You only have one chance to get gorgeous wedding photographs that you'll cherish for a lifetime. Here are the seven most important questions you can ask a potential photographer if you'd prefer to avoid ending up with so-so photos that will simply collect dust.
How many years of experience do you have?
"There are a lot of new photographers who only got into the work because they bought a fancy camera," says Karen Lindberg, co-owner of Washington D.C.-based L.H. Lindberg Photography, "so you should probably walk out if it's under five."
The inexperienced photographer might offer a really cheap deal, but you have to decide if you're willing to take a chance on a major wedding memento that doesn't have do-overs.
What are your package prices, and what do they include?
Wedding photographers can range from $500-$15,000, says Julie Harris, owner of Julie Harris Photography in Denver. It's a good bet that the $500 photographer is not a seasoned pro, while the $15,000 one is likely in high demand, and there is a bunch of differentiation in between. Ask how much time each package includes, if it involves an engagement session, and if albums, negatives and/or digital files are included.
How would you run the day?
Harris recommends asking a potential photographer to walk you through a typical wedding: What time would she arrive and leave? Which photos does his assistant/s take? Does he take breaks? These questions will help you determine if the photographer's packages will meet your needs and comfort level.
Could you define your style?
From fashion-esque wedding photography to artistic photo-shoppers who hand-tint color into black-and-white images, there are almost as many styles as there are photographers, says Harris. "If you're looking for a journalistic approach and your photographer answers that she'll spend an hour on the formals, you might want to steer in another direction."
Can I see full weddings?
Asking to see full proof sheets instead of just the highlights will give you a better idea of a photographer's talent and style. Specifically ask to see images that were taken in morning light, at night, outside and indoors with low reception lights, advises Lindberg. "If the photographer isn't skilled, some photos might look too bright, too dark or (and this is a biggy) the dress ends up looking like one layer of white rather than many layers of lace."
Can I talk to other brides?
The proof is in the pudding, says Lindberg. Past clients can give you an honest critique of the photographer, including the quality of the final products, artistic viewpoint, prompt customer service and whether he or she was helpful in the planning stages and able to deal with last minute changes.
Tell me a bit about yourself?
You'll be interacting with your photographer your entire wedding day so it's important that you select one who you jive with, says Harris. "If you like your photographer's personality, nine times out of 10, you'll also like her work."
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