I’m a Lake Tahoe based wedding and portrait photographer, and fan of unposed, giddy-in-love, melt-my-lenses-editorial-style moments … oh, and t-shirts and jeans.
You’re meeting with potential photographers and figure you’ll just wing it and see where the conversation goes. When I meet/FaceTime/chat with a newly engaged couple, we often get so wrapped up in chatting about everything else that by the time I ask if they have any particular questions for me, there may be a glance at each other and a “Nope, I think we’re good!” I take it as a good sign, because we felt good chatting that you get a sense of me and where I’m coming from. When I leave a meeting or hang up the phone, I think of anything I may have missed and jot it down for next time. Here are a few helpful questions to round out your conversation, since this is likely your first time working with a photographer and it’s important to be an educated buyer.
Here’s a few tips to help as you make your decision:
1. Can I see a gallery of an entire wedding? Bonus points if you ask to see a wedding that has similar lighting to what yours may have also. A blog post on a photographer’s website is a great indication of the highlight reel you’ll get. It’s a great summary of the best of the best and a good idea of a collection of images that your wedding album might consist of. It’s why I changed my website’s galleries to full individual weddings, rather than one wedding gallery with one or two images from all my weddings. If you’re satisfied with what you see in a website’s full gallery and that’s all you need, easy. But if you’re having an indoor reception and all you see on the blog is outdoor receptions, it’s a great idea to ask to see something similar. This helps you and your photographer set expectations of what you’ll be receiving.
2. How long have you been photographing weddings and how many have you done? Now, let me start by saying I know many people who have only been in business just a few years who absolutely slay it at weddings. This question helps you get an idea of their skill and experience and you can gauge from there. Larger studios with multiple photographers can handle way more, but ask this of the photographer who will be actually capturing your day. It’s no mystery that the more weddings, the more experience with all types of lighting, timing, setting scenarios, personalities, etc. New photographers may offer an amplified excitement and hunger to get as much for their portfolio as possible. When I started out, my philosophy was (and still is) to shoot each wedding as if I was being paid $10,000 to do it. I went above and beyond to build my portfolio. Go with your gut here.
3. How many weddings do you do per year? This is a big one for me because I want my couples to know that they are not one of a hundred couples in a particular season. I offer a more boutique and catered experience and I want to be available for my couples whenever they need me. I’ve had my seasons where I reached my maximum (26 weddings from May to October) and I’ll likely avoid going there again because I felt burnt out and while my couples may not have noticed, there was so much more I wanted to be doing for each of them and also have some non-work time, too. (It’s easy to be consumed by this career because it’s fun and always calling you… but balance is key!) I choose now to take on 2 weddings a month, 3 if one is smaller, because I also grow with my couples and want to be available for their family portraits throughout that beautiful wedding season weather.
4. What makes you different from other photographers I may be shopping? I like this one because everyone has their own flavor they bring to the table. Every photographer talks about connecting, capturing in-between moments, telling your story and loving photography. It’s a good starting point, but let’s go deeper. You may find that one ‘a-ha” comment that cements your decision. A simple conversation with a photographer may answer this for you, but feel free to ask it and see what you get.
5. What is it that you love about photographing weddings? This will allow you to hear and feel what excites this photographer. Why they got into it and what keeps them in the wedding world.
5a. What is it that you might dislike about weddings? This opens up a conversation where you’ll either see grace and the ability to adjust to tricky wedding day circumstances or the photographer will tell you flat out tell you what irks them. Not fair to raise this question without sharing mine: unnecessary drama. Wedding day can offer some stresses, but at the end of the day, if the flowers are a shade off the plan or a certain detail goes undone, the wedding will still go on and it’s still all about two people being in love. I love my couples and have been blessed to photograph those who agree with this completely.
While your conversation with a photographer shouldn’t feel like like a job interview, technically it is and for both parties, albeit a more casual interview. I speak with couples and gauge whether I can deliver what they’re expecting just as much as a couple is considering whether they like me and what I’m all about.
I hope this helps add some valuable substance to your next meeting with a wedding photographer!