Booking your photographer is an exciting moment. You encounter your dream photographer's portfolio online, and it feels a bit like finding your dream dress. After all, you need someone who shares your vision to capture that dream dress on the dream day. Next comes meeting in person, putting down the deposit, and getting really, really excited.
But like all vendors present on your wedding day, there are high stakes! It's more than asking how much they'll cost (which is very important, of course), and it's more than looking at their portfolio and liking the images you see. These are five more uncommon questions to ask your photographer that we consider to be an absolute must.
Who will be shooting my wedding?
Even if a company is titled "Mary Joe Photography," and you've only ever spoken with Mary Joe, it is possible that Mary herself won't be shooting your wedding. Companies often will be named for the founding photographer, but will contract with other associate photographers. This doesn't mean these other photographers aren't as good as Mary Joe, but if you hire Mary, and then an entirely different person shows up to shoot your wedding, it would be uncomfortable and jarring. You want to build a relationship with this person ahead of the big day so you're comfortable working together.
If it turns out that an associate will indeed be photographing your wedding, schedule a meeting with this person before you put down your deposit.
Similarly, inquire if your package includes an assistant, or a second shooter. If it does, think about whether you'd want to meet this second shooter as well (this isn't a must!). At the very least, decide with your photographer exactly what they will be covering and what their second shooter will be covering. This will vary drastically depending on the working styles of the photographers, and what they excel at. But it's definitely something you will want to know ahead of time.
Do you have a backup? People or equipment?
In the same way that crises hit you and I, or we get sick, photographers are also vulnerable. However, if you call in sick for a day at the office, it doesn't potentially ruin someone's wedding day (unless you're in the industry?!).
If your photographer comes down with a flu, or a loved one passes away, they can't be expected to work. This is why it's so important to ask about your photographer's contingency plan.
Do they have an associate that could cover for them? The answer needs to be yes. At the very least, they should have contacts for you to reach out to in case of an emergency.
Similarly, does your photographer have ample backup equipment? Again, the answer needs to be yes. You do not want to wind up with poorly lit group portraits because one of your photographer's soft boxes broke the day before.
Does this contract come with insurance, or legal avenues if something should go awry?
If, in the instance that your photographer needs to bow out and they cannot find you a replacement, what kind of legal avenues do you have? Ensure that your contract clearly delineates those options. It can be an awkward conversation, but it's better to ensure that you're covered before you'd need to use that coverage. For example, do you get your deposit back?
Additionally, what if the worst happens...? What if you get the images back, and they are not at all what you were promised? What if it's clear that the photographer made a mistake, and the finished product is looks absolutely nothing like the photographer's portfolio?
We don't mean, what if it turns out Aunt Milly's double chin is more prominent than you anticipated and the photographer didn't airbrush it out. We mean, what if you get the images back and they're extremely overexposed, or the files are corrupted, or too small? Your contract should leave space for a reasonable disputes and negotiations. Not all photographers will go with this, but it's always worth asking.
What will determine turnaround time, and how many images we'll receive? When is the latest we will receive the images?
For the record, it is unfair to expect a two week turnaround from your photographer. Similarly, it's not reasonable to ask for exactly 275 images. If you want your photographer to do their best work, you need to trust, and not rush them. However, that doesn't mean you should go in totally blind to what you can expect.
Ask for a window for delivery time. Most often, this will look like eight to twelve weeks. Sometimes, in peak season, it might be even more. This is part of what you're agreeing to when you sign your contract. Similarly, ask for a range of images, and what will determine how many images you'll get back. For example, the levels of access that you ensure the photographer has will determine in part how many images you get, and of what.
We always recommend asking for a "at-latest" date. This is a bit like invoicing for payments—most companies and freelancers will have the terms "NET-30 2%" on their contracts. This means if the customer doesn't pay the invoice in full before 30 days, they'll be charged a 2% late fee. In your case, the at-latest date refers to the absolute last date that your photographer could deliver your images before further action can be taken.
This could mean that after a certain date, your photographer will give you a partial refund, for example, or that they'd need to throw in extra services or products to make up for the late delivery.
In the worst case scenario, which it's always wise to prepare for—what if your photographer takes your deposit or half up front payment, shoots the wedding, and then disappears? We hate to say it, but this happens more often than you'd think. Ask for a clause in your contract that specifically outlines the legal options available to you were this to happen.
What is your working style?
This is a big one—and though it may feel vague, photographers will know exactly what you mean. This question is designed to ascertain how your photographer will be on your wedding day. Will they blend into the background? Will they be calling the shots? Will they be around to assist your guests if they need directions or assistance, or will they be more of a lone wolf?
When both of you understand what to expect from being around each other on your wedding day, you are set up for success. If you know you're going to be high strung, share that information. If the photographer knows that they will need assistance directing any difficult family members for portraits, they will share that information with you.
You should think of working with your photographer like you're a team, working towards the same ends. When you're on the same page and there are no lingering questions or surprises, you both wind up happy, and with gorgeous wedding photos.
We're all about pragmatism just as much as we're about romanticism. What other questions did you ask your photographer? Anything you'd add to this list? Let us know below!
This posts features photographs from one of our favourite Vancouver photographers, Holoscene Photos!