So you’ve narrowed down your selection of potential wedding photographers. You’ve now got to decide between two or three. You like their work and they have similar rates and packages. But you still aren’t sure who to hire. The rates are important, yes and of course you’ll want to inquire about them. But once you’ve got a fairly clear idea of the amount you can expect to pay, there are several other things you should make sure of as well...

What else can you do to help make your decision? Contact the photographers who made it to your ‘short list’ and ask them these ten key questions:

1: Does the photographer provide you with a detailed shot-list to fill out prior to your wedding?

This list is invaluable for you and for your photographer. On this list, you’ll fill out the names of the wedding party and family members so your photographer knows who is who, without you having to take time from your wedding day to make extra introductions.

Then you fill out information about the various shots you want. Do you want photos of the wedding party getting ready? Bridal party and groom’s party? Do you want family photos before and after the ceremony? Do you want photos of the cake cutting and the signing of the legal documents? How much time are you allotting for each activity?

All of these details (and more) can be arranged with your photographer weeks or months in advance by filling out this shot list. This ensures you and your photographer both know what to expect and how much time you have for each location and activity. Things go so much more smoothly when those things are worked out ahead of time!

2: If you hire them, will they give you a free consultation before your wedding date?

The answer to this should always be yes. Whether it’s in person or by telephone, at least a few days prior to your wedding, you and your photographer should have a one-on-one discussion about the kinds of photos you envision for your wedding day. Especially if you plan on having formal/posed shots of the bride and groom alone. Where would you like to do those? Would you like them to be posed, or would you like something more casual? Do you have any special ideas in mind?

These are things that are best discussed in person with the photographer so you can both be clear about your vision and your needs for your wedding photography.

3: How soon after your wedding can you expect to receive your photos?

A standard rule on this, is that anything under 60 days is reasonable. More than 60 days is not. If possible, get a quote about this in writing (even an email will do) or included in your wedding photography contract.

4: Does the photographer have portable lighting in case of bad weather or in case of a dim, indoor location?

You want to be sure to hire someone who is prepared for any eventuality. Although portable lighting won't do much good during your ceremony, (nobody wants to see extra lights set up right in front of the bride and groom during the ceremony) for all the posed shots, additional lighting can make a huge difference during a dark day or in a dim room. Obviously for outdoor ceremonies, plugging in lighting equipment can be difficult and sometimes dangerous, but if the weather is bad, you'll want to do your photos indoors anyway.

5: Do they work in digital or film or both? Whichever they use, do they provide you with prints or with a CD ROM of your images?

These days, most photographers work strictly in digital, so you’d think you wouldn’t even need to ask. But occasionally a photographer will prefer to shoot in film or with a combination of both. You should specify this just in case there’s an extra charge for whatever they shoot in film.

Digital photographers have the added advantage of providing you with a CD or DVD with all of your digital images instead of you having to go through the expensive process of ordering prints from the photographer. A photographer who does provide prints will have to factor that additional expense into their fee.

Choosing and ordering your own printing from wherever you like, is a lot more cost-effective for you. (As well as being much more environmentally conscious).

6: A VERY important thing to make sure of before hiring any kind of service or supplier for your wedding - and this includes your photographer – is if they provide a contract and receipts or invoices?

Don’t hire anyone who doesn’t provide you with some form of documentation for your transactions. Contracts and invoices/receipts are for your benefit and protection just as much as they are for the tradespeople and service suppliers you hire. Always make sure you get a signed contract upon paying any deposit fee.

7: Ask your potential photographer if they require a booking fee/deposit?

A professional photographer will require this, so expect them to say yes. The average professional photographer doesn’t tend to charge more than 20% for a deposit, sometimes a bit less. This deposit guarantees the photographer’s availability for your date and time. It also guarantees you get the exact services you agreed to.

8: Be sure ask if the booking fee is refunded from the total sum agreed upon for your wedding photography contract. Again, the answer to this should always be 'yes'.

9: Ask when you’re expected to pay the remaining sum for your wedding photography?

Some photographers invoice you after your wedding, some require full payment by the day of. Either is acceptable, but more often than not, you’ll be expected to make the full payment on or before your wedding day. This applies to paying videographers as well.

10: Finally, always remember to ask if Photoshop image re-touching is included in the photographer’s rates or if they charge extra for that?

In this age of digital photography, Photoshop (or an equivalent program) is exactly like a darkroom. Contrast and colour are corrected and adjusted. Blemishes are removed, focus is sharpened, effects can be added, images can be produced in black and white as well as colour.

Making these adjustments to photos is all part of a professional photographer’s job and you should not be expected to pay extra money for this service. If someone doesn’t include this service in their photography rates, I would recommend that you hire someone else who does.

Now that you’ve asked these 10 important questions, it should be a lot easier to make your decision!

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