Wedding Photography Questions (and Answers)

Information exchange is a key part of wedding photography. This page is setup to answer some of the photo questions that many people have in regards to wedding photography - maybe even some questions you haven't even thought of yet! If you are looking for a wedding photographer, I suggest you read through (or at least skim), the photo tips on this page. It will help you out and inform you - no matter who you choose to take your wedding photos!

If you have a question you would like to ask and you do not see that it has already been addressed on this page, please click (the link will only show up if you have javascript enabled).

Again, even if you are not interested (or don't meet the criteria) for booking me, this page might help you make a more informed decision as you search for a wedding photographer.

Sincerely,
Christopher Maxwell


My Wedding Photo Question and Answer section has grown, and I have now created an overview of the questions with links that jump to the answers.

 


Question: You shoot with a digital camera, but do you make inkjet prints? I've heard that inkjet prints tend to fade.
Answer: This is one of the primary problems that people have with digital photos - and is often misunderstood. There are photographers out there who shoot digitally and print on an inkjet. Some of them make museum quality archival prints that will not fade. Others use regular inkjets and normal ink - and the prints often fade. I, however, am not a member of either group. I use normal, commercial photo printing machines to run my photos. They are the EXACT same prints as you would get from film. If people choose to get the master digital files, they have a variety of choices for printing their photos. Almost any Sams. Costco, Wal-Mart, or other photo printer can be used with excellent results (because the photos are already color corrected) - or, people could choose to make prints on their own, personal, inkjet printer. However, it is not something that I do - I stick with photo printing machines.

Question: If you are shooting digital, how do you get black & white?
Answer: An excellent question. In fact, I have setup an entirely separate page, complete with sample images, to illustrate my answer. Click here for the black and white informational page. You can also view information about my digital camera and the benefits I have experienced since switching to it from film.

Want to submit a question? It's quick and easy. Click here.

Question: Some photographers do not allow (or severely limit) guest's taking pictures. How do you handle this?
Answer: As a photojournalist I am moving about photographing scenes all through the day. I don't have a problem at all with guests taking pictures. Here is a page which talks in detail (and shows samples) of the issues that can arise when guests take pictures at weddings, the reasons some processional photographer's don't like them to do it, and why it isn't a problem for me.

Question: How should I find a wedding photographer?

Answer: Finding a wedding photographer is not an easy thing. The wedding photos are the primary way you will remember your wedding. That is why they are so important. However, we've all heard horror stories about the bossy photographer, or the sloppy photographer who wasn't dressed professionally, or the late photographer, or the one that needed hours of time to take photos. There are good and bad photographers out there, but there are also great photographers. How do you find a wedding photographer? And are there questions to ask when booking a wedding photographer? Here are some suggestions:

  • First off, figure out what type of wedding photography coverage you are looking for. Do you like posed, formal images (many parents prefer these images in their wedding albums!)? They take longer to make, but, as I mentioned, some people prefer them. Do you like "photojournalistic" coverage (photojournalistic involves photographing the day as it happens, with less emphasis on posed and formal photos)? Keep in mind that a lot of photographers call themselves photojournalists, but aren't. Do you like photos of people where everyone is looking at the camera? Or, photos of people being themselves? Do you want to spend several hours posing and taking group photos with your photographer? Or, do you want him to take photos of your event throughout the day? (you can tell I prefer the photojournalistic "capture-the-moment" style)
  • Then, ask your married friends. See if they have any suggestions. Listen to their advice AND look at their albums. If you don't like the albums or the photos - don't follow through on their advice.
  • Search the Internet. Glance through the Open Directory for photographers in your state. Be very critical as you look at web sites. I've looked at thousands of wedding photography web sites, and have been appalled at the quality of some of the images full time photographers turn out. Look for a site that shows the type of images you are interested in. Don't necessarily shop based upon budget - you may end up with a low dollar photographer that is worth every penny you pay him.
    • If your wedding doesn't meet my criteria, or, I am booked on your wedding date, I have a list of other photographers that I can send to you.
  • Once you figure out the style of photography you're interested in and have found a few photographers who do well taking those types of images, give several of them a call or correspond with them through e-mail. Ask questions and see how they respond. Find out if they are available on your wedding date. If they don't have many sample images on their site, set up a time to meet them and see additional images. Beware of photographers that show a few sample images from each wedding. Almost anyone can shoot 700 or 800 pictures at a wedding and come up with 2 or 3 good shots - you want someone that can shoot 700 or 800 images and come up with MANY good photos.
  • Meet them in person. If possible, you might even see about doing an engagement shoot with the photographer to get to know them better, and see how well you interact together.
  • Another question that is important to ask if whether they will be the person actually photographing your wedding. I know it's hard to believe there are places out there that do this - but, believe it or not, some wedding studios will send a different photographer out to cover your event. The person you meet at the studio can be a salesman, whose job is simply to sign couples up. I couldn't imagine a studio booking a couple and not telling the couple exactly who would be photographing their wedding. I don't think it's a common practice anymore (most of the reputable studios I know of would never dream of doing this), but it's not a bad thing to ask. And, while we're on the subject, I might as well mention that I am the primary photographer at the weddings I book; I bring along an assistant, but, that's all they are: an assistant

Question: What questions should I ask a prospective wedding photographer?

Answer: There is no "one size fits all" answer to this question. This will be based upon what you are looking for in a wedding photographer. If I, as a wedding photographer, were going to hire a wedding photographer to photograph my wedding, these would be some of the questions I would ask (besides looking at quite a few sample photos to make sure I was happy with the style, and meeting with, or talking on the phone with, the photographer):

  • What is your style of wedding photography?
    • If they say "photojournalistic", I would ask them to define the word (when I use the term photojournalistic, I understand it to mean a primary emphasis on recording the events of the day without posing people or interfering in those events)
    • If they are primarily a photojournalistic wedding photographer, I would make sure they are also capable of photographing formally posed photos as well. For me, I am primarily interested in photojournalistic coverage, but feel that some posed photos before and maybe after the ceremony are also important.
  • How long does it usually take you to setup and photograph a group (very important in regards to scheduling)?
  • What do you usually wear to a wedding? (I would also want to see a photo of them if I were hiring them without a face-to-face meeting or would personally want to meet them to make sure they present a well groomed, professional appearance)
  • How long after the wedding will it be until we have our wedding proofs?
  • How many photos do you usually take at a wedding?
  • Do you travel, and, if so, how do you work out the travel charges?
  • What type of camera or camera systems do you use (medium format, 35mm, or digital - see additional information regarding this question)? Why do you prefer your current system over others?

Question: You do wedding photography part time - shouldn't I be looking for someone who shoots weddings full time?
Answer: There is no doubt that there are advantages to hiring a wedding photographer who shoots weddings full time. However, there are also disadvantages as well. Some of those include how busy the good photographers are. Many are booked months and maybe even years (for the good dates) in advance! I've been offered several full time wedding photography jobs by full time wedding photographers who would like to take me on as an associate. I've said "no", for the same reasons I limit the number of weddings I accept each year: I am too busy with our family owned consulting business as well as the fact that I do enjoy being selective in the weddings I attend. Also, because of the types of weddings I'm in interested in photographing, it would practically be impossible for me to shoot weddings full time. As it is, I'm able to really focus on the weddings I accept and shoot, without worrying about and having the pressure of shooting a wedding the previous weekend, the previous day, and one coming up tomorrow! Another popular "concern" about part-time photographers if the quality of their work. That's one of the reasons why I put so many images up on my web site: you can be the judge of the quality of my work.

Want to submit a question? It's quick and easy. Click here.

Question: Do you have a page of wedding links?
Answer: Visit my links page here.

Question: I am planning a 4:00pm wedding, with a departure via horsedrawn carriage. Obviously, photos of the departure are important to me. How late can photos be taken and still look good?

Answer: These questions are tough to give a "one-size-fits-all" answer. Most professional photographers can take photos in pitch darkness and have the subject properly exposed (objects closer to the camera will be brighter, and the background will likely be black). In fact, a lot of cameras (mine included) can even focus in the dark due to an infrared auto focus assist light. However, if nicely lit photos are important to you, more "ambient" light is necessary (this avoids the brighter objects in the foreground, and darkness in the background).

To find out how late a photographer can get good "background" lighting while outside, visit:
http://www.mindspring.com/~cavu/sunset.html

After filling out the form with the nearest airport and the date, check the "civil twilight". That's the time when it's getting rather dark outside (and would be good to consider as a "cutoff" point for well lit backgrounds in your photos). Anything past civil twilight will begin to start looking like a "miner's headlight" photograph (light to a certain distance and pitch dark in the background).

Some photographers will have several lights and will try to set them up (or have an assistant hold them) to lighten the background, but it is rather difficult. If the facility parking lot if VERY well lit and the photographer uses the right settings, they might be able to get some "ambient"/background light into the photos when it is dark outside.

If you want well lit shots, choose a good photographer (look at samples of their work) and schedule the carriage ride for just before or at sunset. The lighting just before sunrise and slightly after sunset is often called the "magic hour" (though it isn't usually a full hour). Shooting between "sunset" and "civil twilight" should make for some beautifully lit photos.


Question: Do you travel out-of-state to do photography?
Answer: Yes. I consider travel on a case-by-case basis, depending upon my schedule and the distance to travel. I prefer to drive, if at all possible. Due to security issues, air travel has become less reliable than it used to be. For pricing information, please visit my travel page. Travel costs are usually based upon my costs - I don't charge for the time involved in traveling. You may e-mail me to see if the date you are interested in is available, and whether or not I would be available to travel. If you are interested in some sample, out-of-state weddings, check out my Colorado wedding photography, and also Texas wedding photography.

Want to submit a question? It's quick and easy. Click here.

Question: Do you create albums for your customers?
Answer: Yes and no. It is up to the individual customer to decide. Art Leather is my current album supplier. They are the largest wedding album manufacturer, and have a good selection of wedding albums in varying styles. Prices and quality are reasonable. If you are interested in an album, let me know and we can discuss the specifics. Album prices can range from $75 (for a small album that holds 4x6 prints) to more than $1,000. A reasonable album (10x10, imitation leather cover, 15 sheets/30 pages; 70 photos) can be had for about $500.

Question: Is it important for my photographer to shoot medium format as opposed to 35mm? Or, what wedding photo equipment should he use?

Answer: This can be a very difficult question. Let's start by explaining what medium format is. Medium format cameras use a negative that is larger than a 35mm negative - often 3 times larger. As a result, enlargements are of a better quality. Also, medium format cameras are more expensive (a basic setup can easily cost more than $10,000), and the film must be processed at a professional lab.

For many years, the true wedding professionals have used medium format equipment. The standard advice has been to "always use a photographer who shoots medium format." That has changed over the past few years as 35mm films have increased in quality AND digital cameras have come of age. Digital cameras can often exceed the quality of medium formats, and give greater control of color and exposure. Good 35mm cameras, with professional film, can easily produce enlargements of 11x14 (I have several 2x3 foot posters that are good quality, also, just recently enlarged a small portion of a black and white print to 11x14, and it looked great). Another advantage 35mm and digital cameras have are the ease of use. Focusing and composing shots are much faster than a medium format (making the photojournalistic style much more suited to these types of cameras). The less expensive processing also lends itself to shooting more film at weddings. In fact, I've seem quite a few wedding photography books targeted to those who shoot medium format film encourage photographers to limit the photos they take at a wedding because of the expense.

WHAT does all this mean? There is no "one size fits all answer." You must check out the individual photographer, and choose based upon the quality of the prints, not the size of the camera. Some shoot only 35mm, some only medium format, some a mixture of medium format and digital. Many of the nations best photographers shoot 35mm or digital, while many below average shoot only medium format. Talk to the photographer about the wedding photo equipment they use - ask why they use it. Discuss what type of enlargements you are interested in.

I currently shoot with a professional, quality digital camera that shoots an extremely high quality image (I end up with 35 megabyte files!). I get better quality out of my digital camera than I did from my 35mm - not to mention the benefit of being able to immediately see the image after taking it. I have spoken with other professional photographers who have switched from medium format film to my exact same type of digital camera who say the results are the same or better from their digital camera. You can view MORE INFORMATION about my digital camera and the benefits I have experienced in using it.


Question: Do you make exceptions to your criteria list?
Answer: Since I shoot weddings part time and because my motivation is that I love to do it, I don't have to bend my criteria to try to fill up my schedule or generate additional revenue. I love the weddings I shoot each year. I am able to know each couple by name, find out how they met, where the proposal occurred, some of the family background, how the wedding plans are coming along, why they chose the location they chose, what people are special to them, etc, etc. If my criteria becomes flexible at some point in the future, I will immediately post an update on the site.
Want to submit a question? It's quick and easy. Click here.

Question: How long do you take to process the images after the wedding?
Answer: I usually have the images processed and the slideshow CD's burned within a week. If a proof booklet is being run, that can take a few extra days. Usually, the couple has the Proof Booklet and Slideshow CD's in hand within one or two weeks of the wedding.

Want to submit a question? It's quick and easy. Click here.

Question: What about negatives? Should I find a photographer that allows me to have them?

Answer: This is another difficult question, without a perfect answer. There are several issues and angles to consider:
1- Many photographers make most of their profit by doing reprints and enlargements. If you had the negatives and could make your own reprints, they would lose a ton of money.
2- Wedding negatives are VERY valuable. A wedding photographer should be using professional processing plants. If you take the negatives to a drug store or major retailer for processing, there is a much better chance they will be lost or damaged. Also, the quality of the prints will be significantly lower. By keeping the wedding negatives and handling all reprints a photographer can control and maintain the high quality of his prints. That way, you aren't showing off "his" images that have been printed by a cheap processor and make the good photo look bad.
3- If a photographer shoots digital or medium format, you might not even be able to get reprints from the "negatives". The files they use might be a custom software file that only works with Nikon/Canon/Kodak software.
4- When a house burns down (or is destroyed through flood/tornado/hurricane/etc.) one of the greatest losses are photos. If you store the wedding negatives at your house, you stand to lose everything. If the negatives are stored by your photographer, they will not be damaged if something happens to your house. Granted, the photographer's studio could burn, but you would still have YOUR copy of the wedding photos.
5- Ask the photographers you speak to how they handle the negatives. Just because a photographer is willing to give or sell the negatives to you doesn't mean you should jump at the opportunity.

Since I am currently shooting digital, I am currently allowing my clients access to the master digital files (if they are interested and are computer savvy enough to run the files, and if they are included in their package) or will handle the image orders myself. A set of 4x6 proofs can be ordered at the time of the wedding for a significant discount.


If you are an amateur photographer interested in wedding photography advice, please visit my wedding photography tips page.
 
 
 
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