As wedding photographers in South Jersey, we love hearing from new clients. We understand that the beginning of the wedding planning process can be a stressful time, and our goal is to help our clients navigate the process as simply and enjoyably as possible. With this post, we’d like to share our thoughts about the kinds of questions we think are the most valuable to ask potential wedding photographers because they tell a lot about the individual(s) and the business you'll be dealing with.
So you're in the market for a wedding photographer...
It’s crunch time, now! You’ve spent days and weeks searching Google, Facebook, and Instagram - falling in love with some photographers for their images and perceived personality. You’ve filled out contact forms and sent emails and now have a list of photographers with all their pre-built packages that you feel confident are in your budget and generally fit your style. Maybe that list is now 5 photographers. Maybe it’s just 1.
No matter how many photographers you’ve got your eye on at this point, the next step is to take this selection process to the next level and, for lack of a better word, interview all the photographers. And this step should never be skipped, even if your initial selection process has left you with one candidate! That’d be like hiring someone with just an application in your hand.
Your wedding is going to be one of the most important (and likely one of the most expensive) days of your life. And your photographer will be attached at your hip for nearly the whole day. There’s a lot riding on this day, and you want to find someone who is up to the challenge! You want to make sure you pick someone who makes you feel confident, who can keep the day moving along, and who you know is going to do an amazing job for you.
So how do you get from a couple phone calls to feeling so certain about which photographer is right for you that you’re ready to put a deposit down and book? It’s all about the questions you ask - and the answers you get!
There’s no shortage of great resources online that can help you with a long list of questions to ask - check any major bridal magazine or blog, and you’ll get a list of probably more than 50 questions, easy! But asking that many questions may seem daunting - what if you run out of time or “steam” before you get to some of the most important ones? How do you even know which are the most important questions to ask?
We’re here to offer a bit of our advice. We’re assuming that at this point in the process you’ve worked out the basic logistics: that they are available for your date, are in budget (including travel costs if applicable), that their packages include the kinds of things you want, etc. If not, find that out ASAP! These are all things that we think photographers should be very forthcoming about and should be fleshed out before starting with these deeper questions.
With all that in mind, here are some of the most important things we recommend that you ask your potential photographer before making a decision.
Question 1: Can you show me a couple of your recent galleries?
This question is very important because it allows you to see the full product that you can expect to receive. Oftentimes, a photographer’s website or Instagram feed will have their “portfolio” images - the best of the best. Not every image makes it to social media.
We think that getting to see the full picture (no pun intended!) of a few of their recent weddings is a really great way to validate that the stuff you see on social media is the stuff that you'll get in your own gallery. Here are a couple of things to look out for as you're looking through those galleries:
Is there consistency across all the images in the gallery? We know first hand that sometimes the various situations and lighting conditions of the day mean that some photos will turn out better than others - but with this you really want to make sure that none of the photos are bad.
Does it seems like all the key pieces of the day are in the gallery? These would be moments like the bride coming down the aisle, the first kiss, the first dance, etc. If you don't see these moments, be sure to ask why. Not every wedding is the same or has the same events (such as a first look), so be realistic that there might be good reasons why they are missing, but be very wary if there are lots of excuses and evidence of consistent missed moments.
How many images did they deliver? Even better if the photographer tells you how many hours of coverage they provided for that couple to determine if this is comparable for the coverage you’d want from them.
Not every image in a gallery is a show-stopper, portfolio image - and that’s totally fine! But it is important to make sure that there aren’t huge gaps in coverage, and that key moments aren’t being missed! And, most importantly, it's essential to ask yourself if you'd be happy receiving that gallery yourself.
Question 2: What are your backup processes - for equipment, image files, and people?
This is so, so, so important - we can’t stress this enough! Things go wrong on wedding days, just like any other day. If the photographer is truly a professional, they’ll be able to rattle off their backup plans like the back of their hand because they’ve put a lot of thought and effort into making them air-tight.
Here are some things we think you should look for in their response.
For Equipment: They should have multiple camera bodies, lenses, and memory cards that will be brought with them on the wedding day. So no matter if something goes wrong with a camera, or they get thrown into a situation where their long telephoto lens won't work, they will be prepared. This also includes all the small extras of the day: extra batteries, extra flashes… all that good stuff! With this question, there's little value in diving into what specific equipment they use, since all the major brands make great quality products and it is the photographer, not their gear, that produces the quality of images you see (unless you are a camera connoisseur yourself and are generally interested!) - but there is one gear-specific exception that we think you should make sure they have in their camera kit, which we describe below.
For Files: You want to know that they have a process to back up your images to multiple secure locations throughout the editing process. For your final gallery, bonus points if it's stored on the cloud for a year or longer so you can keep going back if you need back-up copies of images yourself! The one really important part that you should make sure your wedding photographer has for your wedding is a camera with dual memory card slots. This means that during the wedding day, if a memory card corrupts in their camera, there’s a second memory card that’s been written to all day long that also has a copy of all those images. Card corruption is super rare but it is an absolute nightmare for wedding photographers, which is why so many of us shoot with cameras that can write to two memory cards at once. There are many great photographers that don’t use dual-card-slot cameras, and they are super successful and may have never had that issue. But we know we couldn’t live without that safety net for someone’s wedding day.
For People: These backup plans may be the most important of them all - if your photographer gets sick or injured before your wedding, how can they assure you that they will still be able to deliver the product you’ve paid them for? With this, you want to make sure that they are working with a network of photographers who have a similar style to them - or that they have associate photographers on their team who use the same processes and are educated in the same way. Since we shoot with two photographers at all weddings, it pretty much ensures that even if one of us goes down in action and we have to replace her with a backup, the other one will still be there to lead the day and can guarantee consistency in our final product.
This question isn’t “sexy” by any means. But we think that the way your photographer plans for worst case scenario says a lot about the thought they’ve put into your wedding day and the value they place on it.
Question 3: How involved are you throughout the planning process?
This one can be a toughie because you may be looking for a very different level of involvement than another couples. Maybe you want or need a lot of input. Maybe you have a strong vision that you’re running with or are working with a wedding planner. Regardless, we are passionate that photographers should add value to your planning process, not be an obstacle or hinderance. Photographers have a ton of experience from being a sidekick to couples throughout the full wedding day, and they also have the expertise to know about lighting at certain times of day that will flatter you and get you the best photos possible - and let’s face it, the photos (and video if you’re hiring a videographer) are all you will have after the day is done.
We think great photographers offer advice, support, and guidance throughout the planning process. They should answer you with some specific things they do in the months leading up to your wedding, like sending documents or blog posts that help you with your timeline or understanding how long different photography elements throughout the day will take. They should also be utilizing questionnaires or some other organized, pre-planned method to get information from you before your wedding to make sure they’re intimately connected with all the final details of the day before they show up that morning.
Some red flag answers to this question involve vague statements like, “I’ll stay close to you throughout the months…” or “I’m always available if you need me or have questions”. These are great to say, but a photographer should be able to be specific about what they do to add value if they truly have strong processes or resources in place to help you through this journey.
There are so many other questions that you could ask potential photographers, all of which are great, so we definitely aren't recommending to just ask three and be done with it! But we hope the few we listed above and our deep dive into why they are essential to ask will help you find the perfect wedding photographer for you!
If you found this helpful, we’d love for you to check out our post "Questions For Wedding Photographers That Aren't All They Appear", where we dive into other often-recommended questions for you to ask potential wedding photographers that we think aren’t all they appear on the surface... Sure they're well-intended, but they might not tell you what you really need to know.
If you’re looking for a Wedding Photographer in the New Jersey, South Jersey, Jersey Shore, or Philadelphia area, we’d love for you to reach out and ask us these questions and any others you may have! Click here to start the conversation :)