Before any couple can exchange vows, they have to answer a series of important questions. The obvious cliffhanger, "Will you marry me?" only leads to even more decisions about deciding a date, choosing a location, and everything in between. And while most of these questions can be answered with the help of a partner or a group of loved ones, there's one that's usually up to a relative stranger to contend with: What's it all going to look like when it's over?
Couples entrust wedding photographers to capture moments for future memories, and choosing someone who will do so according to their tastes may be one of the most integral choices of the whole occasion. That's why we asked Jenny Smith, a Los Angeles–based wedding photographer and owner of Jenny Smith and Co., to give us sample questions couples can use when they're interviewing ahead of the big day. This list of dos and don'ts are intended to instill confidence on either side of the lens so that everyone can arrive at a comfortable solution.
7 Questions You Should Ask:
Can I see a full gallery of images?
"Any photographer can pull the best image from each wedding together into a portfolio, but you need to make sure a whole gallery—one that's delivered to a real client—is of great quality," Smith says. According to her, it should be a mix of posed and candid shots of every aspect of the wedding.
How do you like to schedule a wedding day?
"Our number one goal as photographers is to give our clients the best experience, and that is done entirely with a timeline," Smith says. "If we have too much time or too little time allotted, it can get either very boring or very stressful." Smith recommends that the photographer gives you a good idea of a typical plan that outlines an agreed-upon schedule. There should be enough time to take posed photos and other arrangements without making the rest of the day's events feel rushed.
What's your favorite part of the wedding day to shoot?
"This is a better way to ask what your photographer's style is because you can glean so much more from the answer," Smith says. If the photographer prefers portraits over details, that should give you an idea of what your future album will look like and what to expect that day. "If you don't want to stand for hours of portraits, don't choose a photographer who schedules tons of time for them on the wedding day," she notes.
How much of a deposit do you require?
This question isn't usually on the photographer's website, Smith says, and may not be in your initial emails, either. Also ask when the deposit is due and if payments can be made in installations.
Do you have liability insurance?
"Most venues require a $3 million policy in Southern California," Smith notes. "As the client, you don't want to be held responsible for any damage done by the photographer at your event." Smith also recommends that you ask whether assistants are insured or not, too.
Do you carry backup equipment?
"Photographers should carry at least three camera bodies and at least six lenses to account for malfunctions," Smith says. "In case something breaks, you don't want them to skip a beat."
What's the backup plan if you are unable to shoot my wedding for an unexpected reason?
"It's an unpleasant topic, but you want to make sure your photographer has a plan—or better yet, several options—in case an emergency occurs," she says.
7 Questions You Shouldn't Ask:
What equipment do you use?
Smith jokes that this question doesn't matter since most people don't know the specific names of each piece of equipment a photographer has on hand. Instead of building a rapport, this question may make a photographer feel like you don't trust him or her, she says.
How would you describe your photography style?
"With all the buzzwords out there in wedding photography, it's easy for the photographer to give you trendy answers," Smith notes. "It won't likely tell you anything about how they shoot."
Can I give you a shot list?
This may seem like a way to help a photographer understand your ideas, but Smith thinks that it can keep a photographer from capturing images that may not be listed. "We don't want to be looking down at a piece of paper instead of looking up and capturing genuine moments happening right in front of us," she says.
Can I give you ideas to replicate?
You might have seen an image on social media that you want to replicate, but Smith says that it's tough to do. The lighting, setting, and build of the couple changes how the photo will look and can lead to disappointments later. Even something like body language changes a photo's finish, she says.
How long have you been shooting weddings?
This is something that Smith says is easy to gather from the photographer's website. If there are few images of different couples on the site, then it's safe to assume that the photographer is just starting out.
Can I meet with the second shooter?
"If you don't trust your photographer to hire a second shooter they trust, then you shouldn't book them," Smith says. "Asking to do this basically asks to circumvent your photographer."
May I have a list of references?
Smith says that it's likely for a photographer to skew these responses by sending you the contact information of three favorite clients. Instead, focus on what they say in your interview.