The wedding industry is a unique segment of professionals. For most of the vendors there is no type of oversight like in many other services you might buy. Wedding vendors tend to be owner/operators; don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against the owner/operator; it is just that care must be taken when you choose to hire one. There are many photographers that would not like me discussing this issue. In photography (and in most wedding vendor industries) there is a lack of any oversight – Anyone can be a photographer. There is no barrier of entry to the field – quite literally – anyone who owns a camera can put out a shingle and label themselves as a “Professional Photographer” .
How can you be sure that you are getting a bona-fide professional who understands the challenges that a wedding will throw at them? There are people out there that are out-and-out scammers (this tends to be rare, though), but there are also people who are misrepresenting themselves as wedding pros when they have in fact never photographed a wedding. A person can buy images from stock agencies, images can be taken from other photographer’s websites, they could have built a portfolio of images from working as a second shooter, but never posing a bride. I am not saying that a new photographer should not be hired, but you should know that ahead of time.
Asking questions and trusting your gut will be the only way to figure this out. Here is a list of questions that you can arm yourself with.
1. How much experience do you have? How many weddings have you personally participated in?
This is an extremely important question to ask. Not only will they be more skilled in their craft, this also makes them a valuable source of information and ensures that your wedding day goes smoothly.
Btu, this one can be hard to verify. You can look through their sample images – a photographer that has participated in many weddings should be able to show a diverse set of sample images. If they are only show staged images that are outdoors in the evening, and there are no Indoor images, then that should be a warning flag.
Ask them to look through a catalog that shows an entire wedding, then you will be able to quickly see the good and bad, and you will be able to get an idea for the quality of work that they will deliver.
2. How much do you cost? Is there a deposit? How much? What specifically is included in that cost? Are there any hidden costs?
Packages range all over the board. Make sure you understand what is included and get it in writing. Many photographers will have hidden fees, for fees for services that they know you will need but not include in the package to advertise lower packages. The bottom line is: understand what you are getting, what you are responsible and what the vendor is responsible for.
3. Do you carry liability insurance? Do you use a contract?
Relying on a verbal agreement is a potential disaster. A contract between you and your photographer will protect both of you and will lay down the expectations of both parties in writing.
4. What happens if you break/drop a camera/lens (or other piece of equipment) at my wedding? Will that create a situation where there will be a non-completion of the event?
Everyone that photographs at a wedding in a professional setting absolutely needs a back up to every critical system that is used for that event. Cameras and other tools break. There is just no room for error on this one.
5. How will the images be stored and backup? How long will the images be stored? Is there a system in place to protect images from data failure?
Same as above. Loosing images from a wedding is a serious problem that can be avoided in advance by using a good back up procedure that includes off-site storage of your data.
Remember: if chosen wisely, the right wedding vendors will give you expert help and advice on every aspect of your wedding…for free!
One final bit of advice: READ YOUR CONTRACT. Make sure you
understand everything that’s written and ask questions if you don’t.
There IS no stupid question…except the one you don’t ask. Make
sure you know the price as well as cancellation and refund policies.
GO WITH YOUR GUT. If something feels “off” about the
wedding vendor…you’re probably right.
Make sure you feel comfortable with him,
you like him, and that his personality will be a good blend
with your guests and reflect the tone of your wedding.