More questions you shouldn’t ask your photographer

I love meeting with brides who come prepared with a list of questions for me. Questions like “Who will you be bringing with you?” and “What do you charge if we need you to stay longer than expected?” are great and important questions which you can use to make your final decision to hire. But when I sit down with a couple who downloaded a long list of questions off the Internet things can get a little bit overwhelming and confusing for everyone. That list might look complete, but they’re almost always filled with questions you do not and should not need the answers to.

For example Brides Magazine recently published a list of “Essential Questions You Need To Ask Your Wedding Photographer.” I read the first question and thought, “Yes! You should absolutely click with your photographer… Yes! Style is so much more than visual.” But then I got to question two…

What technology will you use to shoot my wedding?

“Oh no!” I thought, “This isn’t going to help my clients…”

When I take my car to the mechanic and the service desk starts explaining all the doohickies and thingy-majigs they’ve worked on my eyes totally glaze over. I have no idea what they’re talking about. And I shouldn’t be expected to. It’s their job to change my oil and fill my tires. And they do a darn fine job of it. I know because my car is still on the road.

When it’s tax time and my accountant tells me what my balance is for the year I don’t ask her what software she used to determine that, because I don’t know a thing about accounting software. I have other things to occupy my mind with.

The same goes for brides. You should not be expected to understand the technical, behind-the-scenes operations of your photographer’s business. You’re booking her to take stunning photos of your wedding and to be a joy to work with through the whole process of getting married.

Once you’ve made an artistic match, it’s time to get technical. Go beyond the aesthetic appeal of a photographer’s portfolio, and ask questions about their equipment before signing a contract.

“Your photographer should be able to describe their equipment and lenses,” says Tiffani. “They should also be able to explain what kinds of back up equipment they have for your wedding day. Your photographer should also have a good grasp on their shooting/client experience, digital or film preference, JPG or RAW preference, and editing process. All of these things are essential to their photography business and artistic process. If your photographer can easily answer these questions, you’re on a good path toward finding your match.”

Yes, you should absolutely make a connection with your photographer beyond just the aesthetics of her work. And yes, your photographer should absolutely be able to describe her equipment and lenses. However there is no reason that you should understand a word that comes out of her mouth when she does. So once you have all of this information, what do you do with it? Nothing… Don’t spend hours researching your photographer’s equipment online to understand whether she is a good photographer or not. Because the camera does not make the photographer.

What kind of equipment do you use?

“They should say either Cannon [sic] or Nikon, which are the most readily available professional cameras available,” says Tiffani. “However, there are professional and amateur cameras in both brands. A professional camera should be a ‘full format’ camera. This will ensure that you can print large-scale prints easily.”

No no no! Equipment does not make the photographer. If your photographer knows how to use her equipment, then the kind of camera she uses will make no difference in the quality of your wedding photos. The truth is, there is no professional camera brand or format.

The real test is whether or not you like their work. I always recommend that couples meet with potential photographers in person, and this is one reason why. Your photographer should be able to provide you with printed samples like books and canvases. If the samples stun you then that is a big checkmark for that photographer.

Do you shoot in JPG or RAW?

“Preferably, your photographer will shoot in RAW,” says Tiffani. “The reason for this: when a photographer shoots in RAW, those files are more easily able to be edited. RAW offers more options to save images if there are any lighting incidents. Most seasoned wedding photographers will shoot in RAW format.”

Unless you will be editing your own wedding photos, this is another question you absolutely should not ask. You will not be able to tell the difference between a JPEG or RAW image in your album. A true professional photographer can take a well-exposed, well-lit, sharp image in the camera without an absolute need to edit it.

Sidenote: I’m often asked if I will be providing my clients with RAW files. The answer is always no, because RAW files require specific software to even open the file on a computer. Unless you are a professional photographer or dedicated hobbyist your computer won’t be able to read RAW images.

How do you handle shooting with low lighting?

“Low light is tricky,” says Tiffani. “Your photographer should know their ‘Low Light’ process very well and should be able to describe how they accomplish their signature night look.”

This is a totally reasonable question to ask, especially if you want night-time, sparkler, or fireworks photos. For indoor ceremonies and receptions your photographer will likely be using flash. Don’t panic. The flash photography professionals produce is not the same as the flash photography that you produce on your iPhone. Ask to see some of their flash photography from other receptions. Also be aware that some officiants do not allow flash during the ceremony and communicate that to your photographer.

What’s your backup plan?

Expect the unexpected! Your photographer should have a backup plan for a range of heart-stopping scenarios, just in case technology fails or disaster strikes.

“I’ve heard horror stories of cameras failing or batteries running out at critical moments,” says Tiffani.

Yeah, OK. You should definitely ask this question.

At the end of the day if you are choosing between a professional photographer whose images you love, or a professional photographer whose images you do not love as much, choose the photographer whose photos you love. She’s proven herself to be photographically competent. And here are some other ways you can be sure she’s the right photographer for you:

  1. Look at her photos. Don’t contact a photographer if you do not like her photos!
  2. Ask to see some testimonials. Your photographer should be able to provide you with great reviews with details about her behaviour before, during, and after the wedding.
  3. Meet her in person, talk with her, and get to know her a bit. You’ll be spending one of the most intimate moments of your life with her and you should genuinely like her.
  4. Be sure that she can provide the service that you want in your budget. This includes coverage time and printed artwork.

And, because I’d never leave you hanging, I have put together a super simple worksheet which you can use to interview each photographer you speak with. It starts with your first email and ends with you hiring your dream photographer. Just fill out your information below and I’ll send your copy to your inbox!

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If you want to read the original Brides Magazine article you can find it here.