Many couples don’t know the right questions to ask the wedding photographers they are interviewing.  Well, problem solved!  Here are the “Must-Ask” questions for each photographer you are considering.

1. How long have you been in business?

Because “wedding photographer” is a term that people use to describe both seasoned professionals and weekend warriors with nice cameras, it can sometimes be difficult to separate the true professionals from the 9-5’ers who shoot weddings on the weekend.  In Austin, for example, there are over 1,100 “wedding photographers,” according to Expertise.com (which ranked us in the top 25).  So you need to be extra careful that you hire a dedicated professional.

We’ve heard many horror stories of photographers going out of business, taking client deposits, and never delivering the photos.  It’s unimaginable!  Please make sure your photographer has shooting weddings for a few years and has no plan of going anywhere or quitting the business.  

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Sunset photos with Natalie and Matt, shortly after their beautiful ceremony at Presidio la Bahia in Goliad, Texas.

2. Do you shoot primarily weddings, or other things?

Wedding photography is uniquely challenging.  Many newcomers to the industry and many clients do not understand what makes wedding photography one of the most difficult types of photography.

Why is wedding photography so difficult?  Because wedding photographers are expected to be the best at all different types of photography.

  • Details – Wedding photographers have to be excellent product photographers.  They should have macro lenses to get up close to the rings and other details.  They need to know how to stage and light objects (your shoes, your dress, invitations, the bouquet, your rings) to make them look their best. 
We love ring shots!

We love ring shots!

  • Portraits – Wedding photographers have to be excellent portrait photographers.  They need to have great portrait lenses (85mm and higher), know how to light faces beautifully, and be able to capture great, genuine expressions in their subjects.  You don’t want someone who only shoots inanimate objects to suddenly be in charge of getting the beautiful portrait of you and your groom that you want to put on your wall.
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The gorgeous Libby at Thurman’s Mansion wedding venue, Driftwood, Texas.

  • Candid and Photojournalism – Wedding photographers should be excellent photojournalists, and be able to capture the candid moments of your wedding day.  They need to be able to tell the story of your wedding and be so familiar with their cameras and lenses that they can quickly change their settings and capture candid moments before they disappear.  
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Candid reception photo, everyone is getting down! (I love this image because every part is its own little story.)

  • Action in Low Light – Wedding photographers need to be, surprisingly enough, also skilled sports and action photographers.  I’ll challenge any sports photographer to compete with a skilled wedding photographer at capturing the bouquet in mid-flight in a dark room.  

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Not only do wedding photographers need to be the best at many different types of photography, they have only one opportunity to get it right.  Unlike an engagement session or high school senior photo session, there are no re-dos if something is out of focus or poorly exposed.  

3. Why do you shoot weddings?

I often hear about photographers who only shoot weddings to help pay the bills.  I always tell them to get a day job and send their couples to me!  Your wedding is simply too darn important to trust to a photographer who isn’t PASSIONATE about shooting weddings.  

4. How many weddings have you shot?

You want to make sure your photographer is experienced.  You should not be the guinea pig.

5. Do you use flash?  

Now we’re getting a little bit technical, but this is an important question. Your photographer needs to have the skill and ability to use flash.
  
Some photographers advertise themselves as “natural light” photographers, as if not being able to use a flash somehow makes them more valuable or skilled than photographers who use flash. While it may be perfectly appropriate to only use natural light when taking portraits in the daytime, photographers should not rely on natural light alone when shooting weddings.  You need a photographer who owns and knows how to use off-camera flash equipment, even if your wedding is midday in the bright Texas sun. I cannot imagine showing up to photograph a wedding without my flashes.
 
You may think, “I don’t want a bunch of annoying flashes going off at my wedding.” Trust me, you will not even notice the flashes, and the images will be much much better. Photographers who know how to use flash correctly will make beautiful images that don’t look like a flash was used, and they will not use a flash when it is not called for. Make sure your photographer owns and knows how to use flash, and particularly off-camera flash.  An off-camera flash is a flash unit that is separate from the camera. The flash unit can be triggered remotely. I recommend only using photographers who know how to use off-camera flash.

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The beautiful Sara a few moments before the first look with Ben.

6. How would you describe your approach to shooting a wedding?  

Ask your potential photographer who they approach the wedding day.  Are they hands-on and like to control every detail, or are they more hands-off and capture what is happening naturally?  How much do they involve themselves/interfere with the day.  Whether you want a photographer who is type-A and takes control or someone more laid-back and reportage-style is really up to you.  The key is to find the right fit for your personality and someone who you’ll be comfortable with at your wedding.

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Sometimes we get pulled onto the dance floor!

7. Do you have backup gear, and do you backup my images?

We are obsessed with living up to the Boy Scout motto “be prepared.” You should be able to rest assured that your photographer brings back up gear to the wedding. Otherwise, if he or she just brings one camera, for example, what happens if the camera malfunctions? There is no re-doing the wedding. The photographer has just one opportunity to capture that day.
 
We take at least three cameras to every wedding we shoot. We also take extra lenses, memory cards, flashes, batteries, and even spare clothes. When a couple is relying on you to capture their wedding day, you better be prepared for unexpected weather or camera malfunction.
 


Additionally, you need to ask your photographer how he or she backs up your photos. We’ve heard too many horror stories about photographers accidentally deleting all of a couple’s wedding photos. Or a computer crashes and all the images are lost. Unfortunately, far too many photographers simply have no backup procedure in place. They are living dangerously, as one computer crash could result in their clients losing truly invaluable images. Photographers should treat your photos with the care they deserve.  

For example, we shoot to two memory cards simultaneous, so we have a built-in backup, then we backup all client images to the cloud that same night and store a backup copy in a separate location. Our studio could burn to the ground, but our clients’ photographs would be unharmed. Please be sure your photographer backs up your images.

8. What happens if you have a family emergency or are seriously ill on my wedding day?

A great question to ask is what would your photographer do in an emergency if he or she could not shoot your wedding.  This is another area where you really get what you pay for.  Full time professional wedding photographers are a close-knit bunch, who can help each other out in a pinch.  For example, we often have dinners and get togethers with our community of Austin wedding photographers.  We often work together and help each other out on shoots.  If something were to happen to us and we couldn’t shoot a wedding — which it hasn’t happened yet — we have a list of at least a dozen names of professionals we could call on to take over.  

9. Do you have liability insurance?

Many wedding venues require photographers who work there to have liability insurance, and it’s always a good idea even when venues don’t require it.  (This is also a good test for professionalism.)

10. Can you show me a recent complete wedding, from start to finish?

Photographers only put their most impressive work on their website portfolio.  If possible, ask the photographer for a link to a recent gallery of an actual client’s wedding photos. This way you will see exactly what another couple is getting from this photographer. Maybe he/she has taken a few lucky shots here and there, but overall doesn’t get very good shots of an entire wedding day.  Or perhaps he/she really can’t photograph dancing very well, or every image looks very similar, with no variety.  It’s best not only to see the photos that are the photographer’s personal favorites, but also images that actual clients receive of their own wedding. That will give you the best feel for what to expect from the photographer.

Great wedding exit photo!

11. What is included in the price quoted?

Be sure you have an accurate understanding of what the total price for your images will be.  If you want an album or digital files, make sure those are included.  Don’t forget to ask if there are any taxes, shipping, or travel fees.  You want to make sure you know exactly what you are getting for the investment.  Be sure to read the fine print.

12. How many photos will I get?  (More is NOT always better.)

Some photographers will give you less than 100 photos, some will give you a several hundred great images. You should ask what a typical couple gets and when the photos will be ready.  

Now this is one of those situations where more is NOT always better.  Be wary of photographers who promise thousands of images.  That may sound great, but what it really means is they don’t spend much time culling and selecting the best photos from the gigabytes and gigabytes they took that night.

When you go to a five-star restaurant you only want the filet, not the whole cow brought to your table.  When you see a summer blockbuster, you only want the 2 hours of well-edited footage, not the hours and hours left on the editing room floor.  Same with wedding photography.  Part of the creative process you are paying for (or should be) is culling the images and, digitally editing of each of them so they look their best.  Trust me, you do not want 3000 mediocre photos of your wedding day, you want 500 amazing images.

13. How do you edit the images?

With truly professional wedding photographers, what you are paying for is NOT the 8 hours on your wedding day.  I mean, yes, obviously, that’s part of it, but REALLY what you’re paying for is the days and days of culling and editing your images.  Professional cameras are great, but most wedding photographers shoot in raw format.  This gives us more flexibility and potential in each image, but it also means that every image needs to be edited to make it look good. (Cameras that shoot in JPEG do this automatically; the iPhone has a bunch of editing software built in that automatically is applied to your images.)  With In Your Eyes Photography, all three of us in the company cull and edit each wedding, so we make sure that all the best images are selected, and that they are edited by three sets of eyes.  Each wedding takes us about 30-40 hours to edit.  Where some photographers batch-process all their images, we edit each image by hand to get the perfect exposure, colors, contrast, and clarity with each image and include complimentary teeth whitening, blemish removal and other retouching as needed.  (Get a mosquito bite in the middle of your forehead while walking down the aisle, and have a reaction so it becomes a huge red bump, no problem, it’s gone!)  Does your photographer edit each photo and include this kind of retouching?  If not, that’s probably why they’re only $1500.

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No evidence of that pesky mosquito on any of Stephanie’s photos! (After a long night of editing.)

14. What about bridal or engagement sessions?

Bridal and engagement shoots are also a great way to get to know your photographer, develop a rapport, and get comfortable working with them.  Also, a bridal shoot is a fabulous way to test the fit of the dress, your makeup, and hair.  Most of our clients opt for packages that include a bridal or engagement session — they are a great value!  We absolutely love seeing our clients’ faces light up when they see a gorgeous print of a stunning image from their engagement or bridal session, made to display at the wedding.  We also offer a customized guest book of our clients’ engagement photos, which makes a wonderful keepsake.

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We love to get creative with our bridal sessions!  Kathryn said this was the most beautiful photo she’s ever been in.  Her bouquet was perfect for this scene.  (Also, this was shot in bright Texas sun, using flash to overpower the sun.)

15. What is the process like after the wedding?  

You should know how long it takes for your photos to be ready and how they will be delivered.  Will you get an online gallery, a USB drive, or something else?  Will the images be full resolution, or lower resolution?  Watermarks or no watermarks?  Will you have print rights or will you need to go through your photographer to order prints?  

Part of our process is a “Reveal Party” at our studio.  It is so much fun, for our clients as well as us!  At the Reveal Party our clients sit down and watch a beautiful curated slideshow of the best 200 images from their wedding, set to music and paired with champagne or mimosas.  Tears of joy inevitably ensue, and it’s a great chance for them to relive their wedding day.  

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Kimberly seeing herself in the mirror and realizing that today is the day!

16. What about prints?  What is the ordering process for prints and albums?

You should ask your photographer about prints.  First, a word of advice, PLAN ON GETTING PRINTS NOW, don’t put it off.  You and I both know that if you haven’t ordered prints within 6 months of your wedding, you probably won’t do it for years and years.  We’ve known way too many couples who have just put the USB in their desk drawer and never looked at their images again.  That is such a shame because wedding photography has the potential to be a constant reminder of the love, commitment, and excitement you shared on your wedding day.  The right printed image hung in the right place in your home will bring you a source of joy through the good and bad days, ups and down of everyday life.  

Ask your potential photographer if he/she offers prints, and if so, how you purchase them.  Are the prints guaranteed?  What if the color fades over time?  Does the photographer use a professional print lab?  We always guarantee all our printed products for life, and we are passionate about creating not only great digital files, but works of art that’ll look great in real life.

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17. Do you have any reviews/references?  

Always look at the photographer’s reviews and testimonials.  If possible, it’s always a good idea to speak to one or two people who have used the photographer before. Did he/she show up on time, dressed appropriately? Were the images as promised? Did he/she get along with the wedding guests? These are some of the questions you should ask any references provided.

18. Last question is for you: Could you hang with this photographer?

Will you and your fiancé feel comfortable with the photographer? Does the photographer put you at ease and make you feel good about the images he or she will create? Do you trust him or her? Could you hang with this photographer for a few hours and enjoy yourself?
 

Think about your favorite photographs of you, your friends, and your family. I bet those photographs are your favorite not because they are technically the best quality images. They would probably not win awards for composition or lighting; perhaps they are even a bit out of focus or poorly exposed. But they are your favorites because they capture genuine, authentic moments and reveal the true essence of the person photographed. Maybe it’s the spark in your abuelita’s eyes when she would greet you at the door, the look of wonder in your little sister’s face at Christmas, or the image of your pure laughter with your friends on the town.
 

Photography is personal; it’s about connection. The best photographs capture true emotions, and the best photographers know how to relate and communicate with their subjects. You are going to be spending several hours of your wedding day with your closest friends, loving family … and your photographer. If you are uncomfortable with him/her or something rubs you the wrong way about him/her, your photos will suffer as a result. On the other hand, if you and your fiancé could imagine sharing a pizza or a couple drinks with your photographer, then your photos will show your level of comfort and capture more authentic moments.  Mmmm…pizza.

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One of our favorite “first looks”! Scotty is overwhelmed at seeing Krissy in her dress for the first time, shortly before their ceremony.

We hope this is helpful!  Bookmark it to use later when conducting your interviews!

And here are some other resources:

The 5 Biggest Mistakes Couples Make with Wedding Photography

Is it Possible to Have a Technology-Free Wedding?