15 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Photographer:
Are you looking to book a photographer for your next event, update family photos, or creative portrait session? Do you want to make sure that you pick a professional that best suits your needs for the session? Here is a list of questions you can and SHOULD ask your photographer before booking with them!
1. How did you gain experience in your field?
First and foremost, you will want to book with someone experienced in the type of photography you are getting done. Photo sessions vary as much as a pastry chef differs from a sous chef; someone who is familiar with baking cakes may not have all the necessary knowledge to create a 5-star restaurant-style dinner, in the same respect you wouldn't want someone who only does landscapes to be doing your portrait session. Experience in the field may be similar, all photographers should know the basics as well as the ins and outs of their gear and setup, but you will want to make sure to view their past work to make sure their experience and photographic style is a good fit for your needs!
2. What gear do you use?
This is important if you decide to go with someone who does not have an established business presence. You don't really need to know the exact equipment unless you have a very specific vision and understand what the gear does, but you will want to make sure they are shooting with a professional camera and have the correct equipment and tools to execute the session with. If you are hosting an indoor event with low lighting situations you should make sure that your photographer has the necessary flash or lighting gear to be able to compensate for the lighting. This question may not be important for an informal photo shoot done just for fun, but if you are going into a professional setting (such as employee headshots) then you don't want to be surprised when your photographer decides to show up with only their iPhone!
3. What is your workflow like?
Asking this question will help you gain some insight into how they get things done. It can also hint at how long it might take for your final gallery to be delivered, and how organized they are! Again you don't need details, this question is just meant to give some general insight into how they do things. This question is not super important unless you are adamant about having a detail-oriented and timely photographer.
4. What is your photographic style?
Having a photographer that edits in a style you like is very important. Style is very closely tied to the emotions we feel when looking at an image, if you edit a photo of yourself in a dark and moody style vs a light and airy style then you will likely perceive the image and emotions resonating from it in very different ways. If you want to hang a family portrait that portrays happy feelings and good vibes, don't choose a photographer who edits in a style that doesn't represent that in their work. You'll also want to choose someone that edits in a way that is visually appealing to you. Why would you want to look at something that isn't aesthetically pleasing to the eye?
5. Do you have insurance, and what does it cover?
This is important for events, weddings, and any session where damage could easily occur. For example, if you are doing a session that involves hiking, then you'll want to make sure that your photographer is covered in the event that something or someone takes a tumble. Insurance can also come in handy during in-home sessions; if something is broken during the session, their insurance should cover the cost of any damages that may have occurred.
6. How long is your turnaround for gallery delivery?
It is important to know how long your photographer takes to deliver the finished product if you are working on a time-sensitive project, for example, if your student is a senior and needs to turn in their photo for the yearbook before a deadline. It is also good to know the general timeline so that you know when to ask for updates and when to be patient. If your photographer tells you that you will receive your photos in two weeks and three weeks have passed, it may be time to ask for an update on where they are at in the process! If they have not delivered the photos, but are still within their estimated time frame, then just give them some time to get through their workflow! Photographers have business hours and personal hours, and they don't work around the clock, so be patient and rest assured that they are working hard to deliver your gallery as quickly as possible while still ensuring that it looks amazing!
7. What rights do we have to our photos, do we own them?
The short answer is: No, you, as the client, do not own the photos. The longer answer is that you have certain permissions that are usually obtained by receiving a release from your photographer. Most of the time you will be granted a print release or a release for personal use, but this does not mean that you own the images. You are allowed to share your images, print them, and hang them in your home, but you are not permitted to use them in contests or for anything commercial that allows you to make money from them. Your photographer is the sole owner of the images as they retain the copyright to their intellectual property. Check with the photographer to ask if they can provide a sample contract as that will go more in-depth as to what they specifically do and don't allow regarding the topic.
8. What sets you apart from other photographers?
There is a lot of professionals to choose from! So how does any particular one differ from the next? If the photographer is established, then they should be able to answer this question. Photographers in the industry are skilled in different techniques and come from all different backgrounds, cultures, and education levels. By knowing what unique traits, values, and skills your photographer has, you can ensure that you will work well together and complete the task at hand with ease!
9. In your free time what do you like to shoot, and what do you tend to avoid?
Finding the answer to this question allows you to indicate whether a photographer is ready and able to shoot the session you want. If your photographer loves shooting landscapes and wild animals then they may not be the best choice for a client seeking a professional portrait session. The answer could also help to spark inspiration if you are looking to execute a creative session!
10. What are the values you strive for in your brand?
Depending on how important certain values are to you, this may be a good question to ask or it may not matter to you. If this is a key determining factor, then you should be able to find the answer in their "About Me" section, usually listed on their website or main social media page. If not, don't be afraid to ask them what their values are during the consultation or initial inquiry! If you want to work with someone that values communication over perfection, experience over profit, or friendship over professionalism, be sure to make that clear upfront before continuing with the booking process. Ensuring that you support someone with the same values provides a common purpose to work towards and achieve together; this is an important factor to consider when choosing a photographer that you are able to personally align with.
11. What payment methods do you accept?
In the digital age, most transactions are made via online payments or with credit cards, so if you are "old school" and like to pay with a more traditional tender, you'll want to confirm with your photographer if they accept your payment type. Personally, I don't accept checks, and only allow cash in certain situations to avoid scams and non-payment issues. If you have an uncommon method of remittance be sure to check with your photographer beforehand to avoid any confusion when you receive the invoice.
12. What can I expect on the day of the session?
Every photographer is different and has different methods of execution for their workflow. Asking this question will give you a general idea of what you can expect to do on the day of your photoshoot, where to meet, and who to look for. Additional information that may be helpful would be whether you'll be posed or not, and what to do if something unexpected occurs (like weather or illness). This will help in managing a family session if you have kids that respond well to directions, and if they don't you'll be able to talk to your photographer about how you can achieve cooperation. Knowing what to expect will help all parties in executing a successful photo session!
13. What is your personality like?
Personality is a big factor when considering who you're going to work with. If you are usually a shy and introverted person, for example, you may not want to work with someone who is extremely extroverted and "loud". It's important to trust and connect with your photographer, but it's also key to find someone that is detail-oriented, creative, patient, and has good people skills. Your photographer should be able to adapt when necessary, and should always be willing to work things out if given a special request (within reason).
14. Where can I find examples of your past work?
This should also be accessible by navigating to the photographer's website or online portfolio. Regardless of whether or not the photographer has done anything similar to your session, their past work will be indicative of whether they are capable of executing your vision. You should feel connected to their work and be visually drawn to their images to ascertain if you will want them to work on your session. If you don't like the way the photographer edited their previous photos or the way they posed people in past sessions, then you may want to consider booking with someone who more closely reflects your vision.
15. What do we receive for the price we pay and are there any other extra costs or fees?
As mentioned before, all photographers price themselves differently and utilize payment strategies specific to their location and target market. If their prices are not listed on their website, then they should send you an email/message containing their packages or pricing structure. This should be one of the first things that come up in the discussion about payment, and the photographer should be very clear about what they include and whether there are extra fees or not. The photographer may likely send a personalized "What to Expect" guide before your session date. Most times you will be offered a package that includes a set amount of time, and possibly a certain number of images. If you are booking a senior shoot your package may include a predetermined amount of outfit changes during your session, or if it's a newborn session a specified set of props and/or backgrounds. Talk with your photographer before booking to make sure that everything you want to be included is discussed in advance, that will also ensure all parties are aware of any creative and financial expectations to be imposed.