Updated: Apr 16
When I lived in Haiti, there were only a handful of "professional" photographers in the whole city. I traveled all over the country working for the top businesses in Haiti (national cell phone company, the national beer company, countless organizations, just to start).
Before moving back to America, I assumed that starting a photography business in East TN would not be too hard. I just assumed that there would not be much competition.
Boy was I wrong!
There is a saturation of photographers in this area. To be honest, some are good, some not so good. But none-the-less, as a couple about to get married, it must certainly be a big challenge to weed through all of the photographers.
For this very reason, I want to give you 10 questions you should ask the photographers BEFORE you sign a contract.
1. What is your shooting style?
I have found that not every photographer is created equally. What I mean is, everyone is a little different. Some people like their "light and airy," some like the "dark and moody," some photographers (especially the much older guys) don't edit at all. Just because someone has been shooting for 100 years does not mean they are going to be better than someone who has only been shooting for a couple of years. Be sure that before you start talking to a photographer, check out their IG feed. If you like what you see, then move from there. If you are not real crazy about their images, then don't expect them to do any better for you. Also, we photographers don't like to change our style for what you would prefer. If you don't like what I produce, then go check out someone else. I am not only a small business owner in the wedding industry, but I am also an artist. These photos are my art and I am proud of that. I don't want to compromise my artistic flow because someone prefers their photos to fit into a different style.
2. Do you edit all of the photos?
Photographers typically do things in two different ways. Either they choose to edit the best and deliver them, or they allow the couple to pick from a certain amount of photos, and they only edit that amount. I fall into the category of selecting the best and editing all of those. The couples that I have worked with in the past trust my "eye" for the shot and are always happy with what I deliver. Too, the way I do it typically results in a larger quantity of edited photos delivered to you.
3. How many weddings have you shot?
Going back to that first question... Just because someone has shot a ton of weddings does not necessarily mean they are the best photographer in the world. But one issue that a large percentage of couples run into is that when they ask a friend or family member to shoot the wedding, they are not very happy with the results. If you have someone who has shot a lot of weddings, things become second nature. We start to know exactly where to be, and when, to get the best shots. We are also, more comfortable and that in turn calms the nerves of the brides and grooms.
4. Are there any restrictions for sharing my photos online?
Some photographers want to have control over all photos that are being shared. Sometimes you have to pay extra to gain the right to print or share. And if you are addicted to FB or IG, then it would be torture to not be able to show everyone the photos from your big day. For me, I follow a pretty simple code, I AM THERE FOR YOU! If you are paying me to come and capture your day, then I want you to be able to have all of the photos I can give. I want you to be able to use them as you want as well! Post those photos in all of their glory for the world to see. The only thing I ask is that you tag me and let the world know who took those amazing photos. ;-)
5. What is your favorite part of the wedding day?
This is very important to ask, because you want your photographer's interest to be in line with yours. For example, if you photographer says that their favorite part of the wedding to capture is the fun dance party and DJ lighting on the dance floor, but you as a couple are not planning on having a dance floor and are super excited about taking private photos after the ceremony... then there is going to be a little conflict there. I think for me, my favorite part has to be that post-ceremony time to capture the couple alone. Just me and the newlyweds away from everyone else quietly capturing their first moments together. The overflow of joy and love that I am so privileged to experience just gets me every time!
6. Do you include engagement sessions in the package?
Many photographers do offer engagement sessions as part of their wedding packages, but not always. Be sure if you want an engagement session, don't assume that it is included. You don't want to get stuck paying an additional fee for something that you thought you were already paying for. And for those of you who were considering not getting engagement photos, I highly advise you to do it. And for multiple reasons. Yes, it is an added cost, but it allows you to meet your photographer and get comfortable with them. It is kind of a bonding opportunity. If you don't feel comfortable with them at the engagement shoot, or if you don't like the photos they produce, then you will probably feel the same way about them at the wedding. And listen, you don't want some strange rando person following you around all day.
7. How many times will we be in contact before the wedding day?
You want to be in contact with your photographer at least three times, but to be completely honest, it should be more than that. There is a relationship that is being built there and the photographer should be nurturing that relationship and helping you to prepare for that big day. Confession Time: Ok, I admit... I have booked clients before and did not talk to them again until the day before the wedding. Looking back I hate that! It is all part of growing as a photographer and really, a business owner. These days it is a little different though. If you are reading this list, that means you have already been in contact with me more than once, you are probably already a part of the growing network of local brides in my HKP Weddings Facebook Group, and hopefully, we will get you scheduled for an engagement session in the near future! So with this in mind, the answer from your photographer should be... As often as we need to make your wedding day dreams come true.
8. What do you include in your wedding packages?
Every wedding photographer's packages are a little bit different. Prices can vary widely and what is offered can change drastically between those price points. But as you compare prices and packages, be sure you are looking at the little add ons like printed albums, second shooters, or film costs. These things can change those prices considerably. I try to stick with three tiers of prices. Each one unique and can be adapted to your needs.
9. What is the deposit/retainer fee and when is it due?
Usually, this is not the first question of a bride... maybe the father of the bride or groom though. ;-) It is a very important one though. Every photographer does things a little differently. I know some that have a non-refundable retainer fee, some have 50% upfront, some do payment plans, some just take a check the day of the wedding. Be sure you know what your photographer is expecting. For me, I do a $250 non-refundable retainer fee on the day of the contract and then usually receive payment in full the day of the wedding. I have no problem with working out different payment options based on your needs.
10. How long after the wedding will we have to wait to see our photos?
This can be a tricky question. There are a lot of different factors that go into how soon we can get you photos. I know of some photographers that tell their client upfront that it will take around 3 months. Some photographers will get you a sample of photos early and then take a while longer on the bulk of the photos. And something I hate is when photographers opt to send their photos off to a "photo editing service" so that they can keep up with their workload. Most couples hire me because they like my style. I would never feel comfortable sending my photos off and getting a standard "plain" edit. I enjoy spending time on each one of your photos. Making sure that the details are just right and that my artistic style shows through in each photo. When I have to answer this question though, I often say it will take about a month to get all of the photos. I always get a few sample photos out within a day or two. A couple of my weddings that I had this year already have had a turn around of 1-2 weeks. So even though I say a month, I will deliver before that if I am able.
So thanks for hanging on through all 10 questions that you should ask the photographer before you sign a contract. I hope it answered some questions that you may have had as well. If you have any other specific questions that did not get answered here, or would like me to share more info on a certain topic, please post a message to the HKP Weddings Facebook Page or you can send me a direct email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks so much guys!