A Guest Blog Post by Eleanor Stenner of Eleanor Stenner Photography
Booking your photographer is like choosing an ice cream flavor.
Each flavor looks so beautiful at the counter, but each promises a different thing. They all look yummy from the outside looking in, but it isn’t until you experience the taste that you know what you like. Thank goodness you can test the flavors (pre-COVID, of course)!
The same is true of photographers! From a glance at their Instagram feed, you’d think that their process is perfection, their personality would match great with yours, and they would be able to handle your feisty aunt with grace. But it isn’t until you experience it that you find out what you like!
Before asking the eleven questions below, the most important one is this: What is important to me on my wedding day?
Book the photographer that is right for you… The one that makes you feel comfortable in front of the camera, the one that fits in your budget, the one that produces exceptional images, and the one who will serve you well throughout the process. Here are some questions to start you off!
1. What’s your style?
Do you like bright and airy photography? Colorful and joyful images? Moody and desaturated pictures? Filmic and whimsical vibes? Narrowing down your preference of style first will help choose a photographer. When you decide that, I would encourage you to look through a photographer’s work before entertaining a conversation with them. It’s like a first date: If you know you’re not interested, be respectful and don’t waste anyone’s time! If you aren’t crazy about their images now, you won’t be when you get your final wedding gallery.
2. What’s your approach to photography?
Photographers all have a different view of wedding days. Some love to take on a director role, while others like to be hands off and let things play out. Some direct posing while others let you figure it out (pro tip: your photographer should be the one to guide you into posing and shouldn’t leave you with arms hanging by your side!). Some photograph with a documentary style, while others prefer fine art. There are so many approaches to wedding photography; make sure you and your photographer agree on one!
3. Do you offer engagement sessions?
I’m a big believer that engagement sessions are so bonding! Not only is it a fun date for you and your fiancé, but it allows you to really connect with your wedding photographer (pro tip: take your engagement pictures with your wedding day photographer to develop a comfort level with them prior to the wedding!). It allows you to trial-run posing that will be used on your wedding day and get comfortable with being in front of the camera. So, after deciding if you want an engagement session, ask your wedding photographer if they include them in their collections!
4. Do you work with a second photographer?
First of all: a second photographer is not always necessary. For smaller weddings, most photographers are fully capable of photographing by themselves. Just ask, “Is this important to me and do I need it?” Ask if your photographer ever/always shoots with a second photographer, and if so, how do they know them? Do they align with the photographer’s same values, and are they respectful? Are they a student, or are they a professional?
5. Do you travel for weddings and have travel costs?
Is your wedding out of town? Are you hiring an out-of-town photographer? Always ask for their travel fees and hotel stay requirements. Remember that they’re humans, too, and are taking time to travel to you, so don’t be surprised at travel fees.
6. What is your image delivery time?
Photographer delivery times range from two weeks to three months, so if this is an important piece of the puzzle for you, ask about it! How long will it take to receive my images? Ask the question, then trust that they’ll be true to their word and contract. If it says 2-4 weeks, they may deliver at two weeks or right on the last day, depending on their life schedule and wedding season!
7. How many images do you deliver?
My philosophy is that every moment matters. If your nephew picks his nose during the ceremony, grandma gives you a kiss on the cheek, Dad steals a smile at Mum at some point… I want you to see everything that happened behind the scenes! But not every photographer sees it the same way. Again, the question to ask yourself is “What’s important to me?”
8. What’s your personality like?
If I were to rank these questions, this would be number one! I believe that making sure you get along well with your photographer is the most important element of hiring them. Do you respect them? Do you agree with their philosophy? Do you like spending time with them? Are they kind to people, and would you want to endorse them in the future?
9. What’s your pricing and are there any hidden fees?
Every photographer has a different approach! Some include sales tax within their invoice, and others include it afterward. Make sure you’re not taken by surprise and ask upfront about additional fees.
10. Will I get full printing/download rights or will I have to pay?
Some photographers offer full printing rights, while some require paying for downloads or prints. Some love hosting post-wedding parties to preview your gallery and some provide USB drives.
11. Do you photograph rehearsal dinners or bridal portrait sessions?
Bridal portraits are some of my favourite sessions ever. It’s a hair and makeup trial, dress fitting, and photoshoot all-in-one! The bride is always so giddy to be in her dress and gets to know how it feels to wear it around. Ask your photographer if they offer these! It’s yet another connection point before your wedding day. Rehearsal dinners are equally special but in a different way… the closest of the close are gathered around you, swapping stories from your childhood, and gushing about all your great qualities now and how you’ve grown… Don’t let that go undocumented!
Now that you’re equipped with all the questions you need, happy planning!
Eleanor Stenner is a Birmingham-based wedding photographer who captures vibrant, joyful, jaw-dropping images. You can find her by a space heater, sitting in grass, talking with her (real) English accent, and eating Chick-fil-A on any given day. Find her on Instagram at @eleanorstenner and on the interwebs at eleanorstenner.com.