Wedding Photographer Interview Questions
You’ve selected your venue and locked in your wedding date. Now it’s time to choose your wedding photographer! But how do you choose the right one for you?
Hiring a professional wedding photographer doesn’t have to be a challenge if you know the right interview questions to ask. Anyone can post a handful of pretty photos from a styled shoot online and start a business, but how do you avoid an unpleasant surprise later on down the road? Photography businesses aren’t really regulated, and there’s not a diploma or degree that will tell you if they are the right fit for you. In my opinion, there are some crucial questions that you should be asking before you sign that contract.
And if you are considering ME (thank you!), I have included my own answers to the questions below to save you some time.
How would you describe your photography style?
This is an essential question to ask and will give you some insight as to how your photographer will “see” your wedding. You’ll hear terms like documentary, photojournalism, fine art, traditional, dramatic, artistic, etc, but many of us are blends of a few of these. Editing style is also important: do you prefer a light & airy approach? Dark & moody? Heavy retouching or more natural? Vibrant colors or less saturated?
My personal style is a blend of artistic shots, candids and traditional formal portraits. My background in film has led me to appreciate a more natural style, light & airy while retaining details in the highlights, with beautiful skin tones & accurate colors.
What’s your approach like on the wedding day?
Continuing on from style, what are they like to actually work with? Will they be hands-on and confidently give direction, or take more of a “fly-on-the-wall” approach? Do they focus primarily on the couple, or do they engage with the wedding party, family & guests as well?
Although I often combine both approaches, I definitely get more hands-on and interactive on a wedding day than some photographers. I’m happy to take the lead in directing shots that I know you’ll love, but I’m happy to step back and watch while those natural moments unfold. An experienced photographer will know when to step in and when to remain unobtrusive. Your wedding day should be filled with joy & laughter, and a confident photographer will make sure that everything goes to plan while keeping you relaxed and having the time of your life!
How many weddings have you photographed?
Note that it’s important to know how many WEDDINGS, not how many YEARS. Many wedding photographers do this as a side job, so they may only shoot a handful each year. Others may shoot 2-3 every single weekend. Who has more experience? The one who has been working for 10 years but has only shot 20 weddings? Or the one with hundreds of weddings under his or her belt?
Personally, I prefer to limit the number of weddings I shoot each year. Although there have been years where I’ve done almost 30 weddings, I find that 10-15 annually gives me the time to provide the quality service that I’m known for. Since 2004, I’ve been privileged to photograph over 200 weddings and counting!
Is this your full-time job?
Not only can this relate to a photographer’s amount of experience but also how much time they have to devote to their couples. If this is a part-time gig, when will they have time to edit? Return calls & emails? Design your album?
I worked as a full-time photographer for British photographer Tony Woods from 2004-2006. Upon moving to Atlanta in 2006, I started Belletti Photography and this has been my full-time job (and passion!) ever since.
Can we see a full gallery of a recent wedding?
Don’t book a photographer based solely off their website portfolio or Instagram photos. It’s pretty easy to look amazing when you only select 1 or 2 images from the best weddings to showcase. Beware if you only see styled shoots that aren’t even REAL weddings… it’s much easier to get those shots when you have unlimited time & perfect conditions with no time constraints. By viewing a full gallery, you’ll really get a feel for how that photographer covers an entire wedding. How did they deal with the dimly-lit reception? Are the family formals relaxed & happy or do they look like they’d rather be anywhere else but there? Are there plenty of the types of shots you’re looking for from your own wedding?
While all of my proof galleries are password-protected for privacy, most of my couples are happy for me to share access to prospective clients. I’d love to share a full gallery or two from recent, real weddings with you, and I’ll try to select those with venues, lighting, and seasons similar to yours.
Do you work with a second photographer?
Ask the photographer if they’ll be covering your wedding day solo or if they’re bringing an assistant, second shooter or team with them. “Assistants” are generally there to assist the primary photographer by swapping lenses, changing film/flash cards/batteries, moving lighting, running through the shot list and anything else the photographer might need while they are shooting. A “second shooter” is a photographer who may perform some assistant duties but is primarily there to provide additional coverage. They may be getting extra angles during the ceremony, grabbing candids during formal portraits, shooting wide shots while the lead photographer is shooting close, etc. Two photographers may be too many for small, intimate weddings, but large weddings with big wedding parties and a lot of guests may require a team of 3 or more!
I strongly recommend that your photographer utilize a second shooter, not just an assistant, and I have one by my side for every wedding that I photograph. Not only do they help me shoot more efficiently by having my gear ready, but they provide another viewpoint and perspective throughout the day. Plus, you’ll have a lot more images of your day!
Do we need to provide you with a shot list?
An experienced photographer probably doesn’t need a list of every single shot you expect them to take. But on the other hand, your wedding day is not an event that will ever be recreated, so it’s important that your photographer is aware of any particular group photos or unexpected details or events taking place.
I don’t need a shot list covering the entire day. But… I DO work from a shot list for the family formals and any non-standard shots you really want. It’s as important to me as it is to you & your families that we capture these images, and a shot list not only ensures that we get all of the groupings you want but that we do them quickly and efficiently so you can get back to celebrating your wedding day. If there’s a location that you love or something out of the ordinary (I once had Aubie, Auburn’s mascot, and Blue, the Indianapolis Colt’s mascot, surprise everyone by delivering the rings during the ceremony!), I’d love a heads-up so I can make sure we cover it. Anything beyond that, though, can make it harder to capture the moments happening around us since we’re focused on a check list instead.
How many images will you deliver & how long until we receive them?
Imagine spending 8 hours of your wedding day with your photographer and being so excited to see the photos and then… you only get 200 images. And it took six months to get them. Unfortunately, I’ve heard horror stories like these before. Don’t assume that you’ll get a certain number of images or that they’ll be delivered in a timely manner. Ask these questions before you sign that contract!
While most of us cull our images so that we eliminate any duplicates, test shots, or unflattering images, some photographers prefer to deliver a lot of images with their couples while others prefer to only present the absolute best. Personally, I tend to err on the “more is more” side of things. Your album is the place to showcase the best of the best, but I choose to deliver a full record of the wedding day so that YOU can decide which ones are the most meaningful to you.
Because I limit the number of wedding commissions I accept each year, my turnaround time is pretty fast. I do take time to cull them, ensure that they are all in sequential order, rename them from the weird camera-generated names, and adjust any that may need a little brightening or color correction. My stated turnaround time is within 4-6 weeks, but it’s usually closer to 2-3 weeks. I’m always as excited to share them as you are to receive them, but I want to make sure they receive my full attention so that I’m delivering my best work!
Do you offer custom packages or a la carte pricing?
Once you’ve determined you love a photographer’s style & approach, it’s time to talk packages & pricing. Ask for a current price list and then determine if there’s a package that meets your needs. How flexible are they in creating a package specific to you?
I used to have set packages that included things like engagement sessions and wedding albums so that my couples could easily see what their total spend would be. What I discovered was that I was constantly rearranging packages and removing or adding things to fit a couple’s specific needs. My current price list is based on a la carte pricing, and I think it works well for my couples. You only pay for what you need and it’s a lot more flexible if your needs change between booking and the wedding day. I’m happy to create a written estimate based on your specific needs so that you know exactly what you’re spending before you sign a contract.
Can we add on to our package later?
If you’re in the early planning stages, you may not know if you’ll need 6 hours of coverage or 12, or if your budget will allow you to include an engagement shoot or coffee-table album. Will the photographer allow you to extend coverage time if the wedding goes later than expected? Or buy an album six months after the wedding?
Most of my couples book me 9-12 months prior to their wedding day, and I’m often only the 2nd vendor that they select. I understand that you aren’t sure of your wedding day timeline yet. I understand that you may have spent more than you expected on a fabulous dress and can’t afford an album just yet. So YES, you can absolutely book the smallest package to lock in the date and add services and products later if needed.
What types of editing/retouching are included?
Photographers want you to LOVE your images! Editing & retouching is an essential part of this process, but we approach it in a wide variety of ways. Film photography is making a comeback, but it does limit the photographer somewhat in their ability to edit unless they are scanning the negatives and enhancing a digital file. Most wedding photographers shoot digitally, at least in my area, so some amount of editing will be done to every image. How much and which style depends on the photographer as well as your specific needs.
Because we shoot so many images, most of us perform “Batch Editing.” That means we will take a group of photos with similar characteristics, like your ceremony, and perform a batch edit across the group. For example, indoor locations often have a slight orange/yellow tint due to the lighting, so this batch correction will remove that tint so that it looks more pleasing to the eye. “Retouching,” on the other hand, involves individually opening and hand-editing one particular photograph. This could be removing blemishes, whitening teeth, removing distracting elements like flyaway hair or background objects, etc. Because it’s labor-intensive, retouching is usually reserved for album images or print orders.
I look at every photo that I plan to deliver and perform batch editing on every one. Almost every image that you see on my website and social media pages are batch edited and are not retouched individually. Because I prefer natural-looking images, the ones that are retouched are generally done with a light hand to ensure that skin is blemish-free but still retains its lovely texture. I believe that our individuality makes us beautiful, so I don’t perform body modifications or heavy skin smoothing unless requested for specific situations.
What’s your backup plan in case of emergencies?
It happens. We’re all human, and although rare, emergencies do come up. It’s essential that you ask your photographer about their backup plan in case something happens to them. What plan do they have in place?
In 15+ years of photographing weddings & other events, there’s only been one time where I was concerned about my ability to be there. I was booked for a corporate holiday party and the night before, I was admitted to the emergency room with flu-like symptoms. However, earlier that day I reached out to my network of photographers & second shooters and lined up several people who were available in case I needed them. Luckily, I recovered quickly and was well enough to cover the event, and my second shooter was on hand to take over as lead if it became necessary. But the important thing is that I have a plan, and I have a wonderful network of fellow photographers who all support each other to make sure our clients are never left wondering… where IS my photographer?
Do you have backup equipment?
Cameras are complicated and expensive pieces of equipment. And it’s not a matter of IF something will break, it’s WHEN. Electronics fail, accidents happen, batteries don’t last as long as they used to. Like a photographer backup plan, your photographer needs to have equipment backup as well. While I don’t necessarily feel like you need to request a list of every piece of gear your photographer owns (although I am sometimes asked this!), I do recommend that you ask about backup equipment.
I carry three camera bodies, and at least eight different lenses. Plus 3-4 flash units, dozens of batteries, and enough memory cards to cover about a week’s worth of shooting. Second shooters usually bring their own equipment to shoot with as well. I’ve had second shooters accidentally drop lenses and flashes. I’ve had tripods knocked over by wind. SLR cameras have an internal mirror that flips up each time the shutter is pressed… I had one come unglued and actually fall off while I was photographing a groom! Things happen, but if your photographer is prepared, they’ll grab the backup without ever missing a shot.
How far in advance do we need to book?
The simplest answer is: as soon as you find the right photographer for you. Unlike a florist or bakery, we can only be in one place at a time, and we are usually booked very early in the planning process. Weddings are often seasonal, and in Georgia the most popular months are April/May and September/October. If your wedding date is during those months, or on a holiday weekend like Labor or Memorial Day, I would encourage you to start your search and book as early as possible.
Most of my couples book me about 9-12 months prior to the wedding, usually just after booking the venue. May and October dates are often booked more than 12 months in advance. It’s important to me that you ask as many questions as you can and feel 100% certain that I’m the right fit for you, but once you’ve made your decision I recommend getting the date locked in.
Once we book you, what does the planning process look like?
Hopefully your photographer will be a resource for you during the planning process. If you hire an experienced photographer, we’ve gone through this hundreds of times and worked with a lot of great vendors over the years! Will they be available to answer non-photography questions? Make vendor recommendations? Will they be willing to meet with you before the wedding to go over the schedule & shot list?
For me, I LOVE working with my couples and getting to know them along their journey. You can call me, text me, email me or set up a chat over coffee if you need my help with anything during your planning process. Because I’ll be working with you for most of your wedding day from Getting Ready to the Getaway, we’ll definitely work together to create your timeline & shot list, and I usually request an in-person meeting about 4-6 weeks before your wedding day. If you are working with a wedding planner, I’d love to be included in your discussions and meetings with them to make sure we are all working well as a team. I’m here to help!
Hopefully you’ve found this list of wedding photographer interview questions helpful, and by asking them you’ll get a better feel for not only how capable your photographer is but WHO they are as well.
If you think that we might be a good fit after reading my own answers, I’d love to hear more about you & your wedding plans!