How To Hire A Wedding Photographer Part III: Questions To Ask

June 16, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Hi, Bryan again. This is the first article in a series on how to pick a wedding photographer, however it's the third thing you should do in the series of actions. I just wrote it first for some reason. I'll reorder them at some point.

Friends of ours who can’t use us for various reasons (typically we are booked or one of us is in the wedding) always ask us to help them select a photographer. The first part of that process you and your fiancé do alone and a blog post is coming on that (the decision process and what to look for in pictures) but I always give them this list of questions to ask.

Q: How do you manage a wedding day?  

This is an excellent question.  Unless you opt for less coverage your photographer will be with you from the moment you start getting dressed until your limo whisks you away on your honeymoon. How they like to work, what their method is, is very important. I find it meaningful not only to take interest in their pictures but also their temperament. Do they seem as if they could be easily flustered? If something has to change in your schedule can they roll with the punches and accommodate it? I might even add in a bonus question about how they have handled a difficult customer or guest in the past.

Q: How many weddings can you show me?  

Frequently customers want to see a full wedding, from beginning to end and I'm sorry but but we just don't do that. I think it's very fair to show someone a small gallery summarizing your happy day, but it feels like invading your privacy to show someone every single image from your wedding.

I also think it's far more valuable to see the synapsis of many weddings. Look to see have they shot inside and outside, all seasons, formal events and hoe downs. Seeing a photographer who shines day after day in various locations and featuring various body types tells you more than any one wedding ever could.

Great pictures with great peopleGreat pictures with great peopleGreat pictures with great people

Q: How many photographers do you think we need?

So many couples want to know if you'll have two photographers as that's become the trend in the industry. But most weddings do not require a second photographer. If your wedding is 8 hours or less, doesn't include a significant number of traditions/events, has a wedding party of 8 or fewer people and includes fewer than 125 guests you can easily arrange to cover it in its entirety with one photographer. 

Why would you want one photographer instead of two? Well reduced cost to begin with. One photographer certainly costs less than two. You also cut down on complications and you can concentrate on exactly the pictures you want. More is not always better, sometimes more is just more.

Q: Where can we find reviews for Eleven 11 Photography?

So often clients want to examine past performance by asking for a reference but I find the reference process to be intrusive. It requires us to reach out to past clients who've moved on to their happily ever after and trouble them to speak to prospective clients. And a number of prospective clients never become actual clients. In fact I'd have to refer two prospects to get one client. I can imagine you don't want to take calls from your wedding professionals a week, or a month or a year after your wedding and we personally would prefer not to make that call.

Our approach is to ask clients to complete a short testimonial when their pictures are delivered. As you can see each Wedding Story we provide includes a short testimony from the couple about their experience with us. We think that looking at these 36 galleries combined with the reviews of our service on sites like give you a good idea about how well we will perform on your special day.

Q: What determines how many and which pictures we will get?

First I’d like to be be very clear that we do not guarantee some number of pictures. I think anyone who does doesn’t really understands the process of how a wedding works. Stick a pin in that idea and I’ll circle back to it.

With that out of the way let’s talk about the formals. Because really that’s what most folks want. Roughly 70% of my clients say the formals are the most important pictures to them. Our process is to ask you which pictures you are interested in. We start by surveying your sites and giving you any recommendations for how to best take advantage of the site. Then we provide you a list with options to plan your formals. We also accept any suggestions you have via pictures or description of the kinds of pictures you want to take. In fact, if you are game, we can create any picture and/or feeling you want by building a set at your location. 

However I would like to offer one word of advice regarding using Instagram and/or Pinterest pictures to plan you wedding. Find pictures of wedding parties that look like yours and that happen in locations like yours. For example if your wedding is in a castle yet your Pinterest board is filled with weddings in tropical locations it might be a little hard to duplicate the look and feel you want.

Now formals, even simple ones, take some time. Arranging the couple and anyone else properly as well as lighting them, takes effort. While it represents a moment in time pictures like the one below represent can about 15 minutes work to get it just right. So how many formals you can actually do in a certain amount of timereally depends on what you want to do and how complicated that is.

All about that momentAll about that momentAll about that moment

Remember the greater majority of your pictures (maybe as much as 50% of them) may not contain you or your beloved. Especially if you have a second photographer. So how playful and engaging is your group of guests? How willing to have their picture taken are they? How cooperative are they? Groups who just want you to take the picture and go away really produce fewer pictures. Groups who don’t mind you taking a picture will produce a few more. But groups who are there for it, who love a good picture opportunity? They produce tons and tons of usable pictures.

So the random nature of the your chosen formals and how you guests interact with each other really determines how many usable pictures you end up with. We will give you one copy of every picture that has you or your intended in focus as well as any guest in focus. That typically averages between 500 (the fewest we’ve ever delivered)  and 2,200 (the most we’ve ever delivered) pictures. 

Q: Do you have insurance?

Most couples don’t know this but every contractor you hire is typically required by your ceremony and reception sites to have liability insurance. If you bring in a contractor that doesn’t have insurance and they break something (a stained glass window perhaps) who do you think is on the hook to replace it if they don’t? The newlyweds.

Typically most facilitates in the state of Alabama (and indeed in the greater US) require at least $1,000,000 in liability insurance. Because of the nature of some of the events that we shoot we carry $10,000,000.

Q: What rights do can have when it comes to our pictures?

People often ask can we have full copyright to the images from their wedding without really understanding what that phrase means. So to tackle this question I think it’s helpful if we discuss what copyright is, who has it and how it works.

Copyright simply is a fancy way of saying who owns the picture. The laws of the United States say that the person who owns the camera owns the picture, with the exception being if you are contracted “for hire.” For hire is a very legal specific state and we do not work for hire, most wedding photographers don’t.

If you own the copyright you own the picture. Not only can you do whatever you like with it, you can also prohibit others from doing anything with it. 

If you own the copyright you can grant people a license to use the picture in any way you like. People think they want to own the copyright but there are really only a few pretty specific reasons you would need to own the copyright:

  • If you are going to use the pictures from your wedding in some commercial way. For example if you are going to write a book about wedding planning and you want to use your wedding pictures on the cover or in the book you’d want full copyright.
  • If you are an extremely private person and don’t want someone using your pictures in their portfolio. For example I’ve shot a number of celebrity weddings and most celebrities require full copyright of their wedding pictures. Think Madonna or Tom Cruise.
  • If you want to be sure they will never sell the rights to your pictures. We never have and wouldn't sell them.

Why would you not pursue full copyright? Because it’s expensive. We start at $3,000 for full copyright and I know several photographers that won’t touch your event for less than $10,000 for full copyright. And even at $3,000 for full copyright we require you grant us a promotional license to use you pictures in our portfolio.

So how do you get the rights to use your pictures? Well at Eleven 11 Photography we include a personal use license with your purchase. So any photographs you get you can print them to your heart’s desire, use them in social media and online etc. You just can’t see them or use them on or in something you sell.

Q: How do we communicate what pictures we'd like?

Our process is to ask you which pictures you are interested in. We start by surveying your sites and giving you any recommendations for how to best take advantage of the site. Then we provide you a list with options to plan your formals. We also accept any suggestions you have via pictures or description of the kinds of pictures you want to take. In fact, if you are game, we can create any picture and/or feeling you want by building a set at your location.

We want the process to be organic and unforced. We are happy to duplicate any picture you like but we do believe that you get the best and most rewarding pictures by finding the connection between what you like about a picture and whats unique about the combination of the two of you, your location and your chosen photographer. We are happy to copy a picture, but why not create the picture that everyone copies instead?

Q: How do we work with you on our budget?

There is nothing more rewarding than working with a couple who WANTS to work with you. Those pictures are always transcendent and special. Don’t get me wrong I’m happy to take pictures of all the little things in you day but I’m always hoping for an opportunity to create a jaw dropping, breath taking picture and those opportunities always seem to be plentiful with a couple that really is excited about choosing you.

We get that you have fiscal constraints and if you select us then we will put our heads together with you to come up with a package that you can afford and yet still lets us be able to keep the lights on and put food on the table.

Beautiful bride on her wedding day!Beautiful bride on her wedding day!Beautiful bride on her wedding day

Q: How do you handle emergencies on our wedding day?

This isn’t a question about little emergencies like we need to to move cutting the cake from 8:30 to 8:22. This is a question about big emergencies like what if a photographer falls out of a balcony and breaks a camera. Or a leg. Or has an accident on the way.

To start with we put a back up photographer team in place for every wedding we shoot. They drive separately and will begin coverage should something happen to your primary team. And as far as equipment we always commit double the equipment to every event. So four cameras, 8 lights, 12 lenses. We bring that to every event. Falling and dropping a piece of equipment will cause a momentary bump in your coverage but it will be small.

Hopefully you found some questions here that are useful for you. See you next week.


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