Not Your Average: Questions You Should Ask Your Wedding Photographer
Not Your Average: Questions You Should Ask Your Wedding Photographer
We’ve all seen the articles and blogs with the essential list of questions you should ask your wedding photographer. I’m not surprised at how many there are, it is a huge decision booking your wedding photographer. Many people may never have booked a professional photographer before, and so don’t know what they should be looking for, or what questions to ask.
As a wedding photographer myself, my list of questions would be a little bit different to the standard list. They are questions that I would be asking myself if I was planning my own wedding. To make sure that they are not only legit and professional, but that I also get along with them and we’re well suited to each other on an artistic level.
What is Your Mission Statement? Why are You a Wedding Photographer?
Why do they do what they do? What drives them to create their images? What is their goal as a business? These to me are some of the most important questions. Hopefully their website has given you some idea of the answers, but it's good to hear it directly from them as well. Ideally you should feel a connection with them and their answers.
What is my goal? To mindfully create photos with artistic intent, without loosing the natural essence of a moment. Everything I do, framing, light, gear choice, it all has purpose. I don't want you to see my brain working, and I don't want to miss a moment either. I want my photography session to feel relaxed and fun, and I want the result, the photos, to be authentic, full of real emotion and artistically created.
What Kind of Business Do You Run?
Is the photographer working full time in the industry or do they have another job on the side? Why are they running this way? I’m a full time photographer because I not only love photography, but because I am comfortable with and enjoy running a business. Other photographers I know prefer to work another job for financial stability, because they struggle to stay passionate about their photography when there is the stress of it being their bread and butter. There is no right or wrong answer here, it comes down to what you personally feel comfortable with. The only important thing (in my opinion) is that they are running their business legitimately, whether its full time or part time. They should be registered, insured and compliant with tax laws. (If they are not set up properly, it is hard to trust their dedication to their work and to capturing your day right.)
How Do You Work on a Wedding Day?
Photographers are artists, and so they will all work differently. Try to find someone who works in a way that gels with your personality. Again, there is no right or wrong answer for everyone. Some photographers love to work traditionally to get the billboard style, gorgeous portraits that can dramatically fill a wall. They will have an assistant or two, carry around lights, and take time to set-up and get their shots perfect. Other photographers, like me, prefer a more natural and organic approach, capturing the little details, movement, emotion and laughter of the day as it happens. Blending in and skipping through fields or across beaches in beautiful natural light for portraits full of life and movement. What gels with your personality? Take the time to look at their photos and through their blogs before you meet as well, you will instinctively know which photos make your heart sing. Then don’t be shy to bring up the photo during your meeting, and ask how they got that shot.
How Would You Describe the Style of Your Photos?
If looking through photos on a website/blog and asking how a photographer works on a wedding day doesn’t completely answer your questions about style, ask your photographer to describe the style of their work. This is where the photographer may display their passion for how they shoot and why.
Is there a particular Time of Day (or type of light) That You Prefer to Work with?
The photographer you’re meeting most likely has a favourite type of light or time of day that greatly effects the style of their photos, and may be dominating their portfolio. I know of some portrait photographers who will only shoot at Magic Hour, many others really prefer working during mid afternoon or mid morning. (You can read all about my favourite types of light here). Again no right or wrong answer, some may only love one type of light, some may love several. This can give you a better idea of your photographers understanding of light, passions and can even help you with your wedding schedule.
If your photographer only likes magic hour (the hour before sunset or after sunrise), and your wedding is at midday. Ask them how comfortable they are photographing in this very different light, and what tips they would have to get the best shots. Or, be willing to listen to their suggestions on the perfect timing for your ceremony, portraits and reception if you are certain that they are the one for you.
What Gear Do You Use & Why?
Good gear can make a difference to photos, your photographer should have invested in quality gear, and have a good relationship with their gear. This is so personal again, so make sure to ask a photographer why they’ve chosen a specific camera or lens. They shouldn’t say I just have a "Insert camera name here" because it’s professional, or because "brand name" make it.
I use Canon 5Ds, which I love because of the sturdiness, nostalgic ease of use (Canon was my first digital camera), image colour, contrast and how well they handle low noise situations. I love a good full frame sensor because it gives me just the right amount of background separation, and I find the image quality to be outstanding whilst also being better suited to my style. My favourite lens is my 50mm 1.2, it’s just stunning, so close to what our eye sees, super sharp where it needs to be with amazing optics and a gorgeously soft and fast aperture. I choose prime focal lengths based on how well they translate the world (in my opinion). I also love to shoot film occasionally.
You don’t need to understand everything they say, just notice the passion and legitimate reasons for gear choices. Having a second body or back-up camera is also a very good thing, how horrible would it be if a photographer only had one camera body and it died halfway through the wedding!?
I want to make a quick update relating to the above. Until recently, when it came to choosing gear as a wedding photographer people assumed that there were only two "professional" choices. Full frame Canon or full frame Nikon. I just want to make sure you're aware that this is not the case, as some ill-informed wedding magazines and blogs might suggest. There are many different types of professional cameras from Fujifilm to Sony to Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus and sensors from Micro four thirds, to APS-C to full frame to medium format. Digital or film. Mirrorless or SLR. To you these things should not matter unless you understand them properly.
Your photographer does not have to be shooting full frame Canikon to provide you with absolutely breathtaking images. I shot with a Fuji X Pro 2 at weddings for a whole year, and still use it in my personal work. I love this fuji camera body because of it's discrete size, beautiful lens choices and incredible image quality. Despite not being a full frame Canikon it is an amazing camera that can produce some outstanding tones and colours. Don't stress too much asking for gear specifics. The point of asking your photographer about their gear choice and why they chose it is to get a gauge for their passion and understanding of their gear. Not to make sure they're using something that fits into the cookie cutter mould of a wedding blog that doesn't quite grasp what makes gear professional. :)
Making Your Choice
Choosing a wedding photographer is a very personal thing, and there is no cookie cutter answer to tell you who you should hire. It’s important to love their work first, then love the way they work and finally get along really well with your photographer. Which is why a face to face meeting can be invaluable. The idea of hiring a photographer who doesn’t know what they’re doing can be terrifying, so asking questions about style, gear and light can help to put your mind at rest. x