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!

 

Offbeat Bride Vendor

This post features vendors from our curated Offbeat Bride Wedding Vendor Directory. They're awesome and we love them.

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!!! 🙂

    • 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 🙂

  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.

  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 fiancé 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! 😉

    • *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.

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