"Wedding Weekly"

The Final Meeting & Questionnaire

Final Questionnaire.jpg

I love being involved in the wedding planning process with my couples. The more planning that goes into the wedding photography, the better things will turn out. I don't want to show up on the wedding day and be surprised by something if I have an opportunity to find out about it ahead of time. I want my brides and grooms to have the absolute best that I can give them, and that means we spend a little extra time preparing. There's a whole wealth of posts in my Wedding Weekly series, because I want to help newly engaged couples, whether they end up choosing me as their wedding photographer or not.

One of the most important parts of the planning process for me is the final questionnaire. About two months before the wedding day, I send my couple an online form to fill out so that I will have all the details of their wedding day.

What are some of the most important details for me to know?

-Names and contact numbers for the best man, maid of honor, and wedding coordinator - The bride and groom aren't going to be answering their phones on the wedding day, so I need to know who to call if we need to get in touch with them.

-Special events throughout the day - Is unity sand a part of the ceremony? Is the bridal party doing a choreographed dance? Will there be a bubble exit from the ceremony or the reception?

Stephanie & Jonathan's Wedding.Family-115.jpg

-Each family group for the family portraits - Taking the family portraits can be a time-consuming portion of the day, but these images are so critical for the couple to have, especially when relatives travel from all over the globe to share in their wedding day. Having a complete list ahead of time ensures that we won't forget anyone in the busyness of the day and that I'll have the names of any missing individuals so they can be found as quickly as possible. I also ask about sensitive family situations so the whole process runs smoothly.

-Special or meaningful details - I want to know if the bride is carrying her grandmother's handkerchief or if she's wearing the bracelet that her sister wore on her wedding day. Or if the card box was the same one that was used at the groom's parents' wedding. Or if a monogram is stitched inside her gown as her "something blue." If I don't know about these important details ahead of time, I might not even see them on the wedding day.

-Photography restrictions at the venue - Some venues and ministers have restrictions on what the photographer can do during the ceremony. Many churches don't allow the photographer to move around or restrict the photographer to the last pew in the church. This dramatically changes the resulting images from the ceremony. While they'll still be beautiful images, they might not be what the bride and groom had in mind, so I always want to talk with my couples about this ahead of time so we're all on the same page.

In addition to these questions, we look over and finalize the wedding timeline. We discuss a rain plan if any portion of the wedding day or portraits are planned to take place outside. And we go over the list of wedding vendors, so I can be sure to send them images after the wedding.

Once I have the final questionnaire, I have everything that Ryan and I need to give 150% on the wedding day.

If you liked this post, you may also enjoy:
How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer
Am I The Right Photographer for You?
Comparing Photographers: Budget, Style, & Experience
Why is Wedding Photography More Expensive
Why I Photograph Weddings
What We Wear to Weddings
The Gift of Photography
Whatever It Takes
Things I've Learned Being Photographed

The Questions You Shouldn't Ask Your Wedding Photographers

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We've already gone over questions I think couples should ask photographers before booking. Today I wanted to mention a few that I've seen recommended in articles but I think are unhelpful and sometimes confusing to the client.

Can you change your editing style?

There may be some photographers who let their clients dictate their editing style, but for most it's an integral part of their work and can't be separated from the final product. It's as natural to them as the way they shoot.

Is your photography business full time or part time?

There are plenty of amazing photographers who don't run their photography business full time, and they are still 100% dedicated to giving you an amazing experience.

What type of equipment do you use?

If you have a photography background, by all means ask about this if it matters to you. But if you don't know a SB700 from a 50mm 1.4, just trust that other questions you ask will determine if you're dealing with a true professional or not.

What is your style?

The problem with this question is that photographers have to use buzz words to describe their style - traditional, modern, photojournalistic, candid, lifestyle, formal, casual, flash, natural light, romantic, whimsical, bold, moody, etc. Some of these words mean completely different things to different people. And not everyone can look at an outdoor portrait taken with flash and distinguish that flash was used. Instead of asking the photographer to describe their style, I recommend taking time to dig through the photographer's portfolio first. Then you can ask more specific questions about photos you saw.

Have you shot at my venue?

This was a question I saw recommended a lot when I was planning my wedding. But there are dozens of wedding venues in every town, and you don't want to cross out an amazing photographer just because they haven't done a wedding at your venue. Instead, ask to see a wedding similar to yours: an outdoor wedding with an outdoor reception under string lights, for example.

Do I get the RAW files or the copyright for the images?

I've covered these topics in depth before, but the short answer is that's not what you're actually looking for. The RAW files are unedited and can only be opened with special photo editing software. It's part of the photographer's job to edit the images and deliver a finished product to the client. And as the artist and creator of the images, the photographer keeps the copyright to the images but sells the bride and groom printing rights for their personal use.

Are you a member of any photography associations?

25 years ago, photography associations may have been more important than they are now. But honestly, now it's just a certification that can be purchased. It's not really proof of anything. 

Do you specialize in weddings?

I can understand that you might not want a photographer who shoots weddings, newborns, dogs, families, commercial, senior portraits, products, fashion, and literally everything else. Different types of photography require different equipment and you can't master 12 different types. But I don't think you should rule out a photographer who shoots families and weddings. There are a lot of similarities between various types of portrait photography and weddings, not to mention brides might want to continue to use their wedding photographer for their family photos every year.

Can I see references?

I understand why this question is recommended, because your wedding day is one of the biggest days of your life. That is why I work really hard to get online reviews and client testimonials from my past brides. I want prospective clients to have complete confidence when they hire me for their wedding day. But I don't have permission to give out my clients' personal contact information.

What is your response time?

There's no point to ask this question because everyone knows the "right" answer to give. Instead, just look at the response you're getting from the photographer during the inquiry process. Are they emailing you back within 24 or 48 hours? Great. (And don't forget, they're probably not available on the weekends, so don't count that in your response time!)

 

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like:
How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer
Am I The Right Photographer for You?
Comparing Photographers: Budget, Style, & Experience
Why is Wedding Photography More Expensive
Why I Photograph Weddings
What We Wear to Weddings
The Gift of Photography
Whatever It Takes
Things I've Learned Being Photographed

The Questions You Should Ask Your Wedding Photographers

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I love wedding planning websites and blogs as much as the average wedding-obsessed woman, but sometimes they give brides terrible information. You know the ones I'm talking about... the really big sites with forums and blog articles out the wazoo. The ones who try to tell brides across the country what they should be looking for as if every area and every bride was the same.

So I wanted to go over the questions you should ask before booking your photographer. Some of these questions might be immediately answered by their website, their initial email responding your inquiry, or the contract. We like to give our couples everything they need to know right up front to help them make the best decision possible, so we answer almost all of these before our clients even ask.

Good Questions

Can I see a wedding like mine?

A photographer might not have done a wedding at your venue, but you can compare their work from a similar venue. For example, if you're having an outdoor wedding and indoor reception, I try to send links to weddings that match. If you're having a church wedding, you will want to see how the photographer shoots indoors. If you want portraits outside after dark, you want to find a photographer who does that well.

Can I look through an entire wedding?

By entire, I mean approximately 200 photos. You don't literally need to see every family photo that was taken, but you should look at more than the 30 images in their 'best of' gallery. It's worth checking to make sure the photographer can deliver a high quality product for the entire wedding day. You could also look through the wedding photographer's blog to quickly get a feel for their work over several weddings. Regardless, you want to make sure that you're not only being shown a highlight reel.

Do you have a 2nd shooter?

Some people might not care if a photographer works with a 2nd shooter, but this is an important point for most couples.

What is in your packages? What add-ons do you have? Are digital files included? Do you offer albums?

These are all things that should be spelled out in an investment guide or an email. If you don't get detailed information about what is in each package, be sure to ask.

Do you have a sample album?

If you're interested in purchasing a wedding album, you probably want to see and touch the album that they offer.

What is the process like after the wedding?

You'll naturally want to know how long it will take for you to get your images, how they will be delivered, and what the process is for any album or product orders.

How does a typical wedding day go for you?

Hearing the wedding photographer talk through a typical timeline and how hands on they are throughout the wedding day will help you decide if they're the right fit for you.

How do you use lighting? Is it intrusive?

Now this is another tricky one. No photographer thinks they're being intrusive. Even the crazy ones who are right up there next to the pastor during the whole ceremony. But having the photographer describe how she uses flash is important if you are getting married indoors, especially if your ceremony location has restrictions about it.

What's your backup plan if you get sick? Do you have backup equipment? Do you have insurance? What's the deposit and payment policy? Are there additional fees for travel, cancellation, rescheduling, etc?

A lot of these questions will be explained throughout the contract, so you might want to wait until you receive that before asking these questions. (And if the photographer doesn't have a contract, walk away.)

Okay Questions

How many weddings do you shoot a year?

This question isn't too helpful, because some photographers shoot 25 weddings a year, have a great system, and deliver client images quickly. Some shoot significantly fewer weddings and still take forever to finish a wedding. And some shoot 8-12 because that's all they want to shoot to balance family time and give their clients a fantastic experience. (That's us!) So really this question doesn't tell you much about how your experience with that wedding photographer will be.

Will you take another wedding the same weekend?

Similar to the previous question, there is no 'right' answer. I used to love taking double headers since we could do 4 weddings in a single month and still have 2 weekends completely off. But now that we have a baby, we want to spend at least part of each weekend with him. (And let's be honest, we don't want to burn out our babysitters!)

How long have you been in business?

This isn't a bad question. I just think that some people put too much stock into this. Keep in mind that a photographer who has been in business for 10 years doesn't necessarily have better work than someone with 3-5 years of experience. Some photographers grow and improve quickly and others don't. Couples with lower budgets will probably be looking for a newer but still experienced photographer, because many photographers will be out of their price range.

Do you use the same 2nd shooter all the time?

There's no right or wrong answer to this one, because there are pros to both sides. Using the same 2nd shooter provides consistency and the photographers can work together as a seamless team because they've done it so often. Using a different 2nd shooter allows a photographer to hire experienced 2nd shooters who have their own businesses (and therefore aren't available every weekend). These 2nd shooters can also be tailored to fit the personality and style of each wedding.

How many photos will I receive?

The answer to this question isn't super important. Although many photographers give 400-1000 photos, only about 100 images will fit into a wedding album., so 400 photos is still a LOT! Obviously couples with large wedding parties, lots of details, and longer wedding days will receive more photos than couples with smaller weddings. But knowing the answer to this question is good so you're not disappointed if you receive fewer than you were expecting.

 

So there's the list of questions I think you should have answered before booking your photographer. If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:
How to Choose Your Wedding Photographer
Am I The Right Photographer for You?
Comparing Photographers: Budget, Style, & Experience
Why is Wedding Photography More Expensive
Why I Photograph Weddings
What We Wear to Weddings
The Gift of Photography
Whatever It Takes
Things I've Learned Being Photographed

Budget Wisdom from Every Last Detail

Today's post is a little unusual, but it's a great follow up to my recent post about the cost of wedding photography. I've found some really great information on wedding budgets from Every Last Detail, and I wanted to share them here for our couples to learn from.

A super helpful article that explains what you should expect to pay for each piece of the wedding. The total comes out to a $35,000 wedding with all professional vendors. But that doesn't mean you can't have a beautiful wedding for less than $35,000. These stats give you a really great starting point of comparison to your budget. After you see what a realistic budget with professional vendors looks like, you can determine which parts to prioritize and which parts to cut back.

And how to evaluate vendors without comparing them like apples to oranges. Don't forget about the intangibles, like experience and quality.

 

Want More Wedding Photography Tips?
Advantages of a First Look
Timeline VS Wedding Day Time
The Family Formal List
The Must Take Shot List
Budget Wisdom from Every Last Detail
Sunset Time on the Wedding Day
What About a Rainy Wedding Day?
Options for Your Wedding Exit
What To Do With Your Wedding Photos

Do I Really Need a Wedding Coordinator?

I know what it's like to plan a wedding and be overwhelmed with everything that your budget needs to cover. And when you've never planned a wedding before, it can be hard to make good decisions, because you honestly don't know what the best option is and what the ramifications of that choice will be. That's one of the reasons I always recommend that my brides hire a professional wedding planner.

Today I wanted to focus on what happens when a couple doesn't hire a planner or a day of coordinator for their wedding: the photographer kind of becomes the coordinator. And that's not always in the couple's best interest.

Don't get me wrong. I love helping my couples put together their wedding day timelines. I will make sure things keep moving throughout the portrait time. I will tell the girls how to hold their bouquets and advise the bride and groom on how to cut the cake. I will work with the DJ or band throughout the reception to make sure we're on the same page with the parent dances and the bouquet and garter toss.

Sounds like a day of coordinator right?

But what if the cake cutting set goes missing? What about keeping the girls on track during hair and makeup? What about set up and take down of the reception? What about pinning on those pesky boutonnieres? What if the groom forgets his vows in the hotel room? What if a vendor is running late?

A photographer can't handle these sorts of things. But a day of coordinator can.

And I can only give advice on a small part of the timeline... the part that affects the photography! How long will it take for hair and makeup? When should the cake arrive? What about bustling the dress before the reception? A coordinator's opinion is so valuable! 

A day of coordinator not only manages things that go wrong on the wedding day and keeps the timeline on track, but she helps the day run more smoothly. She might ask the caterers to provide a plate of appetizers for the bridal party during cocktail hour. She's a pro with boutonnieres! She will make sure your gifts are loaded into the right vehicle and your 'something borrowed' gets back to your aunt at the end of the night. 

When my couples hire a wedding planner or day of coordinator, they are able to ENJOY their wedding day more. And they get the best possible photography experience from me, because I am completely focused on photographing the wedding day.

On a related note, local Hampton Roads wedding planners, Emily Weddings, recently posted a fabulous article about the difference between a venue coordinator and a day of coordinator.

Looking for a wedding photographer? I still have a few weekends open for this year! Shoot me an email here with your names, wedding date and location!

 

Want more Tips for Brides?
Makeup: Splurge or Save?
How to be Inspired by Pinterest
Do I Really Need a Wedding Coordinator?
Because They Hired a Wedding Planner
Secret Jobs of a Wedding Planner
6 Things Wedding Guests Will Love
The Importance of the Stupid Wedding Decisions
10 Things That Should be on Your To Do List
Choosing Your Bridal Party
Taking Time Off
Wedding Day Emergency Kit

 

Images from a fantastic wedding I did with the ladies from Cherry Blossom Planning Factory.

Sunset Time - Wedding Weekly

 Taken at 5:59 in October

Taken at 5:59 in October

One thing that we've noticed a lot of couples forget to think about is what time the sun sets on their wedding day. And since sunset time varies by about 4 hours throughout the year, it can make a HUGE difference in your timeline!

A sunset ceremony might sound like a beautiful and romantic idea, but not if you wanted to take any pictures outside afterwards! Sunset time surprised us for one of our November weddings, because we all thought the time change was a week after the wedding, but it wasn't! The couple ended up choosing to do a first look so that they would have outside portraits (and they were so happy that they did!) So we always recommend that couples double check the sunset time before sending their invitations to print!

During summer weddings, we are often well into the reception by the time the sun sets, and our couples love to sneak out for another 15-20 minutes of portrait time in this perfect light! If we have a clear view of the sunset (and a cloudless sky) we can probably shoot right up until sunset time, but often we have to stop shooting 15-30 minutes earlier. This means that if the sun sets at 8:10 on their wedding day, we want to plan the reception timeline so they can be out taking portraits from 7:40-8:00.

Just remember. Sunset time is when the outside photos need to STOP, not when you start sunset portraits. Here's a general idea of what time we’ll lose light throughout the year:

January – 5:00
February – 5:30
March – 6:00 (7:00 after time change)
April – 7:15
May-August – 7:45 or later
September – 6:30
October – 6:00
November – 5:45 (4:45 after time change)
December – 4:30

 Taken at 8:12 in June

Taken at 8:12 in June

It's also important to note that if the sun sets behind a line of trees or buildings at your venue, we’ll lose light even earlier. And since you never know whether you're going to get a sunny wedding day or a cloudy one, I always like to leave a little buffer before the sunsets. I would hate to have to cut portrait time short because it got dark sooner than we thought it would.

As you can see, fall and winter weddings need to happen much earlier in the day to make sure all portraits are finished before the sun goes down. And if you choose a date around either Day Light Savings time switch, triple check the ceremony start time with sunset time that day. It's so easy to get confused, and we certainly don’t want to be off by an hour!

  Taken at 5:02 in November


Taken at 5:02 in November