Congrats on your engagement! Before you get bombarded with “Have you picked a date?”, take a breath and enjoy the bliss of your pre-wedding planning engagement. When you’re ready to start wedding planning, one of the first vendors you’ll want to secure is a wedding and engagement photographer. 

Securing a wedding photographer is about more than finding someone whose style you like. You’ll want to make sure you’re asking the right questions so that your expectations are realistic for what you’re going to receive. Here are some important questions to ask photographers you reach out to (and one you shouldn’t bother asking):

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What to ask your potential wedding photographer

Can I see a full wedding gallery?

Asking to see a full wedding gallery will give you a good idea of the range of photos you can expect to receive in your own gallery. Pay special attention to the family formal photos and the lighting conditions. The gallery doesn’t necessarily have to be from the same venue, either. Most photographers either are happy to send out multiple galleries to show off their style and help you feel confident in what you’re paying for.  I send out 5-6 full galleries to every potential client based on their day, number of guests and type of event. Count it as a red flag if a photographer won’t send at least one.  

Gastler Farm Wedding
Tahoe City Backyard wedding

Do you have insurance?

Most professional photographers carry insurance, and if they don’t, I wouldn’t consider them professionals. For starters, we want to protect our equipment and your guests in the event someone spills a drink on a camera or trips and knocks over a tripod (it happens more than you think, and usually I’m the one that does it). Additionally, carrying insurance is a requirement of most venues. Be wary of photographers who don’t have insurance. They should be able to provide a certificate of insurance for every event when requested with your venue as additionally insured.

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What happens if you get sick?

You may as well put this in the insurance category, because all respectable photographers have back-ups, meaning another photographer or, in my case, an entire network of photographers they trust and can rely on in the event of major illness or emergency. We choose our back-ups based on

style and vision. They’re photographers who know us and our style well and who we can count on to deliver the same quality as our own. They’re basically our emergency contacts. 

What’s your vision for a client’s day and how it runs?

Asking this question gives you a good idea of how the photographer will be fitting into your day. Are they in the background focusing solely on photography? Or do they prefer to be organized with lists and timelines, coordinating with your other vendors?  Do they want portrait hour to be focused on their needs and portfolio desires, or do they, like me, think that your wedding day is a day where you should celebrate with friends and family and not a photoshoot where you happen to get married?  Take clues from the reviews left online – if a number of people talk about how fast and efficient they are with family formals, then you can probably trust that.

Sunnyside Wedding
Gastler Farm Wedding

What not to ask your potential wedding photographer

Can we have all the photos?

No. And I assure you, you don’t want thousands of frames to sift through and cull, many nearly the same shot but with slightly different lighting, and lots of ridiculous expressions. You’re hiring your photographer to make the decisions on which shots make the cut. Trust them.

Lauren Lindley - South Lake Tahoe Photographer

Can I have a discount if you shorten the length of the session, if I only want a few photos, or if there’s fewer people?

No. Just no. Our packages are packages for a reason. We know how much time we put into a session and how to price them appropriately. Instead of asking for a discount, ask if there’s a package that better fits your needs.  It takes just as much work to deliver 3 photos as 30 and that’s because it takes the same amount of time to get what we need out of the people we are photographing.  Trust that we understand the time constraints required for every job and that we’ve priced ourselves accordingly.

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Durham CT Wedding Photographer

What equipment do you use?

Unless you’re a professional photographer yourself, this truly shouldn’t matter to you. I’ve never been one to get on the Canon vs Nikon vs Sony debate.  I don’t worry about what kind of equipment my second photographers use (outside of the fact that it delivers the quality of files I need).  A better question would be, do you have back-up equipment in case something happens?  And what happens if a card fails? 

Can you re-create this photo I saw on Pinterest?

Nope. Your job is to stay focused on being present, and my job is to capture you authentically living in the moment with your loved ones. Recreating Pinterest photos means you’ll be unnaturally posing to fit in a box someone else created—simply put, it’s not you. You’ve seen a few, full galleries, so trust that we won’t be missing out on any important shots.

Thunderbird Lodge Wedding

Have you worked at my venue or have you seen it before?

This isn’t necessary to deliver awesome photos. We’re professionals who are often inspired by places we haven’t yet been to. You can bet that after we’ve taken the “getting ready” photos, we’re off exploring the venue in the quiet moments before guests arrive. Rest assured, we’ve got this.

Your photographer is more than likely willing to answer most of your questions and work with you to find a package that fits best. Be patient, trust the process, and remember that we’re humans, too.