There are few other events in life that are as anticipated as a good wedding. So, when it comes to your very own big day, nothing should be left to chance, especially your wedding photos.
Once you’ve settled on a wedding venue, booking a top wedding photographer is the next priority and one of the essential wedding suppliers you will hire. As such, it’s crucial to find someone with the right blend of personality, professionalism and experience to capture the magical moments of your big day. This is why it’s ideal to have a list of questions to ask a wedding photographer before hiring them. Looking for the best Wedding Photographer in Melbourne? Check out our ultimate list here.
As a professional photographer, here’s what it takes to document the most special day of your client’s lives. It’s not just a couple of professional cameras or technology that creates a wedding story. It’s the photographer.
Here Some Frequently Asked Questions to a Photographer.
Is This Your Full-Time Business?
This question can mean different things, so make sure you know what it is you’re asking.
Some photographers “specialize” in everything: weddings, families, newborns, maternity, boudoir, commercial – the list goes on! If you notice multiple services listed on your photographer’s website, ask them what % of their clients are wedding clients vs. portrait clients. This may give you an indication of how much time they spend at weddings. (i.e., just because someone is a full-time photographer doesn’t mean they shoot weddings full time)
The reason this question is on so many “things you need to ask” lists is that it’s trying to help the average bride and groom weed out the part-time, semi-dedicated photographers – but in all honesty, you can tell a lot about someone’s level of expertise and professionalism from their website, blog, social media involvement and initial response to your inquiry.
What Type of Editing Is Done on the Photos?
Many clients will ask if the photos will be “edited” or “photoshopped” without realizing what they’re asking. Editing and enhancing are two different things.
Most photographers do a standard edit on all the photos – enhancing/photoshopping is typically reserved for special requests and printed media.
Enhancing/photoshopping a photo takes anywhere between 20 minutes to several hours per photo. A photographer who tells you that they’ll smooth out your skin on every image is either exaggerating, outright lying or working for pennies per hour while they take a year or more to do your edits. Either way – it’s a promise that is unrealistic.
Can I See a Complete Wedding?
You should ask to see several weddings. You should ask to see marriages in venues that are similar to yours (i.e., dark indoor venue, farm venue, winter wedding, etc.) if possible.
Ask to see weddings of people who look like you (i.e., if you’re a plus-size bride or if there’s a considerable height difference between the bride and the groom, etc.) You want to know that the photographer can work with anybody type and any couple, not just the “model-pretty” types of couples.
What Type of Lighting Do You Use?
If the photographer says, “4 speedlights with two softboxes all controlled with eTTL capable pocket wizards”, would that mean anything to you?
The rationale behind this question is this: a great wedding photographer should be adaptable in any situation. If you get rained out and have to use a dark indoor location for photos instead of a lovely field or park, you want to know that your photographer can adapt. If your photographer only uses one flash that stays mounted to their camera, their photos may lack a certain quality.
If your photographer can use multiple flashes, you’ll get more of a ‘wow’ factor in your photographs – that is, if they know how to use them properly! Many photographers call themselves ‘natural light photographers ‘to mask the fact that they have no idea how to use flash.
How Long Have You Been Working as a Wedding Photographer?
It’s always good to establish someone’s credentials early on. The difference between a good photographer and a good wedding photographer is enormous. A talented wedding photographer will understand the proceedings and pressures of the day, knowing when and where to anticipate precious moments and never miss a shot. We would always recommend using a seasoned professional photographer, despite the allure of a cheaper, less experienced amateur. There’s plenty of good photographers that take wedding photos as a side hobby, but is it worth the risk if they lack experience?
Wedding photography is an industry where price reflects quality, and it’s worth paying a little bit more for someone you can trust to capture the memories of the most important day of your lives. Typically speaking, an established wedding photographer will have a few years’ experiences under their belt, and photography will be their full-time profession.
Can I See Your Portfolio?
Unless it’s displayed online, this is another fail-safe way to check that your photographer has adequate experience. Use this as an opportunity to talk through some of their work, checking for various shots, breadth of experience and photography style. This can be in print format or through their latest wedding blog posts. Let your instinct guide you, especially if you can picture yourself in the photos of imagining it being your big day. That’s always a good sign.
Ensure that your potential wedding photographer’s images show you are images taken at real weddings and not styled shoots or a photography course. These images are acceptable in your portfolio as long as they make you aware. Styled wedding shoots are VERY different to an actual wedding where you have many hours of styling and prep with professional models. This doesn’t reflect the pressure and time constraints that a real wedding brings to the table. Every single image you see on my website are from real weddings.
What Is Your Photography Style?
All wedding photographers in Sydney have their unique style. Looking through their portfolio, you will be able to decipher a top wedding photographer from an average one. I’ve always felt that candid wedding photography is the best style since it allows you to capture genuine moments that are real and in the moment; this is also known as reportage wedding photography. Naturally, you will want creative shots too, but it should mostly be capturing the day as it unfolds, telling your story. Being super creative comes with a lot of experience, setting up a shot ahead of time, knowing that the day isn’t about you but the Bride and Groom, so being respectful of time is imperative to keep the day flowing.
Nobody wants a wedding photographer in Australia who keeps asking you to pose or set up 20 group photos. It’s about working in a controlled manner, being efficient when you have to put the story together. If you hire an experienced professional, they will know how to keep to this while creating hero shots.
What Equipment Do You Shoot With?
This is an excellent question to ask a wedding photographer to understand their technical prowess rather than anything else. Nikon, Canon and Sony cameras tend to be the major brands used by professionals, and cameras must ideally be a full-frame with fast prime lenses. You may also want to ask about lighting and exposure; this will provide insight into their foresight and planning ability and highlight any considerations for your venues. Do they sound like they know what they are talking about?
The photographer must take 2 or 3 cameras on a wedding day with multiple lenses; those with just one camera take a massive risk of losing all of your wedding images and will not be professionals. Having backup equipment is a part of being a professional photographer. Looking for the Best Photobooth Hires in Melbourne? We have compiled an exclusive list of some of Melbourne’s best photobooth hire suppliers to capture your special day.
Do You Have a Physical Location for Your Business?
Not all photographers have a studio, and there are pros and cons to that. Renting/owning a studio space is expensive – if your photographer has a studio of some sorts, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be paying more!
Working out of a home office does not make your photographer any less professional!
If your photographer specializes in only weddings, they do not need a physical studio; only an office! All of their work occurs elsewhere, so spending money on a studio is pointless.
What’s Your Turnaround Time?
Turnaround time will always vary from photographer to photographer. Don’t stress too much about comparing turnaround time for photographers if you don’t know whether or not you’re comparing apples to apples (i.e., don’t compare a photographer who does their editing to a photographer who outsources their editing)
Turnaround time will also vary based on seasonal workload (i.e., couples who get married in the winter will typically get their products faster than those getting married in the later summer/early fall), and this is normal.
Your photographer may be able to give you a rough estimate of what they expect the turnaround time to be; however, a specific amount of time is rarely – if ever – written into a contract, and this, too, is normal.
How Many Weddings Have You Shot?
There is no magic number that makes a photographer worthy of your business! Every photographer operates differently.
Some photographers only shoot a maximum of 15 weddings per year as they do all their editing, while others will shoot 40 or more yet pay someone else to do their editing. Again, apples and oranges – two different business models cannot be compared, but if you must ask this, you should always follow this up with “as the primary photographer”.
Shooting as the primary photographer is very different from shooting as a second photographer, and the numbers should not be combined lest it gives a false impression of their history.
Instead of asking the photographer about the number of weddings they’ve shot, engage them in a conversation and get them to tell you what their previous season was like; where did they shoot and what challenges arose from those locations, what types of clients did they work with (shy, plus-size, height-differences, etc.), what kind of continuing education or workshops they attend, etc. This will help give you an idea of how well rounded they are as an artist and a businessperson.
Do You Scout the Locations And/or Recommend Locations to Us?
Some photographers refuse to recommend locations, while others practically insist on choosing locations for their client’s wedding photos. Not every photographer will scout every area since great photographers can adapt to any situation at any time!
After a while, every church starts to look the same – every park begins to look the same. A great photographer can adapt to any situation at any given time. For every hour of work, your photographer puts into the job (shooting, editing, meetings, scouting, etc.), there is an associated cost. Some photographers insist on “scouting” locations for several hours as a way to justify higher prices since more of their time is being spent “preparing” for your day. (It’s up to you to decide how you feel about this.)
What Is the Difference Between a Client Meeting Before and After They Book You?
The difference between a client meeting before they book instead of after can just come down to what your clients are comfortable with! The clients that choose to meet with me first usually come with a list of questions and want to chat with me in person! If clients are confident with their decision, they will typically decide to pay the retainer online, send it in the mail right away, and then meet later to chat details such as the engagement session, what to expect, and more!
Can You Photograph Abroad?
There’s no better backdrop than a bright blue sky on a perfect sunny day. Unfortunately, this is one thing the great Australian weather can’t guarantee. It’s also one of the main reasons why many people chose to elope abroad. If you think about a destination wedding photographer, a local Australian photographer can be just as affordable as hiring one abroad. Plus, you have the added benefit of meeting them in advance, speaking to them in English and having access to them at your disposal while away. If your photographer can shoot abroad, ask them what costs are included in the package, it’s not as expensive as you may think.
Will You Have an Assistant With You?
Some photographers always have an assistant with them to help carry heavy and cumbersome gear. Other photographers have chosen to purchase more portable equipment and thus, don’t need an assistant.
Assistants were more prevalent in the days of film and more complex meter readings; the assistant would go around and take various meter readings for the photographer to help speed the day along. With DSLR cameras, none of this is necessary anymore.
Don’t confuse the word ‘assistant’ with the word ‘2nd shooter’ – always get your photographer to clarify, in writing, what the definition of the 2nd person involved is.
What’s the Difference Between an Assistant and a 2nd Shooter?
An assistant is someone whose presence is meant to benefit the photographer, NOT the bride and grooms. An assistant is there to do the “monkey work” for the photographer; carrying bags, setting up lights, holding reflectors, etc. An assistant does not take extra pictures. An assistant doesn’t have to have any photography knowledge – it can be a friend, spouse or sibling of the primary photographer who wants to earn a couple of bucks for a few hours of work.
A second shooter is someone whose presence is meant to benefit the bride and groom! The second shooter is a trained professional who has top of the line gear and backup gear, and their sole purpose is to capture other moments for the bride and groom. Should they not be hired by you for the day, the second shooter would probably be out photographing their wedding and, therefore, charge a certain amount for their service.
Some photographers will give their assistants a camera and say, “go nuts, have fun,” and you may get offered the results – but there’s a good chance that these people aren’t trained photographers and cannot be relied upon get great shots.
If you have a second person shooting at your wedding, you have the right to know who they are, how long they’ve been working with the primary photographer and what you can expect from them during the day.
If you pay for a second shooter, you should not be spotting them carrying gear for the primary photographer! If you’re told you’ll get a second shooter for free, be sceptical! You’re probably getting a very, very “new” professional or co-op student.
What Is the Cancellation Policy?
A proper contract should outline a comprehensive cancellation policy. Included should be clauses about: the photographer cancelling, the couple balancing before any services are delivered, and the couple cancelling after some services have been offered. The clauses should also include what type of monetary compensation or payments are due to either party in the other’s event of cancellation. Here at Brighton Savoy, we have compiled an exclusive list of Wedding Photo Locations in Melbourne to help you decide on your special day.
And at the end of the day, as photographers, we are quite the same. Most of us have the same gear, same lenses, same editing programs, it’s all the same. Yet, we all produce different work. We are all different. You should know what makes your wedding photographer different from the competition. It could be how they shoot, how they edit, who they are, what they stand for, something that sets them apart, and you should know what that is.