Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Wedding 101: Hiring a photographer

Even though the holidays were threatening to take over our lives for a little while, we knew that the next big thing on our Wedding To-Do List was to find a photographer. We'd secured a date and a venue, found officiants, and I'd even bought a dress - but with the wedding a less than a year away, it was time to start talking about any vendors that the hotel wasn't directly supplying (i.e., everyone but the caterer and baker).

So, first things first - budget. Here's what I'm quickly learning - you can get anything for any price, it just matters what you're willing to pay. And here's what I mean by that seemingly obvious statement: in this day and age, nearly every single item and service that you can think of can be made available to you in a variety of prices that range from what you consider "cheap", to "affordable," and to what you consider "overpriced." There is no right or wrong answer to the price you set for something, it just depends on your needs, wallet, and desire. I've spoken to brides who paid thousands for their dress and shoes and then had a friend press play on a laptop playlist during the reception, and then I've seen brides walk down the aisle of a free public park while wearing a handmaid dress but then pay thousands for their reception music and lighting services. None of those brides were wrong - it was simply a matter of what was important to them.

That being said, hiring a professional photographer was important to us. We were prepared to devote a significant portion of our budget to this service, and as a result, needed to know we were hiring the right person. But doing a blanket search quickly turned daunting and overwhelming (google "wedding photographer chicago" and see what happens) - so I turned to the next best thing, Facebook. A quick query to all my friends in Chicago ("hey Chicago peeps - did you love your wedding photographer? If so, I'd appreciate any recommendations!") yielded eight solid suggestions, with one guy getting a nod from two different friends. I immediately contacted five of those eight and asked about their availability and pricing options for 2016. After a little back and forth (two were unavailable, one was just a bit too expensive, one seemed oddly unenthusiastic in her emails), we scheduled a call with one of the suggested photographers. I knew that this would be both our chance to get to know him and his chance to get to know us, so I made sure to be prepared with all the necessary questions.

This was the list we used in interviewing our wedding photographer - download a printable version here or scroll down to see the full list - it helped us stay on task during the conversation and get to know who we were speaking to. Feel free to use this list any time you are looking to hire a photographer (because professional photographers aren't just for weddings!), and I hope it helps in your planning. Incidentally, we loved the guy we spoke to and hired him on the spot. Now I just need to tear myself away from the evil Pinterest and it's "cute bridesmaids photos" ugly stepsister and get back to my real job. Happy wedding planning!


·      What is your preferred style of photography?
·      Is wedding photography your main business?
·      Have you ever shot at my venue?
·      Do you bring in your own lighting?
·      Will you work from a shot list/can I request certain images?
·      Will you use my images in any advertising?
·      Will you request the photography guidelines from the venue?
·      Will you provide a standard contract?
·      What is your plan if there is an emergency and you are not available?
·      What is your cancellation policy?
·      How many weddings will you shoot on the day?
·      What kind of timeline do you suggest for the day? How long will you need for “getting ready” pictures, first-look, group shots, etc.?
·      How much of the reception will you cover?
·      What breaks will you need during the day?
·      How many hours are included in your package?
·      How much are additional hours?
·      Do you include a second shooter? If not, is one available as an upgrade?
·      What else is included in this price – engagement photos, wedding album, etc.?
·      How much are individual prints?
·      How much is the deposit? What is your preferred method of payment?
·      When is the balance due?
·      How many images can I expect to see from my wedding?
·      Do you have a limit to the amount of images you will edit?
·      How long does it take to see the proofs from the wedding?
·      Do I receive a disk/jump drive of the images, or do I have to purchase them all through you?

·     Who retains the rights to the photos? In what capacity am I able to use the photos?

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