I'm on a roll with my 10 list.. HA! I'm thinking I might have a problem.. or is it an addiction to these things.. if I do another one.. Joe might have to put me in some sort of therapy.. hahaha! 

I have been having a lot of people asking me questions about what they should do and what they should know to ask photographers. I don't mind being open and honest, I want my clients to be well informed and to be able to come to me knowing that they have someone that is going to give them the best service and they are going to have FUN, have memories of the time they spend with us at our sessions, and have beautiful artwork at the end of everything.

So on to the TEN Questions you should ask your Photographer - 

1. How do I pick a good photographer when SO MANY listed in my area?

First, look for a forum or blog that appeals to your style. Once you've got a few favorite photographers, narrow it down to a handful of favorites, and set up a time to meet them. Make sure you're meeting with the person who will be wielding the camera at your wedding or your senior session, not a sales consultant or studio owner. You have to, like, trust and get along with your photographer — that way you can leave the magic of photo making in the photographer's hands. Not only should you like their images, you should also like them! Who do you want to be spending many hours with during your wedding day or during your senior session some one you like and that is FUN or some stodgy old maid making your feel uncomfortable.

2. How many photos do I get?

For Weddings - I typically deliver 50-100 photos for every hour of coverage they provide. Four hundred photos may seem like a lot, but your wedding photographer is preserving all those little details and the moments you missed while you were mingling.

For Senior Sessions - It really depends on the package that is chosen... it can be anywhere from 15-20 up to 50. Sometimes it can be even more!! 

3. I love those photos with the blurry backgrounds. How do you get that look? And I found one photographer whose images look soft and pastel, one whose images look clean, and one whose images look like they were shot on old film. What's the deal?

Ok.. ok.. First, you're talking about shallow depth of field. Photographers get that look by using professional lenses that are able to focus tightly on the subject.

Secondly, every photographer has a different way of editing their images using computer software (the high-tech version of a darkroom). This is called "Post-Processing" or "Photoshop-ing." Most photographers do some basic lighting and color adjustments, but you can also use editing software to create a unique look. Three popular styles right now are:

  • Clean: lightly processed to appear natural
  • Matte: a low-contrast look with muted pastel colors, similar to vintage film
  • High Contrast: a vibrant look with rich colors that pop

WHO cares which style you go with, as long as YOU LOVE it!

5. Why is photography so freakin' expensive?

*Sigh* This is the question I see most from people on the forums or I see searches for a "cheap" photographer...  photography seems like easy money — work for one day and rake in the cash, right? Well,  I know carry over $15,000 worth of photography gear and often work 60-hour weeks. (Remember those 800 images for a wedding from question #2? It takes several full days just to edit those.) To those expenses you can add insurance, taxes, software, advertising, albums, repair, shipping, and studio expenses.  

Most people don't know... that many photographers end up making less than minimum wage for the first few years of their career.

6. How can I make sure I look good in my photos?

The truth is, sometimes people wind up hating their photos. While there's nothing you can do about it after the job is done. Oh, and get plenty of sleep and drink lots of water the night before.

Relax. Trust your  photographer.

If you're relaxed, it'll come through in your photos.

Weddings - Leave some breathing room in your schedule so you don't feel rushed — I recommend a minimum 30 minutes for family and wedding party photos, and an hour for the couple portraits.Take it easy at the rehearsal dinner. Wedding-day hangovers are not fun.

7. I keep hearing about "shoot and burn" photography. Sounds painful. What is it?

Actually, yeah, it can be kind of painful. "Shoot and burn" is slang for photographing a session or a wedding and burning it straight to CD without post-processing. It's usually super cheap — for a reason. Bad lighting isn't corrected, distracting elements aren't removed (hello, Speedo-clad photobomber!), and zits remain proudly on display.

Digital files may be important to you, but find a full-service photographer who will edit the images and print reference proofs before handing over the digitals.

And please, don't let the digitals rot on your hard drive. As a photographer, I want you to proudly display your photos. It makes me sad when I think of all the photos that never get printed. Don't hide your photos! I tell my clients to hang up a large print or two — when you're having a crappy day, it's great to look up in your living room and see a photo of an awesome day. And PLEASE PLEASE don't print them at a BIG BOX Store.. please ask your photographer who they recommend if you are not going to order prints from them. I would prefer you order directly from them so they can get you proper UV coating, with heirloom quality protection. 

8. This one is for WEDDINGS - Should we do a "first look"? And, um, what the heck is a "first look"?

The first look is a chance for wedding couples to see each other privately before the ceremony. Half of my clients currently opt to do a first look. It's a great chance to get the wedding jitters out and spend a few minutes alone together. I find that first look photos tend to be some of my favorites. It's a real moment with real emotions.

Honestly, it's also a great way to avoid stress on your wedding day. (Some of my couples even choose to get ready together!) And many of my couples get to enjoy their whole cocktail hour because they got all of the photos out of the way before the wedding.

9. You can Photoshop that, right?

It depends. As a photographer, I want to get everything as perfect as possible in camera. Posing, location scouting, and camera settings can "fix" most things before I even click the shutter. If the speed-clad photobomber pops up and photobomb you, I'm going to retake the photo — it's much easier to get the photo right than to fix it with Photoshop. Many photographers charge for extensive editing in Photoshop, because it can be very time consuming. 

If you want to drive a photographer nuts, just repeat this phrase a few times. We have a love-hate relationship with Photoshop. Yes, Photoshop can do a lot of things. But those things take time, especially when we're editing hundreds and hundreds of images. If there is any way we can fix a problem in real life, before we snap the photo, we'll take that over spending the next few days in 7 Circles of Photoshop Hades.

10. How far in advance should I book a photographer? Do I really need a second photographer for my Wedding?

For Senior Sessions, you are SO MUCH LUCKIER and can usually get in if you plan WELL in advance of the Yearbook cut off date. 

Weddings - Many in-demand photographers book weddings at over a year out. As it gets closer to your wedding date, it will be harder to book your first-choice photographer. If your favorite photographer is unavailable on your date, don't panic. Ask them for recommendations — they may know someone with a similar style and a lighter schedule.

No one needs a second photographer unless you are having a HUGE wedding, but they can provide you with more images and a different perspective. Many of the top photographers only work with assistants who carry gear and help with professional lighting. The best thing is to ask your wedding photographer to see how they prefer to work. You can get good results either way.

Hopefully this clears up some burning questions about photography — and makes it a little bit easier to find the perfect photographer for your Senior session and your wedding day.

Love, Light, and Blessings to you and yours

Joe and Tiffany 

As Seen in The Knot Magazine