Unless you're locked into a package photo deal, you'll have to assume the role of interviewer when talking to potential photographers. Many of the topics you'll cover are the same, whether you're speaking to an independent or a studio. This section covers the different ways to find out if a photographer is the right one for your wedding.
Asking the Right Questions
While you can't demand this person's social security and tax identification numbers, you can and should ask about his background in photography. Here are some questions you might ask:
Is this a profession or a hobby for you?
How long have you been in this business?
How many weddings have you done?
Can you show me some of your most recent work?
What kinds of answers are you looking for? Chances are you'll know when you hear them. First of all, you want to know that this person is a dedicated professional, and that picture-taking isn't just something he does for kicks once in a while. If his bread and butter depends on the quality of his photos, he's more likely to be dedicated to doing great work, and also to keeping abreast of the latest techniques, which is something you'll read more about shortly. You also want to know that he has some sort of formal education in the arts — preferably in photography. A good photographer needs to know about color, composition, and lighting. These are things that the average Joe usually doesn't give much thought to (which is why Joe's pictures turn out so badly).
A start-up photographer should have plenty of experience apprenticing with a professional before he does his first solo gig. Although you may want to be nice and give someone his big break, you have to realize that you won't get a second chance at getting these pictures right. Do what's smart for you and let the photographer worry about his own career.
When it comes to how long a prospective photographer has been in business and how many weddings he's done, different brides are comfortable with different answers. Someone who is just starting out might be more eager to prove himself by taking some really interesting pictures and working much harder than a seasoned pro would; on the other hand, the seasoned pro has done a thousand weddings and may not need to work so hard to get the same results.
In addition to asking lots of questions about his background and experience, also ask to see samples of the photographer's most recent work, and
Do the colors look realistic or just horrific?
Does the bride appear pale with circles under her eyes?
Does the wedding party appear to be smashed into the frame — or is the picture taken from so far away that you can't see their faces?
If the answers to these questions are yes, it means that you're looking at poor-quality pictures. Then do yourself a favor: Thank the photographer for his time, and move on to the next name on your list.
One thing you need to know before you book a photographer is what style he tends to use. There are three main styles: traditional, photojournalistic, and illustrative (sometimes also called creative).
Traditional. These are classic wedding shots. Everything and everyone is posed. The photographer gives you a “shot-list” of poses and pictures that you want in your wedding album. After you choose your specific poses, the photographer takes charge of the day, telling you where you need to be and when. Photojournalistic. These pictures are decidedly un-posed, spontaneous, and candid. The photographer basically takes pictures that tell the story of the day, and they could include anything: A shoe. Wine glasses. The back of your flower girl's dress. Illustrative. This style calls on the photographer to come up with something more creative than the traditional poses, but less avant-garde than photojournalistic shots. So — sort of traditional, but with a more unique twist.
You have to see the photographer's work to know whether he's capable of pulling off the style he claims to have mastered. Photojournalism is a particularly tough art to polish. An experienced photojournalist can do a bang-up job taking pictures of shoes and flowers and backs of heads; an unskilled photographer will present you with a picture of a wine glass, and you'll react by asking, “What is