Questions for Your Wedding Photographer

During every consultation with a potential client, the bride opens her wedding organizer and flips to her copy of the ten most important questions to ask a wedding photographer.

No question is a bad question. I’ll politely answer any question she asks. But these top-ten-lists printed in wedding magazines don’t go far enough. So, take your list of ten questions and add a few more that I’ve written in this article. They will greatly improve the information you get from photographers.

Do you accept family portrait lists?

Every photographer should accept this list. It’s essential to accomplishing the job you’ve hired him for. Write down the name of every family member to appear in each portrait. Review the list with your photographer, and he’ll tell you how much time will be needed to take every picture.

Do you carry liability insurance? Every wedding vendor should have a minimum $1 million liability policy. This insurance covers accidents or damage the photographer may cause while working. You don’t want to end up responsible for their damage. Protect yourself.

Will you make changes to the contract?

Many photographers object to changing their contracts for any reason. You don’t have to work with them. Never sign an agreement that you’re uncomfortable with. I suggest the following list of additions to every photography contact.

1. The photographer you are hiring should be named explicitly as the photographer who will photograph your wedding.

2. The contract should list any prepayment as a deposit. It should not say retainer. In some states, you may have a difficult time being refunded a retainer if the photographer fails to perform the contract.

3. You should provide limitations on things he shouldn’t photograph, such as the bride or groom undressed.

4. If you’re receiving digital negatives in the package, you’ll need the photographer to grant you a copyright license to use the digital files for unlimited personal printing.

5. The contract will have a “Failure to Perform” section. It should state that you are entitled to a full refund of all money paid, including the deposit, should the photographer not photograph your wedding.

How do you provide wedding proofs?

Few photographers provide printed proofs anymore. Every photographer I know posts the photographs in a private web gallery or mails a DVD to the client. I do both. The web gallery accepts print orders from the couple and their wedding guests, and the DVD includes all of the photographs in a printable format.

How long will the wedding photographs be online? Every service is different. They should be online for a minimum of one year.

What file format do you shoot?

Every professional photographer will use the RAW setting, which gives the client the best possible results. This file format captures 4,096 levels of color per channel. The JPEG format, used in every point and shoot camera, captures 256 levels. That’s a massive difference in the subtleties of color tone within an object.

RAW has the greatest dynamic range, which means you’ll see a lot of detail in the brightest and darkest areas of a photograph.

Does your rate include any photo editing?

Anything is possible when your photographer has great digital editing skills. But don’t count on it being free. Editing is a very extensive process that often costs more because of the time that is involved.

As part of the photographer’s day-rate, he should include a RAW conversion. This means that the photographer opens each RAW file and adjusts all of the settings to create a nicest printable photograph. It will improve the skin tones, contrast and sharpness of the photographs.

Many clients think the conversions look so wonderful that they can’t suggest any other changes. RAW conversions create proofs that blow away proofs made from film.

Your tab will start adding up when you ask the photographer to change things about your appearance. Want a different hair color? I can do it. Want a digital nose job? No problem. It’s cheaper than plastic surgery.

You can save money. Ask your photographer to provide free editing with your album order. I do this as part of my regular service. I will make any edit to an album print that the client requests at no additional charge.

Do you provide digital negatives?

Selling the digital negatives is a very contentious issue among professionals. Photographers never gave film negatives to the client without charging a bundle. Since digital files are the same thing as negatives, many photographers charge upwards of $1,000 for them. So, the couple is forced into buying an album or prints if they ever want to hold their photographs.

Younger photographers, including myself, realize that the market has changed. Wedding clients demand that they receive the digital negatives as part of the day-rate package. I agree with them.

I give my clients the digital negatives, and they still spend plenty of money on the new, innovative wedding albums and other products. My clients are happy, and my business prospers.

Do you grant a copyright license to print from the disc?

Why pay for the disc if you’re not allowed to use it? Ask to receive a copyright license to use the disc for personal use. Photographers won’t sell you the copyrights, but they will grant you the license to print from the disc. You could even choose to make your own album. I always give my wedding clients the license.

How long do you archive the client’s files?

Digital image files are huge. They quickly fill hard drives, and some photographers won’t spend the money to save years of photographs. The photographer should tell you how long he archives the files before deleting them.

Do you print on exclusively on real photography paper?

If you know nothing about photography and want a high-quality, life-long lasting print, then ask your photographer to print on Fuji or Kodak digital papers with a Lustre finish

These two brands of paper look identical. The brand you receive will depend on the professional lab where your photographer orders his prints. They will last for your lifetime. That’s much longer than your parent’s wedding prints, which have probably faded in their album already.

The Lustre finish has a fine sheen. It’s not glossy, nor is it matte. The colors really pop, and it resists fingerprints and water droplets. If you ever spill water on a print, drain it off and air dry. Don’t dab or wipe it, and you might save the print.

What is included in the album rate?

The price should include a fixed number of pages and photographs. The photographer should edit the photographs to your satisfaction.

If you’re receiving a coffee table book with a unique layout, you should request final approval before printing.

Don’t allow fake photo paper in an album. Albums with rigid pages most likely have real photography paper. If the album has flexible pages, then it’s probably a fake photo paper. This is nothing more than coated cardboard designed to imitate the real thing. It will fail in your lifetime. I’ve seen interior folds fade within a few months.