Your significant other got down on one knee; a ring was offered and is worn proudly; announcements have been made and a Pinterest board started.
Now it gets serious! You have to plan an entire wedding!
The wedding photographer is one of the first vendors chosen by most couples, and for good reason, as their dates tend to book up as quickly as venues, months or even a year or two in advance.
But what should you really find out about them and their work?
Assuming you've done some research by visiting their website and social media pages, you already have an idea of their style and have perhaps read reviews or know their pricing. What should you ask them during a consult to ensure they are the best one to capture your day?
1. Ask about their experience, but remember that the number of years someone has done something is not always the best method in determining their ability to capture your vows in a year.
Find out if they still participate in workshops or trainings and how their business has changed in the last year. Even the most phenomenal professionals keep in contact with others in their field. Every day there are new things to improve any creative career and continuously practicing and learning are powerful ways to always be the best. Relationships with other vendors are not only helpful to them but could be really useful as you plan the rest of your wedding details. I'm armed with friends who are planners, custom sign makers, stationary shop owners and all sorts of other creatives.
2. What equipment do they use?
Most people don't understand millimeters and primes versus zooms, so this question is not meant to get an answer of 50mm versus 24-70 lens or Nikon as opposed to Canon. Push this answer a little further and you may see some of the photographer's passion and strength and how comfortable they are with more technical details. I always share with my clients that I'm a prime lens user and that that basically means for them that I have a wide array of focal lengths that I use at different times of their day. I also talk about what my favorite lens is and what it means for their final images (like some bokeh, or blurred background, in a dreamy portrait or crisp details from my macro lens when I photograph their diamond and flowers). Are they equipped for challenges of your day like dark reception halls or small getting-ready rooms?
3. Ask about the costs and deposit information. Some photographers offer payment plans and some require an upfront payment months in advance. There may be little wiggle room in this area and it's important to get the "boring details" out of the way so that you can talk about more exciting things. Don't forget to ask about any potential up-charging (extra hours on the day or a larger-sized album), too. Surprises are not usually good when it comes to finances.
4. Really study the photographer's packages or collections. Make sure you understand them and ask the photographer his or her opinion on whether the one you're considering would work best for your tentative plans. This is an opportunity for the two of you to really consider your wedding day photography timeline. I work with my clients on this from my very first meeting with them.
5. Talk about second shooters!
I have second photographers included in half of my wedding packages; soon, they'll be a part of all of my offerings. I value them that much and think a second photographer is an incredibly invaluable part of capturing a wedding day. Ask your photographer if they use them, why they do or don't and find out who. I have a small network of talented photographers of similar styles that know all of my wedding days almost immediately upon booking. I try really hard to find someone that compliments me and my business but who will also mesh well with my clients that day. Find out if the photographer has legal bindings or contracts with their second shooters, too. (I do!)
6. Ask to see more.
Let's be honest -- a wedding photographer is going to put the best of their best on their website or social media. You may have fallen in love with their ring detail photos or the wide-angle landscapes they captured during bridal portraits but find out if that's the norm for them. It's not uncommon for potential clients to ask to see an entire wedding gallery from me and I love that! That gives them a chance to see an entire day! They also get to view my gallery system and see how easy it is to use and navigate that.
7. Listen to their questions.
I tend to ask as many questions as my clients during our first consults. I do this for a lot of reasons, the most important being that I really, truly want to get to know them and I want to make sure I have a solid idea of their proposed day and their style. I have had to speak up a couple of times when I honestly feel we just aren't a good fit for one another. And that's OK! But listen to what your possible photographer is asking you -- are they sitting quiet? Are they taking notes? Are they talking about ideas they already have for photos or locations?
8. Ask the "What if" questions.
These are the hope-it-never-comes-to-this concerns. What if you drop your camera? What if your car breaks down? What if your babysitter cancels? What if your second shooter cancels? What if we change our venue? What if we change our date? What if we have to cancel?
9. Let them tell you what it is they love about what they do.
Ask them their favorite part of wedding photography or their favorite part of a wedding day. Find out their favorite wedding so far or ask to see their favorite image from their last wedding. You want someone who is not only talented and trustworthy but someone who loves what they do. Wedding photographers are on their feet, doing mental and physical work in an emotional and stressful setting for 10 or 12 or 14 hours in a day. They get no redo and sometimes no food. And you want someone who doesn't even notice those things because they're so busy capturing moments and memories with a smile and a bounce in their step.