Questions to Ask Wedding Photographers at a Bridal Expo

Wedding expo season has just kicked into high gear and I will have a booth at the Greater Virginia Bridal Show in Roanoke on Sunday.  Since I have been in bridal expo mode for a little over a month now I figured I would compile a list of questions to help you gather as much information from photographers that you meet at these types of events (or even give you ideas for questions to ask when you are sending an email inquiry).  You can download the questions as a PDF here that you can print out and use it to take notes on photographers you meet at bridal shows whereas the version below includes some additional notes as well as the answers you would hear from me if we were to chat at a wedding expo.

Are you available on my wedding date?
Ask this one first to save yourself and the vendor time.

How early should I book my date with you?
Sometimes couples plan their weddings REALLY early, I’ve booked weddings a month prior the event and I have booked weddings that were almost a year and half away.  If you are sure you want to work with me (or any other vendor), sign your contract and pay your deposit ASAP because it is unlikely that your wedding date can be held without one.

How long have you been photographing weddings?
I photographed my first wedding in 2008.

Do you have a list of references or reviews?
Yes, I have testimonials listed on my website, reviews on Wedding Wire and Google+, and I can also provide you a list of references if you would like to reach out to brides that I have worked with.  Run away from any vendor that answers this question with a “no”.

Have you photographed a wedding at our venue before?
If I have not photographed a wedding at your venue before, I will try to visit it in person prior to the event.  If I don’t have a chance to view it in person, I research it online and also try to scope things out on Google Earth to get a lay of the land.

Have you worked with any of my other vendors before?
If your photographer has a previous working relationships with other vendors it can help your wedding day flow more smoothly.  This could also give you the opportunity to ask vendors you have already hired what it was like to work with this photographer.

What is your photography style?
The lines between different photo styles are kind of blurry so I’ll just try to explain rather than give it a name… For the most part I shoot in the photojournalistic style documenting the day as it happens with little direction, the exception here is that I will style the details and I will give you direction to get you into poses for bride and groom photos and other formal photos.  Also, I’m an art nerd so I will try to get artsy fartsy and get some out of the box shots - don’t worry I always work with a second shooter (who also happens to be my mother) to make sure we get a couple perspectives and get a safe shot if one of us is taking experimental shots.

What is your working style?
My working style is to stay out of the way as much as possible and document your day like a fly on the wall.  Some photographers are more hands on and will give you a lot of direction throughout the day.  Think about how you might like your wedding day to go - would you feel more comfortable working with someone who is unobtrusive or do you prefer to be given direction throughout the day?  An engagement session can give you the opportunity to “test drive” your photographer and see if you are comfortable with their working style and personality.

What makes you different from other photographers?
If you have ever been asked this at a job interview, I’m sure you know already that it is a trick question that can potentially really throw someone off their “A” Game… so it gives you the opportunity to learn how quick on their feet they are on top of what kind of super magical photographer powers they might possess.  For me I would say things that make me different are that I want build a relationship with clients that I work with (seriously, if we work together and I never hear from you again after your wedding I will cry actual tears each year on your wedding anniversary), my second photographer is my mother so essentially this is a family business now, and I will force you to have printed proof of your wedding day which you will thank me for later, I promise.  Oh and did I mention I will make your wedding day timeline for you to make life easier for you and make sure you have the best lighting for your photos as possible?

Do you shoot color and black and white?
99.9% of the time the photos that I show you will be in color.  Every once in a while, if the colors are too crazy and distracting in a shot, but otherwise the moment is emotionally golden, sometimes I will give it to you only in black and white because I don’t have the heart to delete it.  I can convert any color photo to black and white before sending you your final files, but I can never turn a black and white photo back to color, so better safe than sorry.

Can I give you a shot list? Do I NEED to give you a shot list?
Because I thrive on photographing truly candid and emotionally charged moments, I die a little inside if you send me a three page shot list made up of scenarios I need to try to stage.  I will actually send you a questionnaire prior to your wedding to make sure I have covered all the bases, know what and who to look out for, what DIY projects you spent hours on end perfecting, and which family members cannot stand next to each other so no one gets strangled during formal photo time.

Do you have backup equipment?
I sure do.  I dropped and ruined my brand new flash 5 minutes after walking in the door of a venue one time, I was heartbroken of course, but I pulled out my backup and the show goes on.  Do not hire a photographer who does not have backup equipment, unless they have guaranteed that they will be renting a backup kit for your wedding day.

What do you do if you are sick or have an emergency on my wedding date?
If I am 100% out of commission, I know many other local photographers and I will send a backup person in my place who has a similar photography style to mine.

How long do I have to wait to get my photos after the wedding?
You will see your edited proofs within 4-6 weeks after the wedding.  Afterwards you will have a chance to review your images and let me know if you would like any additional touch ups or black and white conversions.  Once you’ve approved the images, I send them your way.  I have never, ever been late for a wedding or delivering images.

Are digital files and/or negatives included in the photo package?
They sure are.  Throughout the editing process I permanently delete any images that do not meet my quality standards.  A digital copy of every image you see in your proofing gallery will be sent to you.

How many photos should I expect to get?
My estimate is usually in the ballpark of 50 photos per hour of coverage…  For an 8 hour package you should expect to see 400+ photos.

When is the deposit due and how much will it be?
The deposit is due when the contract is signed and is 25% of the price of the package that you select.

What is your cancellation policy?
If you cancel, you forfeit the non-refundable deposit you submitted when the contract was submitted.

When is the final balance due?
The remaining balance is due 14 days prior to your wedding date, so you won't have to leave the dance floor to find your checkbook on your wedding night.

Can I see a full wedding gallery of an event that you shot recently?
You sure can, I’ll even find you one from your venue if I have shot there before.

Do you charge a travel fee?
My packages include venues within a 50 mile radius of Blacksburg, Virginia - beyond that 50 mile radius does incur a travel fee based on the distance traveled and if accommodations would be required.

Are you photographing other events on the same day/weekend as mine?
I would never take on an additional event or photo session on the same day that I already have a wedding, I am 100% focused on you on your wedding day.

Will you create a custom package to fit my needs?
Each of my packages were created to provide you with a complete wedding photography experience, but if they do not meet your needs I am willing to put together a custom package for you.

Do you provide album design?
I do!  Two of my packages include wedding albums and I think that every couple should have one.  Weddings are a large investment and I believe that you should have a tangible way to remember that experience.  Your wedding album will be your first heirloom as a new family and I love designing them with that in mind.  My albums are flush-mount which means that the photos are printed directly onto the super thick pages that cannot be ripped and you will have more than 20 fabric options to choose from for the cover.

Do you retouch the photos?
The first round of editing prior to sending out your proofs includes basic adjustments to color and exposure and retouch any obtrusive flaws.  After you have seen the proofs you are more than welcome to send me additional requests of basic retouching.

Will you be submitting my wedding to be featured in magazines and/or blogs?
Yes!  I have been published in The Knot (print and online version), bridebook magazine, and oodles of wedding blogs - I love to see your beautiful wedding photos featured.  If you have a favorite blog or publication where you would like to have your photos submitted, let me know and I will submit there for consideration first.


Additional Bridal Expo Tips

  • Wedding expos have giveaways galore… avoid writing your info out repeatedly by bringing a few sheets of mailing labels with the following information printed on it to stick to each giveaway entry form:  full name, email address, wedding date, mailing address (optional), and phone number (optional).
  • After the show vendors will start to contact you from those giveaway entries.  If you want them to stop, just reply to their emails and let them know.  They don’t want to bother you, so just let them know you are no longer interested.
  • Bring a notebook and a pen to take notes on vendors who are your favorites - you will end up with a bag bulging with fliers and freebies so your personal notes will help you sift through and find the information for vendors you want to follow up with.
  • Hydrate, seriously bring water.  There are going to be so many sugary treats to taste test plus it will be hot from all the people walking around it is a really good idea to bring at least one bottle of water for yourself.
  • Bring your checkbook.  If you know there is a vendor that you want to work with and they will be attending this particular wedding show, they will probably be offering a show special so this is your chance to book a vendor you would have worked with anyway and take advantage of their special offer.
  • Do a little research on what vendors are participating in the expo… If you plan ahead you can get a game plan on who to skip over because they aren’t a good fit, and who to look out for in case you accidentally pass by their booth.  Some shows will even provide a map of where each vendor is located just in case you accidentally passed by someone you had meant to talk to.
  • Don’t take freebies you don’t really want – they will weigh down your bags and make you feel like you want to leave early.
  • Stick around for the fashion show (if there is one)…  This is typically the time when the biggest giveaways happen and you have to be present to collect your prize.
  • Most importantly: enjoy yourself!