10 Questions to ask your photographer…

Fairly often we have a couple come in for a meeting with us and they bring along a list of questions to ask your p from a magazine, web site or planning binder. So, I thought I’d grab a recent copy of a wedding magazine (Inside Weddings, Summer 2010) and answer their questions here for our beloved readers :-)

1 What is included in your photo session? By “session” I guess they mean the photo coverage on the wedding day, but it can also mean an engagement session or a Viva la Dress session (Lisa’s name for a trash the dress).  For the wedding day, the session pretty much always includes 2 photographers and a set number of hours dependent upon your contract.  If we are booked for a nine hour day, from 1 pm to 10 pm, that means we will be ready to start clicking photos at 1 pm. So we arrive 10-20 minutes before then to prep ourselves, find the room, etc…  With two photographers, each photographer can work independent of the other, so one of us can go the bride and the other to the groom. When the end of our contracted time comes around, we will check in with you to make sure we are all set. If things have run late, we will ask you if you want us to stay (which will cost a few bucks and will be billed in a week or so).

Also included will be any travel to and from the locations unless you are outside of Sonoma/Napa, SF Bay Area or San Mateo Coast…  (if you are not local, travel will be a separate line item in the contract and all travel expenses will be included in that line).  We do not take a break per se, but for weddings of 6 or more hours we do need to eat at some point.  For the meal, usually one of us will eat while the other stays at the reception then we switch, and we eat either before or after toasts while the guests are eating.

What else is included, hmmm…  we are dressed (appropriately at that!).  We are there to get great photos, to help your day go smoothly, to make your family love us… For engagement sessions or Viva la Dress shoots, generally you will get one photographer for about 3 hours.  We are happy to do the driving (in fact, we encourage it most of the time).  We’ll go to 3 locations, sometimes 4.

2 Will the person you’re meeting with (and whose work you have seen) be the person who actually shows up on your big day? Absolutely!  When you come to our studio, you will meet with Lisa or James (often both of us).  About 10% of the images on our website (as of July 2010) are shot by our associates. The rest are buy Lisa or James and we are happy to point out who shot what.  Most of our weddings are shot by both James and Lisa, but some are by James with an associate or Lisa with an associate.  It will be clear on your contract who you are getting and it will absolutely be with who you met.

3 Is there a minimum number of hours for which they contract, or do they provide “complete” coverage of the day? We don’t have a real ‘minimum’ number of hours, but we do have to consider the bottom line.  We are probably not going to agree to shooting for two hours on a Saturday in July since that is one of our busiest months and we need to make a living.  Now if you need 2 hours on a Wednesday in February, that’s something we can talk about ;-)

4 What is the backup plan in case they fall ill or can’t do the work for any other reason? This would be a really hard situation to encounter.  Chances are slim that both of your photographers would be injured or ill to the point where neither could be at your wedding, so the more likely situation is that one of us is sick.  In that case, we would get on the phone and call all of our associate photographers first, then reach out to friends, then to friends of friends.  Somewhere in that chain of calls we would most certainly find someone to fill the shoes of the injured or sick photographer.  If both of us must be replaced, the situation is similar, we are quite well networked in our industry and we just start calling people of similar caliber to us to find someone who can shoot the wedding.  Our clients have the option to refuse any substitution and have any money they’ve paid us returned.

Fortunately we have never had to deal with this situation, but I have had to fill in for an injured photographer.  That was less than ideal, but it worked out ok.  I got  a call from a colleague who injured himself mountain biking on a Thursday before a wedding.  He needed me to fill in on Saturday! So, I put on my wedding appropriate attire, packed up my gear and went to meet a bride I’d never met before at her wedding.  Weird :-/

5 What happens to your deposit in the unlikely event you need to postpone or cancel your wedding? When you sign a contract with us, a non-refundable deposit is required to lock in your wedding date.  If you postpone or cancel, that deposit is not returned :-(  The only exception to this would be if we were able to book another wedding in your place, then we would refund the deposit.  I can recall only two times that we have had an outright cancellation and another two times we’ve had postponements.  The big problem here as far as we are concerned, is that most weddings book 7-10 months out, so if a wedding date is cancelled 3 months before the date chances are very slim we will be able to re-book that day. Your deposit can be transferred to another date if you reschedule, provided we are available for that date.

6 Will the photographer contact you before the wedding to go over details like last-minute changes to the schedule (i.e. rain plan for doing your formal portraits indoors)? Yep, we will touch base with you a few weeks before your wedding to nail down time line details, locations, family shot lists, etc…  Often, we even do this in person at your wedding site so we can have a little ‘face time’.  For a rain plan, we would figure out our options or maybe accept that we would have to do your bride and groom portraits on another non-rainy day.  Knock on aluminum and plastic (my keyboard), we’ve never had a significant change of plans caused by rain or other bad weather.

7 Do they offer both photo albums and proof books?  Why yes we do!  All of our packages include a hard bound proof book with six images printed on a letter sized page.  The proof book is a great companion to your disc of images and is (in my estimation anyway) a nicer way to go through your images than by looking at them all online.  As far as albums go, we do offer a variety of awesome albums and about 90% of our clients get an album included in their package.  That leaves about 10% of our clients with what are known as ‘Shoot and Burn’ packages.  Click here to learn more about ‘Shoot & Burn’.

8 Are high-resolution images (also known as “digital negatives”) included in the contracted coverage?  For several years now all of our clients have received a disc of high resolution image files. These are the exact same files we would use to produce your albums, canvases, prints, etc…  They are all color corrected and contrast adjusted, some are black and white, some have even been lightly retouched in photoshop.  The images are delivered as JPEGS.

9 What are their travel fees, if applicable?  Travel fees will apply to any wedding outside of wine country, the SF Bay Area or along the penninsula.  When travel fees are required, they are added as a separate line to your package.  The travel fees will include airfare, hotel, car rental, etc… as a lump sum and no other fees will be required unless your needs change (change dates, need another day of coverage, change venues…)  Our travel fees are generally quite modest and we don’t mark them up.  So if you like what we do but are not in the San Francisco area, you may still want to inquire about our services.  The cost of a couple plane tickets and nights in a hotel are pretty insignificant compared to the cost of your whole wedding.

10 What is the cost for exceeding the contracted time period?  Generally, overtime is billed at $400 an hour and can be billed in half hour increments.

I hope this series helps educate anyone who is getting started planning their wedding.  Feel free to ask any questions I didn’t answer by leaving a coomment :-)