Wedding Frequently

asked Questions



This is all new to me. What are the current styles of wedding photography?

Wedding photography has come a long way in the last few years.  More and more, couples are taking a different look at what they expect from a wedding photographer and choosing styles that are much more individual and appropriate for them. It used to be that a wedding photographer was a wedding photographer, and you knew what to expect ­ a lot of posing, predictable shots and, usually, quality photos.

Today, there are a few more schools of thought out there.  On one extreme there is "Traditional Photography".  The shots are very posed and sufficient time must be allotted to accomplish the necessary images.  You will usually end up with formal pictures of all the family groupings, the bridal couple, the wedding party, the guests at the dinner tables, etc.  The images may be somewhat predictable, but can also be very elegant and of very good quality.

On the other extreme is "Wedding Photojournalism", as it is often referred to.  This is a very loose, candid approach to photographing the wedding event.  The idea is to capture as much spontaneity and emotion as possible, replacing much of the elegance of traditional photography with story telling and uniqueness. Although there are a few great "Wedding Photojournalists", check carefully into photographers or part- time photographers who bill themselves as such, thinking it's an easier way to shoot.  Wedding photography, in all forms, is a complex art requiring the dedication and professionalism of a seasoned Wedding Photographer.  Many "Wedding Photojournalists" are BEGINNING Photographers or Week-End Photographers. A Week-End Photographer is someone who has a full time job doing something completely unrelated to photography, but has a camera and they want to make "spending" money on the side by doing weddings. These are the same people who will shoot your wedding with a Low End Consumer Digital camera. The traditional Wedding Photographer, whose full time job is photography, will use Medium Format cameras or High End Professional Digital SLR's for the highest image quality available.

"Contemporary Wedding Photography" is a natural blending of the two schools of thought. It will include the classic shots of the traditionalist and the story telling of the photojournalist.  Images will have a more candid, natural feel to them.  The posed shots will be less formal and not as numerous.  Quality " Contemporary Wedding Photography" is a little harder to find, but the more personalized finished product can be worth the extra effort.

When should I start to look for and book my photographer?

Usually six months to a year in advance is typical.  Popular summer months (May-August) can quickly book up a year in advance.  Off season weddings or events on less popular days (like Sunday) are easier to book on shorter notice.

How should I start to look for a photographer?

Referrals from friends or relatives that have used a particular photographer are always a good place to start.  They can tell you a lot more about how a photographer works on wedding day than a short meeting in the studio can.  Also, ask your wedding coordinator or event manager who they recommend.  The better services do not receive any compensation for referring a photographer (it's a good question to ask) and do so simply because they like the work and professionalism of a certain photographer.  Lastly, look in yellow pages or bridal guides. Just be sure to interview at least 2-3 photographers to be sure you have the one that's right for you.

What should I ask a prospective photographer?

Some common and important questions:

*Will he/she be the actual photographer for the event or will someone else be assigned to cover that day. Many larger studios' have several freelance photographers working for them and it's important to see the work of the photographer that will actually shoot your wedding.

*How much time will be needed before and after the ceremony to accomplish the style of photography you expect.

*Explain all fees and expenses up front.  If you're planning to purchase an album, ask what it will cost to complete the album that you plan to have.

*How does the photographer plan to manage the wedding day?  Some photographers stay completely in the background (typically wedding photojournalists) without giving any guidance or instruction to the wedding party whatsoever.  Others will give lots of instruction.  They'll tell you exactly what needs to be done and move things along with authority.  Still others will suggest and lead where appropriate for the more formal shots and settle into the background for candid coverage of the rest of the event.  Pick a photographer who's management style is representative of your needs and expectations.

*Are proofs / originals / previews included in the package for you to keep?  Some photographers will include the originals in your package, some may charge $350-$1000 for the complete set of proofs, and others ask you to return them within a specified amount of time and purchase any pictures that you wish to have.  With Digital photography the photographer may have you come in and order from the digital files without letting you take your images out of the studio. This is more common due to the ease of copying. Don't expect the photographer to do all the work and then just give up the files. The photographer needs to make a living so the next wedding couple can experience the awesome photography you were able to get. Still other photographers design an album for brides and grooms to view by appointment at the studio. Check with your photographer to find out how they do the viewing of your images.

*How long do they keep the negatives on file?  Are there any time limits for reordering pictures?

*What deposits are required to hold a specific date? When will the final balance be due?

How much should I expect to pay for wedding photography?

First ask yourself, "How much is preserving this event with quality photography worth to me?".  If you consider that your wedding photographs will be all that you have left to remember your day (most couples admit that they don't even recall much of the wedding because it was "such a blur") and are a lifelong investment, then you can figure it's value against the rest of your event expenses.  Some guides will tell you that 10-20% of the entire budget is appropriate, but you need to weigh your needs against the service and quality available in your area.  You can hire a wedding photographer for $500 or $50,000 ­ it all depends on what level of quality and uniqueness you want.  Your first question to a photographer should never be, "How much do you charge?" because you have no idea what you're getting for that price.  You would never go to a new car lot and ask, "how much for a car?".  You first find the car that fits your needs and quality expectations, and take it for a spin ­ if you like it, you ask, " What do I need to pay for THIS car?".

If your budget for photography is limited due to heavy expenditures on a $2000 gown, flowing rivers of booze, exotic flowers and elegant cuisine ­ then you may want to rethink your budget.  Although it is important to have a visually beautiful wedding that you and your guests will enjoy, none of what you have or do that day will be remembered or reviewed as much as your photography and video.

Do we need both video and photography?

Photography and video give you two different and complementary views of the wedding day.  While video captures the sounds, conversations and movement of the event, still photos freeze special moments in time, are archival, and easy to look back at when the urge arises.  Most couples elect to have both forms of coverage to preserve the memories as completely as possible.  If your budget is really tight, consider having a videographer for the ceremony, at the very least, and ask a friend with a steady hand to cover the reception.  You may also consider hiring both photographer and videographer for the same amount of coverage, but choose a simpler package for the finished product.

Why should I choose to go with an independent vs. a large studio or vice versa?

The quality of the photographers work and personal service they provide is more important than the size of the studio.  Compare it to purchasing clothes from a small designer boutique vs. buying from a department store.

Large studios have the resources to cover most any wedding date and rely on volume to support their overhead.  Many people feel more comfortable working with a larger, more substantial studio.  Also, because of their volume, some large studios can offer price breaks on services or products.  Most large studios use part-time subcontractors or apprentices to cover the larger volume of events.

Small studios and independents, by necessity, focus on quality photography and personal service.  Since a small studio is usually built around the style and service of one photographer, they cannot cover more than 4-6 weddings a month, and cannot afford a disappointed client - thus ensuring that each customer receive the best service possible.  You most often will be able to meet with the photographer first hand and be assured that he/she will be the one to photograph your wedding.

Whether choosing a large studio or small, be sure the photographer is a skilled, professional wedding photographer and takes your needs and expectations very seriously.

Why shouldn't we have a friend or relative do it instead of a professional photographer?

"Wedding photography is art and science mixed gingerly with nerves of steel."  Almost everyone has a friend or friend of the family who is a great amateur photographer.  Wedding photography, however, requires the skills, equipment and experience that only comes from the completion of 100+ weddings.  A wedding photographer needs patience and the demeanor to be calm and creative under pressure.  It is virtually impossible to be a guest at a wedding while simultaneously watching constantly for important events to unfold.  (I know this from experience, I've been asked to take photographs at friends' weddings but to "relax and have a good time" as well.  It can't be done.  I'm either a guest, or the photographer). Trusting your lifelong wedding memories to a friendly amateur is asking for hurt feelings and uncomfortable situations.

Professional photographers also have a significant investment in the equipment necessary for quality photos.  Specifically, larger format camera systems costing many THOUSANDS of dollars and flash equipment designed to provide 10 times the power for 10 times as long as the best amateur equipment.  (Essential for quality indoor AND outdoor photography).

Asking a guest to be trusted with your primary wedding photographs is an imposition and responsibility that they shouldn't have to undertake. If they make a mistake on your wedding portraits will it be the end of your friendship? This is a good thing the think about.

Can we have a friend take pictures IN ADDITION to our professional photographer?

Some photographers will answer a resounding "NO".  But more often than not, it is fine for friends and relatives to shoot as much at the reception as they want provided they don't interfere with the professional's attempt to provide YOU with the best service possible.  When guests, friends and relatives try to “snap a picture” at the same time as the professional, they often cause the professional’s flash to go off prematurely causing the loss of both images.  The professional has to then redo the photo (if he realizes his flash didn’t go off with his camera) to make sure he has the photo exposed correctly.  Guests who consistently ask the subjects to "stay there just a second" between every professional shot, are robbing you of expensive, and limited, photographic time.  Most all photographers will specify in their contract that they are to be the only "photographer", which is certainly in your best interest considering the chaos that would be caused by two or more photographers both vying for your attention.

We're providing DISPOSABLE CAMERAS for the guests at the reception, do we still need professional coverage at this point?

Disposables are a great novelty for the guests to enjoy and to give you some fun pictures to add to your collection.  However, they are NOT a substitute for professional photography for the following reasons:

*Disposables have a weak built in flash and fixed focus.  They are effective in a 5-7 foot range indoors. At least 50% of the pictures are unusable due to blur, over/under exposure or just plain abstract subject matter.

*Many of the cameras get inadvertently taken home by the guests, never to reach your album.

*With the cost of the cameras, processing and printing running $16-20 each, figure about $360 for cameras at 20 tables.  That money could more successfully be applied to extended professional coverage.

*(I've actually run into a wedding client sitting on the floor of Costco going through 30 packages of prints from disposables trying to figure out which ones she could afford to pick up that day.)

*On the other hand, if you've purchased adequate professional coverage and have the budget for disposables, they can add a fun and interesting twist to your collection of memories.  The more the merrier!

How many images will you create?  Is black and white film less expensive than color?

The number of images you will view naturally depends on the length of time the photographer is hired to cover.  A typical wedding day of 6-7 hours will produce about 300 - 500 images.

Black and white prints are a beautiful addition to any wedding package ­ however, it is actually MORE expensive than color to produce.  Most professional portrait labs are geared and automated for the color work that is most popular with wedding and portrait studios.  Black and white is still custom printed in smaller quantities, so expect to pay 30-50% more for B&W work.

Can we get Black & White pictures along with the color?  How much should we do?

Black & White can certainly be added to color coverage for an elegant, timeless touch to your wedding album.  There are a couple ways of doing so.  The entire wedding can be photographed in color using digital and afterwards, selected images can be printed on B&W paper.  This is a good quality option and a good choice for those on a budget.  The best quality black and white print is achieved by using traditional B&W paper to begin with.  Many photographers will prefer to use this method, although slightly more expensive.  Usually 15-20% is a nice balance.

Should we ask for Digital photos?  Can we have the images on disk?

Professional digital cameras run the price range from $4,000 to $50,000 each.  Digital photography offers the professional the advantage of not running out of film  and allows him the freedom of choice between Color and Black & White for the same image.  The less expensive digital cameras have limits as far as the size of the portrait you can create.  The prints made by professional labs cost about double the price of film prints at this time.  Digital is the choice of the working professional.  Don't ask your photographer to provide you with the images on disk.  This will be the same as having him give you the negatives and most professionals will charge in the range of $800-$1500 per negative or digital negative.  Once the photographer gives you the digital "negative" he will feel you won't purchase copies of the image from him since you now have the "negative". A common trend amoung photographers is to not correct or color balance your digital files when they give them to you on a CD or DVD. Amature photographers will shoot "FULL FRAME" which will not allow you to make 8 x 10 prints of some of your favorite images. This happens because the format of the digital SLR is a 9 x 12 inch image not a 8 x 10 inch image. So when you take that favorite image into the lab to be printed as an 8 x 10 there is not enough room on the sides of the image to allow for cropping without cutting off people or parts of your image.

We want to avoid the typical "Posed" look.  What should we do?

First, and most obvious, is to choose a photographer who's work reflects what you're really looking for. Often you need to see the work of several photographers to know what you prefer.  Usually it is necessary to "pose" certain shots (if only to assure that the right people are in the right shot at the right time), but they don't always have to look stiff or predictable.  Be yourself, have fun and (many photographers will cringe at this) don't always look at the camera unless the photographer requests it from you.

Should the bride and groom plan to see each other before the ceremony for photographs?

This is a common dilemma.  Some couples are adamantly opposed to seeing each other before the ceremony, others could go either way.  If you truly do not wish to see each other before hand, that's perfectly OK. Stick to your preference and ask your photographer to work a plan around it. You can skip the rest of this section.

The primary advantage to meeting before the ceremony is to allow most of the photographs to be taken BEFORE you have friends and family anxiously awaiting your entrance to the party.  I've found that the bride and groom (and parents) are often less stressed when they don't feel they are keeping their guests waiting and this makes for much more natural pictures.  In order to get lots of fun, romantic and unique photos, you need to plan some time to do so.  This time can be taken before the guests arrive or while they are waiting.

It is also becoming common for the couple to arrange a few minutes of "private time" before the ceremony and pictures, where they first meet and share a few moments alone (not likely after the ceremony!).  This can make for some great, natural emotional pictures and also relieves much of the anxiety of walking down the aisle.  It is a fact that none of the couples I know have ever regretted seeing each other before the ceremony, but several have wished they had. It can definitely make your day less stressful.

We're having a formal dinner, do we need to feed the photographer?

The photographer's day starts several hours before the wedding and goes on for several hours after the party's over.  It is a long, hard, tense day of being creative under pressure.  It is in your interest to help him/her function comfortably and effectively, and providing a suitable meal helps.  At formal dinners, your caterer may be able to provide a less expensive alternative meal for the photographer (and videographer and DJ) that will be perfectly suitable and definitely appreciated.

We're getting married at location away from our current home.  How do we find a photographer long distance?

Get recommendations from friends or the hotel or catering establishment in the area.  If possible, make an advance trip to personally interview them.  If having the wedding at a vacation locale, it's often to your advantage to bring a photographer from your home town or from the town of a friend who can recommend a good photographer.  Many resorts have photographers of " questionable" quality at best. Most good photographers travel regularly to photograph events and are accustomed to dealing with traveling logistics.  A few "photographers of the 90's" even have web sites where you can gather an abundance of information about them from anywhere in the world. (shameless plug)

Why can't we just copy the proofs ourselves to save money?

It's illegal.  As if that's not enough, the quality will be very poor.  All photographs and negatives are the exclusive property of the photographer (with weddings and any other photographic situation) unless other arrangements are made expressly in writing.  It's similar to software copyrights where you're allowed to use your copy, but not to duplicate it.  Many copyright infringers have learned the hard way that illegally copying a photographer's work is an expensive mistake!  Please don't try it and don't ask a lab to do it for you. (Most will frown upon copying professionals' work anyway, as they face stiff ($150,000.00) fines per image as well for copyright infringement.)

Why is photography so expensive?

Most people who feel professional photography is too expensive are accustomed to the "quick photo" labs and expenses associated with amateur photography.  Professional photography requires expensive professional equipment, films and processing at high quality specialized labs.  A photographer invests years in training, apprenticing, and continued study to keep his or her level or professionalism up to expected standards.  Many hours of work goes into prep, assembly and legwork beyond just the few that you may see at the event.  Of course every professional needs a profit margin to stay in business, but the profit margin for wedding photography is actually much lower than what most people would expect.

What if our photographer gets sick or has an emergency?

Most photographers will, in such a situation, attempt to find a replacement for the event. If they are unable to, their liability is limited to a refund of all monies paid.  However, realize that all the details of your wedding involve an element of risk.  Most experienced photographers realize the importance of your wedding and will do everything possible to ensure success.

How do we get the most from our photography investment?

Communicate as much as possible with your photographer from the start. If there are any special people or types of shots that you'd like to have, let your photographer know ahead of time.  Help your photographer help YOU by providing him or her with as much information and support as possible.  If you want fun, candid photos - then it helps if you can relax and HAVE some fun!

 Make sure you, and your wedding party, are on time for your photographs.  Your photographer's clock starts at the scheduled time when her or she arrives ready to shoot, not when the last grooms man finally arrives!  You certainly can't delay the ceremony to make up for lost picture time.

 Ask a best man or maid of honor to help with organizing people for pictures or to point out certain people to the photographer.  Have them ask guests politely to refrain from interfering with the photographer during formal or posed shots.

 Let your friends and family know that you've paid a lot of money for a professional photographer and anything they can do to help, will also help YOU get the most for your money.

 Last, but not least, realize that your photographer takes pride is his or her work and is only working towards one goal: to provide you with photographs you will be proud to share and with a service you will be comfortable recommending to a friend.  Establish a win-win relationship from the start, and everyone will have fond memories.

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