lighting conditions of my ceremony and reception? And potential backup rain location?
This is a big one! If you selected a photographer who rocks natural outdoor light, but you're getting married in a dark church with an indoor reception, make sure you see a full gallery that will have similar lighting to your own wedding. Also ask to see one or two full wedding galleries of a photographer's work. Nearly anyone can photograph a "one hit wonder," throughout a wedding day, but you need to see that they can consistently cover a full wedding.
8. Is your backup gear professional?
This question implies that their first line gear is professional to begin with, and if they are running a business, it should be professional gear. We all know electronics can be tricky or unexpectedly damaged. Recently, one of my cameras suddenly stopped working during an event. While it made for an annoying few seconds, I had two other professional cameras to use, so nothing was missed. I was able to hand the defective camera to my assistant and continue without a missing shot.
9. How do you backup my images?
There are few wedding stories worse than hearing about a photographer who didn't backup images and then there was a hard drive failure. With a tiny bit of planning, a failed hard drive shouldn't mean your images are lost forever. While photographing, all of my cameras write to two cards simultaneously. Even if a card fails, there is another one. Before leaving the venue, one copy of the cards is in my pocket, and the other stays in my gear. Then the images are put onto my laptop if I am traveling, or my desktop at home. Once home, I also backed up to an external hard drive, and store it in a safety deposit box at my bank. The client's final images are delivered via an online professional gallery, and I count that as an additional backup.
10. How qualified is your second photographer?
When a second photographer is included or added on to a wedding collection, your primary photographer should pull from a qualified list photographers or have a dedicated second photographer. I joke that my second photographers are not "warm bodies with a camera." I use experienced wedding photographers who own and know their gear.
11. Do you have the proper insurance coverage for my venue?
Most large wedding venues require outside vendors to have a minimum of $1 million of Errors and Omissions insurance coverage. This is different than insurance coverage of their own gear. If something was damaged at the venue, the venue needs to know they will be compensated. This is part of running a professional business. Check with your venue to know what is required for outside vendors on their property.
12. Are you licensed to run a business in your state?
Seems like common sense, but not every photographer is actually running a business. They may be accepting payment, but not be collecting the proper local and state taxes. If they are licensed, this adds credibility to their operation. You're giving a photographer thousands of dollars for an event that is 12+ months away, you want to feel confident that they will still be shooting when your wedding happens.
13. How will you deliver my images?
Most of the photographers deliver via an online, password protected gallery. Clients are able to download, order prints, and share images within that gallery. Gone are the days of passing around a CD or DVD. And for that matter, gone are the days of disc drives in computers. Sometimes a USB drive is also included or can be added on.
14. Will you be our photographer or do you hire someone else?
Some photographers have a studio setup with several associate photographers, and you might not be meeting the person who will be photographing your wedding. Knowing the personality of the person who will be spending a majority of your wedding with you is very helpful. Also, you want to know that your images will be consistent with the main photographer's line of work. If they hire other photographers, the shooting style may or may not be consistent. Also, since your wedding may be a year away, and employees aren't bound to a certain business, you might not know who it will be if it isn't the main photographer.
Leah Langley of Leah Langley Photography
After graduating from Florida State University, Leah Langley worked in the fields of accounting and finance. It didn't take long before realizing her passion for photography and desire to own her own business. She contributes her success to her amazing clients who have brought her to where she is today. Based in Orlando, Leah often travels for wedding, portrait and commercial shoots. Capturing beautiful moments for her clients is such an honor. It is what keeps Leah pushing for success. Click Here to See More from Leah and Leah Langley Photography