Updated: Mar 27, 2022
If you're here, that likely means you're wedding planning, hope to be wedding planning soon, or you love someone who is currently wedding planning. Regardless of which description you fit, CONGRATS! And I'm glad you're here.
Before we get to questions you need to ask your photographer, I'm going to very briefly cover some basic criteria you should consider before you make it to the step of contacting a photographer (or photographers) to get their answers. First is making sure you take a look at their body of work. Look through their wedding portfolio on their website; check out their social media pages; see if they're tagged in other clients' images that you can see. Do you like what you see? Do you want photos that look like that hanging on your walls, being your profile picture, setting it as your lock screen? You can appreciate a photographer's style without wanting it to be the kind of art that is in your home. Second, see if they show up on their social media pages. I mean the photographer him or herself. Are they on IG stories, talking to their clients? Do they post about themselves every once in a while? If they do, you can get a good sense of their personality as well as their editing style. Your photographer is literally with you your entire wedding day, so if you're going to have a perpetual third wheel, let's make sure it's someone you think you would get along with.
I'm asking you to consider these things BEFORE contacting them because I know firsthand how exciting it is to get a wedding inquiry. It is the best feeling, and it immediately improves my day to think that someone found ME and MY work and wanted me to be the person who captures this incredibly special day for them. So if you haven't at least taken a look at their work and social media to know if they're a good fit for you, maybe do that first so you don't leave them disappointed.
NOW onto the actual purpose of this post. You've looked at their work. You have an idea for their personality. It's time to contact them and ask some questions you likely won't find on their website or social media pages. These questions are in no particular order, but I'll give you the question to ask, some things to consider about their answer, and why it's important to ask.
Do you provide a sneak peek and how quickly? You are going to be SO excited to see some of those wedding images as soon as you possibly can after your wedding day! You are going to want to begin reliving every moment as soon as you wake up the morning after. If your photographer promises a sneak peek (usually on social media, so the images are not necessarily in their final form, nor should you download them because the quality will not be high enough to print them) within 24-72 hours of your wedding, you're in good shape. If they don't guarantee a sneak peek, that's not a deal breaker. But it's definitely something to consider.
What is the turnaround time for the complete gallery? Same reasoning as above. You are going to want to see those photos, share those photos, post those photos, print those photos!! Wedding galleries take time because they are a lot of work; your photographer was likely there for many hours, taking hundreds if not thousands of photos. They need time to go through those images, choose the best, and then edit them so that every detail is as perfect as your day was. That said, I've heard horror stories of couples waiting 5, 6, 7 months to see their full galleries. Can you imagine?! I personally guarantee the return of the full gallery within 2 weeks. However, if a photographer says it will be 1-2 months, that doesn't mean they shouldn't still be in the running. I take on fewer weddings per year than a lot of photographers who solely shoot weddings, so I know I can guarantee that turnaround time. If your photographer does nothing besides weddings, their plates are always full with huge galleries to edit, and taking a little extra time to make yours perfect is not a bad thing. But just be aware of this and make sure the time you have to wait is something you are comfortable with.
Are all edited images included? Some photographers will include all the images they edited that fit their personal and professional standards. Others will offer packages that include X amount of images but allow you to purchase more if there are more that you like. This is just something to be aware of when you're booking so you know if there will be the potential for additional costs on the backend. If all images are included, you can also ask on average how many photos per hour of coverage they generally deliver.
Do they offer the option to purchase products (prints, albums, canvases, etc.) through you? Again, this is not a good or bad thing, just something to consider when choosing a photographer. A lot of photographers have relationships with high quality labs where they print their products, and you can benefit from this if it's something they offer. As long as they include a print release, though, you can choose how and where to print your images through another printer.
What is your system for backing up the photos? Weddings happen once. If something happens to your photos between your wedding day and delivery, you want to make sure they are stored in several places so that you do not lose those precious memories. Ideally, your photographer would have 1-2 physical backups (like external HDs) and at least 1 form of cloud-based backup. Plus see the next bullet point.
Do you have a dual slot camera? Again, you don't want to lose those photos. They cannot be replaced. Having a dual slot camera allows your photographer to capture each image on two different memory cards. That way, if one card is corrupted (it's technology - these things happen, and it's not necessary anyone's fault), all of your images are already backed up on a second card.
Is a second shooter an option you offer? The importance of having a second shooter really depends on your wedding. If it's a small wedding, everyone is getting ready at the same location, and the venue is easy to navigate, you might not need a second shooter. But here are some benefits of having one: if you want getting ready photos for both you and your soon-to-be spouse, a second shooter facilitates that; if you want the shot of your spouse seeing you as you walk down the aisle as well as you seeing your spouse at this moment, a second shooter facilitates that; if you want wide-angle shots where you see all the people you love in your beautiful venue watching you declare your love as well as those close-up shots of the intimate moments, a second shooter facilitates that; if you want that epic first kiss shot that includes your family and friends smiling at you as well as the close-up of the smooch, a second shooter facilitates that. There are a lot of benefits. That said, I've photographed weddings where a second shooter would have been a waste, frankly. Discuss your wedding day details with any photographer you are considering, and they should be able to explain why a second shooter would benefit you, or why it's not necessary.
Do you provide timeline assistance? This one is a big one. When deciding how many hours of coverage you want, you should have a photographer who will talk through your timeline with you so that you get everything you want covered without having a lot of downtime for them. Talk through what getting ready photos you want, are you doing a first look with a parent or your fiance, do you want family portraits before or after the ceremony, is there travel required between the ceremony and reception, what events of the reception do you want covered by the photographer, etc. Your photographer can then help you build a timeline, and they will be able to more accurately estimate how long different portions of the day will take based on your answers and your shot list.
And then here's the big thing - if in asking any of these questions, or any other questions you have - you sense the photographer is annoyed with having to answer them, or they're not direct in their answers, or they blow off your questions, think long and hard about whether or not you want to continue your inquiry with this photographer. These are all valid questions, and you deserve to have answers to all of your questions. But on the flip side, please remember that these photographers are excited about each and every inquiry they get, and they wait to hear back from each couple that inquires. So if you decide to go with someone else, that's fine, but don't ghost them. If they check back in with you, and you've gone with someone else, just let them know that. A simple 'we've chosen a photographer, but thank you so much for your time' will do.