what every couple needs to know

What to Ask a Wedding Photographer Before You Book

February 12, 2018

Tips and Tricks

I may be biased, but your photographer on the day of your wedding is one of the most important decisions that you’ll make to set the day. Not only are they typically a big-ticket item, but they really make a difference in your wedding day. Not only are they capturing some of the most important photos you’ll ever take, but they’ll be hanging out with you for 8+ hours in a row. With that kind of facetime, you’ll definitely want to like and trust them!

Typically, the first thing about a photographer that will catch your attention is, not surprisingly, their photos. Something about the images’ composition, maybe their color palettes, or even the poses and emotions of the couples will speak to you. When my husband Vince and I were planning our wedding, we were struck by the elegance and pin-sharp quality of our photographer’s images and we knew we needed to find out more. 

Once a photographer’s images have grabbed your attention, it’s time to learn more about the person – and business! – behind the lens. When Vince and I sat down to select our wedding photographer, we were surprised to find that it was not necessarily going to be easy! There was just so much about the process that we didn’t know we didn’t know. 

It’s important to remember that the FAQs listed below are merely questions to get the ball rolling between you and a potential photographer. The more time you can spend with a photographer before making a decision, the better. I definitely recommend taking the time to meet with them in person (or via video chat) to get to know their work style and personality. You’re going to be spending a lot of time together on a very important day, after all!

My hope is that the FAQs listed below will help you feel more comfortable and confident while navigating the somewhat murky process that is selecting a wedding photographer. Some of these questions may not be concerns for you, and that’s okay! Determine which questions and answers matter to YOU to help make your wedding day as spectacular and stress-free as possible. 

Below each question, I’ve included information about why this question may be helpful to you, as well as my own answer to each question!


Can you tell me more about your photography style?

This is a great ice breaking question to learn more about a photographer’s approach and creative process. They may tell you that their style is very documentary-like, or very posed and controlled, or anywhere in between. If you find that you agree with the style they’re describing, you’re on the right track!

Bailey: My style is a balance between effortlessly candid and composed. I always tell my couples that it’s their jobs to be themselves, and it’s my job to be there to capture it! I strive to bring out my couples’ most natural selves after I’ve helped get their poses started. I also focus a great deal on my photos’ composition to make the most striking photos possible for my couples.


What do you like about photographing weddings?

This is another great ice breaking question to get to know the photographer on a more personal level. If they can’t give you a convincing reason for why they photograph weddings, they may not be a good fit for you.

Bailey: I love the genuine excitement and emotions that wedding days create in people. It’s one of the happiest, most exciting days in my clients’ lives and I am continually honored that I get to be a part of them in such a personal way. I take inspiration from each of my couples’ love stories and personalities, and I try to bring those unique qualities and details to life through my photographs of their weddings.


How long have you been a photographer? How many weddings have you photographed?

Knowing the experience of your photographer may be important to you. If they’ve never photographed a wedding in their life, you may want to find out more about their other professional photography experience. 

I have been photographing professionally for over three years now. 2018 is my second year photographing weddings. Before I became the primary photographer at weddings, I worked as a photographer’s assistant and as a second photographer. Even though I am now a primary wedding photographer, I still second shoot to expand my photographic portfolio and work with other photographers in the Kansas City area that I admire.


How many weddings do you photograph typically in a year? Do you photograph multiple weddings in one weekend?

This question will give you a sense of the photographer’s workload, which can effect the amount of time and attention they can give to preparing for – and executing – your big day. Some photographers can photograph 40+ weddings each year and stay completely organized, others prefer to stay in the 20-30 wedding range.

Bailey: The maximum number of weddings that I photograph in a given year is 30. I set this limit to ensure that I am fully prepared for each and every one of my couples’ wedding days! I will not photograph back-to-back weddings in one weekend. I want to give my entire energy to one couple each weekend and not spread myself too thin!


Will you be our actual photographer?

Some photographers work with associates or have staff that will photograph weddings when they’re already booked. This is a great question to ask to make sure that the person you’re spending time getting to know is the person who will be photographing your wedding.

Bailey: Yes! I do work with many second photographers for the weddings I photograph, but I am always the primary photographer for Bailey Pianalto Photography weddings. Just one of the perks of owning your own photography company 😉


What type of photography gear do you use? Do you have backup equipment?

If you’re not too familiar with the photography tech world, the important thing to get out of these questions is whether or not the photographer seems prepared and properly equipped to photograph any scenario that comes up on your wedding day. Most wedding/event photographers carry backup equipment with them in case their camera body fails, a lens breaks, or a memory card is corrupt.

Bailey: My primary camera body is a beautiful Canon EOS 5D Mark III. My backup camera is a Canon EOS 6D. I use a variety of lenses to capture my images. I also have a full OCF (off camera flash) system to help me capture images in low-light situations. 


Our venue is “X”. Do you require travel fees to get there?

Depending on where your photographer lives, your venue may be far away from them. If that’s the case, they may require reimbursement for their time and travel to get to/from your venue. Asking this question ensures that you know the full pricing picture of hiring a photographer.

Bailey: Typically, I don’t require any travel fees when photographing a wedding in the Kansas City area. I only charge travel fees for weddings well outside of city borders (say, beyond an hour drive) or that require flights or overnight lodging.


Have you photographed at our venue before?

If a photographer has experience photographing at your venue, that’s great! Keep in mind, however, that there are probably dozens – if not hundreds – of wedding venues in your area and your photographer may not yet have had the opportunity to photograph at your venue. A strong wedding photographer can adapt to any new location, though, and lack of direct experience in your venue shouldn’t be a hindrance. 

Bailey: If I haven’t photographed at your venue, chances are I’ve at least attended an event there! Thankfully my photography skillset and equipment let me adapt to any space. When I arrive at any new location – inside or outside – my second photographer and I work together to set up a lighting plan that will best fit the new space. In this way, I can adapt to any space where I get to shoot!


How comfortable are you photographing in low light?

Many venues – especially reception venues – have very low lighting. Makes sense, right? Nobody wants to be dancing on a fully lit dance floor! The vast majority of wedding photographers are well practiced in shooting in low light with their own lighting equipment, but it’s best to ask just be sure.

Bailey: I’m very comfortable and experienced shooting in low light. What I love about low-light is the drama it can bring out of photos – especially on the dance floor! I have my own lighting system that I bring to all events. Once I arrive, I assess the space to set up a lighting scheme that best fits the space, based on the amount of lighting, the brightness of the walls, the height of the ceiling, etc.


What do your pricing packages include? What do they not include?

Asking this question helps ensure that you fully understand the photographer’s offerings and pricing structure and aren’t missing anything. The better you can understand a photographer’s pricing and offerings, the better you can compare various photographers’ packages to make an informed decision.

Bailey: Each of my wedding packages include a number of things: They all include pre-wedding meetings with me, a second photographer for the entire day of your wedding, and the full digital rights to your entire wedding gallery. I want you to share and enjoy all of your wedding day photos!


Do you offer albums or prints?

The degree to which different photographers focus on printed products in their pricing packages varies greatly. Better understanding each photographer’s pricing structure for printed products – and how these play into their wedding packages – helps you make a more informed decision.  

Bailey: Yes I do! I don’t include them in my wedding packages because I want to focus on delivering my couples’ their images, rather than focusing on getting them to pick a print package. I believe that my couples should be able to print and share their wedding day images however they are comfortable. I do love designing guest books and wedding albums and I offer them as add-ons, along with prints, for my couples. 


Is there room for us to customize or tweak a package as needed?

I can’t speak for all photographers, but most that I have worked with are willing to customize their packages as needed. If you like a photographer but they don’t have a package that best fits your needs, it never hurts to ask!

Bailey: Absolutely! I like to tell my couples that my packages can act as springboards to build your own package that fits your needs. Whether you want to add a guest book, add or subtract hours, or just about anything else, I can probably make it happen. No two wedding days are the same, after all!


Do your packages include a second photographer?

Knowing all the facts about what is – and isn’t – included in a wedding photographer’s packages helps you make an informed decision. If a photographer’s packages don’t include a second photographer and you’d like to have one, it can be important to find out how much hiring one could cost in addition to the package.

Bailey: Yes, each of my packages include a second photographer baked into the pricing. I do this to give my couples less to calculate and worry about when they’re reviewing my pricing. I always recommend having a second photographer present on your wedding day. Not only can they help capture additional moments in the day, but they can also act as a safety net for me. Should a piece of my equipment fail, I can work with my second photographer’s gear to avoid any hiccups while capturing the day.


How involved are you with the rest of our wedding day planning process?

Different photographers have different approaches to preparing for your wedding day. Some are more hands-on than others with the planning process. Think about how much you’d like your photographer to be involved (Do we want them to help with the day-of timeline? Do we want to meet with them in person beforehand? Can they help me with referrals for other wedding vendors? etc.) and communicate that preference with the photographer you’re meeting with.

Bailey: My approach is this: I planned the wedding of my dreams, and now it’s time for you to plan yours! Quite simply, my job is to capture the beautiful wedding day that you have brought together through your hard work and planning. I loving helping my couples iron out their day-of timelines, but for the most part I stay out of my couples’ hair and let them plan their own perfect day. Of course, if you have a question about a certain vendor or are looking for recommendations I am happy to offer my advice when asked!


Will you follow a shot list, or do you prefer to capture the festivities in a more spontaneous manner?

If you have really specific images or moments in mind that you want captured, it’s important to communicate this to your photographer so they can be sure to capture them! Some photographers are less comfortable working with shot lists than others, though, so asking this question helps you understand if you’re working with someone who will meet your expectations.

Bailey: I appreciate working with shot lists for images like formal family portraits and important moments during the reception, such as toasts, the cake cutting, etc. During other parts of the day, I have found that shot lists can limit a photographer’s ability to truly capture the day as it unfolds. For this reason I tend to prefer working more spontaneously, but I absolutely want to meet with each of my couples to learn more about what types of photos and activities are important to them on their wedding day.


What happens if you get hurt or sick and can’t photograph our wedding?

A prepared wedding photographer will have backup plans for all sorts of issues that could occur on a wedding day. This includes having a backup plan should they not be able to photograph it! Asking this question gives you a better idea of how knowledgeable and prepared your photographer is for anything that could happen.

Bailey: In the rare chance that I wouldn’t be able to photograph your wedding, my second photographer would step in to take my place. We would then hire a new second photographer. Thankfully, Kansas City has a very robust network of wedding photographers to help during times of need just like this. I work with second photographers that have similar shooting and composition styles to me not only to create cohesive images for your wedding day portfolio, but also to help ensure that you still achieve your photographic vision should I not be able to fulfill my duties on your wedding day. Thankfully, this has never happened to me and I sure don’t expect it to any time soon!


What is your editing process? How much editing/retouching do you do?

If you are looking for very natural/candid looking photos, you may not want to work with a photographer that heavily retouches their photos. If you’re looking for cleaned up photos, you may not want to work with a more natural photographer. By asking these questions you can better understand how close a photographer is to your desired style and aesthetic.

Bailey: I strive to get my images as perfect as possible in the camera. When small edits are necessary, my editing style is very timeless and classic. I want my clients to be able to look back on their photos in 5, 20, 50 years from now and feel like they recognize themselves. Most importantly, I want my clients to recognize the real emotions and experiences they see in the photos I take for them.


What steps do you take to back up and protect my images?

Just about the worst thing that could happen to a wedding photographer would be to lose wedding images! A proactive photographer takes certain precautions to make sure this doesn’t happen to them.

Bailey: I am overly protective of my clients’ images! I save them in four different places before delivering the final portfolio to you. First, I save them on two different memory cards. (My camera can save images to two memory cards simultaneously, which helps me in the off chance that one memory card corrupts.) Next, I save the images to my computer. Third, I save them to a separate hard drive for added protection. Once I deliver your images to you, your online portfolio never expires off of my website, creating an additional space where your final images are preserved. 


How many images can we expect to receive from our wedding day?

Different photographers often provide different amounts of images in their wedding day packages. The amount they offer can vary based on the photographer’s pricing structure, how many images they edit, and how long they are photographing your wedding day. No matter how many images you’re expecting to receive from your wedding photographer, it’s good to level set that expectation with the photographers you meet with.

Bailey: The number of images that I deliver to you certainly depends on how much time we spend together on your wedding day. At minimum, you can expect to receive over 600 images in your downloadable online gallery. To deliver this many images, I will take many thousands of photos to ensure I catch every giggle, every smile, and every perfect kiss on your wedding day.


How do you deliver your images to your couples?

Asking this question is a great way to level set everyone’s expectations on how your final wedding images will be delivered to you after your big day.

Bailey: I deliver your images to electronically through your own private online portfolio. All of your images in this gallery are downloadable in high-resolution so you can print and share them however you are most comfortable. 


What is your typical turnaround time to deliver our images?

If you are wanting your wedding images for a particular use (for example, Christmas cards or thank you cards) or you just can’t wait to see them, asking a photographer their typical turnaround time helps you understand how their workflow fits your needs.

Bailey: I am able to deliver my entire wedding portfolios within two weeks of your wedding! Typically, I complete them sooner that that. I want you to enjoy your images as soon as possible!


What restrictions do I have with my images for publication or sharing?

Some photographers retain the copyrights to their images while others sign those rights over to their clients through their contracts. Depending on how you’d like to use your images, you may have a different priority for your images’ copyrights.

Bailey: I sign the copyrights to my wedding images over to my couples. The only copyrights that I retain are for media and marketing uses. 


What else should we know about you and your work that might help us make a decision?

Each and every wedding photographer’s business is unique! While we’ve covered so many topics in the questions listed above there is always more that you can find out about the photographer you want to work with that helps you better connect with them and their photography!

Bailey: I absolutely love working with couples to help capture their wedding days in the most authentic way possible! I thrive off of the love and energy that you bring to your wedding. Capturing that love and bringing it to life in your photos is absolutely the best job I could ask for. Let’s get a coffee – or a glass of wine! – to talk more about my photography and how it can help make your wedding day even better!


As you can see, just as no two weddings are alike, no two wedding photographers are alike either! There are so many different ways that a wedding photographer can manage and structure their business. 

By asking all sorts of questions with the wedding photographers that you meet with, you can make a more educated decision when selecting the best photographer to work with you on your wedding day. Your future self – and your wedding photos – will thank you!


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