Forget the bridal magazines and their list of questions to ask a photographer during the interview process. They have no idea! There are some questions suggested by the magazines that have no bearing what-so-ever on the real world of wedding photography, and others that are hopelessly out of date.
Here’s some questions that actually matter. Take it from a working wedding photographer.
• What makes you different from other wedding photographers? This is one of the single most important questions to ask, and I’ve never seen a magazine suggest it. Photographers are not identical grains of sand. Photographers are all different. If a shooter can’t adequately define what makes his or her work or style different, they don’t really have a handle on it themselves.
• How would you describe your style of photography? Don’t settle for a simple one or two word answer like “candid” or “traditional.” Ask them to elaborate. “I specialize unplanned moments and emotions. I’m drawn to great expressions and interactions between people.” I’m not talking about advertising tag lines, but they should be able to define their style with some degree of detail. This shows that they have a handle on their own priorities and aren’t simply shooting at everything that moves.
• What’s your professional photography experience? Not necessarily how long they’ve photographed weddings, but that’s good to know too.
• Why do you photograph weddings? You’re going to have to read between the lines with whatever answer you get, but it’s certainly an interesting insight into the photographer’s motivations. No photographer is ever going to say, “Because I thought it would be a good way to make some weekend cash,” even though that may actually be the truth for some. Instead you want the answer to show some real passion and drive. You want someone who’s going to say something like, “I love people and telling stories of an amazing day in their lives.” Maybe even, “It’s such an important day, I want to do create photos that are meaningful and lasting.” A bit self-serving, granted, but at least there’s some real motivation beyond a paycheck. Regardless of the exact answer, you want to get the feeling that this person is genuinely passionate and motivated to do the very best job possible.
• If a CD is included, are the photos enhanced or are they straight out of the camera? How much enhancement is done? Nobody ever asks this, but it’s very important. Many photographers who offer digital images simply give you whatever comes out of the camera, good, bad, and ugly. All photos benefit from some degree of enhancement. The fact is, cameras simply don’t see the world the same way our eyes do, even when everything is captured perfectly with just the right camera settings. Abandoning a photo after it’s captured is not a sign competency. However, a photo can be over-processed. The right balance is important. the degree of enhancement depends on the look the photographer is trying to achieve.
• How many photos are typically included? Now, bear in mind, this is not the same as asking if you get all the photos. A good photographer will not give you everything. A wedding may generate between 1000 to 3000 or more actual exposures, depending on the individual photographer, but they are not all fit for consumption. There are doubles, people blink, and some photos simply don’t turn out. Quality photographers base their reputation on delivering good photos, not all photos. This is similar to movie making. How many hours of footage ends up on the cutting room floor to deliver the absolute best two hours of the final film?
Remember, a good photographer is interviewing YOU at the same time you’re interviewing him or her to determine whether you’re a good match for their particular style of work. For instance, if a couple is looking for a day full of posed photos, a candid or documentary photographer knows this isn’t the best couple to work. Likewise, personality plays an important role in how well everyone can work together on the big day. A poor match means unhappiness all around.
Be very honest and upfront about what you are looking for. But don’t be afraid to keep an open mind. Some couples have conflicting needs, such as wanting a day full of posed photos but also wanting the photography to be unobtrusive at the same time. A good photographer will be honest about what can and can’t be done, they won’t simply nod and promise anything and everything just to get the booking.
So there you have it. Some slightly unconventional real-world advice that can help you get some real insight into the photographer you’re interviewing for your wedding.