Most blogs and wedding magazines you've read will have articles about the questions to ask a wedding photographer before booking them.
These posts are mostly great as it gives you an insight to the things you didn't know you should ask a photographer. It's all a new experience for you so there are tons of great resources for the majority of these questions, but there are a couple that I think miss the point a little bit on why you need to ask a specific question.
Some questions will likely end up with you being confused as you didn't really understand the question you were asking, or aren't knowledgeable enough about photography in general to understand the answer you may end up getting.
I've put together a small list of alternative questions that will end up giving you info you will understand and can work with in deciding on your wedding photographer.
4 Great Questions to Ask a Wedding Photographer
They say you should ask : What gear do you shoot with?
Ask Instead : Why do you shoot with the gear you shoot with?
Why : Because, unless you are a photographer yourself, when I answer “ My favorite lens is my 85mm 1.4” you won’t have a clue what I just said. But if you ask why I shoot with the gear I choose, you’ll get an answer like
“My go to lens is my 85mm 1.4 because it’s a beautiful lens for portraits, helping compress a scene, and make you stand out from the background as well as giving you a *slightly slimming* effect. I love the 1.4 aspect because I can photograph your face and get only your eyes in focus while your eyelashes blur beautifully in the foreground. All while knowing the thing I choose to be in focus is tack sharp. The 1.4 also gives me the ability to shoot in super duper low light so if your ceremony or reception is set to a darker, moodier lighting, I can capture all I need to without degrading the quality of the image."
The first question will give you technical answer that you may or may not understand, while asking why I shoot with the gear I choose, it gives you insight to what it is I like about certain lenses or cameras, and how I use the tools available to me to create the images you are hiring me anticipating.
Run if they say: "The lens that came in the kit.” or “the lens I can afford” Because that isn’t a professional, but a hobbiest with a camera. And that person has no business photographing such a major day in your life until they have experience and the gear to do the job right.
They say you should ask: Do you have backup equipment?
Ask Instead : Do you have backup equipment and can you tell me of a time that something went wrong and how you fixed it?
Why : Because it’s not important that I JUST have backup equipment, but that I am fast thinking enough to know what to do and how to act fast in the case that I need to use my backup equipment. I’ve had multiple times where my gear ended up breaking or acting funny during a prime shooting time of the event (example : ceremony or toasts). Not only did I have backup gear, but it was important that I recognized something was amiss quickly, realized I didn’t have time time to troubleshoot, and had my assistant switch my gear asap so that I missed none of the important event. It’s not enough just to have the gear, it’s important to recognize when there is an issue and how to fix it fast.
Run if they say : I don’t need/have/can afford backup equipment. Nothing’s happened yet, so I’m sure we’ll be fine. Because…. your wedding is not a repeatable event. So you need to make sure your photographer has backup plan(s).
They say you should ask: What style of photography do you shoot?
Ask Instead : What style and can you use flash to add to a lighting situation?
Why : While it’s important that you know what type of photography I defer to, you’ve probably checked out my site and seen what I show. If it’s all candid and unscripted looking moments, then I am likely not trying to control or set the scene at all, I just capture photo-journalistically what is in front of me. While if you see a ton of portraits and posed shots, then you know I like to help create beautiful moments as well as capture the organic ones.
What’s even more important is understanding your photographers knowledge of light. Many photographers out their claim to be “natural light” photographers. They make it seem beautiful and great that they use what nature gives them and that’s it. But weddings are unique in that sometimes the "natural" light of the situation you are in just plain out sucks, but you can’t change rooms, or change locations and you have to come up with beautiful images anyway. That’s when flash photography comes in play. A photographer’s skill isn’t shown by what beautiful images they can show you of people in beautiful light (but beware, as many times that is all they show on their website), but what they can do when the light nature (or the hotel lobby…whatever) provides isn’t stellar and they can still create beautiful dynamic images by bringing in their own light.
Run if they say: I never use flash because I don’t need it … that’s photographer speak for “ I don’t use flash because I don’t understand how it works and it scares me, so I just stick to the “natural light photographer” line and slide by.” Your photographer may choose not to use flash photography, but they should understand how to just in case the circumstances don’t provide with a naturally beautiful option.
They say you should ask: How may images will I get?
Ask Instead : How many images will I get and will the images I get be straight out of camera, untouched? Or will they be color corrected and tweaked to your preferences?
Why: One major thing that changes the price point of photographers is if they are a “shoot and burn” photographer or if they are providing you with final, processed and reviewed images. If they are a shoot and burn photographer, they shoot your wedding, download the images on a disc and hand you that disc with images untouched by them. While a full service photographer will charge more, but they will edit out the bad images (blinks, focus, exposure, funky faces) and process (check color, contrast, tone and feel of the image in comparison to all the others) the images you receive so that they are beautiful and print ready when they land in your hands.
Run if they say: This answer depends on your preferences… I would say run if they say they will hand you all the images they shoot, as 60% of the a photographers work is done in the editing and processing of the images after the wedding, but some people don’t mind that, especially if the price is right. Just understand that what you are saving in $ on the front end, you’ll be spending in time on the back end sifting through thousands upon thousands of images and they may look less refined/ cohesive.
Those are the 4 great questions to ask a wedding photographer that will give you answers you can work with!
Have you seen other questions you've been told to ask a wedding photographer, but don't really understand the reason behind the question? Ask in the comments, and I'd happily give you any insight I can!