How to Hire a Wedding Photographer
Sure, today’s affordable digital cameras can make anyone seem like a good photographer. But there’s a lot more to getting the wedding photos you want and deserve than just pointing and shooting. After this most special of days, it will be your wedding albums and pictures that you turn to time and again to remember and cherish. Choose your wedding photographer as carefully as you’ve planned every other detail of your wedding, and you’ll still be enjoying those images decades from now.
To help, we’ve put together a list of ten critical aspects of wedding photography you should know and understand, along with some of the most important questions you should ask prospective photographers to help you make your final decision.
#10 Professional Fees: What are your fees?
- I have found that 8 hours is the proper amount of coverage needed for about 90% of weddings. I’m usually there for you getting ready and leave right after the party gets going. Additional hours are available at a reduced rate. My base fee covers myself as your main Photographer, a press-printed proof book with all images, a personalized web gallery for viewing/ordering as well as high level customer service and wedding planning brainstorming. Occasionally, I will bring another photographer, depending upon the wedding dynamics.
Post-wedding, the costs will be completely up to you…. albums, prints, gifts, canvas wall collages, etc. McKay’s Photography offers gift certificates and I recommend that you add my services to your bridal registry.
#9 Format: Do you shoot with film or digital images? Tell me why you choose one over the other. If you capture digital images, what steps do you take to preserve the digital files for the long-term? What steps do you take to protect against data loss?
- I photograph weddings on professional grade Nikon and Fuji digital cameras / lenses. I do love the simplicity of film, however now I love the challenge and creativity with digital. Occasionally, I will bring a film camera to a wedding if I believe the schedule allows. Fine art film weddings are available for commission as well.
- My workflow after the wedding is this: I get home and start importing the first media card. The original files get copied directly to my Drobo hard drive backup device. While they are importing, I can go through the thumbnails to see exactly how the images came out and start to visualize what I’ll do with them. Also, while they are importing I lay down on my foam roller yoga log to put my back into a straight line again! I back all images onto another portable HD as well. Repeating the process for all media cards. I usually go to bed around 1 AM… but you know, even though nothing could happen to the cards while I’m sleeping, I really can’t go to bed first.
- In addition to the backups on my main Drobo hard drive, I also backup everything on the Drobo and Dropbox when I have edited the images down to their final versions. The final images you see online/in your proof book are all backed up twice. The album design too! Heaven forbid your album get damaged down the road, I can pull those files and have a new album made for you, for significantly less than the original!
- Do you need to back up your photos and can’t afford a Drobo? Use Dropbox! You can even sync your phone to automatically backup the images you take!
#8 Equipment: What kind of camera do you use? Do you use any equipment that requires flashes or special arrangements for lighting? Are you able to provide black and white?
- I find this question a little silly. Obviously I use all professional grade camera gear, have backup gear, many different lenses, flashes, etc. Only the ‘friend with a good camera’ needs this question.
- The real issue is that this is just a tool to get the job done. I could take your friend’s lesser camera and get great shots with it because you are hiring me and my experience and my style of seeing, as well as my ability to handle all the personalities and posing issues at a wedding. The same advanced skill set applies to flash and lighting.
- As a Certified Professional Photographer, I am constantly playing with fancy lighting techniques, re-learning classical portraiture, attending workshops, etc. Also, some locations are different from others. You should be able to see this in the Photographer’s work immediately as a consumer.
- I do provide a LOT of B&W images. Lately, I’ve been bringing film back to weddings!
Here is a perfect example of the concept that the camera is just a tool:
- I took these pictures to illustrate the difference between knowing lighting/posing and being too candid or amateur…. In the first image, we can see Anna as she is normally: she HATES getting her photo taken and always makes this face! (um, Anna… this is why your photos look silly… stop making that face!). Anyway, the second image shows what happens when you hire a professional photographer… A tiny amount of posing on my part and placing her in great light and viola! GORGEOUS ANNA, the way her friends and family really see her! Same girl, same day, same camera… even the same photographer (to prove a point to you and her)…. the third image is a candid that tells a story…
#7 Collaboration: Will I be working with you or someone else? Do you work with an assistant? Can we work together to make sure you get all the shots I want? What is the process for reviewing, selecting, and editing the final images for the album, enlargements, and print sets?
- I will be your Photographer. If I bring a second Photographer with me, they will be someone of similar level of skill and quality (other full-time professional photographers – like Patrick Luke, pictured below). I do not use traditional assistants because I find them highly distracting. You are hiring me for my skill and image quality, so bringing a hobbyist that wants to learn how to do weddings is me paying them for their education. That being said, I am always on the lookout for a good assistant…. I just prefer they carry my lights, tripod, etc.
- You and I will work very closely together PRIOR to the wedding day so that you and I both know exactly how the structure of the day will go, which images are ‘must haves’ and which ones are extras that we will try to capture at the reception. The only thing to keep in mind is that if you are handing me a list of images I have to get, then I’m not able to walk around and discover. You are hiring me for my documentary candid style of photography, for my disarming personality and also my ability to capture personalities in great light. If you let me do my job, then I will be more creative, more fresh, more productive. This is also the difference between someone with years of experience and a newbie. I already know what the ‘must have’ shots are and know what challenges there are to capturing them. I also know which images end up purchased or in an album and which ones aren’t important the day after your wedding. I also have a great sense of who my clients are and what is important to YOU, not some bridal magazine. I work with you to create great images that last. Collaboration is a great word. Without you, I would have nothing.
#6 Deliverables: In what format do you deliver the proofs? Do you provide an album, USB drive, and prints as final products? What packages do you offer, and what will I pay for additional items not included? Are digital files or image rights included in your costs?
- Proofs are delivered via a press-printed proof book and an online web gallery for ordering. Albums, prints and wall art are available at any time.
- I find that most couples are completely overwhelmed with the process because there are so many options and all photographers are different. Honestly, you have no idea what you actually want yet. The bridal websites tell you what you need, but really each couple is different. Even graphic designers never actually get around to producing their own wedding album! My designer still hasn’t done hers and she was married in 2008! What I have found is that couples really just want the files for posterity, a random printing of a 4×6 here and there and also because they are told to want them.
- The digital files are available for purchase at any time, however almost every couple earns this from me. If you order a wedding album during the winter for $1000 or more, I will gift you the files upon completion of the book.
- Please look at this from other perspectives… Will you EVER actually sit down and design your album? Will you continually backup those images as technology changes so that your great grandchildren can see them? What about printing? Even a lot of photographers aren’t color correcting their images properly… how will you know if it looks right? When you buy a print from me, you are not paying for the piece of paper it is printed on… you are paying for the image because you couldn’t take it yourself. You are paying for my expertise and help in creating a real heirloom.
#5 Time: What is the maximum amount of time I will wait to see proofs? Once I’ve selected my pictures, how long will it take for final delivery of all printed products?
- 4-8 weeks after your wedding is my standard turn around. My favorite highlights of the day are on my BLOG and Facebook a day or two after.. as a teaser!
- Prints are delivered two weeks after ordering. Wedding albums can take up to three months, however I am usually the one waiting on you with regard to your albums…
#4 Quality: Do you develop or print the final pictures in-house, or do you work with a professional lab? What do you do to make sure my pictures don’t fade?
- I do all of my own editing and post-production, then I have a professional photo lab print it for me. My experience working at a photo lab for over 10 years has given me extremely high standards for quality and I take this very seriously on your behalf.
#3 Style: What is your artistic style? Do you shoot traditional poses, or have a more photo-journalistic approach, or, is it mixed? If you stage photos or group portraits, how do you manage distracted or uncooperative subjects or guests? Can I see examples of an entire wedding day to see how you might tell my wedding story?
- Art-focused storyteller is my favorite way I have been described. Hopefully you can see my style from my web galleries and my BLOG posts. I keep two words in mind when picking images for my website: fun and photo-journalistic! Photojournalism is talking about capturing “moments,” “emotion,” “storytelling” and candids. At the top of my website there is a link for all active galleries (‘store’) where you can see entire sessions and weddings. I will be happy to send you one that is similar to your day.
- As for the posed group shots, you will learn that I have a TON of tricks up my sleeve that ‘handle’ difficult participants or guests… that gets back to the experience that I was talking about earlier. The more important perspective to have is that they are your guests and this is their day too. If I was a guest at a friend’s wedding, I would want to be able to get a great image of the B&G for myself too.
#2 Experience: How long have you been photographing weddings? How long have you been in business? Can you provide references? Can I view some of your albums? Tell me about the worst wedding photography nightmare you’ve experienced, and how you got through it.
- I have been a Photographer since I was in Junior High School, went to the Rochester Institute of Technology, worked at a photo lab for 10+ years and have been professionally photographing weddings since 2002. If you want to see what my past clients think of me and my work, check out my Facebook Page! My clients are very active there and you can contact any of them for a referral. Final wedding albums are frequently showcased here on my website and you can use the search feature to find them.
- The worst wedding nightmare for me was my first “real” wedding (first one that found me through advertising and not a friend). It was the hardest day of my life and really taught me how to ‘swim’ so to speak. After that, I realized exactly what I still needed to learn about myself, weddings, posing, gear, etc. It was a great learning experience and taught me that I am very calm in a crisis. The B&G had NO idea about all of the problems that day and the images came out amazing. I have learned since that many ‘problems’ are usually blessings in disguise.
And perhaps the most important thing you need to discuss with your photographer …
# 1 Assurances: How do you ensure my satisfaction? What are your backup plans in the event you’re late or called away by an emergency? What happens if there’s an equipment failure, or some other unforeseen issue? Do you carry liability insurance? Can I get all of the points we’ve covered in a written contractual agreement?
- This is again where being a professional and being part of professional organizations is imperative! I am very connected to the Rochester Photographic community and have a number of close friends I could call on if needed. That being said, it would take A LOT for me to not be there at all. I’m too much of a control freak and also, even if someone died (other than me), what would I be able to do about it?? I believe in sharing… skill, etc.
- I do have liability insurance and the PPA has all sorts of support for you and I in case something goes terribly wrong.
- Wedding dates are not held until the contract and non-refundable retainer has been received.
Do not take “no” for an answer to that last question! A written contract signed by all parties protects you and the photographer, and does more to ensure your wedding photo bliss than any other action or decision you can make.
See the Difference:
Professional photographers have unique skills and training in the artistry, as well as the technology, of creating beautiful wedding images that reflect exactly the image you want to portray. And wonderful wedding photography goes beyond the actual shoot itself to the products you’ll want to own. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure your photographer is well-versed in creating and delivering the total package that will make you happy long after your big day is over.
We recommend interviewing multiple photographers—and don’t forget, chemistry is important as well. Your photographer will spend this most important day in very close contact with you, your wedding party and your guests, so make sure you interview several photographers and after you’re satisfied that all of the above is in order, pick someone who you will want to share in your wedding day.
- This is true, however it is not just the day! You and I will be working together for two whole years, if not more! Keep this in mind when looking at personality as well as price. You may have some magical budget that you pulled out of thin air, but I have done the math on how much time and energy I spend on getting you as a client, keeping you happy and supported during the wedding planning process, as well as after the wedding until the delivery of the album. Not to mention the fact that I then become your family photographer! There is no surprise (to me) that almost all of my friends were clients of mine first! Ask all of the other Photographers how many they keep in touch with. I know you are not shopping for a friend, but it shows the level of customer service and sheer respect that I have for you, your money and your investment in my business.
Here is an image to illustrate this post:
- This is really cool! I photographed Jodi & Jeremy’s Wedding, Jodi’s pregnancy, her Trash the Dress and Little Mason at one year old!! I know that I will continue to work with Jodi through the years, even though her father is an excellent Photographer as well. We are working on building these heirloom canvas images of their growing family. I know they are trying to have a second child and Jodi has already told me that I will be scheduled to be there for the birth too. I LOVE this part of my job. Each year, she and I get better and better images together…. (I’m an idiot though, as her pregnancy canvas here is sideways, derr!). These were a surprise gift for Mother’s Day from Jeremy and Jodi cried…
Now, what other questions do you think you should ask when you are hiring your wedding photographer?? Share your story below: