The real questions you should be asking your wedding photographer (and reasons to RUN!)

Guest post by Rebecca Ellison
 | Photography by Rebecca Ellison Photography

Want to know the best questions for wedding photographers that will get you the answers you actually need to make an informed decision about who to hire to capture the most beautiful shots of your wedding day? Rebecca Ellison is an awesome wedding photographer who knows a thing or two about what makes you look good and the day look AWESOME. Let's real talk some Q&A.

The REAL questions for wedding photographers as seen on @offbeatbride #weddingphotography #weddingadvice
Photo by Rebecca Ellison Photography

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 flattering 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 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 (eg: 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 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. You need to make sure your photographer has backup plan(s).

The REAL questions for wedding photographers as seen on @offbeatbride #weddingphotography #weddingadvice
Photo by Rebecca Ellison Photography

They say you should ask: In what style of photography do you shoot?

Ask instead: In what style, and can you use flash to add to a lighting situation?

Why: While it's important that you know what style 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 photojournalistically 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 there 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 sucks. You can't always change rooms or change locations, and you have to come up with beautiful images anyway. That's when flash photography comes into 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 natural lighting provided 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 many 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 photography 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 may charge more, they will edit out the bad images (blinks, focus, exposure, funky faces) and process (color, contrast, tone, and feel of the image in comparison to all the others) so that the images you receive 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. Some people don't mind that, especially if the price is right. Just understand that what you are saving in money 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 four great questions for wedding photographers that will give you answers with which you can actually work.

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Comments on The real questions you should be asking your wedding photographer (and reasons to RUN!)

  1. Thank you for this! If you decide to hire a photographer it’s very important to make sure that they have your best interests at heart and have your back. I cut corners on a few things in the wedding and cut a few things out of the budget, but we decided early on not to scrimp on our photographer.

  2. Thanks! This is so good! My brother’s wedding photographers took beautiful pictures, but had no backup plan. It was an indoor wedding in a space with a lot of windows, so they couldn’t just pull out a flash when there ended up being a massive rainstorm. Instead, they wasted an hour of wedding time, running around the venue trying to find places they could get enough light. Maybe, if the question had been asked (“how do you plan to add light to this area, if natural light fails us?”) it wouldn’t have been so much of a flubup.

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