This is probably your first time researching wedding photographers (unless you’re like me and have had your photographer picked out LONG before an engagement). You are probably wondering how the heck you are going to pick a photographer to document one of the most important days in your life! If you haven’t found out already, there is an overwhelming amount of wedding photographers in the Kansas City metro. Which is a good thing! (Yes, I just said that- as a photographer– having all of this competition is a good thing). We live in this awesome city that you can find a photographer with any style, experience, and price range/products! These three things are the most important to consider when narrowing down all of your choices. Here are some questions to ask to help you make that decision!
-How would you describe your shooting and editing style? Do you prefer a documentary style where you photograph moments as they happen? Or are you more prone to help orchestrate moments throughout the day?
This is a huge one, guys. Do you want a photographer that’s going to capture your day as it’s happening? Or do you want someone telling you what to do every step of the way? I am a documentary-styled photographer and will hire a photographer with a similar style for my own wedding someday. This is the photographer that will prompt and capture your laughs and goofiness during your bride and groom photos. While a more traditional photographer will put you in poses that will look more classic.
-Will you pose or direct us?
Did you know there is a difference between these? Posing is the more strict “put your hand here, turn your face this way, look right here…” Directing usually involves prompts. Some that I use are “hold hands and walk towards me like you are just having the best day ever” and “melt into each other as if it were really cold outside and you’re trying to warm each other up.” Directing leaves room to interpret the prompt as a couple. You’ll end up in positions that are more comfortable and ultimately look more natural. In both approaches, your photographer should still look for flattering angles and light.
-Are you comfortable with lighting equipment for our reception or dark ceremony?
This question could have fit in this category or the experience one. If your wedding is in a dark church or your reception is outside after dark, you want to make sure your photographer is comfortable with the lighting challenge. You also want to be really upfront with these conditions from the beginning. There are strictly natural light photographers that are AMAZING with outdoor photos, but wouldn’t know what to do with a 8pm outdoor ceremony. Make sure you get that all out in the open!
-How long have you been photographing weddings? How many weddings have you photographed?
I’m going to preface this with a statement: Just because a photographer hasn’t been in business for 10 years and photographed 300 weddings, does not mean they aren’t skilled and fully capable to deliver amazing photos that you will absolutely love. But it’s good information to know. A photographer that has been in business for 3 years and has photographed 5 weddings suggests that they are not an experienced wedding photographer. And you want someone that knows the ins and outs of a typical wedding day.
-Can I see a full gallery of a wedding and engagement session?
THIS IS SOOOOOO IMPORTANT!!! If I had to narrow this list down to one thing- this would be it! I personally send a link to a gallery in my first response to a new inquiry. Anyone and their mom can put pretty pictures on Instagram and call themselves a wedding photographer. Blogs help, but you’re still not getting the full story. Ask for a full gallery! See if you can see yourself being in those photos! Is the style consistent? Are all of the photos in focus? Does it make you excited to hire them? ASK FOR FULL GALLERIES!!!
-Do you carry liability insurance?
Shit happens. Will your photographer be covered? Some venues require proof of liability insurance from their vendors and you don’t want to find out that your photographer isn’t covered a month before your ceremony.
-What kind of backup equipment do you have? What is your backup process with our photos?
I have backups on backups. Every photographer should. I’ll explain my set up because there’s a good chance that you have no idea what to expect or what should be typical. My cameras have dual memory card slots. I run two memory cards at all times. If a card corrupts (and they sometimes do), I have another one with the exact same images on it. I also carry a backup camera and a variety of lenses to all weddings. If I drop my camera during your ceremony and the glass breaks, I have another one right there to ensure seamless coverage. When I get home, the first thing I do (well other than getting my shoes off because my feet are usually screaming at the end of a wedding day) is upload all of your photos to 3 places: my computer’s hard drive, an external hard drive, and an online backup system.
Technology is fickle, ya’ll. And honestly, backups are one of my biggest expenses. So even if (actually ESPECIALLY if) you find a photographer with gorgeous photos, experience, and charge under $1000, this is a really important question to ask. Chances are the reason they can charge what they do is that they don’t have much overhead (i.e. don’t have backup equipment and systems in place).
-What if you aren’t able to make it on our wedding day?
We are human, guys! We get sick, get stranded at airports, break a leg, have terminally ill family members, etc. So what happens if your photographer isn’t going to be able to make it? This should be a no-brainer, quick answer from any photographer. My promise to my couples is that if something like this were to happen (and knock-on-wood I hope it never does!), is that I will send another qualified photographer with a similar shooting style to cover their big day. I pay the other photographer out of my pocket (also a good follow up question to this) and then I still edit the photos.
-Can I review your contract before booking?
You should never get a “no” to this. If you do- RUN! Hahaha. Seriously though, read that thing from beginning to end twice. Make sure you know what to expect from the photographer and what is expected of you! Ask questions if there’s anything you don’t understand.
-How much is the retainer? Do you offer payment plans? What are the due dates for payments? Do you charge late fees?
Obviously you want to know how much you are going to be paying. Most photographers offer flexible payment schedules. It is industry standard to pay a retainer to book your date. This could be a percentage of the package or a fixed price. It is also standard for the entire balance to be paid before your wedding.
-Are digitals and/or prints included in our package? What about a second shooter, album, additional hours, etc.?
Know what you’re going to get and how much it will cost!
-What is your turnaround and how are the images delivered?
Culling and editing thousands of photos takes time. Sometimes a LOT of time. In most situations, this can be anywhere from 4-8 weeks. Also ask if you will get a sneak peek (most photographers do this!). And how should you expect to receive your photos? Through an online gallery? A flash drive in the mail? An in person ordering session?
-Do you charge a travel fee and what are the stipulations?
If you hire a west coast to photograph your wedding here in Kansas City, you’ll likely be paying a travel fee. Get an estimate on this up front. Some charge a fixed amount while others will want to calculate all of their exact costs. Expect to pay for airfare, ground transportation and lodging at minimum if you are hiring an out of state photographer. The Kansas City metro is pretty big so also ask about travel fees if you are hiring someone local. Some may charge if you want to go off site for photos between your ceremony and reception. Most also have a certain radius that they will start charging for if your wedding is further from the city.
-How many images should we expect? Will they be high resolution?
Know what to expect! Is it a set amount? Is it a set amount and then you can buy additional? Or will you receive all of the edited photos? Asking about the resolution is also important. Low resolution photos are fine for social media, but if you want to purchase a large canvas to hang above your mantel, you’re going to need a high resolution file.
-Will they be accessible online and for how long?
I share my couples’ photos through an online gallery. My clients receive their images as soon as they are done (no waiting on mail or trying to match up schedules to meet in person). It also makes it super easy for my couples to share with family and friends! These online galleries are not permanent though. Most have a time limit and aren’t meant to be used for long term storage. I highly recommend downloading your photos to multiple locations as soon as an online gallery is delivered.
What NOT to ask:
-Do you have any references/past brides that I can contact?
Do you want me giving your phone number to a random person that might be considering hiring me? I know I wouldn’t. That’s what REVIEWS are for! Most photographers will have awesome reviews on their website, but also check The Knot, their Facebook page, and Google. Can’t find any? Ask the photographer where you can find some!
-What do you plan on wearing to the wedding?
If you don’t trust this person to wear something appropriate to your wedding, don’t hire them. I couldn’t tell you what I plan on wearing to your wedding that’s 9 months away. The answer is always something black or a maxi dress (and I promise it won’t be white). If you need them to wear something specific- TELL them. If you are having a black tie dress attire or everyone’s shoulders need to be covered in the church or you have asked all of your guests to wear black, go ahead and let your photographer know!
-Can we have the RAW, unedited photos?
“NO. NO. NO. NO. PLEASE NO.” This is the answer you will get, so no need to ask! Asking for RAW files is kind of a slap in the face. Would you ask a baker to give you the cookie dough so you can bake the cookies at home? Exactly.
-Do you have a degree in photography?
This just isn’t necessary. I only know one photographer that does. Ask about their experience (see above) because it is so much more telling than a piece of paper. I know some incredible photographers that I have looked up to for years that dropped out of college to pursue this line of work. If you’re curious, my degree is in Organizational Communications. I worked in the health IT field for 3 years (which had nothing to do with my degree) and started this business 6 months after graduating. How many people do you know that are working in the field their degree is in?
I really hope this guide will be helpful in your wedding planning! I want you to feel 100% confident in your decision when hiring a photographer. Educate yourself, ask questions, and ultimately- find someone that you think will add to your experience on your big day!