12 things wedding photographers want to tell you, but can’t

Guest post by Mike Allebach
 | Photography by Mike Allebach
Wedding photographer secrets as seen on Offbeat Bride
All photos and tips that'll make you jump for joy are from Mike Allebach.

Most wedding magazines will give you a list of questions to ask a wedding photographer. Stuff like: “Can you describe your style? What equipment do you shoot with?”

Let's be real: Those questions are boring. And you probably don't actually care about the answers anyway.

So I surveyed some brides and photography-friends, and put together a list of all those questions you really want to ask, and all those things we really want you to know.

12 questions to ask a photographer

1. How do I pick a good photographer when there are hundreds listed in my area?

First, look for a forum or blog that appeals to your style. Obviously, if you're an Offbeat Bride, you're in the right place — I receive my best clients through the Offbeat Bride Vendor Guide. The photographers listed are both gay-friendly and accustomed to photographing offbeat weddings.

Once you've got a few favorite photographers, narrow it down to a handful of favorites, and set up a time to meet them. Make sure you're meeting with the person who will be wielding the camera at your wedding, not a sales consultant or studio owner. You have to, like, trust and get along with your photographer — that way you can leave the magic of photo making in the photographer's hands. Not only should you like their images, you should also like them! You'll be spending many hours with them during your wedding day.

2. How many photos do I get?

The wedding photographers I surveyed typically deliver 50-100 photos for every hour of coverage they provide. Four hundred photos may seem like a lot, but your wedding photographer is preserving all those little details and the moments you missed while you were mingling.

Wedding photographer secrets as seen on Offbeat Bride

3. I love those photos with the blurry backgrounds. How do you get that look?

You're talking about shallow depth of field. Photographers get that look by using professional lenses that are able to focus tightly on the subject.

4. I found one photographer whose images look soft and pastel, one whose images look clean, and one whose images look like they were shot on old film. What's the deal?

Every photographer has a different way of editing their images using computer software (the high-tech version of a darkroom). This is called “Post-Processing.” Most photographers do some basic lighting and color adjustments, but you can also use editing software to create a unique look. Three popular styles right now are:

  • Clean: lightly processed to appear natural
  • Matte: a low-contrast look with muted pastel colors, similar to vintage film
  • High Contrast: a vibrant look with rich colors that pop

It doesn't matter which style you go with, as long as you love it!

Wedding photographer secrets as seen on Offbeat Bride

5. Why is wedding photography so freakin' expensive?

This is the question I see most from brides on the interwebs. Wedding photography seems like easy money — work for one day and rake in the cash, right? But most full-time wedding photographers I know carry over $15,000 worth of wedding gear and often work 60-hour weeks. (Remember those 800 images from question #2? It takes several full days just to edit those.)

Add insurance, taxes, software, advertising, albums, repair, shipping, and studio expenses, and many photographers end up making less than minimum wage for the first few years of their career.

Wedding photographer secrets as seen on Offbeat Bride

6. How can I make sure I look good in my photos?

Relax. Trust your wedding photographer.

If you're relaxed, it'll come through in your photos.

Leave some breathing room in your schedule so you don't feel rushed — I recommend a minimum 30 minutes for family and wedding party photos, and an hour for the couple portraits.

Oh, and get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water the night before.

Take it easy at the rehearsal dinner. Wedding-day hangovers are not fun.

7. I keep hearing about “shoot and burn” photography. Sounds painful. What is it?

Actually, yeah, it can be kind of painful. “Shoot and burn” is slang for photographing a wedding and burning it straight to CD without post-processing. It's usually super cheap — for a reason. Bad lighting isn't corrected, distracting elements aren't removed (hello, Speedo-clad photobomber!), and zits remain proudly on display.

Digital files may be important to you, but find a full-service photographer who will edit the images and print reference proofs before handing over the digis.

And please, don't let the digitals rot on your hard drive. As a photographer, I want you to proudly display your wedding photos. It makes me sad when I think of all the photos that never get printed. Don't hide your wedding photos! I tell my clients to hang up a large print or two — when you're having a crappy day, it's great to look up in your living room and see a photo of an awesome day.

Wedding photographer secrets as seen on Offbeat Bride

8. Should we do a “first look”? And, um, what the hell is a “first look”?

The first look is a chance for wedding couples to see each other privately before the ceremony. Two-thirds of my clients currently opt to do a first look. It's a great chance to get the wedding jitters out and spend a few minutes alone together. I find that first look photos tend to be some of my favorites. It's a real moment with real emotions.

Honestly, it's also a great way to avoid stress on your wedding day. (Some of my couples even choose to get ready together!) And many of my couples get to enjoy their whole cocktail hour because they got all of the photos out of the way before the wedding.

Wedding photographer secrets as seen on Offbeat Bride

9. Do I really need a second photographer?

No one needs a second photographer, but they can provide you with more images and a different perspective. Many of the top photographers only work with assistants who carry gear and help with professional lighting. The best thing is to ask your wedding photographer to see how they prefer to work. You can get good results either way.

10. How far in advance should I book a wedding photographer?

Many in-demand wedding photographers book weddings at over a year out. As it gets closer to your wedding date, it will be harder to book your first-choice photographer.

If your favorite photographer is unavailable on your date, don't panic. Ask them for recommendations — they may know someone with a similar style and a lighter schedule.

11. You can Photoshop that, right?

It depends. As a photographer, I want to get everything as perfect as possible in camera. Posing, location scouting, and camera settings can “fix” most things before I even click the shutter. If your uncle photobombs you, I'm going to retake the photo — it's much easier to get the photo right than to fix it with Photoshop. Many photographers charge for extensive editing in Photoshop, because it can be very time-consuming.

12. Should I tip my photographer?

I get asked this a lot. There was a great article about tipping on Offbeat Bride. For photographers, “Tips are never expected but are always appreciated.”

Hopefully this clears up some burning questions about wedding photography — and makes it a little bit easier to find the perfect photographer for your wedding day.

Hey photographers, what did we forget to include? Now's the time to divulge all!

 

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Comments on 12 things wedding photographers want to tell you, but can’t

  1. Just wanted to drop you a quick note to let you know how much I love your website and blog… as a photographer I often find that you SAY what I am either thinking, feeling or questioning!
    I look forward to continued reading!!! πŸ™‚

    • I love your artical it’s to the point and very helpful. Since after wedding day if you hate your pictures you can’t do nothing you should consider engagement photoshoot. Its like a rehearsel for the wedding. And t his is also a great way to choose a newbie Photographer. And when I say newbies I mean the person should have some experience in second shooting a wedding, has done a couple portrait and so on. By all means do not hire a person who just picked up a camera.

    • Great post! Want to add that you can even judge a photographers’ work by reading their reviews by real users, seeing some real wedding pictures where they are referred, shortlist them and ask them the questions mentioned above.

  2. Great article Mike! Definitely things we as Wedding Photographer would love to tell our Brides πŸ™‚

  3. Great article! As a wedding photographer myself, most of my clients don’t know to ask these things but I always bring up the majority of these topics in our first consultation meeting.
    Another thing I would add to that list, is if you’re unsure how to set up the time-frame for your wedding day, don’t hesitate to ask your wedding photographer for suggestions! They’ll be able to bring up important points about the lighting and festivity lengths, etc. that the bride wouldn’t have thought of to take into consideration.

  4. One things I’ve noticed a lot in my first couple years of taking wedding photos is girls who show me a photo they want to recreate or do something similar, but forget that a lot of photos they see are circumstantial. For instance, the background in a photo. I can recreate a pose, but that doesn’t mean it will be what you were thinking because the background is so different. Sometimes the lighting is too different to get the same effect as a photo they like. If the photo they like was taken at sunset, it will not look the same if it’s taken at 2:00 in the afternoon.

    • I love the ones that share their pintrest page full of beach and mountain images images when they are in the Midwest getting married in a barn!!

  5. Oooh, I love this article! One thing that can be hard to work around is just what Farren said- the “can you do this?” email with a link to a Pinterest board attached. It’s exactly as Farren said- we don’t know the circumstances behind that image, the relationship between the subjects, what the photographer may or may not have said to evoke such a response, or whether or not the subjects of the photograph are even a real couple (vs. paid models).

  6. I love this article! Thank you for answering a lot of questions my fiancΓ© and I have been wondering for a few months(on top of trying to narrow our search of photographers.) This is wonderfully written and very helpful. Thank you Mike and Offbeat Bride.:)

  7. THANK YOU. Pretty much sums it all up nicely – honestly, I always figured no one cared about what kind of camera you use and what your style is. Look at the portfolio, people! Do you like it? Good, then they are probably a match! πŸ˜‰

    • *blush* I admit I asked these things, but that’s only because I was a photography enthusiast at the time. (Right now I’m having a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to my photo work.) One of the reasons I selected the photographer I did for my wedding was rooted in finding out she used Nikon equipment. Her running with ideas my now-husband and I threw at her was kind of a bonus once I had that equipment info under my belt.

  8. Awesome post Offbeat Bride! Being a bride before I was a photographer, I learned a lot from BOTH ends. I was one of those brides who sent 20 questions to my photographer just because another website told me to. I think an additional point that is very important is to see what an entire gallery looks like (some photographers may hate me for saying this). The reason I suggest this is so that you can see various aspects of the wedding day that may not appear on a photographers blog or website.

  9. #5= amen! Amen, amen, amen, amen!!!!
    I totally understand how people don’t realize the incredible amount of time and cost go into shooting a wedding and it’s totally true; when all is said and done, photogs are lucky if they make minimum wage for the time they put into a wedding.

    Also love the point about meeting and choosing your photographer based on their personality too. I think it’s safe to say most brides will spend more time with their photog on the day of the wedding than anyone else so it’s kind of important that you get along πŸ™‚

  10. I loved this! As a just-starting-out wedding photographer, THIIIIS to all 12.
    Although I think you need a number 13. “That’s just what your face looks like”.

  11. Oh this is absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for sharing. My strongest belief as a photographer; you must enjoy your photographer as a person as well as their work. You spend many hours with them on the most important day of your life.

  12. The smartest question a potential client asked me was “can I see the ENTIRE set of photographs you provided to a couple, not just the ones in your portfolio?” While every wedding is different, this did give them a much better sense of what they’d get.

    • I love showing clients through a full set, especially if it’s from the venue they’re booking. IT gives them great comfort and they’re always surprised at how many family shots and candids there are, which of course never make it to the website.

  13. Second shooters are also some basic insurance against memory card failure. Even a great photographer who does everything right can have technology fail on them. Second shooter means you’ve got a whole ‘nother set of images on different set of memory cards.

    My sister doesn’t have any ceremony photos because of a memory card failure.

    If they don’t have a second shooter, ask if they shoot with two bodies during the ceremony at least.

    • I had one experience of lost half wedding photo, because my (film)camera shutter (2nd curtain) was collapsed. That is all my fault, after that day, I have use 2-3 camera in all weddings and ask my 2nd photographer to do the same. That is the way to prevent lost pictures again. And this way can cover more with the different lenses.

      • Yes, I agree. Not always possible though. I carry my main camera and several memory cards. However, I make sure my back up camera is only as far away as my car. I can’t carry 2 cameras at once, my main camera is heavy enough as it is!

    • Ideally you’d want to have your second card-slot working as a backup – that way you have a built-in redundancy if either of the cards fails.

  14. AWESOME ARTICLE! for reals! guess as a photographer only thing left out would be about unplugged weddings and how guests carrying ipads now can affect our photos especially during ceremony but already sharing away and sharing on our wedding blog page! un-jerseybride

  15. Please oh please oh please consult your photographer regarding your ceremony location of choice. I was approached once by a couple that was excited to be getting married by candlelight only. This makes the pictures turn out WAY different than if it was a standardly lit wedding. So let us know ahead of time so we can prepare ourselves AND you for the type of photos that will come out!

  16. Our photographer is awesome and made a few additional points:
    * Does your photographer expect to get fed at the reception? Ours was up front in the first meeting that he likes to be fed, even if he’s hidden in some backroom at the venue. If they have to leave to grab dinner, the whole time they’re missing potential shots.
    * What happens if they’re sick/hit by the proverbial bus? Ours is part of a professional group who help each other out if one cant make a wedding they’re due to shoot.
    * Assign someone to point out who is who to your photographer. Want photos with Aunt Bethyll? Your photographer wont know what she looks like! Have someone on call to round up people or point them out to the photographer.

    And one more point from me as a groom. Engagement shoots are totally worth it. Going in my partner was concerned about how she looks, she hates photos of herself. We have barely a handful of photos of us as a couple. She loved how our engagement shoot pics look, and how easy our photographer was to work with, and is now 200% more confident the wedding pics will look great. The value of this reassurance far outweighs the financial cost of the engagement shoot for us!

    • THIS to all, Hewey!

      1) the last wedding I went to as a guest, the photographers didn’t eat at all. It’s common here that the venue, if it comes with a catering, prepare them some snacks, moreover if the couple has had to pay extra to have the photographers there (some venues have their own photographers and you have to pay to have YOUR photographer instead). They were pissed off, but it didn’t show during the wedding… the couple was told afterwards.

      2) YES to backup plans!

      3) My sisters and F’s sister will be the ones to get the family for the pics. F and I won’t do it and at least they KNOW everyone.

      And finally, the engagement shots were such a relief for me! I’m very insecure about how I look in pictures, I usually don’t like it at all, and I was scared about me coming up in my wedding pictures with a weird face. My photographer took some absolutely stunning pictures in the engagement shots, we went around our city going to our favourite places (coffee library, comic shop, penthouse bar…) and I just love them. In fact, we used one of them for the invitations πŸ˜€

  17. Hi there, just wanted to comment on your “First Look” idea & say I would highly recommend it. Me & hubs stayed in a hotel together the night before our wedding, practiced our dancing, talked about our vows, checked the rings fitted etc. Then we went for a late-night walk & a drink in an old favourite bar of ours. There was no one I would have rather spent the night before my wedding with than the guy I was marrying in the morning. The pics our fabulous photographer took of us getting ready, him in his shirt & Jedi Knight boxers, me tying his bowtie and us in the taxi together heading down to the venue are some of my favourites. It’s only one day, you want to spend as much of it enjoying things together as you can πŸ™‚

  18. Great article – you did forget to mention though that wedding photographers work is also seasonal (although is expanding) and they give up many of their weekends. There is also work in keeping your website updated time and expense and skills related to that, admin – i.e. answering enquiries, managing bookings, meeting with bride and grooms, keeping up to date with locations (making sure they are building a new toilet block at your favourite park and its hindered by construction). Keeping up date with new software, industry trends, accredited etc is also a part of it… I am sure I could think of more πŸ™‚

  19. Hello I see that question and i to dont know how as a photographer get that pastel colour look, i use a 40D Canon , i offen wonder if its the camera that gives that pastel look?
    would love your help . Rowan Newman from New Zealand

    Matte: a low-contrast look with muted pastel colors, similar to vintage film

    • Most photographers use Lightroom by Adobe or Photoshop by Adobe and custom design presets that give them the look they want. You can buy premade presets/actions with a quick google search of “buy LR presets” or “buy PS actions”. Everything I do is my customized versions of presets.

    • I have my camera set to neutral so the photos come out untouched or changed by the camera. I do any changes in lightroom. I would advise against using effect settings in camera as a beginner and shoot RAW (or equivalent) and neutral.

  20. For what it’s worth – I had a husband/wife photographer for our wedding & they were awesome. The wife was the second shooter & she got photos that were some of my favs that would have been missed otherwise… the husband was able to focus on the processional or the other items at the front while the wife was getting special shots toward the back or other angles of the ceremony… she snuck one shot through the windows at the back of the church – my dad & I were sitting together, waiting for the processional to go through & for it to be our turn… and we were both looking the same direction & smiling/laughing… it was a perfect profile shot of BOTH of us… better than any photo I have of my dad. πŸ™‚ But, we also got a good deal on the whole thing. The second shooter is not always a scam/swindle. πŸ™‚ Just wanted to let you know there are some great reasons out there. πŸ™‚

    • I totally agree with this! While the primary photographer was getting the more standard photos of us coming down the aisle and reading vows, our second shooter was taking reaction shots from our friends and family. There are some truly brilliant photos that make me tear up every time I look at them because I don’t have a single moment that I can recall looking out and seeing people faces. Totally worth every penny for our fairly large celebration.

      • Really depends Larissa. Many photographers start out as second shooters (that’s what I did) so you often find they are working for nothing (students) or they are a husband/wife team so split the money evenly. In which case you shouldn’t expect to pay extra for them. However, some second shooters are photographers in their own right (I often get asked to be a second shooter to support the main photographer at friends weddings) in which case you would expect to pay more. I am personally a single shooter so I cannot give you my prices. But I don’t think it would be really unreasonable to expect to pay an extra 50-75% on top of the single shooter price.

  21. Great article, we had the best photographer, We looked high and low for one, as it was a joke on some area’s, but we found the perfect one, He and his wife were amazing to work with treated the guests wonderful, lined up the normal pics that you have to have because ” Mom said so moments” but then allowed guests to take one after he did, We rave about our photographer, Ben Michalski, loved him. We had a really off beat wedding if that is what it would be called, from guests dancing on tables, as the bride had a few to many drinks,

  22. I think it’s important to ask about the way the photographer works and the process that goes into getting their pictures. At my friend’s wedding last month, the photographer was pretty obnoxious. He was stopping us every five seconds as she was getting ready to look at him for a picture. He repositioned us a lot and said “do it again”. He physically positioned all of us as if we were dolls. He even grabbed my friend by her cheeks, like you would a child, to position her face for a shot. He was very talkative and much too close throughout the day which was a kind of annoying. I assume that not every photographer works this way, but for my wedding, I want to know before I hire someone what I can expect. My friend said she loved his photos and thought he was really nice when they met, but she had no idea he was going to work like that. He told her he’s a photojournalist and would take a lot of candids, but that’s not what happened. Are there questions I can ask to avoid a photographer like this guy for my wedding?

    • I’m so sorry this was how the photographer treated the wedding couple. I don’t touch my couples except for a giant hug at the end of the day.

      As for questions, I would ask “Do you ever touch your clients?”

      • It honestly depends. I find sometimes it helps to physically guide the person (or people!) to where you need them to be. However, I’ve also pinned on boutineers, bustled dresses, fixed hair and smoothed clothes. I think it depends on your client and how you’re touching them. ALWAYS ALWAYS be gentle and respectful!!!

      • I have a strict “no touch” policy with clients, especially with children (I have a child protection policy). If I cannot describe how I want them to pose, I will demonstrate myself. LAST resort is touching but I always ask “do you mind if I…?” Unfortunately I haven’t had the same amount of respect back sometimes, being a woman I often get drunk uncles hitting on me and several times my bum has been pinched! I always ask brides if there’s anyone who gets embarrassing when drunk so I know to avoid them!

    • I think if you had asked an obvious direct question to that photographer, there’s a chance he could fudge the answer, especially when it borders on a topic like touching.

      So I think you have to ask subtle questions. Like, you’re looking through his albums and point to some portraits and ask, “That’s beautiful! How do you get people to pose like that?” [He answers] “But what do you do when they don’t get into the pose you want?” And see if he happens to mention how he sometimes has to physically put his hands on them. Then just encourage him to go on.

  23. This is a great article, and I think these questions are fantastic.

    As a wedding photographer, one thing that couples might want to let the photographer know about is any potential social issues. If certain people can’t be photographed together, or cannot have their photo taken, for whatever reason, let us know. We are on your side!

    Also, if you are camera shy, let us know! It really helps to know when a person is nervous about being on camera. There are lots of things a photographer can do to make you feel more comfortable.

    • Omg! I never thought of this until it happened to me in some extended family portraits. I took a photo of a divorced couple with their grown children (that they wanted) but the step parents hadn’t been invited to the event. When I posted them on FB apparently one of the step parents went livid. Although they signed an agreement to let me post them I still felt bad about it and from now on always include the question “Are there any family dynamics I should know about prior to the event? Divorces, disabilities, etc.”

  24. Thanks for the great article! I would love some advice as a bride-to-be, from photographers and offbeat readers at large.
    Whenever I attend weddings I am annoyed by the photographers getting in the way, being a distraction, and generally being the ones running the show without thought beyond their photos. I get that folks want great pictures, but it just frustrates me trying to find a solution for my own wedding where I won’t get annoyed. What can I do to keep myself sane but still have my groom and family happy with pictures? How can I make the downtime while everyone is waiting for us fun and entertaining? Thanks folks!

    • If u get married in a woodsy area,photographers can kinda hide. I went to wedding where u didn’t see photogs much cuz they were shooting from behind bushes, lilacs etc. they alsi wore all black. You can ask the photographer what they wear too.

      • I’ve seen photographers push brides and grooms too much. What I tell brides & grooms is you have the obligation to communicate with me. I am very good at reading body language, but not perfect.

        To combat this feeling, I try and let couples spend time with each other in a photogenic location, that way I can stand back and take natural photos of them being them.

        Every photographer is different. My two suggestions are be clear in your communication (if things need to speed up or be done let your photographer know) and choose a spot that is photogenic for photos. This way your photograph can stand back and get natural unobtrusive photos.

        I promise every bride I will be an addition to your day. I won’t push you on your wedding day to get perfect photos, I want you to have a good time. If you are up for lots of photos, we’ll do them. If you want a good deal of cocktail hour, we’ll get there for that.

        Scheduling a first look, helps with all of these expectations.

    • Aurora, this is exactly what the photographer was doing at my friend’s wedding, but you said it better than I did. It was like he was running the show and only cared about getting his pictures. My friend kept getting annoyed, especially when she was getting ready, because he kept making us stop to pose for pictures when all she wanted to do was finish getting ready. He made us late for the ceremony because of it and that made everything else late. It seems like he was working against the wedding planner too because I remember a couple of times being told by her to do one thing and then he would tell us to do the opposite. Who are you supposed to listen to at that point? It was very confusing for all of us in the bridal party. By the end of the night, my friend was totally fed up with him. I really want to avoid this aggravation on my wedding day. Is there a way to wrangle in this type of photographer? Obviously we should talk about it at the appointment, but are there questions we can to ask to find out if we’re hiring one of these photographers?

      • Always ask for recent references and call them. You can find out a lot from past brides. Ask if the photographer was more of photojournalistic or if they were doing a lot of posing. Find out how their guest felt about them.

        Once you get the references, check the photographers facebook & blog to see if they shot within the last year to 18 months. If at least 1 or 2 of them are not within that time frame, it would give me reason to wonder why they are not using more current wedding couples in their references.

  25. This is a great post and very insightful for brides and its useful to keep these points in mind when booking a photographer

  26. Great article!

    On the point of second shooters, I would advise brides to find out what sort of experience the second has. Husband and wife teams often make the best type of dual-shooter situation. I shoot alone most of the time because I find most photographers who are worth their salt are a) already shooting a gig on a prime Saturday date or b) are going to cost the couple quite a bit extra. I know a lot of photographers sell a second shooter option and bring in people who are completely inexperienced. I would rather shoot alone than have a hack there shadowing me. Also, two photographers will be more of a presence and can lend a paparazzi-type feel to an event, especially smaller, more intimate affairs. The obtrusiveness of the situation is something to consider!

  27. On our wedding day a few years back, one of our biggest frustrations was when our photographer decided to change plans at the last minute. Because it was a particularly hot afternoon, she chose to delay the wedding party shots until later in the evening, during the reception. About 90 minutes into the reception, after our meal and first dances, she rounded up my wife and I, along with our bridesmaids and groomsmen, and took us outside for a few shots. First we did group shots, and then shots of just the two of us. By the time we got back to the reception, at least half of our guests had left! Our leaving the building had disrupted the momentum of the reception, and we felt like we had lost part of the evening that we could never get back.

    This bothered us for a long time, but eventually we found the silver lining: one of our favorite shots of the day came from when we left the reception. It was a candid shot of us and our friends that could not have been possible at any other time. It’s one of the few photos that made it to a frame and onto our wall. Still, at the time, leaving during the reception midway was too disruptive, and we felt like our photographer had overstepped her bounds in altering our schedule at the last minute. So, the moral of the story that I always try to pass on is to be assertive with your photographer when it comes to your wants and needs. While their expertise should be trusted, it’s also important to stand your ground with the plans you’ve agreed to. Except for the one great shot, the photos we got from that evening were not worth the time we missed with our families and friends. Plus, with half the guests gone by the time we got back, the dollar dance was much less lucrative!

    Anyway, thanks for the great post! I’m always on the look out for helpful articles like these to pass on to soon-to-be newlyweds to help them learn from our own mistakes, so I’ll be sure to file this one away for later. Here’s another one that I often reference: http://www.iwenexposures.com/blog/how-to-hire-the-perfect-wedding-photographer/ Similar to the questions in the post above, it includes some additional questions to ask prospective wedding photographers to get an idea of their experience and professionalism — very helpful for when you get to the “interview” stage of your search.

    • Sounds like your photographer did the right thing. The “particularly hot afternoon” would have made for even worse pictures than you think. Sweaty faces, squinty eyes, pit stains, the list goes on. In fact, I have been in situations during hot days where my equipment overheats and back-up equipment has to be used.

  28. Edited to add the disclaimer that I am also a wedding photographer πŸ™‚

    This is a great article!!! And the comments are also great, especially Farren’s point about recreating Pinterest photos.

    The best piece of advice I received while searching for my own wedding photographer was to look at photos from weddings with similar settings as my own.

    It’s easy to be drawn to a photographer whose portfolio is full of beautiful outdoor wedding photos, but if your whole wedding will be inside, you should be sure to look for photos that are inside – if not at your same venue, then at a similar kind of venue. Country club, ballroom, churches… try to look at (at LEAST) one full set of delivered photos to a client from the last 6-12 months. The more recent, the better of an idea you’ll get for how a finished set looks.

    Also, if you know any former clients of the photographer (ideally ones within the last year — businesses can evolve and improve drastically over time), don’t be afraid to chat with them about their experience. This can help alleviate any concerns about rude/obtrusive photographers — or, at least, help you to avoid working with someone who might end up being a huge headache!

  29. Great article, I am also a wedding photographer and agree with a lot of what the others above have posted. I can add that a prospective client should always ask if their photographer has or will bring multiple camera bodies to the wedding. Having two bodies is just a must have in my opinion, in case there is any kind of mechanical failure in one of the two bodies. God forbid a camera breaks on the day of the wedding and he/she can’t complete the job!

    Also, I can’t express how important it is to feed your photographer. It’s in my contract to have the time to sit down at some point (usually when everyone is having dinner) to eat myself. It’s no fun shooting for 12 hours with no food, and honestly a little inhumane. Even if this means I scarf my food down in less than five minutes, nourishment to continue the evening is essential.

    @Aurora – I think you should ask prospective photographers how they work when you interview them. I always go over this during the initial consultation with clients. I make a point to tell them that I don’t like to be the center of attention ESPECIALLY during the ceremony. There is a fine line between getting the shot and actually being a distraction. If I am in the aisle, I’m crouched down. If I’m walking around, I’m quiet and respectful. You might want to consider just one photographer as opposed to two if you are worried about it. A good way to keep your family and bridal party happy is to do the First Look and get the photos over with before the ceremony so that you are all free to enjoy cocktail hour when the time comes. I highly recommend it!

    I also agree that resourcing the right photographer through referrals from friends is a great way to go…they can tell you directly about their experience whether it be good or bad.

  30. Another thing I would recommend is Do Not offer throwaway cameras, and expect different photos. They will all be taking the same shots you offer them (just different angles). My step-daughter did this and was disappointed. I dunno what she expected; don’t do it.

  31. Great article. However, the term “shoot and burner” is not really used as you described. When photogs refer to shoot and burners, it’s generally used as a pejorative term to describe a newbie photog who is under cutting the competition by providing nothing more than time and a disk of images. The images are generally post processed. These photogs don’t provide the full list of photographic services that true professionals provide…products such as prints, canvas, albums, knowledge and use of off camera lighting, the use of second photogs and assistants, professional websites, professional branding, etc. It might be true that some shoot and burners don’t edit…but generally even the most newbie photog understands the need to post process…in fact, many newbies have a far advanced knowledge of Photoshop and Lightroom techniques than their full time counterparts.

  32. ahhhhhhhhhhhh it was pretty refreshing to read this…as a photog myself…and talking to many couples about their wants/needs….no one really asks me how easy/hard this life is to present and have emotion about the art i create and capture. It is always a pleasure to work with amazing peoples…and the few that have tipped me sent me over the moon with smiles! Really liked this post. πŸ™‚ You can never ask enough questions…and i love love love the tip about “who do you WANT to spend HOURS with on your day!!??!!”….i’ve met some serious downers in my life! If you can’t have fun and laugh….ya might as well throw a dark cloud in the room…be sure to connect with someone on all levels that you desire! best of love to you all! <3 yay.

  33. Really great info. I love sharing articles like this that share more of a vendors point of view. The people who make those ridiculous wedding checklists should just use this as a resource.

  34. You sort of touch on tipping your photographer, but what about also getting them a small thank-you gift (bottle of wine, really cool trinket, etc.)?

    • I think that is wonderful. I love when couples offer me something at the end of the night. Again, I don’t expect anything as I have already been paid, so a little extra is always awesome.

  35. Thanks for writing so many of the things that I want to tell potential clients and clients. And one that sticks out the most is, “You can just photoshop that.” Ummmmmm ya, for a fee. Like you said, I like to get it right in camera, but when people want me to do this, that and the other using photoshop, I have to put my foot down. Btw, love you blog.

  36. I guess this is a little unusual, but there’s a photographer in my family(-ish) who was doing a wedding for a family friend, so the couple and the photographer organised between them that a couple of guests who were the bride’s close friends came to the photographer for a special lesson a week or so before the wedding, then acted as “seconds” for the photographer. I didn’t go to the wedding but apparently they didn’t get in the way, just took photos of the friends at certain sections of the evening, gave the photographer a break etc.

  37. Great tips. I frequently hear ‘why is everyone so expensive’ when this guy will do my wedding for a fraction of the cost. It’s important to remember that there’s a lot of pre and post production which is included in the price beyond the wedding. On top of this, professional photographers need to maintain and update their kit. But most of all it’s the years of professional experience which help ensure clients’ satisfaction. The budget operators just don’t invest this sort of time or money and their clients can’t expect the same sort of results.

  38. Good article and sure wedding photographers will help us & guide us, so don’t hesitate to ask for suggestions in your main occasions.

  39. Very interesting article and I agree with pretty much all of it. Especially liking your photographer – it’d be a very long and even more emotional day if we hated each other!

  40. This is all very useful information, thank you Mike and the commenters!

    I was originally somewhat dismissive about having a “first look”, and Groomy thought it a little odd to have photos of us as a couple before we were married. However, after hearing what you have said (esp re: missing part of your reception for photos!) I’m really warming to it. Plus, we’re having a fairly bombastic processional, so it’d be nice to have a quieter, more emotional first look.

    Another two penneth worth on “liking your photographer”. We nearly booked with a p’grapher who was local, reasonable fees and lovely pics. It was only when we were discussing the contract that we started to clash, and we discovered he was very rigid and humourless. We’ve since booked with another chap who simply *gets* us, embraces the offbeat aspects, and makes us laugh. We didn’t know what was appropriate or usual for professional photographers! I’m so so pleased we didn’t go ahead with the first chap, it would have been such a huge error.

  41. The 2nd to last photo? A friend of mine and his wife. She is stunningly beautiful like that ALL the time and they really are that much fun <3

  42. Question: What to do if I really dislike my wedding photos? I’ve stepped away from them for a few months and come back and I still hate them. I’ve shown them to family and friends and they all think they aren’t very good either…I hired a professional photographer (who is a friend from high school and from his other work I’ve seen I thought he takes beautiful photos) and second shooter (who was a friend of his and does commercial shoots). Out of 800 photos I only like about 10. It infuriates me that I paid so much money and got mediocre to bad photos that aren’t even edited. It’s awkward because he is an old friend, granted one I don’t see much anymore but still. We also paid to fly him into town and put him up in a hotel for 3 days! I know that I more than likely can’t get any money back but should I say something for peace of mind or let it go? Please help! Argh!

    • I’m not sure if you’ll ever see my comment here, but as a photog – i would want to hear the feedback and clearly communicate your thoughts on the results. If they are not edited – perhaps they could make it right by making the PICS right? I guess depending on how serious they are (bad) – either by quality? or posing? It breaks my heart to read this and saw it on the other post too. πŸ™ Let me know if there is anything I could do on a few of them? Otherwise, I would totall speak up about it. You don’t get to have a do-over of your day! All the best.

    • I’m primarily a commercial and landscape photographer, but do weddings on request. If your images are unedited, there may be some hope…
      Not much can be done about bad posing or lighting, but advanced Photoshop (and other software) techniques may help, especially if the original images are available in a RAW or .tif format. I’m considered very experienced in post-processing procedures and would be glad to help, if I can. No charge of any kind.
      I hate to see this happen. If you’re willing I’m at wayne(underscore)emeryATmsn(dot).com

  43. Great article. I’ve been shooting weddings for over 10 years and agree with all your points.

  44. That’s one thing I’m not worried about–our photographer is a very good friend who has been doing this professionally (and for fun) for years in the cosplay scene. Even though there’s a 40% chance of rain this weekend, I know he will still make these pictures look good–and this is his gift to us!

    I’m just feeling super blessed right now. 5 days to go.

    Incidentally, I’m still newbish to this site–why can’t I figure out where to sign in?

  45. Really a great article. You write with a flair. It reads well. Is informative. Photos you put in are great. Loved it. You inspire me to blog more frequently. Thank you.

  46. thank you for posting, definitely reposting. one day i might make a blog post too, but you make it too easy to just repost it. everyone is thinking it but don’t know how to say it or time to post it. mahalos!

  47. I’m a pro photographer, I “SHOOT & BURN” for all my clients. HOWEVER, I edit, color correct, crop , & defuse photobombs! I deliver in 48 hrs. In this era of digi photo many of my clients want insto images to post ala social media or post to the family members that could not make the event. I give Hi-res print ready files & low res files web ready. So for all you engageies out there be sure to ask the photog you have in mind their definition of “SHOOT & BURN”.

    • Good point.
      Some couples have a very limited budget, others not so much. Even when I am asked to only provide digital images on DVD, I, too, make sure there are high res files suitable for enlargement to 16×20 and low res files suitable for the web. Some simply prefer to choose final prints/albums later, as their budget only goes so far. Some have the resources and budget to spend many thousands for multiple albums, large dispaly canvases and even pay to fly me to the location.

      ALL of these poeple will be having a very important day, regardless of budget, and my obligation remains the same; to mke images with emotional impact. Even when a client can only budget for digital files, I still give them some bery nice prints of the most important images as a surprise gift. Why not, I’m excited about the work, too!

      • I’m actually looking for a newer photographer who shoots and burns, as I am on a budget, don’t mind giving a newer photog a chance, and have done paid shoots myself and can post process if needed. Where do such photographers look for gigs or post their info? Google seems to only pull up the super established pros.
        Thanks!

  48. I’m a pro wedding photog & I’ve heard people say ” Why is wedding photography so freakin expensive?” Beyond the cost of equipment, back up equipment, insurance, assistants, travel, commissions paid out to those who got you the gig, 7-8 hours post shoot production, is the one thing most all engageies over look……….the fact that your photographer has one take, one shot ,one chance to get this right, no second takes. And, we have all types of bombs going off around us. Weather Conditions for which we have no control over. Late make up professionals, Late Limos…….limos breaking down, flowers missing, Location permits the best man forgot, Religious rules, ball breaking Maitre d’s, family members in your way taking photos while you are trying to get that one special shot. Then there’s my favorite, Uncle Joe who has a garage sale camera & wants to pick your brains & teach him what you do for a living while you’re doing it! SO the reason wedding photography is so freakin expensive is because a true pro can get past all of that, shoot 800-1000 shots with 5 bad ones in a 10-12 hour time span & still freeze time in ONE TAKE & make it mean something.

  49. A “FIRST LOOK” is key to a stress free wedding. With proper planning you can have all the important photos done in a timely fashion, prior to your ceremony. A “FIRST LOOK” will also enable you to enjoy the cocktail hour & every minute of your party without being pulled out for important photos. All photos after the ceremony will be party pix!

  50. One note on #9 that might be worth adding:

    A second photographer can be great for the ceremony and reception, when you and your guests aren’t supposed to be focusing on them. It doubles the coverage and, as others have noted, provides some backup in case of equipment failure. However, be very careful with a second photographer at the posed photos of the wedding party and family. Our photographer was amazing, overall, and so was her assistant. That said, you can see in several of those posed shots that it wasn’t always clear which camera to look at. Half the group is looking at the camera, while the other half is looking off camera.

  51. Excellent post Mike, thanks a lot. These are the questions that the savvy brides and grooms are asking. ‘Most’ people will get married once so will not know much about wedding photographers or photography. More education is always helpful to ensure they get the photography they will love and have no regrets.

  52. We were literally JUST interviewed by a potential client and left with a bad taste in our mouths! Why? None of those questions put her mind at ease and made her feel confident that she’d get beautiful photography on her wedding day! This is so helpful!

  53. So, we’re always seeing pages saying to get examples of their work… But what if you’re plus sized and beautiful and the photographer’s website that you fell in love with doesn’t have one bride over a size 10 in the gallery? Does that mean they don’t photograph thick people well or they don’t like to do it? What gives, photographers, on ignoring 50% of the American population (based on polls)? I just want to see wonderful, stunning thick ladies and dudes rocking their wedding days. Why are they so scarce? We get married too!

      • Thanks Ariel! That really was a spot-on post! Hopefully, more photographers will move toward diversity! I’m a small budget bride but I plan to splurge on a great photographer (when I find one that fits our moderately offbeat needs and who can still capture me as a smoking hot plus sized bride). If any other Tribe members are reading this and you know some cool photographers in the Deep South (Mississippi, preferably), let me know. I’ve already considered out of state photographers as an option.

    • Raspberry Mama!

      GREAT question! Most professional photographers (I are one) create portfolios or web sites that show what many will consider to be “beautiful” people. The result is that those of us who are a little (or a lot) thin, heavy, short, tall, whatever get left out. It’s a sad but accurate reflection of what SOME in society consider “beautiful”.
      I’ve found it very useful to use ordinary folks of all dimensions, colors and orientations in my portfolios and PROUDLY. It’s life, it’s real and it’s what MOST of my potential clients look like. And I’m overweight, too! It is MY job to make people look as becoming as possible.

      A BIG part of meeting with the photographer for the first time is to see how you “fit” psychologically. I used to think that ALL people are beautiful inside, but I’ve found that isn’t necessarily so. Just as all brides want to avoid a photographer who is going to be commandeering and unnecessarily intrusive, I wish to avoid those who constantly make impossible demands, like wanting beautiful soft-light portraits but don’t want to be bothered to be posed in good light in any way, shape or form. Or insist on not moving out of harsh sunlight, but want a nice pastel, back-lit look with out-of-focus foliage in the background. Unreasonable expectations lead to me ending the interview, courteously, and letting the bride find a different victim. This is hard work that has demanded many years of skill development, but does not give us the ability to perform miracles. My goal is to make people happy, but some folks are just not happy to begin with. Don’t need it.

      IMO, it’s about story-telling, starting with an “engagement” session in beautiful surroundings of the couple’s choice. It’s my job to find or create the best lighting and GUIDE people into appropriate poses. It CAN be fun, and the best shots often come in between the poses (shhh, that’s a secret!). This session gives the couple and the photographer a chance to get to know each other and lets the couple see how the photographer works with them. If they’re not happy, they can terminate the relationship there. Hint: Schedule your “engagement” session at least 6 weeks before your wedding.
      The “First Look” is usually met with resistance by couples (and parents!), but it certainly has advantages and helps to preserve the dignity and coherence of the actual wedding day. It also insures we get beautiful images of both bride and groom without the stress of worrying about guests being held up, etc. Once we have those images “in the bag”, we can spend our time doing journalistic work on the big day with the bride and groom relaxing about having great shots already done. No need to be intrusive at all.

      The only thing else constructive I might throw in to this MOST excellent blog is to re-iterate that someone MUST control the guests getting in the way of the professional. There’s only ONE chance for some of these shots and there is nothing more infuriating than having well intentioned guests crowding in front of you for recessional shots or the first dance. I’ve addressed in my contract that if that occurs I won’t be responsible for the album lacking that shot. Thankfully, some DJ’s will make an announcement asking for guests to hold back a little, I’m very grateful for that.

      • Thanks for responding! Photographers like you are sooooo hard to find. You’d think living in the fattest state in the American union, there’d be more Mississippi photographers willing to have plus sized brides on their sites!

    • Funny that you wrote this. We just booked our photographer (Dennis Pike, an OffBeat Vendor) and we had asked him to show us 2 full deliveries shot with only him and no 2nd shooter. We didn’t give any other criteria.

      One of them, surely enough, was an incredibly gorgeous wedding with a bride who would probably be considered “thick” and was also petite and wearing the funkiest, most different ensemble I’ve seen. And we loved that! The fact that he didn’t immediately think to send us your standard catering hall/model-thin bride/12-person bridal party (not that I don’t love all of those things too) photoshoot said a lot about what he finds important in a wedding. And in this case, it was a couple that was clearly so in love, surrounded by their most important people, and having an awesome party!

  54. Weddings are still acknowledged formal events and this sort of wedding photography has stood the test of time. With watchful lighting and master posturing conventional wedding photography makes a flawless record of your family assembling. An exceptional photographic artist will have the capacity to work rapidly and have the ability to comfort individuals to guarantee the posturing doesn’t look uncomfortable.

  55. Yes, “how many photos do I get?” I average 80 per hour and if the client seems disappointed at that number, I point out that’s a photo every 45 seconds. If you need more coverage than that, you want unedited raw video, not photographs. πŸ˜‰

  56. Wow. Some really great comments. Learned a lot. I usually post process photos even if the client is on a limited budget. And I include at least an 8×8 wedding album in all my packages.

  57. I’ve seen the most beautiful locations shot by horrible photographers. The pictures look like crap. I’ve seen the most plain and unphotogenic locations shot by amazing photographers and the results…. amazing images.

  58. As a wedding photographer I couldn’t agree more with the all the things you wrote. I couldn’t say it better, so thank you for that! πŸ™‚

  59. Number 3 is is both right and wrong. Yes shallow depth if feild is obtained by using profesional equipment, but not tightly focusing. It easier whith a lens with a long focal length, but is controled with your F-stop and shutter speed.

  60. Fantastic article! I always post your articles for my couples to read. My only input is on the first glance photos, I find very often that the couple may be too nervous to be relaxed. They eliminate the nerves of seeing each other..but usully the nerves stem from having a large party go off without flaw or going down the aisle with 200 people staring at you. I find they tend to be way more relaxed and romantic after the hard part of the ceremony is over. But I always talk with my couple and let them choose what works best for them.

  61. Rmemeber, as a wedding photographer, if I hire a second photographer I have to pay them plus insure them with liability. All those cost have to be reflected in what I charge you.

  62. Great article & comments. As a bride, I’d like to add some tips I wish I had known prior to my wedding.
    1)Have a back up indoor location in mind to take your pictures on your wedding day. Mother Nature does not always cooperate. (It rained on my wedding day and we settled for pics inside the church).
    2) ask what happens in case of last minute staffing issues. I got a phone call from the photo studio owner the night before my wedding that due to illness, one of his staff could not make it to a destination wedding, so he had to fill in…hence leaving me with Joe Blow to fill in in his absence. The guy was visibly unhappy to be there and did the bare minimum of creative unposed shots, which I did not find out about until after the fact.
    3) Find out ahead of time if the photo location requires a permit. If so, discuss if you or photographer will obtain the permit. As you can probably guess…my cranky photog substitute called me the morning OF the wedding asking if I had the permit. I said “What permit?!” So even if it had been a sunny day, we still would’ve been unable to use the beautiful university grounds for pics because the studio owner either never got the permit or never informed me to get it.
    I will definitely share this article. I wish I had seen it before I chose my photo studio. Thanks for the great tips!

  63. Great piece well written but I especially like the idea of the “First Look” shots. I do hope that trend can make it over to the UK soon.

  64. The other thing I’d like to add the cake & the dress don’t last long as the dress is worn for 1day and the cake is eaten.
    Expect to spend Β£1300 minimum on your photographer.
    Feed them and supply them with a list of what photos you want a go to person to round up people and if their is family politics make the photographer aware of it so they can avoid foot in mouth moments and angry guests.

    Also pay timely and don’t expect your photographer to mind read tell them what you want and inform them if your having a coloured dress etc as if you have a red venue & dress we need to compensate for it so you look amazing.

    Also don’t expect David Bailey or Lisa Devlin for Β£400 you do to a great degree get what you pay for so be aware that a Β£18-25000 wedding spending Β£400 on your photos could lead to tears

  65. YES!!! This article is fantastic! The whole universe should read it. Thank you for it!

  66. Oh, thank you. wonderfully said! I actually may have commented on this before but ‘found’ it again and just had to say if I did not- awesomeness~

  67. Yes! 100% yes!
    Loved reading this and shared instantly. I’ve been thinking about a FAQ or tips for getting the best out of your wedding photography for a while now so it’s great to hear all your research in this area.
    Only one thing to add in regard to the high expense associated with wedding photography: Physical exhaustion! Whilst my clients rarely comment on my prices they do often acknowledge how physically hard I have worked after an 8/9 hour day, often running, always on my feet, climbing ladders/trees/outbuildings for group shots and crawling about in the floor for that gorgeous angle that I just have to have! I’m a lone shooter so there is defiantly more pressure to get everything but by the end of the day both I and my clients always feel I earned the money.

  68. I love this! You have a lot of fabulous points that I kept in mind when looking for my photographer, but I just wasn’t willing to compromise on quality or coverage. Instead I looked outside my geographical box. Photographers charge different amounts depending on where they are located. Good photogs in my area are upwards of $6,000 for full day coverage. I looked a few states away and found a photographer that started at less than half that price. I was able to fly her up to me and cover her travel costs PLUS get amazing photos for the lower end of my budget. The other thing I compromised on was no album. With all the great companies out there I was able to design a gorgeous high quality album myself with ease.

    Thanks for another great post!

      • Well, it’s been a few years, but I created/ordered mine from adoramapix.com. It was a hard cover book (not leather, as leather isn’t really our thing when it comes to photos). Including tax and what not (but before calculating a site promotion running at the time), it was just over $100 for a 10×10 album with 50 pages. I still flip through my album from time to time, and it has held up very well.

  69. Ask if they shoot raw. While I want to get everything right when I take the shot, I still shoot raw so I have as much detail and can fix white balance issues much more easily or make those fixes possible post shoot.

    It’s a case of – why wouldn’t you? And suggests a photographer who isn’t planning to do post work – why would you lose information and work on a JPEG, only to open that JPEG work on it and then decompress it again and lose more information.

  70. I reallyIke the advice you had to offer in this article. I wanted to add a small note. My friend made sure that she had an extra meal for the photographer and I thought that was a wonderful thing to do. I never would have thought to do that.

  71. There are truly a lot of questions that we need to ask a wedding photographer before actually hiring one. Planning on what questions to ask is very important to be able to save time. The best wedding photographer in Toronto I know always makes it a point that he allows all his clients to ask pertinent questions and make suggestions about what their preferences are with regards to their wedding photos. A professional photo grapher should always be honest about his opinion. One of the most common questions that is really difficult to answer is why wedding photography services are too extravagant; well the wedding photographer should be able to market his talentrs and his professional portfolio to convince his clients that he truly deserves to be paid such professional fee. http://www.focusproduction.ca

  72. Excellent article. I like the style and the sense of humor to convey the points. I like wedding photographer myself sometimes feel that many togs throw terminology and confuse the clients. The regular bride doesn’t have a clue about “depth of field” and “golden hour”. I like you explained the points in plain language and the way everyday person can understand. Keep up the good work.

  73. It’s always difficult to convey exactly what you’re able to deliver as a photographer in a first meeting with a prospective couple, but these points are all really helpful, and can help diffuse some of the jargon around what we do. I’ll try and incorporate answers to these questions in future consultations πŸ™‚

  74. Thanks for another informative blog. The place else could I get that kind of information written in such a perfect means? I’ve a project that I’m simply now working on, and I’ve been on the glance out for such info.

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