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The Ten Most Important Questions to Ask
1. The first question you should ask is to see the photographerís business license. Iím surprised that in 13 years of photographing weddings not one couple has asked to see my business license. This is the easiest way to eliminate non-professionals. I always keep my business license close at hand in case somebody asks to see it. Another reason you want to ask about the business license is to make sure your photographer is honest. If they are charging you sales tax and donít have a business license, then they are dishonest and are only trying to get more money.

2. The next question you should ask is if the photographer has liability and equipment insurance. You want to know that you are protected if someone in your family gets hurt by accidentally tripping over one of the photographerís cables or equipment. Your photographer should also be protected against theft or equipment damage. A nonprofessional photographer without Equipment Insurance may try to sue you for damages if their equipment is broken by one of your family.

3. Ask if the photographer youíre considering accepts credit cards even if youíre not going to pay with a credit card. A photographer who takes their business seriously will have gone through the trouble to learn and set up credit card processing.
4. Ask to see a wedding from start to finish, every picture that was taken at one wedding. This will give you an idea of what type of pictures the photographer will take during your entire wedding day. If you donít like what youíre seeing, then donít hire that photographer. It will also show you how competent the photographer is. If there are only a few good shots, then that photographer is not a professional. If they canít show you an entire wedding, then you donít want to hire them. Itís a clear sign they are an amateur.

5. Ask for references. A photographer who is good will have no problem giving you references. Their clients will be happy clients and will volunteer to give their reference. Almost all of my clients volunteer to give a reference for me. If a photographer youíre meeting with is reluctant to give references, then keep looking.

6. Ask for a list of photographers that will step in and take over in case your photographer is ill. I am lucky to say that for 11 years I have never had to use my list of backup photographers, but I will always have a list just in case. Ask for a printout of that list so you can check and make sure those photographers are also professional.

7. Ask the photographer if they have a money back guarantee. A true professional will have confidence in their work and will have no problem offering a limited time money back guarantee because they know they will never have to give that money back. They will work hard for you to create what you want to make sure you are happy.

8. Ask your photographer if they use a contract. If they say no, then donít book them. Without a contract neither you nor the photographer has any protection. Your photographer could accept your payment and then never show up to the wedding and you would have no legal proof of your agreement. A contract also helps spell out what each of you expect so there are no misunderstandings. If it is not on the contract, then your photographer may not honor what you agreed on verbally. Always have your expectations in writing on the contract. Ask if you can have a copy of the contract before booking so you can take your time and read through the terms and ask questions.

9. Tell your potential photographer who your other vendors are and see if they have worked with them before. The more experienced a photographer is the more vendors they will have worked with in the past. Youíll also learn the relationship your potential photographer has with these vendors. Your wedding day is more likely to run smoothly if your vendors are familiar with each other. You may also want to ask how many years they have been working as a photographer and if they work as a photographer full time. There are a lot of weekend warriors out there who only shoot weddings on the weekends for extra money. They may not be as serious about their craft as a photographer who completely depends on their wedding income.

10. Ask the photographer specific questions about past weddings they have shot to get an idea of how experienced they really are. A competent photographer will have excellent ideas on how to solve problems you have planning your wedding. They will have been to many weddings and seen many different ways of handling different situations. For example, ask the photographer how they would solve a problem with exiting the church after the ceremony. A photographer who has shot a lot of weddings will have many suggestions for you. Perhaps your minister has told you that flash is not allowed during the ceremony. An experienced photographer will know how to handle that situation and will have no problem shooting without flash.

You will need to decide what type of photography you are interested in. There are many different types of photography
1. Color and/or black and white
2. Film or digital
3. Traditional. These photographers capture a classic posed style of photography where everything is carefully controlled to achieve the best results.
4. Photojournalistic. This is a more documentary style where events are captured as they unfold.
5. Faux-journalistic. This is a hybrid of two above. This is the kind of photography you see in bridal magazines. It looks un-posed and spontaneous like photojournalistic but was really posed and controlled.
6. A photographer that does a combination of all three.

Tear out photos from magazines that appeal to you and show them to your photographer. It will help the photographer visualize what you are visualizing. Also, many photographers can recreate a pose or set-up with a visual.

After you have some photographers in mind, call them and ask if they are still available for your wedding date. Next ask for a price range. Don't ask for specific prices yet. Photographers will offer a number of different packages and options. It's best to just get a range and get specifics during the consultation. Set up about 2 to 3 appointments with the photographers that seem to meet your budget needs. Keep a record of the photographer's name, contact information, prices, and who referred them. Once you pick a photographer, you'll need to agree on a contract.

The Consultation

A consultation is important because it gives you a chance to see visually what you will be receiving. You will also learn if you will feel comfortable with the photographer and if you can trust them. During a consult you can expect to learn about pricing, procedures, and more. Every photographer is different so meet with at least three to get a better idea of those differences.

Other Questions to ask to help narrow down a photographer
Questions you should ask each photographer 1. What style of photography does he/she shoot, such as traditional, journalistic, or posed?
2. Does the photographer shoot in color and black and white?
3. Does the photographer like to have full control or no control over what is shot?
4. Will the photographer youíre speaking with be the photographer that shoots your wedding? (If not ask to meet the one that will be.)
5. Has the photographer shot many weddings?
6. How many other weddings will the photographer be shooting on that weekend?
7. Will the photographer do special request shots?
8. How does the photographer determine the price he will charge?
9. What kind of camera does the photographer use?
10. What kind of lighting will the photographer use? Look at the samples closely to see if they have high technical quality.
11. Can the negatives or files be bought from the photographer?
12. Do you think this person is a good person for you to work with during your entire wedding?
13. Ask if you can see all the photos shot at one wedding and not a complement of different weddings. Pay attention to your emotional response and the communication skills of the photographer.
14. What does the photographer think is important about wedding photography?
15. Does the photographer bring backup equipment?
16. Why does the photographer choose to shoot weddings?
17. What percent of the photographers business is weddings?
18. Are engagement portraits offered?
19. Will the photographer have an assistant?
20. Are there any product guarantees?

What are the advantages of hiring a pro?

1. A professional will be timely and will know how much time is needed to do the job. They will also have experience at organizing that time to your best advantage.
2. They will have the right equipment and film to do the job correctly. They will also have backup equipment in case something fails.
3. A professional will be comfortable with the job and not get nervous and make mistakes.
4. They will use a professional lab that is in the business of meeting high standards of print quality.
5. A pro will be used to working with individuals, couples, and groups to make the formals go smoothly.

Answers to Questions

1. Do I get to keep the proofs?
Yes, Crouse Photography shoots digital and you will also receive the full size image files.
2. What about getting a wedding album?
Yes. You can add an album to your base package or order one after the wedding at any time.
3. Who chooses the pictures that go in the album?
The bride and groom choose the album pictures from their proof book.
4. Do you do black and white photographs?
Yes, I do color, black and white, color and black and white together, and other digital special effects.
5. What technical details in sample photographs should I watch out for?
a. Lighting quality.
b. Look for a mix of distant, medium and close-up pictures.
c. Make pictures are well focused.
d. Make sure posed shots are interesting.
e. Ask to see one wedding start to finish and not a collection of highlights from a dozen different weddings.
6. Should we do the formals before or after the ceremony?
Some couples think it is bad luck to see each other before the ceremony. If following this tradition is important to you, all of the photos of the bride and groom together will be done afterwards, but solo shots can be done before. However, there are advantages to doing all the posed shots before.
a. Flowers, clothing and make-up are fresh.
b. More time can be scheduled.
c. It may be dark out if you have a late ceremony.
d. Guests will have to wait for you at the reception.
7. Suppose I want more copies in five or more years?
I keep negatives and CDs forever. I do not get rid of them. If I do decide to stop business I will try to contact all of my customers and offer the negatives and CDs to them.
8. What if you are sick or have an emergency on my wedding day?
If this should happen, I will do my best to find a replacement photographer who I feel works as well as me or better. If I cannot find a replacement you will receive a full refund of all deposits paid.
9. Some photographers ask that no one else take pictures during the formal shots, what is your policy?
I do allow guests to take snapshots however they must be told by the couple that they must wait until I get my shots first. This will slow down photography, and many guests taking pictures will take the attention of the subjects away from the photographer. The diverted attention will ruin the professional pictures that you are paying for. Also, If the photographer is using light-triggered strobes the flashes will cause the strobe to fire wasting the bulb and battery life.
10. Is it really illegal for me to make copies of your pictures?
Yes. According to federal law, images produced by a professional are copyrighted the moment they are created. You will have to obtain permission from your photographer or have copies made by your photographer.
11. How can we be sure our photographer won't mess up?
There is always an element of risk due to its technical nature. You can lessen the chance by booking a competent photographer and clearly communicating your event information. Plan everything out and stick to plan as closely as possible.
12. Our photographer did a great job, should we tip him/her?
No. The size of your reprint order is one indication of your satisfaction. Also, recommending the photographer to others.

A Costly Mistake

1. Do not shop for price over the phone. Asking for price before viewing the work devalues their time, and skill. Decide if you like the style of the photographer first and then discuss price. Most photographers will work with you if you have a budget in mind.