Interviewing potential vendors is like going on an awkward first date. Here's what you should ask before booking your photographer.
Meet the Experts:
Josh Lynn is a New Jersey-based photographer serving all of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania as well as destination weddings. Described as unobtrusive and still able to capture the special moments. Josh Lynn has been photographing weddings for over 15 years.
Casey Fatchett is an award-winning New York City-based wedding photographer with more than 10 years of experience. He also recently went through the wedding planning process himself, giving him a unique perspective on the wedding industry from both sides of the fence.
1. Is photography your main business? What percentage of your work is composed of weddings?
First, you need to gauge how much experience a potential vendor has. Photographers' time commitments and skill sets vary-some only work part-time or might mostly photograph something else (e.g. portraits). This doesn't necessarily mean they won't do an amazing job as your wedding photographer, but it will give you a sense of what they will be able to contribute towards your nuptials. According to Casey Fatchett, a busy full-time wedding photographer will probably shoot between 20 and 30 weddings a year.
Wedding photo from Casey Fatchett Photography.
2. How long have you been photographing weddings? Can I see a list of references and/or reviews?
This follow-up question is another indicator of experience and will reflect accordingly in the pricing. "I am often asked (usually by the father of the bride), 'What justifies your prices?' My reply is simple: 'Time.' I've been photographing weddings for 15 years, nine of which were my primary source of income," says Josh Lynn. References are absolutely critical-ask around (recently-married friends and other vendors you've booked can be great sources), read anonymous reviews online and speak to former clients.
3. Have you ever worked at our location before?
"It's often comforting for clients to hear that I have worked at the venue and even know the staff by name," says Lynn. If they haven't shot there before, ask if they would be willing to visit your venue before the wedding to acquaint themselves with the layout. Each location comes with its own unique advantages and challenges. My venue has a huge dance floor (pictured below) so to play up that aspect, we would shoot the first dance from a high vantage point, so that it appears as if my fiancé Jason and I are completely alone (so romantic!). The downside: We don't want it to look empty all night, so our photographer may choose to shoot it from a specific angle later on so that it looks like the dance floor is completely packed (even if it's just an optical illusion).
Wedding photo from Josh Lynn Photography.
4. Can we see a recent finished set of proofs from an entire wedding?
"Samples are great, but seeing an entire wedding from start to finish is equally important to see how the entire day is covered," says Lynn. As you flip through the album, pay close attention to the style of the photography and make sure it matches what you had in mind for your own. Keep a mental checklist to determine that they covered all of the major moments (e.g. cake toss, first dance) as well as fun, candid shots. Think about the entire album as a whole-it should evoke your emotions and give you a good sense of that couple's wedding day. "Make sure you see some printed photos when you meet with your photographer. You can make a bad photo look good online but things like out-of-focus shots or overly grainy pictures will stand out in an album," says Fatchett.
5. 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. There's a fine line: You want a photographer who is going to capture the details and guests that are most meaningful to you, while still giving them the freedom to live in the moment (which often leads to the best photos). Later on, AFTER you book, you can discuss specifics (e.g. discussing family dynamics so they know not to pose your step-dad next to your biological one).
Wedding photo from Josh Lynn Photography.