The No. 1 most important thing you need to do before you book your Virginia wedding photographer is get on the phone/zoom/skype with them. That’s because whomever you choose will be spending all day with you. ALL DAY. So you want to make sure that you not only love their work, but that your personalities and values match up.
I mean, imagine having someone you don’t really like by your side on one of the most important days of your life?
Yet, for some people, talking on the phone is not their idea of a good time. It might even make them super anxious. I totally get it!
And a lot of the “what to ask your photographer” articles out there are not actually written by photographers. I know this because they include things like “what kind of gear do you shoot with.” Unless you’re a photographer, the answer to that question probably isn’t going to mean anything to you.
So I’ve put together five questions you should know the answers to before you book your wedding photographer. The answers will help you identify the right person to photograph your incredible wedding.
Why should you trust me? I’m Kara – a wedding and elopement photographer based outside of Roanoke, Virginia. I’ve photographed more than 100 weddings and elopements over the past five years. Before that I was a journalist, so research is my jam and I love putting together the absolute best resources to help you plan your dream day. Looking for more wedding planning resources? Check out my blog The Best Roanoke Virginia Wedding Venues.
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If you are getting married on a beautiful outdoor mountaintop, ask to see galleries from outdoor weddings. If you are having a reception in a barn with no windows and high ceilings, ask to see barn weddings. If you are getting married in a Catholic church, ask to see a church wedding. If your reception is in the open air under bistro lights, ask if they have examples of open air receptions in their portfolio.
There are two reasons this is so important.
One: most photographers just post a “highlight reel” on their websites and social media. You want to make sure you like what you see from start to finish so there are no surprises in your final gallery.
Two: A lot of photographers, myself included, are self-taught. There is nothing wrong with that! But self-taught photographers typically learn natural light (i.e, outside or window light) first. And then slowly learn artificial lighting.
The easiest artificial lighting to do is putting a flash “on camera” and bouncing that light off of the ceiling. I still do this in certain situations, as do other photographers. But venues with high ceilings or dark ceilings or outside receptions or barn venues don’t have the elements you need to bounce flash well. So in those cases, the photographer needs to also know how to do what is called “off-camera flash.” This is a much harder skill. The vast majority of photographers out there don’t do this at all or don’t do it well. So it’s really important to take a look at full galleries – especially receptions – and make sure you like how they handle tricky lighting.
I follow a wedding photographer who does a lot of business education. He’s honestly fabulous and his education is on point. But he made the comment one time that he comes into a wedding and is like this whirlwind of energy and personality – he’s making people laugh and goofing off. That is literally the exact opposite of my working personality. I am super calm and chill. I make a big effort to blend into the background and don’t want the day to be focused on me at all. My goal is to work largely in the background and to step in and offer guidance when needed. There is nothing wrong with either of these approaches. But one of them is going to work really well for you and one is not.
Some companies have “associate photographers.” That means they have a team of people who shoot under the brand. In my company, if you book Kara Leigh Creative, you always get me. While in other companies you can book the owner or an associate. If it’s a national photography company with lots of associates, you may have no idea who your actual photographer is until they show up.
Bonus: Ask them what their backup plan is if your contracted photographer cannot be there in person. For example – what happens if they get COVID two days before your wedding? Do they have a backup plan?
Inevitably at a wedding, someone will say “you can just Photoshop that out right?” and laugh. Usually, yes. But what people don’t realize is that Photoshop is not a one-click magic wand. Depending on the edit, it can be incredibly complex and time consuming. So, in general, most wedding packages include basic editing – i.e., color correction, horizon straightening, cropping. About 50 percent of photographers (like myself) will also edit out “anything that won’t be present in two weeks,” such as a passing facial blemish. But as a general rule, Photoshop work that is laborious, like adding someone into an image or head swaps or body modification, is not included in the package rates and is billed per image. So make sure you know!
Your photographer should be able to clearly list out steps for you at this point so if you decide to book, you can. You’re also going to want to know if they can “hold the date” for you. How long do you have to decide until someone else can come in and book the date?
Make sure you are going to get a contract emailed to you. If someone says they don’t do contracts, this is a red flag! Contracts protect both parties – read it carefully! Make sure you know what their cancellation policy is, how they will use/post your images, and if you get print rights.
Looking for a Virginia Wedding Photographer? Inquire with Kara >>Here<<
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