It's likely that you've seen this list in several forms...all over the internet. I really love the idea behind them, but what they lack is advising the couple what kind of answers they should be wanting to hear. So I'm here to help!
Before approaching a photographer with any of these questions, take the time to read this list (and others!), talk about them with your partner, and write down what is important for you. Is is a fresh perspective? Is it traditional, tried and true? Do you want a photographer who brings lots of life to the party or someone to help you slow down and appreciate the little moments? There's a lot to consider, but luckily there's lots of different kinds of photographers out there. Here is a little bit of guidance that might help you on your journey in finding your perfect match, after finding your other perfect match.
Let's start with the basics:
How long have you been doing photography?
-The answer to this question should not make or break your decision on hiring a photographer you're considering. A photographer's one year of experience is not exactly less than another photographer's ten years of experience. Say what? Yep! There are so many different ways to get into photography and there is no one determined path to success as a wedding photographer. So ask about their background and experience in photographing events similar to yours.
-What you should learn from their answer is their confidence in themselves and the work they've produced, as well as how they continue to educate themselves on their craft.
-Some follow up questions to ask are to throw at them, even at the seasoned photographers, are "how did you get started?" or "what do you do to continue your education?"
What kind of equipment do you use?
-The answer you should be looking for may not be what you think! Whether your photographer uses Nikon vs. Canon vs. Sony is not the answer and frankly, shopping for a photographer based on their camera brand? Don't even get me started. Photographers spend tons of time learning their equipment and ultimately it's a personal choice for them between which brand they like the most. Their portfolio will reflect the quality of the images they produce.
-What you want to hear is that they have the necessary equipment to capture your day AND backup equipment. For instance, your photographer should have several lenses (a new photographer may just have one decent zoom lens like a 24-85mm), a mount flash, plenty of spare camera batteries, memory cards, a studio light if you have a dark venue, etc. It is my personal preference to know a photographer has at least two cameras on them. I always double shoot at weddings so I don't have to switch out lenses quickly, but it also serves as a fail-safe in case a technological error happens.
Have you photographed my venue before?
-Once again, the answer to this should not make or break your ultimate decision. If they have photographed your venue then they should know the lighting and how to use the space creatively. Absolutely ask to see their photos from an event they have photographed there! If they haven't, ask if they plan to do a walkthrough or if they would like to join you on your tour, or even come to your rehearsal so they can get a feel for photographing there.
-A follow up question is asking to see some work from venues they have photographed that are similar, or if they think your venue lends itself to working with their style.
Can I see a full wedding gallery?
-Wedding photographers will choose their top 15 or 20 images from a wedding day to use on social media, their website, or anywhere else they are trying to attract a client. It's very rare that you would see a full wedding gallery available online.
-Seeing a full gallery will show you how consistent they are in their style and how adaptable they are to different lighting situations and locations throughout the day.
-Any hesitancy in providing you a full gallery is a red flag. You don't want to find out too late that they weren't being honest about their ability to photograph in low light at a reception...you don't get a second chance at your father-daughter dance moment.
What is your turnaround time and how to I get my pictures?
-This varies photographer to photographer, but they should have a general estimation! In my case, I have a 35 day or less turnaround, even during peak season, and you'll always receive sneak peek within a few days. Both, because I know you're DYING to see your pictures and because I want you to be able to give me any last minute requests before I edit your entire gallery.
-Knowing how you get your images is also important. You may have a contract that says they will only return 100 images and you have to buy rights to the rest, or that you only get a download of the images, when you were really wanting to a flash drive of all the high resolution images. This is absolutely a conversation that must be had before signing a contract, so you don't encounter unforeseen costs later!
How do you describe your working style?
-You definitely need to share some of the same values as your photographer! You want to be sure their personality suits you, your guests, and your wedding party. Also that their style of photographing gets you the images that you want. There is an art to both posed and candid photography.
-If you have a big, wild wedding party, you need a photographer that can joke with them and have fun, but also reel them in to get the shots. On the other hand, if you're having an intimate family only wedding, you might want a photographer that takes a bit of a step back and more-so just documents the moments of your day. Always open the door to this conversation to ensure both you and your photographer are on the same page!
-A follow up question might be, "do you prefer to direct group pictures yourself or work with a coordinator?"
Do you have testimonials I could read?
-It's likely you've already seen some, or were given a referral to the photographer you're speaking with, but definitely look them up on multiple platforms, or searched their tagged posts on Instagram!
-Look for specific feedback, not just 5 stars without comments. Read the reasons why others said this photographer was the absolute best choice for them, because what was best for them, may not be best for your day.
Will it be you or an associate photographer shooting my wedding?
-Yet another one, pulled from the wedding horror stories vault. It is usually made well known (and it definitely would be in your contract), but some photographers have an associate they hire to photograph so they can book more events in a weekend. You get a similar style, with the same editing style, but it can certainly be a surprise to have someone else show up on your wedding day. Just be sure you are hiring the person you expect, before you sign that contract!
That's just a few highlights from the lists I've seen, but I also want to add a few of my own that should not be missed:
What makes you different from other photographers?
-Access to their super exclusive printing service or the bells as whistles they tack on are not what makes a photographer more valuable than another, as a lot of photographers have awesome inclusions to their packages. The value you place in a photographer should be based on your creative needs.
-The answer you are looking for is about their talent, passion, and attentiveness to their clients. Every wedding deserves to be photographed like it is the event of the year and your photographer should be so excited about creating beautiful artwork of your day. I dedicate time truly getting to know my clients so that I can tell their story uniquely. I want them to have the best experience possible and on top of everything else...I want my couples to look at their images and say, "Oh my gosh, this is perfect. This is us."
Why are you a photographer?
-It's true that people who love their jobs, do better at their jobs. Photography is a passionate person's career, so listen carefully to how they answer this question. It should absolutely come from the heart.
My disclaimer here is that any combination of answers can equate your dream photographer. Maybe your dream photographer is an elopement photographer or they specialize in intimate weddings and you can't find them because they're off your radar! Maybe they're fresh to the scene, maybe they live out of state... Think about the moments of your wedding that are the most precious to you. Write them out and find the photographer who fits that bill. Don't count out people who are newer to the industry, don't settle for someone whose work doesn't blow your socks off, and remember that the more your photographer wants to be involved, the better your pictures will be. Never settle, there's so much talent out there!
You can find a downloadable document of questions to take to your consultations here↓