The often forgotten questions you SHOULD be asking your photographer
Congratulation!!! You and your family are planning an event. How exciting. Maybe it’s a Wedding, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, or any other milestone event where you want a talented photographer to create beautiful images that tell the story of the day.
Of all the relationships you form with those you hire to help create the perfect event, none is as unique as your relationship with your photographer. Which is why hiring one for your event can be quite the undertaking. After-all, you go to great lengths and expense to get a beautiful venue, a creative party planner, great tasting food, an entertaining and fun MC and DJ, and beautiful decorations which is why so many agree that hiring the right photographer for your event is so important. Capturing all of those details, decorations, foods, fun the guests are having, dancing, laughs, special moments that are gone in the blink of an eye, and the overall feel and tone of the event will be something you cherish long after the event is over.
So how do you choose the right photographer then? How do you know who is right for you and who isn’t?
There are always the basic questions such as price, availability, style, and products they offer which most clients we work with can think up all by themselves, but we tried to think up the often ‘forgotten questions’ that you can use to further help narrow down the list of photographers who are right for you.
We put this one first because we believe it is the holy grail of questions to ask your photographer and if you read nothing else in this article…READ THIS ONE.
You go through the process of finding the right photographer. You look at their portfolio, you meet them to make sure they are a good fit personality-wise, you check references and everything checks out. The event comes around and your photographer is wonderful. They captured everything you had hoped for and everyone is talking about how great your photographer was which leaves you so excited. As you expected, the photographs are gorgeous and you are so pleased that you have already recommended a few of your friends to them.
Then it comes time to finish your album and this is where, many times, the honeymoon period of the relationship with your photographer quickly diminishes. They’ve handed you, on average, 700 to possibly over 1000 images and then tell you to pick a small fraction of them to go into your album. You feel overwhelmed. How on earth can you pick from all of these wonderful images?!?! You try. You get frustrated. You procrastinate. Maybe life events happen that are distracting you from this project. SO maybe a month or two go by and you try to resist it. You make some headway but are still not finished. By the time you finally get around to finishing your list it’s six months to a year later or even longer in many cases. You submit your images to your photographer and hope to see an album soon. During that time your photographer has other projects that have been in his queue of projects that have now jumped ahead of yours because of the delay. Realistically it can be months before your photographer even gets to your project because it would be unfair of them to put your project ahead of other clients who have also been waiting as well. This is where the honeymoon period with your photographer tends to get a little stressed. On one hand you want your album and your photographer wants to make you happy but on the other hand they usually cannot make another client unhappy by pushing their project back just to work on yours.
When it’s all said and done it may be a year or longer from your event date until your album in finished. This, as we see it, is an industry wide problem not many have been able to solve. So make sure you ask you photographer what method they use for completing your album. If this is how they do their albums BE PREPARED to be proactive and pick your favorites for your album right away. We’ve heard that when clients pick their favorites within the first 30 days after their photographs are finished they are overall much happier with their photographer than those who wait months or, in many cases, years to pick their favorites.
If you want to hear about a better way then read on.
We have pioneered a much more efficient process which minimizes stress and makes the process so much easier. We created this process because we felt that it’s sad when clients have an exceptional experience with their photographer up until the album step of the process. The last thing we, as photographers and business owners, want is for the last thing our clients remember from working with us is a stressful or delayed album process. It’s not the way to end a relationship with a client. We want their experience to be exceptional from beginning to end.
What we do is much different than anything we have seen. Consider asking your photographer to do this for you or checking to see if they do this already. What we do is we create an album design for you right away immediately after the photographs have been edited so that when you view your images for the first time you also get a model album design. This step alone saves clients months if not years in time because we take the most painstaking step of the process of choosing the images and take on that responsibility and create a customizable album design for our clients. This removes so much stress from the entire process.
We don’t stop there, we know that the task of making album changes to your album can still be a bit of a task, although not as tough as the first step, so we try to make that process as easy and as stress free as possible. We put our album designs on special album proofing software online which makes the album change steps so much easier so you can communicate your changes to us so much more efficiently. Also if you have any trouble or require a bit more help we can invite you into our studio to sit comfortably and look up at a huge projection wall and we can work on finishing your album together face to face so that when you leave our office your album is on it’s way to the printer.
This step is often times the difference between a happy client or an unhappy client so be sure to check with you photographer to see what their process is like for completing your album. If stress isn’t your thing make sure you take steps to choose a photographer who will make this part of the process as stress free as possible.
In a world where photographers are literally growing like weeds due to the availability of affordable ‘prosumer’ quality camera equipment (Not quite pro quality but can be used in professional settings if used correctly) there are so many ill-equipped photographers out there in the DMV area parading around hoping to be your photographer.
As someone who has personally photographed over 200 Weddings and Mitzvahs and know many other experienced photographers as well I can honestly say 100% that equipment breaks down. Thats a fact of life for a photographer which is why I always have a backup camera should that happen, and it has already happened twice! Heck, I could have all the flashes break that I have setup at a photo session and still have replacements right there with me to not miss a beat.
Ask your photographer if he or she has two cameras in-case one breaks on location. The worst thing you want to hear from your photographer is “My camera stopped working and I don’t have a backup camera to use.” A battle tested photographer always has a Plan B or in some cases a Plan C in the event of equipment failure. A good photographer may have equipment failure and you’d be none-the-wiser because their transition from A to B was too fast for you to even notice.
3. What happens if you get sick and can’t make it to my event?
One thing to watch out for is reliability and the strength of your chosen photographer’s network network. This is such a small thing to think about but in the rare occurrence that a photographer cannot make the event for some reason, choosing a photographer who has a strong network or team underneath them makes this small detail all of a sudden immensely huge and important should it ever come up and it influences whom we choose to recommend or advise you to do business with.
A well prepared photographer will have solutions if and when they become ill and cannot make your event. They may and should even have it detailed in their policy and in your photography agreement you sign with them. Most seasoned photographers are well networked with other photographers or have photographers who work for them who can happily and COMPETENTLY step up to fill in his or her shoes.
In the event that catastrophic breakdown of coverage happens you want to make sure that the language in your photography agreement ensures you are owed your money back. Read over your photographer’s agreement closely to make sure of this and, as always, ask them what happens if they get sick and can’t make it or if no one shows up to your event.
There is a vast difference in quality with all photographers. We’ve noticed that the final product, your images and album, take on a whole different feel and presentation when photographers bring and use their own off camera lighting at events rather than rely on just the available light or only the flash on top of their camera. Images seem to look more flat or like they were photographed inside a dark cave when the photographer only uses or doesn’t properly use their on-camera flash. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule which we won’t get into but for the most part using lighting is a necessity when photographing an event such as a wedding or bar and bat mitzvah. When photographers bring external flashes and lighting the images overall have a much more dynamic professional look than other less experienced or under equipped photographers. Again this goes back to Plan A and Plan B. You want a photographer who can handle all types of lighting environments. It is often the difference between acceptable photos and photographs that take your breath away.
A photographer has to be prepared for any lighting environment. They could photograph the same venue for 4 weekends in a row and each time they are there it is lit differently than the last time. A good photographer will know how to combine both on-camera and off-camera lighting as well as ambient light to give your images that pop that you won’t see from less experienced or under-equipped photographers. The room could be totally dark but, with a smart, well equipped photographer, you wouldn’t know it by the end result seen in the final images.
For those who do not know, a ‘Shot List’ is a list given to your photographer of special ‘must have’ combinations and groupings of important friends and family, that you would like to capture either prior to the start of your reception or during. It’s a great way to ensure your photographer knows what is most important to you.
We don't always recommend a full shot list since you want to give your photographer the freedom to capture candid moments. Plus, they're the pros so they often know how to best capture the day. But if you know you want some specific posed portraits prior to or during the party, ask them if they are willing to collaborate with you on it. Some photographer have you fill out a form prior to their event to use as a guide to assist them in getting important combinations that you will value after your event.
Our advice: We use a shot list to help prioritize and help stay organized especially during portraits prior to the party starting. For combinations to get during the party itself we recommend assigning a family member to help locate them. We won’t be able to attach a face to a name on our list without help and there is always an over-zealous, eager-to-help family member who can help point people out to us who are on our list. This allows you, the client, to enjoy your party while we work in the background.