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What Should I be asking about Wedding Photography?

Unless you work in the wedding industry it is extremely difficult knowing how much money you should be setting aside for each professional and service.  This is a very common occurence and sometimes the end result means readjusting and prioritizing based on your actual market research.

Wedding photography is not a priority for every couple but for those that recognize that a good photographer can make even the smallest, most intimate wedding and budget look like a fairy tale; it's wise to research before investing. A good wedding photographer will reveal the beauty and the glitz of your special day.

Because you haven't (presumably) been down this road recently or perhaps ever, it's great to know what questions to ask when deciding on who you will choose to make your Wedding Day all that it can be.  Here is a list of Questions I've put together for you regarding Wedding photography. However, most questions can be changed up to work for all your Wedding professionals.  I've also included things you should consider about the possible answers.

I'm getting married on ________ are you available.

Are you familiar with our venue?

* familiarity is not always necessary to a pro however if they have worked at the venue can they show you the work?  Great to get an idea of how they manage at your venue.

May I see your portfolio?

You need to ensure that you are hiring someone with experience.  Someone without a portfolio or who has a poorly presented portfolio, doesn't take their work seriously..why should you.
Make sure the portfolio is up to your standards and meets your wants and needs.

May I see an entire Wedding?

This is a tricky one but a very important question.  If the photographer did not meet with you prepared to show you a sample of the entire wedding than how can you know based on portfolio work that the photographer is consistant.  He/she may pull out 30 great images for portfolio or display but they will be the best of the day.  When you look at the wedding is the exposure, colour, focus, contrast, composition of the images in line with a professional's work.  Does he/ she drop the ball when it comes to the reception or the family photos.  If so you may need to see another professional. 
Hiding behind portfolio images is no longer acceptable when you are making a considerable investment on your entire wedding and not just 30 images.

Do you have samples of Print products I can see?

Investing in Samples for couples is a key to assisting you when it comes time to purchase.  Knowing that you have a professional who can guide you through choosing your print and the best medium on which to display it is very important in getting the best results.
Have they invested in their medium or do they not believe in displaying their work in large format.
Images prepared for print need to be flawless.  It's a sign of a good photographer.

How many wedding's to you do each year?

You can take this answer any way you like.  Limiting the number to something small may be a quality control the photographer has put in place.  Shooting many wedding's may assure you that they can handle the workload and are well organized.

Do you do more than one wedding per weekend?

***This is one I would be careful about.  Are you getting a tired photographer who just worked a 12 hour day yesterday and will now shoot your Wedding day? 

How long will it take before I receive my images?

Some photographer's have a great turn around time.  The average seems to be 4-6 weeks.  A few are able to get images out sooner.  I have heard from other photographers in the industry that during the peek season it can take 3-6 months before couples get their images.   Is that acceptable for you?  (maybe, maybe not but you should know what to expect.)

Do you provide Digital negatives and Can I print them?
Photographer's now are familiar with providing digital negatives.  There may be a lot of fuss involved in getting your digitals.  Ask if they are full size and will they be allowed to print them.  Photographer's in Canada now own the copyright on all the images that they take so they will need to provide shared rights for printing legally with you now either in print and signing or within the digital meta date or the images.  Make sure you know if you are getting a proof disk or the actual images. (this will vary from photographer to photographer but it would be awful to end up with only a proof disk that you can watch on the DVD player but no option for printing if you had planned to use them to print.)

Do you have references available for contact?

If you are given references...I highly recommend you contact them.  You never know what you may learn from a client.  The photographer may think they are a happy client, however, sometimes the photographer may not know the actual opinion of the client!!! 

What insurance do you carry?

A professional will carry insurance.  To protect themselves and YOU!!!  If the wedding photographer, breaks a centerpiece that you rented, the insurance should cover it.  If Aunt Jane trips and falls on the photographer's cord, bags etc The photographer needs to cover her expenses and compensate her for the injury.  A professional without insurance is providing a disservice to his/her client.  You and your guests should be protected!

Is your business registered?

Many photographers have logos, and websites but don't actually claim their income or pay business tax.  This is a dishonest practice and often reflects their entire business practice. Trusting your photographer is honest and ethical is truly more important than saving tax in a dishonest transaction.  Will you be in a position to take legal action if you pay under the table to avoid tax? 
Avoid the non-registered business wherever possible.

Have you ever missed a Wedding for any reason?

Find out the reason and what was done for the couple who lost their photographer.  Are you satisfied with the answer?

Do you have back up equipment that you bring with you?

Back up equipment is essential to photographer's quality of work and professionalism.  At any time, a flash could stop firing, camera shutter stick closed and more.  Mechanical failure, although it may not be anyone's fault, doesn't help you when your photographer is borrowing a camera from one of your guests!  Make sure he/she has professional back up equipment with him on wedding's.  Leaving it at the studio or home won't help either.

Do you do this full time?

Again the answer can go either way however If this professional cannot take a risk and put it all on the line to make it work, should you be putting it all on the line by hiring their service. 
Will their other full time or part time job get in the way of your wedding photography?

Are you prepared to shoot in dark situations?

Professional wedding photographers can shoot in any lighting situations.  Ask to see the images taken in dark venues etc.   Do they bring additional lighting or shoot only available light.  If they shoot available light or on camera flash you like the image results?  ( this is entirely a personal taste or choice)  Some photographers shoot a little added light, ambient light, and available light throughout the entire day so you have a good mixture of options available. 
If they tell you they don't shoot much in the reception because they don't have a good are not talking to a professional photographer!

How much of a deposit is required?

Is the deposit reasonable?  Are they asking for full payment as the retainer?  Consider why they want all payment upfront.  Most require a small portion up front and the remaining due a month prior or up to the day of the wedding.

What happens to our deposit if we need to reschedule or change the date?

Find out what happens to your deposit in the case that you loose your venue due to fire or act of God etc.  Some photographers will apply to a date in the near future and others will simply tell you it's lost.  It is good to know what may happen.

What services make you different from the photographer down the street?

This should be an easy one!  You don't necessarily want a photographer or professional who tells you why other photographers are not good you want someone who can explain what sets them apart.  How they go beyond the average.  Reason's they feel they stand out in a crowd.  If it's hard for them...think about it.

Hopefully this list puts you in a better position to speak with your potential Wedding photographers.  Being prepared and asking the right questions will help you choose services and professionals with more security.

I hope this helps make your search a little easier.  I bet it weeds out a few not-so professionals for you.

                                                           Joanna St. Jacques

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