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

Updated Mar 3 2020
Guest post by Mike Allebach  
Photos 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!


  1. I recently got married and just got my wedding photos. Unfortunately, I have a double chin in most of our portraits :(! My advice to everyone seeking a wedding photographer is to pick one who is TALLER than you. That may sound silly but we had two photographers and 1 of the 2 was taller and photos that person took looked better than the ones the shorter photographer took. It's all about the angle, truly.

  2. Great article! Very good point on #7, definitely print!! Number 9 especially is brilliant! Less about the buzz word and pre conceived notions, and more focus on the photographer's storytelling ability makes a good match.

  3. Thx for this great article. As wedding photographers in South Africa I can agree that woking well with your couple on the day not only creates a great vibe but is a definite creative boost while working on their weddings.

  4. We were looking for a wedding photographer in June in Boston. We visited wedgo.net site and leave a request. A day later we received a response from the 3 photographers! We looked at the portfolio and choose one photographer! Everything was very cool! Good equipment, accessories. We are happy that we have the best pictures from our wedding! It was not very expensive but professionally!

  5. I agree with you in the fact that most people underestimate how long it really takes to take and edit wedding photos. I recently took a photography class at my university and sometimes it would take around an hour to edit a photo to get the results I was looking for. It not as easy as taking out an iPhone and adding a filter, and I wish more people knew that.

  6. John David Weddings is an award-winning Austin Wedding Photographer for wedding couples seeking romantic and modern wedding photography, bridal photography and engagement photos. If you are looking for the best Austin wedding photographer, look no further! Available for destination wedding photography worldwide.

  7. I agree that it's a good idea to ask your wedding photographer how many photos you should expect to get. I also appreciate you mentioning that some photographers work over 60 hours a week and have thousands of dollars worth of equipment, therefore making each photo shoot somewhat pricey. I also think that once you think you've decided on a photographer for your wedding, set up a time to meet them to make sure that you like them!

    • It makes no difference how many, it's how well the story is captured. It's better to have 400-500 really great photos than 2000 haphazardly snapped and redundant photos.

  8. I do not provide 50-100 images for hour and I am a professional photographer! This is unfair to suggest clients that if a wedding photographer does not provide 50 images is not a pro. Please consider to eliminate such unfair number.

  9. Nice Article about wedding photogrphy. Wedding is a special occasion and this can be memorable only by the photography.

  10. Clients thinking that to wedding photographer is easy job. Post process is most hardest pard of work. And if clients are thinking that takes only couple hours.

  11. I’m getting married by the end of the year, and right now my fiancée and I are looking for wedding photographers. We’re planning to hire one of the London based wedding photographers that my sister recommended, though we’re not that sure if this is the right choice for us. But because of this well-written post, we now have a better idea of how wedding photographers work and how to pick the best one out there. Thanks a lot!

  12. Being a professional wedding photographer myself, I'd just like to add to point number 5. Yes, you're not just paying for the photographer attending on the wedding day itself, but choosing and then editing the photos that best represent your day takes time.

    However, what you're really paying for is the photographer's eye – understanding of composition, light, getting great photos in difficult lighting conditions (whether through the use of natural light or flash), and most of all the ability to be friendly and to get on with everyone at the wedding. This is a people industry, and it's a real honour to be asked to photograph your wedding and mingle with all your family and friends (as well as working hard, of course!)

    I'd also like to add that most couples don't give a flying monkeys how much my gear costs, or whether I photograph their wedding with a top of the range DSLR, point and shoot or smartphone. I don't say to couples, "I'm expensive because I use a Hasselblad. Have you any idea how expensive they are?!" My prices aren't dictated by how much my gear costs (that's my problem, not my clients), but what they're paying for is the quality of my work and my dazzling wit and personality (ahem!) 😀

  13. Insightful! Thanks for putting up this list together! Indeed, this can help both the photographer and engaged couples. As a photographer myself, I too often get questions why the service is a bit expensive, and you couldn't have explained it better, perhaps I could borrow this phrase of yours and use it as a script every time I get asked. 😉 Great content and I hope to read more.

  14. Typically, wedding packages are offered at three levels: basic, deluxe, and premium. The first is for the budget-conscious, and can range anywhere from $400 to $1,000. This will cover the basics of the ceremony, plus some before and after shots, candids, preparation, etc – all at the prime location, all taking up somewhere under 250 exposures. Level 2: $800 to $1,200 or $1,500 will generally include pre-ceremony shooting of the bride and groom getting ready (at home or the chapel), bridesmaids, etc, and some of the reception. It will also cover portraits during that time. Running time: 2 to 4 hours, up to 350 exposures. These figures are very general, and some wedding photographers charge way more, and shoot tones of exposures.

    The big kahoonah is the whole day: pre-ceremony, ceremony, and formal portraits including travel to some outdoor park with luscious greenery, many shots of relatives, etc. Could very well include portable studio lighting. Then you're at the reception till the couple leaves… that could be 10 o'clock in the evening! Be prepared to shoot up to 400 exposures or more. The price for such a day of shooting can start from around $1,500 and go as high as three to five thousand, depending on a number of variables such as whether there's a second shooter, custom leather album, etc.

    The majority of wedding photographers fall within these price boundaries, but there are also exceptions… this is just a rough guide. Some photographers (such as myself) simply charge by the hour.

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