You’re engaged – yay!!! Now comes the fun but admittedly hard part, choosing vendors.
The wedding industry is large and there is just so much out there to choose. Having decision fatigue is a real thing, and it’s hard for couples to become experts in different fields overnight. Even if you’ve chosen a planner, before you sign a contract with your photographer and send in your retainer you’ll want to meet with them and make sure you are a perfect fit.
Most photographers offer a free consultation to meet the couple via phone or in person to get to know each other and answer questions about their collections and business. I’ll have another blog post about finding your photographer unicorn next week, but first I want to go over a few questions every couple should ask their photographer in their potential client consultation. I should add that not every business is the same, but you should make sure your photographer at the very least has a contract you both sign upon officially booking.
1.) What’s Your Booking Process? In order to book your wedding date and take you on as a client, your photographer will need you to sign a contract and provide a non refundable retainer. The contract is set up to protect the client and the photographer and in 99% of cases is unable to be altered. The non-refundable retainer is typically a percentage of your collection or a set flat fee with the remaining balance due before the wedding day. Industry standard is 30 days before the wedding.
In your potential client meeting, ask what the photographer will need from you to consider your date fully booked and what their process is to collect signatures and payments. Most of us in the industry use an online booking system to keep ourselves nice and organized, while others may go more old school with paper contracts. You’ll need to provide at the least your full names, email addresses, phone numbers, address and what collection you’d like to go with.
2.) What happens if someone else inquires about my date? Photographers know booking takes time and that you’ll most likely meet with 2-3 other companies before making a final decision. To be honest, ghosting is a major issue in our industry, and it’s getting more and more common to never hear from a couple again after we meet with them or send pricing information. In fact last year I calculated how many hours I had spent just following up with non responsive inquiries and it was nearly 30 hours!
Ask in your consultation what their process is for another inquiry for your date. Most will let couple #1 know that someone else is interested if that couple has been communicative and responsive to emails and they will have a set amount of time to book or pass, otherwise it is likely that they will simply move on to couple #2. This is my friendly PSA that even though it might feel awkward to let vendors know that you’ve decided to go in another direction, we won’t be insulted and will greatly appreciate the note.
3.) Ask to see a full gallery – It’s easy to put your 25 favorite images from a wedding into a blog post, but a whole wedding is another story. Every wedding has different lighting situations throughout the day, and part of our jobs as photographers is to handle those on the fly. You’ll want to look for consistency in editing mostly, followed by how you feel about their overall style.
4.) What If you Can’t Make My Wedding? – Knock on wood, I’ve never missed a wedding because of illness, but I’m still a human person who life can happen to. It’s not out of left field to ask in a potential client meeting what their game plan is in the case of an emergency. I’ve been able to help out fellow photographers in a bind and while it’s stressful all around, it’s one of those things you should be able to trust your vendor to have a plan in place.
5.) What’s is Your Turnaround Time? – While this should not be the make or break for booking someone, it is important to ask them what you can expect turnaround time wise. For me, I have in my contract a 8-12 week turnaround time for weddings. Has it ever taken that long? No. Usually I deliver in 4-6 weeks but there are so many factors that go into turnaround time (running a business, meetings, sessions, other weddings in the queue, the number of images being edited). I’d say abnormal turnaround would be over 4 months, but it’s different for everyone. Don’t be shy to ask about their process.
6.) How Do You Handle File Security? – Full disclosure, my husband is an IT security manager so online backups are something Andy feels so passionate about and has instilled in me all the knowledge about redundancy 🙂 I should probably ask him to write a blog post about it! During your consult, ask how a photographer handles files post wedding, what’s their backup workflow like? Most photographers take backing up images immediately after a wedding very seriously and are happy to talk about their process. It’s not the most exciting topic to bring up, but worth it to know your images are safe.
All in all, potential client meetings are so much fun because you get to hear their story and join in on their excitement and even if they don’t book you (remember don’t ghost your vendors!) you still get to celebrate this big step they are taking in their lives. While not so glamorous, asking these questions will help you know your photographer on the business end and help you make sure you are selecting someone you like, but someone you can trust.
Before I sign off, I wanted to bring up one question that I get asked a ton that doesn’t really matter.
Have You Shot at My Venue Before?
I see this in a lot of wedding blog posts, but I promise it really isn’t here or there. While it’s nice to know the layout of the venue, what I’m mostly looking for on your day is a way to tell your story and that’s going to look different then every other couple who has gotten married at that venue. I get excited at new venues, they are fresh to me and I love finding new places to photograph! So it’s definitely not something that should make or break your decision on a wedding photographer, but if it is holding you up, ask if they have a gallery or blog post you can look at with a venue that has a similar set up so you can see what their lighting looks like in that space.