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Q & A to ask all photographers when you meet with them

I’d like to start this off by offering some advice to everyone searching for a wedding photographer. There is an enormous amount of “newbies” out there nowadays professing to be a seasoned professional wedding photographer with absolutely no idea about what they are doing. This is one of the most important events of your life. The photographer you choose is going to be guardian of your wedding memories long after the event has passed. Experienced photographers know this and understand the level of expertise that is required to handle the pressure and unpredictability of your event and deliver quality images responsibly. Flashy “newbies” are not. Weddings can be fast moving, unpredictable events. There is no time to be fumbling with equipment or lack the ability to work with large groups of people. You must be able to create beautiful images very quickly. I literally mean there will be times you will only have seconds to grab a shot and then move on. Listed below are some questions that you should ask every photographer you meet with (including me!!!) But I’ll answer them here.

How many weddings have you photographed?
-I have photographed over 150 as of the time of this posting. (Answer should be at least 15 - as the main photographer).

Have you ever had any mishaps where images were lost? If so what caused it?
-No I have not. (This is a very important question to ask, the answer should of course be no).

Are all of your samples I see online your own, and from actual commissioned events?
-Yes, all my own, from events I was hired to photograph. (Answer should be “yes”).

Were you a second shooter on any of these images? (Meaning some other photographer hired you to shoot for them)?
-I have never second shot for anyone. All my images are from commissioned events.

Do you guarantee a base number of usable images per hour?
-Yes, 100 per hour. (As long as the answer is reasonably close its okay).

Can you prove that you can photograph a wedding from start to finish with all the events involved? And not just have random pictures (which anyone can get lucky with once in a while and post on a website)?
-Yes, go to my blog and click on the category “weddings” and every wedding you will see has pictures from the “getting ready” stage to the end of the night to prove that I can consistently take great pictures from beginning to end every time.

Will you tell me what equipment you use on a regular basis for paid assignments (and please do not list equipment you plan to rent)?
-Yes. (Only correct answer)

Are your camera’s full frame sensors or crop sensors? (Either answer is fine, what your looking for is that the photographer knows the difference?
-Mine are full frame.

What type of supplemental lighting do you use in uneven lighting situations?
-I have on camera flash units and off camera (remotely triggered) flash units to avoid flat lighting. I also use video lights and a ring light. (The answer your looking for is some knowledge of supplemental lighting. If you hear the answer “I am a natural light photographer” that normally means they are not comfortable with flash photography, which takes a little more expertise). You want someone who is comfortable with both.

Can you supply me with references from wedding clients in the past?
-Yes. (Only answer).

How many backups do you make of the original images after the event? Where are they stored, and in what format?
-I back them up immediately to two external hard drives on site. I also immediately make a complete back up of everything and store it off site. These are all in the original .raw format I shot your pictures in. (What your looking for is someone who understands the responsibility he/she now posses with your wedding images. The main thing I would be looking for is someone who stores a complete copy off site, this shows knowledge and responsibility).

Do you carry separate photography insurance (as some venues may require this)?
-Yes. I will be glad to show you my certificate upon request.

The following is more Q & A but geared more toward myself and how I work.

What got you started in photography and why do you like shooting weddings?
-Many years ago I had some pictures taken with my daughters. The photographer was brilliant. His artistry and how he photographed us moved me so much when I saw the pictures that I knew at that moment I wanted to learn photography. I wanted to be able to create that same emotion I felt when I saw my pictures. So I remembered the camera and lens he used and went out and bought the exact same thing, knowing nothing at the time if it was a good buy or not. Luckily it was. I studied fashion magazines and read photography books. I photographed all my friends until they were sick of me. I had connections with fashion agencies and started shooting their models. I thought this was the path in photography I was going to take until a friend of mine asked me to shoot his wedding. I didn’t think I would like it because I didn’t think it was possible to create art at a wedding. I was wrong. I have been photographing weddings ever since and I love it.

Do you use film or digital?
-I am 100% digital and use the best Nikon equipment on the market.

What if your equipment breaks during our wedding?
-I take 3 or more backups of every piece of equipment I use to every wedding, so fear not.

Where are you located?
-I am in Los Angeles (specifically Culver City).

Will you save my date?
-Definitely, but first I require a signed contract and a non-refundable retainer (50%) when you sign and that’s it for now.

Why is the retainer non-refundable?
-Because when you hire me for your date I am YOURS and nobody else’s. I no longer take phone calls or meetings for your wedding date, I have given it to you. This means I am now turning down all other bookings for your date, so should you cancel I keep the retainer because I have lost my chance for any other income on that date.

What if a piano falls on your head the week before our wedding and you can’t make it?
-I’ll probably have a pretty bad headache and if I’m alive I will do my best to help you find a replacement photographer. These are recommendations only, the choice of who you would choose is completely up to you. I make no guarantee should this happen that I can find someone of my quality at my price. You will probably have to pay more to find someone who can deliver the same quality I can. My liability if I am unable to make it to your wedding is limited to a refund of all monies paid to date (a full refund). PLEEEESE understand I mention this only as a disclaimer because I have to, it would seriously take me being near death not to make it.

What are your wedding rates?
-$2,475.00 (plus tax)

Do you accept cash, check or credit card?
-All of the above.

What does that get me?
-An engagement photo session.
-All images from engagement given on DVD usually within 2 weeks.
-Your wedding photographed by me with 10 hours of coverage.
-A private password protected website for all your images from the engagement and wedding.
-All your images from the wedding given to you on DVD approximately 10 weeks (depending on time of year) after wedding.
-50 images from wedding & 20 from engagement (photographers favorites) retouched and enhanced.

Do you have other packages?
-After the above listed items it’s all done “a la carte”. Meaning you put together the items you specifically want. If you want to add an album, additional wedding hours, a second photographer, rehearsal coverage… whatever your specific needs are it is tailor made to what you want. If all you need is what is already listed then you are done.

Do you travel?
-Definitely, in Los Angeles its free. If I’m driving to Santa Barbara, Palm Springs or San Diego its an extra $50.00. If I’m flying I like to leave two days before your wedding (not mandatory I just like to be safe) just in case of flight problems and come back the day after. There is an additional $500.00 added to the $2,475.00 due to the extra time and missed work at home but I also include extra wedding day coverage at no extra cost. Other costs would generally include hotel (usually where you are staying), airfare (direct only), taxi’s, rental car etc. I like to make my own travel plans but I will definitely work with you in figuring everything out.

Do you work with a second photographer?
-My opening wedding package is made to be as cost effective as possible for those of you who are on a tighter budget. Thus it starts with only myself photographing your wedding. I photograph approximately 50% of my weddings by myself so it’s no problem to do so. That being said I strongly recommend hiring one of my second photographers (or at least an assistant) to go along with me. It makes my job easier. I can move faster and create more images. I can go into more detail on this when we speak.

What is the website where my images will be posted?
-The online gallery is a private password protected website www.pictage.com where all your images from your engagement and wedding will be posted for 3 months. You can share the link with friends and family so they can view and order images as they please.

How many images do we end up with?
-Every wedding is different but for a normal wedding with all the normal events and timeline I have yet to deliver less than 800.

What if my wedding goes past the time we have booked you for, do you leave?
-Usually this can be figured out in the timeline beforehand but if for some reason you need extra coverage it can be added on @ $250.00 per hour.

When do you leave?
-When my scheduled time is up I will come to you at the end of the wedding after I have gotten everything I need and ask you if there is anything else you want, if the answer is no then I am done, if you want more then I will stay and bill you after the honeymoon for the additional hours.

Do we feed you?
-A happy photographer is a fed photographer. It doesn’t have to be the same sit down meal as all the guests, in fact most venues have “vendor meals” either one is fine with me. I do suggest that you make arrangements with the reception site so that I eat at the same time as the bride and groom so that I keep on the same schedule as the two of you so I don’t miss any pictures.

Do you keep our digital files at your location?
-Yes but once you receive your disks our liability for storing your images is over. This is why we recommend making copies as soon as you receive your disks and storing them in separate locations. We will never delete your images and we keep 2 copies but should some sort of natural disaster hit and wipe out all our back up devices we like to know that you will always have copies of your images.

What is your style and how do you photograph?
-I have clients that come to me and say “I love your photojournalistic shots and that’s what I want for my wedding”. My response is then to explain the difference between true photojournalism and photojournalistic looking pictures. True photojournalism is when I don’t interfere at all and document the day as it unfolds moment by moment. Photojournalistic looking shots are shots that I may set up by putting you in great light or a location and giving you direction and then photographing you. When done right these pictures can look like a beautiful moment captured photo journalistically but I have stepped in (even if to a small degree) thus making it not a true photojournalistic picture. So to answer this question my style is a mix of mostly photojournalism but there will be times that I prompt you or move you to great light/location to achieve the look I’m after (and that you hired me for) and that would be classified as more “portrait” type pictures. So I would classify my style as a mix of fashion, portraiture and photojournalism.

Can we give you a list of photographs to take?
-For shot lists of the friends and family after the reception I will shoot however much you want but I do require that the list be given to someone that knows everyone and is good at gathering. Then I can concentrate on photography. As far as shot lists of what to take pictures of throughout the day, this I do not do. You’re hiring me for my vision and if I’m looking at a piece of paper all day I’m missing the wedding. Don’t worry I’m probably getting most of the stuff on the list anyway. (If it’s a few important things then of course let me know.)

Do you photograph in both black and white and color?
-Your wedding will be photographed digitally all in color. The process to convert to black and white or anything else after the fact is easy, so fear not.

What is a bridal session?
-A bridal session is where you get your hair and make up done, put on your dress and we go out to unique locations and take great pictures, its almost like your own private fashion shoot. It gives you a practice run with your hair and makeup to see if you want to change anything and best of all you get great pictures and if your fiancé wants to put on his tux/suit he’s more than welcome to join in. Be sure to contact your florist to get a bridal portrait bouquet for your session.

What is a trash the dress session?
-Once again this is your own private photo shoot, just the three of us. The difference is this time I put both of you in contrasting environments. For ex: Gorgeous bride and groom in a grungy alley or both of you rolling around in the shoreline at the beach. The idea is to photograph the two of you in conditions/environments that one would not normally see a bride and groom all dressed up in. Trust me its fun!!! Oh, almost forgot, this is definitely after the wedding.

When should I schedule my engagement/bridal/trash the dress session?
-As soon as possible. Certain times of the year I get extremely busy, there are periods where I can not take a booking for months at a time, so PLEASE don’t wait until the last minute.

What do we wear to our engagement session?
-Wear clothes that do not detract from the two of you. I want the emphasis to be on the both of you not your clothes. I would suggest casual clothes that you are comfortable in. Try not to wear anything that has wild patterns or some big logo or advertisement on it. Darker solids, non descript patterns or textures are fine but make sure there is a different tone contrast in your tops. That means don’t both wear all black shirts because when you hug it can sometimes look like a black blob (same for any color).

Where do you photograph the engagement session?
-Engagement sessions are done on location anywhere relatively close to me.

How are we supposed to pose or what do we do, we’ve never had photos taken before and we get really nervous
when we get our picture taken?

-An engagement session is meant to capture the two of you, who you are as a couple together. We’ll go somewhere fun, walk around and the two of you just relate to each other. You can talk, hug, kiss, laugh, whatever you want and I’ll be there to capture it. If you need a little help I’ll be there to give you a prompt. Trust me its painless and in about an hour or two you’ll end up with great pictures.

If you have any other questions that aren’t answered here please fill out the contact form and I will get back to you shortly.