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. #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 🙂

  2. 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”.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. 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 😀

  9. 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 🙂

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