Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer Before Booking

Written by Caitlin Hoare
Image by Emmylou Kelly at The Ned.
Planning the perfect wedding involves endless hours of scrolling on your socials, pinning images, requesting brochures, and making many, many decisions, from choosing the venue to selecting the perfect floral arrangements. However, one crucial aspect that often takes centre stage in preserving the memories of your special day is the selection of a wedding photographer.

To ensure your wedding album is a masterpiece and something you will look back fondly on for years to come, it’s essential to ask the right questions before booking your photographer.

I invited my good friend and international wedding photographer Emmylou Kelly for a chat to discuss all things wedding photography. Not only has she contributed her expert experience and invaluable advice to this planning feature (thank you!), but I’ve also had the pleasure of working with her on and off for several years now and would describe her as deeply honest and wildly creative, with a VERY keen eye for detail; folks, what Emmylou doesn’t know about wedding photography probably isn’t worth knowing. But what is worth knowing is what you need to consider before booking your wedding photographer and the all-important questions you should be asking (and some you probably shouldn’t)!

We know and wholeheartedly appreciate that researching and planning a wedding is A LOT. But before sending that eager email to your dream wedding photographer, just pause and consider—have you done your homework on this person/business? Because it’s not about bombarding them with every question under the sun, right? Especially the ones that have already been answered on their website or filed under their Instagram highlights. Therefore, first things first, take a deep dive into their vibe because, much like fashion and interiors, photography has its trends and styles, too. A quick scroll through their feed should whisper (or shout) their photography style to you; are they inclined towards a classic, timeless look, or do they lean towards a more contemporary, editorial approach?

Next, before you ask to see a full wedding gallery, remember those galleries can be hefty (up to 1000 images) and deeply personal. A solid ‘highlights’ gallery or two should do the trick; that’s why any photographer worth their salt should have a comprehensive selection of portfolio work readily available online.

Top Tip!

When scoping out potential wedding photographers, ensure their portfolio includes shots with wedding guests. Images featuring guests and a variety of wedding party shots offer a more authentic glimpse into the photographer’s experience with actual weddings, as opposed to styled shoots that may only involve models and planned and posed scenarios. This distinction is vital as it can help you discern how many weddings they may have shot and whether the photographer has the skill to capture the spontaneous, vibrant interactions that make a wedding celebration truly memorable.

Finally, if details like pricing and wedding packages aren’t in plain sight, then, by all means, ask away. When you reach out, remember to keep it mutually respectful by showing them you’re as serious about finding the perfect fit as they are about capturing your love story.

Ok, now we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to the essential wedding photography questions.

Do you have our date available?

Granted, it’s a bit of a no-brainer, but asking if your wedding date is available is crucial because it immediately clarifies whether the photographer can even consider your event. Since expert wedding photographers often book months or even years in advance, asking this question early helps avoid the disappointment of discussing the finer details and falling head over heels for someone who isn’t even available.

Emmylou Kelly
UK + Worldwide

Have you worked at our wedding venue before?

This is a perfectly valid question, but absolutely not a dealbreaker, folks! Admittedly, if your chosen photographer has worked at your venue before, they will know the best spots for photos and be familiar with the lighting conditions, etc. But don’t underestimate how skilled a professional photographer is. They often shoot at venues across the length and breadth of the country or, like Emmylou Kelly, around the world and can respond and react to all elements and eventualities surrounding the day. Some may offer a venue visit before the wedding day as part of their package. However, the majority will simply ensure they arrive at the venue x amount of time in advance to do a recce and familiarise themselves with the best places to take photos.

What is your backup plan in case of unforeseen circumstances?

Life is unpredictable, and weddings are no exception. Ask about the photographer’s backup plan in case of equipment failure, illness, or any other unforeseen circumstances. A reliable professional will have contingency measures to ensure your day is captured seamlessly, no matter what challenges may arise.

Do you offer an engagement shoot?

An engagement session is not only an excellent opportunity to get comfortable in front of the camera but also a chance to build rapport with your photographer. Ask if engagement sessions are included in the wedding package or offered as an add-on. This can be a valuable experience that enhances the overall outcome of your wedding photos.

How many hours of coverage do you provide?

When asking about coverage, it’s worth noting that the minimum offered is typically 10 hours, which can adjust to 8 hours during the winter due to shorter daylight hours. This ensures comprehensive coverage of your special day, capturing moments from morning preparations to evening festivities tailored to the natural light.

Will you photograph us during the wedding breakfast?

During the wedding breakfast, it’s often thought that the action slows down, with guests less keen on being photographed mid-bite. Yet, this time is brimming with unseen potential—subtle glances, impromptu speeches, laughter shared between courses, and the beauty of your carefully chosen venue and decor coming to life. Given the intricate details and investment in your menu and styling, ask whether your photographer plans on being nearby, ready to capture these understated yet richly significant moments during this time, as it can add even more depth to your wedding story.

What if our timings run over?

Understanding that weddings rarely happen precisely on time, your photographer should navigate the day with a blend of commitment and flexibility. However, while they’re well equipped to handle the ebb and flow of your wedding schedule, if timings dramatically run over, just be aware that this could incur an additional fee for their time.

How long will you stay after the first dance?

Ideally, your photographer should embrace the post-first-dance festivities, staying an additional 30 minutes to an hour to capture the vibrant dance floor scenes and the spontaneous revelry that ensues. This period is when some of the most memorable, fun moments occur, and having those documented is crucial for a complete wedding album. It’s a time that can reveal the spirited side of your celebration, highlighting the joy and energy of your guests as they really let loose!

What is your turnaround time for delivering the final images?

Finding out the turnaround time for your wedding photos is crucial for setting your expectations. A reasonable timeframe for receiving final images is usually within 6 to 8 weeks, but anything beyond 12 weeks should raise concerns. Of course, during a super busy wedding season, lead times may vary but, on booking, you should expect your contract to state less than 12 weeks. On a lighter note, don’t forget to enquire about a preview gallery—think of this as a delightful starter to the main course, giving you a taste of the memories captured. It is often available a week or two post-wedding to tide you over.

How many images can I expect to receive? And how will I receive them?

Every photographer’s approach is unique, but you can generally expect around 600 images from a full wedding, capturing a wide array of moments from your special day. These images typically arrive via an online gallery, providing a seamless way to view, select favourites, and download directly. If you’re dreaming of tangible memories and beautifully bound wedding photo albums, printed copies are often available for an additional charge. Discuss this option with your photographer to fully understand any extra costs involved.

Do you work with a second photographer?

Most wedding photographers work with second shooters, although they are often available at an additional cost. However, you shouldn’t need to confirm them immediately; you will hopefully be able to decide a bit closer to your wedding date (but not too late!) as your wedding plans evolve. Given the close-knit nature of the photography community, your photographer likely has a trusted circle to choose from.

If you’re not sure whether you need one, ask your photographer for advice. We always recommend going for it if your budget allows, as opting for a second photographer ensures comprehensive coverage of your wedding day. The second photographer will capture moments and angles one person might miss, such as the groom’s prep if it’s in a completely different location from the bridal prep. This, in turn, will offer a richer, more varied collection of memories from your special day.

How do you charge for travel?

Regarding travel fees, your photographer’s brochure should explain everything. Typically, standard rates cover day travel costs within the UK or a stipulated travel radius. However, additional charges will likely come into play for events requiring overnight stays or journeys abroad. Most photographers prefer to handle bookings and payments directly, passing the cost on to you. Alternatively, if you can provide accommodations or assist with flight bookings, that could also be an option. The key is to initiate this conversation early on, ensuring it’s clear and avoiding any last-minute surprises for either party!

Who owns the rights to the images?

The ownership of the images is typically outlined in the photographer’s contract. While specific terms may vary, it’s common for the photographer to retain the copyright to the images, allowing them to use the photos for promotional purposes or in their portfolio. However, you’ll likely receive a license that grants you personal usage rights, enabling you to print, share, and enjoy the images for your personal use.

Can we provide you with a ‘must-HAVE’ list?

Providing your photographer with a ‘must-have’ list of VIPs and family shots ensures that your essential moments and desired group shots are prioritised. However, it’s essential to strike a balance between guidance and trust. Remember, your supplier is a professional wedding photographer who is experienced in capturing the essence of your day. While your input is valued, allowing them the creative freedom to work their magic ensures that they can focus on what they do best – capturing the unique moments and emotions of your wedding day.

How will you back up our photos?

While requesting to know the technical aspects of backup might seem niche, it really is worth ensuring your photographer has robust measures in place. Most professionals shoot with dual card cameras and promptly back up to a hard drive, offering immediate protection for your cherished moments. After all, these wedding day memories can’t be replayed, so thorough backup procedures are essential for peace of mind!

Choosing the right wedding photographer is pivotal in ensuring your special day is forever etched in time. By asking these key questions, you’ll gain invaluable insight into their expertise and set the stage for a seamless collaboration, resulting in a wedding album that truly reflects the magic of your love story.

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