You like that title? I try to be clear, but subtle haha. Let me be less subtle now. Most of the interview questions my clients bring to me, that they have clearly found through Google, are just not that helpful. Not for them, not for me, not for anyone. Consider this: if you don't know what a good answer to the question would be, then it's probably not a useful question to ask.
Let me give you an example from BridalGuide.com that illustrates what I'm talking about.
"Are you willing to follow a shot list?
Ask this wild card to check your vendor's temperature and see if they would be open to collaborating with you. I encountered one or two potential vendors who blindly told me to "just trust" them when I asked about a shot list, which was one of my red flags. "
This is a hot topic in the photography world. And I'll tell you that the BETTER and the more professional the photographer, the less they rely on lists. Now family group pictures are a different thing. But when it comes to the rest of your photography, it is just insane to try to itemize a creative, unpredictable process on a crazy, unpredictable day.
This is the kind of nonsense list I am talking about:
I'm pretty sure your typical wedding photographer knows to get a portrait of the bride and the groom, the cake, and even the wedding toasts... aren't you?
So when a photographer says "no, I don't work with a shot list," that does not have to be a red flag. Ask them to explain. I know I say no to this, but qualify it by asking if there are specific shots that are important and unique to their wedding, and I'll make sure to note THAT. I had one couple who wanted a photo under the tree where the groom had proposed. THAT'S something unique that I should know about. Not that you'd like a photo of the father/daughter dance. I kind of figured you'd want that ;)
So as fun as it would be to tear apart the silly lists I found on Google, let me just give you a list of questions that I would ask my wedding photographer if I were doing it all over again tomorrow. And also, what my answers to these questions are!
(By the way, all this is assuming that you've covered the basics of availability and price range. These things should be settled before you even meet with the photographer.)
1. What is included in your wedding package?
You may come into the meeting already knowing this, which is great. I personally like my clients to have those numbers before we even meet, so if they have questions we can talk about it. But even if you do already know what's included, have your photographer go over it in more detail so you understand what those things mean TO THEM, not what you think they mean. I like to go through my packages with my clients and actually show them an example of a wedding album that's included in each package. I have two types of wedding albums, so this can be an important distinction between packages!
2. What can I do with my digital files?
These days, most wedding photographers include some form of digital files. What the photographer legally allows you to do with those images is completely up to them. So get the deets on file size, resolution, and printing rights. If your photographer is giving you full release of the images with printing rights, make sure they're prepared to give you that in writing so that you aren't hassled about copyright at photo labs later when you're trying to print your images. Personally, this is what my clients receive with their wedding package. Digital files are just too important for weddings to not be included.
3. How would you describe your shooting process at a wedding?
I have never been asked this, but it's basically how I respond when clients ask what my "style" is. They basically know my style already, since they've been to my website and seen my photos. Clearly, my portfolio and image style already appeals to them. So I try to explain what's going on behind the scenes, how I GET those photos. And I tell them that my goal is to be completely unobtrusive for most of the wedding day. Candid, emotional photos are my favorite, but that there comes a time during the day (woot, portrait time!) when you also need guidance. That's when I step in to help pose you, but keep everything feeling comfortable and natural as we do it. I tell everyone, if you feel uncomfortable it will show, and my goal is to keep you feeling natural! Now, this is my answer, but it's not necessarily the RIGHT answer. If you love high fashion looks, edgy styles with dramatic lighting, your photographer will answer this question totally differently! Use the answer to help you figure out what you want.
4. How are you different from other photographers?
This is basically your main goal when interviewing photographers isn't it? Finding the answer to this question! So why not let your photographer answer it for you! I talk about creating comfort, playfulness, and reducing stress at my weddings. I also explain that many wedding photographers send their clients a gallery of images and that's the last they see or hear of them and those images get lost in computer land. My process continues after the wedding and I work with my clients to help them create artwork and tangible memories from those images, be that in the form of an album, a will display, or simply printing those images out. You'd be amazed at how few photographers these days want to deal with products at all and yet for me personally, I am so much more in love with my photos when I put them on the wall or flip through an album and see them in print!
5. When will I receive my photos?
Turnaround time is so important. At least to me. It's part of paying for a professional experience. Whatever timeline your photographer gives you, make sure it is outlined in the contract you sign. I know my contract says that you will receive your images within six weeks of the wedding, but I would be beyond embarrassed to actually make my clients wait that long. Six weeks is like... an apocalypse happened and I'm still rebuilding my house soooo sorry this took so long... kind of timeline to me. It's for when really crazy stuff comes up. My typical client hears from me within a week or two. But there's no way I'm putting THAT in my contract haha. Last Fall, I shot seven weddings in a row, back to back, one per week. And not one of those clients knew that unless they were following my blog. They weren't delayed at all because I make it my mission to edit one wedding before shooting the next one. I do not do backlog. Nope. No thank you.
6. What is your plan if you are unable to shoot the wedding yourself?
This is a question that DOES pop up on the random Google lists that I think is actually very important. First of all, it's just good to know that your photographer DOES have a plan for these circumstances, but obviously it needs to be a plan you're okay with as well. If something happened to me before a wedding, Erik knows that there is a document on my computer he is supposed to follow with instructions for providing my clients with an additional photographer. I only work with capable second shooters who can handle a wedding completely on their own if need be (which is why it's great when you book a wedding package that includes a second shooter!) and I have a list of amazing people who I know would step up for my clients to help the second shooter as well. And on that note...
7. Who will your second shooter be?
This is good information to have! I know some photographers just kind of bring whoever is available to help them out. Personally, I try very hard to not do this and have my second shooters booked well in advance to prevent this situation. I want my second shooters to be capable of shooting the wedding completely alone, so I've never hired anyone who doesn't already own their own photography business. The only exception I make to this rule is when a client doesn't choose a wedding package that includes a second shooter (maybe the wedding is small and it's unnecessary for them). In this case, I may bring a second anyway, but it will be someone who is portfolio building and wants experience. It's usually a win/win as that photographer learns a lot and the clients get bonus photos! But I never do that when the client has paid extra for a professional second shooter.
8. Do you shoot with natural or artificial light?
This is often where you tell the pros from the noobs. The answer to this question SHOULD BE "I can do both." Now, the photographer's preference is just a stylistic choice. But if a photographer justifies to you why they only need to use natural light, that to me IS a red flag. It makes me wonder if they know how to use artificial light when it is needed. In my experience, MOST wedding receptions (at night) need some sort of artificial lighting. That could just be popping a flash onto your camera and shooting away. I prefer to add at least one additional light on a stand away from my camera to add some dimensional light to my photos, but that's just me. Part of wedding photography is being prepared to handle all sorts of lighting situations and someone who only uses one type of light or the other would make me nervous. I doubt many would respond that they shoot ONLY with artificial light, but if they did, think about how much time this would take away from your day to have a photographer following you around for 8-12 hours setting up equipment everywhere. Sounds cumbersome and crazy to me!
9. Will you help me with my wedding day timeline?
Any photographer I know would JUMP at the chance to do this. Other wedding vendors may want to help you as well, and that's fine, but they often don't have a realistic grasp of how long it takes to do portraits or family formals. Or how the light is going to look if your ceremony is at 6pm in October. This is the kind of information your photographer can help you with. I LOVE when my clients ask me when the light will be best for their ceremony. That way we aren't left trying to take family pictures in the dark!
10. Pay attention to your interactions and comfort level.
Okay, this isn't a question. But it's the most important reason to meet with your photographer if you're going to have an in person meeting. I tell my prospective clients all the time, to make sure they hire someone they're comfortable talking with and being around. The bride is very likely going to spend more time on her wedding day with me than with her groom, so she had better enjoy my company! ;) Think of your interview less as an interview, and more as a date. Do you jive? If you don't, that's that. If you feel like this is a person you could spend time with, whether they were providing you with a service or not, then that is fantastic and a great sign that you'll enjoy working with this person! There's nothing wrong with doing a little intuition trusting.
Did I miss anything? Any objections or other questions? Let me know in the comments! I hope this was helpful! :)