Hi, I'm Dan Waters - a wedding photographer in Cambridgeshire, although I photograph weddings all over the UK and overseas. I’m sure you’re bamboozled by all the different photographers so this post explains what to ask a wedding photographer before you book them.
We've all heard the wedding photography horror stories where the photographer was either rude to Auntie Betty, or the photographs were all blurred, or it's 6 months after the wedding and no-one has seen the photographs, or the photographer texts the bride the day before the wedding to say they can't make it because their day-job boss has told them they've got to go into work!
To say you'd be unimpressed is an understatement!
To help you avoid going to prison for murdering a wedding photographer here are the 9 questions to ask wedding photographers before you hire them...
Does the photographer have a money-back guarantee?
I've put this question first for a reason. You would expect your money back if you bought a car that broke down within a week. You’ve probably requested money off a meal when the chef tried to palm you off with a leathery old steak. In the UK, online businesses legally have to offer a money-back guarantee. Most high street stores have a money-back guarantee too. After all, if a business doesn't deliver on their promises then they should give you your money back.
However, for some reason almost every photographer I've ever seen seems to shy away from it. But this is your wedding day we're talking about. You want to be pretty darn sure that the photographer is going to deliver the goods. But how can you be sure if the photographer isn't prepared to back up their promises.
You may be thinking "Well their portfolio looks great and they seemed nice enough when we met for coffee, so what's the problem?" The trouble is that most people seem nice when you sit down for a coffee.
But wedding days have a habit of causing meltdowns!
Photographers are no exception.
Some photographers get stressed or flustered and the best way of knowing if a photographer trusts themselves to be sweet and charming under any situation is to see if they have a guarantee.
If a photographer does promise to give you your money back then make sure you get it in writing and make sure you check the small print for those sneaky 'weasel clauses!'
Frankly, most photographers won't have one, so what's the point in asking? The beauty of asking "Do you have a money back guarantee", is you'll get to see how they react to this rather awkward question! If they get stressed and defensive and flustered then that gives you a clue about how they might react at your wedding.
In case you're wondering, I offer a money back guarantee and it simply says...
"If you're not happy with your wedding photographs or the service you receive then you can ask for all your money back".
That's it! No ifs or buts.
I want to be absolutely certain all my clients are delighted and if they're not then I will either put it right or I'll be happy to give them their money back.
How many wedding photographs will I get in my album?
Most wedding photographers will show you 200-300 photographs and then tell you that you can only have between 50-100 in your album. This leaves you with two horrible situations. Firstly you have the heartbreaking decision of having to reject most of your treasured images. Secondly, you have to tell Auntie Betty why she never made it into the album, which is a pretty awkward conversation to have when she can see 20 of your best mates in there!
My wedding album is substantial enough to comfortably include 250 photographs so I can thoroughly tell the story of your wedding day and no-one gets left out.
If someone tells you they'll give you 1000 photographs then that could be a red flag. It could mean they haven’t put much thought into what they're doing. They're just using their camera as a machine gun and hoping for the best.
They're leaving you to sift through the rubbish and figure out what to do with them all. You can also be sure all those photographs won't have been retouched to look their very best.
What do they do to help the wedding day go smoothly?
Your wedding photographer will be by your side pretty much all day long. You don't want some bimbling fool or a school yard bully. You want someone who's going to be helpful, kind and considerate, but also chirpy enough to make you smile.
If you're not careful the photography can kinda take over the whole wedding day. You want a photographer who's got things planned so you can get back to your friends and family ASAP.
Here are some of the things I do to speed things along. I always scout the wedding venue (ideally with the bride and groom) so we can plan what kind of romantic and group photographs we're going to do and where we're going to do them to get the best light and composition.
I also have a prize for the wedding guest who's the most helpful and radiant during the group photographs. This always gives me the opportunity to create some great banter with the guests and make the process more fun for them. The more they laugh (usually at my expense!) during the group photographs the better the photographs will be and the quicker the process will seem.
How soon will your wedding photos be ready?
You don't want to be celebrating your anniversary before you've seen your wedding photographs! I've heard horror stories of some couples waiting months. I guarantee your wedding photographs will be available for you to view within 1 month, although it's almost always within a week or two in reality. I'm as excited as you are to download them and start sprinkling some Photoshop pixie dust on them. I love that part of the process, so I never put it off. Again, I put it in writing that the absolute maximum you'll wait is one month.
By the way, I show you your wedding photographs in person, so you're welcome to request any tweaks there and then. We'll also talk about which ones are your favourites and what you want for the album cover etc.
Does the photographer have testimonials from happy clients?
If you're interested in a hotel or restaurant you go to Trip Advisor. If you're wondering whether the movie 'Zombie Apocalypse' is any good then you'll check out the reviews on www.imdb.com. Unfortunately there's no such thing for photographers. The best you can do is see what the feedback is on their website and Facebook. It's a good idea to send a friend request on Facebook too, so you can check out whether it's an expletive riddled tirade, or their favourite hobby is badger baiting!
....I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you there's a rather large smattering of testimonials on my website and on Google - and you're more than welcome to friend me on Facebook and check out all the embarrassingly glowing feedback my clients give me. Blush!
Can you see a couple of their client's entire set of wedding photographs?
Over the course of your life I bet you've taken a handful of photographs you're pretty proud of. If you gave a camera to a blind wood pigeon called Rodney it could still take a good photograph eventually.
The difference between you, Rodney and a professional photographer is all down to percentages. A professional photographer should be relied on to capture the whole wedding brilliantly - not just some of it.
Rodney however has a 0.000001% success rate!
So, get photographers to show you a few entire sets of entire weddings. That way you can see if they're consistent, or whether their portfolio is misleading.
Do they have public liability and professional indemnity insurance?
This may sound stupendously tedious, but bear with me - I'll try and make it relevant and entertaining. Some wedding venues won't even allow your photographer on site unless they have the appropriate insurance. For example, the National Trust require any wedding photographers working at their venues to have £5 million of public liability insurance. So, check with your wedding venue, because if you've hired the Frank Spencer of photographers who's likely to harpoon a stained glass window with their tripod then they may not be allowed on site without the required paper work.
Professional indemnity is a bit different, so let me explain that one. Imagine you did get one of those bimbling buffoons as your wedding photographer and they completely ruined your day and their pet ferret ate their memory cards with all your photographs on. What now? You could ask for your money back. But what if they've spent it and have a bank account as empty as the Atacama desert? If they have Professional Indemnity insurance then their insurance will pay out if the worst happens.
What cameras and lenses do they have?
You might be thinking that your Uncle Horace would be a good option for your wedding photography. He's a lovely bloke and he knows the deepest workings of his camera more intimately than he knows his wife. The trouble is his camera and lenses may not be suitable for the extreme low light conditions wedding photographers have to cope with. Ask what the model is and then Google it to see if it's worth AT LEAST £800 for the body only (excluding any lenses). Worse still, he may only have one camera and one lens.
Wedding photographers need at least 3 cameras and lenses. Why? Well, one camera has the telephoto lens on (for photographing you from 100 yards away without you knowing!) and the other has the standard lens on. A photographer can't have one camera and two lenses because they'd spend the whole day swapping lenses over and missing everything. The third camera is a back up because sooner or later all cameras malfunction.
What happens if they fall sick or get hit by a bus?
Luckily I've never been to hospital and have never had anything worse than flu, but no photographer can guarantee they will be fit, healthy, or even alive on your wedding day! I have two safety nets for you. Firstly I have a great relationship with several other fantastic wedding photographers in Peterborough who could fill in for me. I trust them completely. But they're in demand, so what happens if they're already booked?
Firstly, I'd call round and find a photographer for you - you'll be busy enough doing the final wedding preparations.
If I was so badly banged up I couldn't even make phone calls I'd do something no other photographer I've ever come across does. I would pay half the fee of any replacement photographer you chose. This takes away all the risk for you because you know that whatever happens you're going to have your wedding photography covered. It's my way of showing how much I care about serving you the best way I know how.
OK, so that's it - you're now armed with the very best questions you could ask a wedding photographer. Questions that will strike fear into all but the most professional and loveable photographer.
Or, you could just give me a call on 0792 358 3658 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and see if I'm available for your wedding... it will be a lot less hassle and you already know I'm lovely by now! ;-)
The final question!
So Dan, what do you charge?
I have all day wedding packages from £999 that include all of the digital files.
I also have a beautiful 70 page album that fits 250 photographs in it and I can even create animated slideshows of your growing up photographs and project them onto a screen at your wedding to give your guests a chuckle!
You can read more about my wedding photography services here.
Better yet, call me on 0792 358 3658 or email me at email@example.com and tell me all about your wedding.