One of the hardest things about planning a wedding is that there is such a learning curve with only one shot at getting it right. We decided to start our educational series to help our brides and grooms as they embark on their wedding planning journey.
Today’s post is all about pre-booking consultations with a prospective wedding photographer. Because we believe so strongly in pre-booking consultations, we NEVER book a wedding without meeting our couples first. One of the biggest reasons we do this is because we are with our couples before and during their wedding more than almost any other vendor. In order to create personalized art for each of our couples, we have to KNOW our couples. That begins from the moment we meet with them at their pre-booking consultation. We want to make sure that we are the perfect fit for all of our couples and that they have a chance to ask any questions before signing the contract with us.
Below you can find a few of the most popular questions and ideas to ask your photographer before booking to make sure that they are the right ones for you.
WHAT IS YOUR STYLE?
A photographer’s style is the look of their images. Are they bright and airy, dark and gloomy, colorful, joyful or emotional, etc? Before you even meet with your photographer, take a look at their work and see if you love the look of their images. If you love the shots and you can picture yourself in the images, chances are that you like their style and overall look.
For us, we believe in bright and colorful images. We don’t use filters because we believe in a classic look that will stand the test of time rather than following a fad. After we photograph, we do add a little pop and contrast to the shots that give them a little extra oomph before sending them over to our couples.
WILL YOU POSE US?
This is a tricky question because it can be hard to tell if some images in magazines, bridal guide and photographers’ websites are posed or not just by looking at them. In some shots, the model or couple may extremely posed but the way it was shot or the posing skills of the photographer and couples can make it look like it was candid.
In our opinion, the best experience is one where the photographer helps you pose to make sure that you look your best and to help you create moments within those poses. Being in front of a camera can be nerve-wracking for most people so having a guide to help you find easy poses is essential.
We help all of our clients pose especially for their romantic portraits at their engagement session and during their formals on their wedding day. There are also times such as the reception where we step back and photograph candid moments that happen.
WHAT EQUIPMENT DO YOU USE?
This is a question that bridal magazines always recommend you ask. But unless you are a photographer, you probably won’t understand what the names of the gear mean. We recommend that you instead ask: Do you shoot with professional grade equipment and do you have backup gear?
Having professional level gear is important because they are more durable and reliable. But because weddings can be a little chaotic, having back up gear is also a MUST. Technology is never 100% reliable so having a backup is great in case of malfunctions or damage.
DO YOU EDIT THE IMAGES?
By ‘edit’ I don’t mean heavy photoshopping that most people think of. Editing can be cropping or straightening the images, adjusting colors and making other small adjustments so that the overall look of the delivery is consistent with the photographer’s style that was showcased in their portfolio.
After a wedding, we take out any extra shots (test shots, duplicates, unflattering shots, etc) and we make adjustments to the remaining images. We go through the images one by one and make sure that each image looks it’s best and cohesive as part of the story of the couple’s day. We love authentic and we never rely on photoshop to make an image look good. We prefer to shoot as close to perfect as possible on the day and only need to make small crops or color adjustments. The only time we use photoshop is on request on a specific image or to deal with a distracting element (such as a street light or car driving by) that we were not able to photograph around.
DO YOU RELEASE THE RAW IMAGES?
This is another one that magazines always say to ask, but trust me when I say you do NOT want the RAW files. Photographers (us included) almost never release the RAW files for several reasons. One is that they are totally unfinished and well… raw. They are not representative of the finished product nor the photographer’s style. Photographers build an entire business on their style and that style usually depends on the edits that they make to the raw images. The very reason that they were booked in the first place. The second reason is that RAW image files are HUGE. You need special software to even be able to access them.
We never release RAW images because they are not reflective of our brand and they ultimately would do our clients a disservice to have. We believe in creating a cohesive and curated gallery of our clients’ love stories. We do send our clients high-resolution JPEG images that are printing grade quality in an online gallery where they can download them.
WHEN DO YOU DELIVER THE FINAL IMAGES?
This is a great question to ask because it gives you an idea of when to expect your images. Different parts of the year might have different turnaround times, for example, in the high wedding season of summer and fall, turn around times can be longer whereas in the winter and spring they tend to be shorter because there are fewer weddings and engagement sessions for a photographer to edit and deliver back to their clients.
For our clients, we always offer a 1-2 day sneak peek followed by a blog post preview 7-14 days after that. We deliver our full galleries in 3-4 weeks after the shoot date if it is an engagement session and 6-8 weeks for weddings.
DO YOUR PACKAGES OFFER AN ENGAGEMENT SESSION?
In my opinion, engagement sessions are essential. They are the best way to get comfortable in front of the camera and with your photographer. It is very difficult to feel relaxed with your photographer if you have not spent any time with them. This is the best time to get used to being in front of a camera and one of the best things that you can do to prepare for your wedding day.
Engagement sessions are also a great way for your photographer to get to know you and your love story. They will be able to understand how the two of you interact together and what poses look best on both of you.
All of our couples do an engagement session with us and it has made a world of difference. We love getting to know our couples better through their engagement session so that we can better serve them on their wedding day.
DO YOU CHARGE A TRAVEL FEE?
If your venue is outside of a photographers range, they will typically charge a travel fee to recover the expense of traveling. Depending on how far away your event is, there might be a gas fee or if they need to stay overnight at a hotel it may include hotel, mileage and a small stipend. For every photographer it is different. It’s important to ask this up front so that you don’t get hit with an unforseen fee.
DO YOU OFFER ALBUMS & PROFESSION PRINTS? CAN I SEE SAMPLES?
After all the heart and soul that you have poured into your wedding day, what better way to immortalize it than having an album professionally made. Once your wedding day is over and the burden of wedding planning is finished, it can be a daunting task to sit down and make an album, especially if you have never done it before. By having a professionally designed and ordered it for you, it takes a lot of the stress off the table and you can focus on being with your new spouse and starting your lives together.
We believe that having an album is more than just something to display on your coffee table, it is something that captures an extremely important moment in your life together. It is something that you can look through over the years together. If you have kids someday, that is something that you can pass on to them or show them as they prepare for their own weddings.
Our albums are designed in house by us and include a pre-album consultation where we show you samples of finished albums, paper types, and album cover options. Your album is customized to exactly what you want. Since we shot the wedding, we also know exactly what the day looked like and what images will fit together as a seamless story. We also offer one round of edits for our budget albums and three rounds of edits for our luxury albums so that you are able to proof the album before it goes to print.
As for prints, we offer professional grade prints directly through our galleries. Our couples can order from their phones or computers and the prints will be delivered right to their homes. Other printers such as Costco and Walmart might be cheaper, but they also result in incorrect colors and usually darken the prints. After all the money and hard work that you put into your wedding, you deserve high-quality prints that won’t fade with correct colors.
WHO OWNS THE COPYRIGHT TO THE IMAGES?
This is a very important question that a lot of bridal guides miss. The reason this is so important is that affects how a photographer can do business, promote their images and showcase their work in competitions and magazines.
What most photographers will include in their contracts are sections about their copyright. After photographing a wedding, the photographer usually retains the copyright. This way they can continue to use the images to continue their business. A limited copyright is extended to the client so that they can use the images for personal use ONLY. That means that you would be able to post images of your wedding to social media or print your images but you would not be allowed to sell or publish the images without the written consent of the photographer. A potential photographer might do things a little different so make sure to ask them about this.
If the photographer did not retain the copyright, they would have to contact the couple about every image they post on social media, wedding websites, magazines, etc and would be a headache for everyone involved.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU CAN’T MAKE IT?
Wedding days are once in a lifetime but sometimes things outside your control can happen. In the case of an emergency, it’s important to make sure that your photographer has a backup plan in place should the worst happen. That may mean calling another photographer to step in for them or sending additional assistants.
This actually happened to us a few years ago when I came down with the worst case of food poisoning I have ever had in my life that nearly ended me up in the ER….and there was a wedding the next day. Talk about scary! It was one of my worst fears come to life as a wedding photographer. In the end, it all worked out and Paul found a second shooter that he had worked with for years and she took my place on the wedding day.
Having this conversation with your photographer can give you peace of mind for the just-in-case moments that sometimes happen.
HOW LONG DO I HAVE ACCESS TO MY GALLERY?
If your photographer delivers online galleries like we do, it’s important to know how long you will have access to your gallery. We keep all of our clients’ galleries online for one year before retiring them. We recommend that all of our clients take the time to download their images right away and back them up on both their computer and with a cloud-based service.
Even though the gallery is only up for one year, we do keep an archive of all our client’s galleries on our own hard drives as well as a cloud-based backup service on the East Coast. That way if there were to be an earthquake or fire here in California that destroyed our hard drives, we would just need a computer to still be able to access our client’s files.
CAN YOU HELP ME WITH MY TIMELINE?
I might be a little biased on this, but one of the most important aspects of planning your wedding is planning out your timeline. This can be a little tricky, especially if you are not sure how long your photographer will need to photograph different moments. (If you are looking for help building the perfect timeline for your photographer, take a look at our timeline guide). Check in with a potential photographer to see how much time they estimate for those moments and how long it has taken in the past.
We help each of our clients build a timeline that allows for plenty of images and a stress-free day. The last thing you want is to feel anxious or overwhelmed at your wedding.
BONUS QUESTION: What happens if my prospective photographer is not the right fit for me?
So you’ve had a chance to meet with a prospective photographer but after hearing the answers to all your questions, you realize that they are not the right fit for you. That’s ok! Not every wedding vendor you meet with is going to be the right one for you. The best thing to do is to let the prospective photographer know. Nobody likes to be ghosted.
Wedding planning is no easy feat but with the help of a photographer, it can make a huge difference! Don’t be afraid to ask questions and really get to know your photographer. Since your photographer is going to be spending so much time with you, make sure that you click with them.
Still have more questions after this? You can drop us a line and we can answer all your questions.
Good luck out there and happy wedding planning!
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our educational series: