8 Questions to Ask Before Hiring An Amateur Wedding Photographer
Considering an Amateur St. Louis Wedding Photographer?
You must read this.
The Value of a Pro
After five years of owning an running a popular St. Louis wedding venue, I have no doubt that the value of hiring an experienced wedding photographer is worth the expense.
Professionals bring along a wide range of skills and experiences that have prepared them to be at their very best on your wedding day. In addition to taking stunning photos, professional wedding photographers understand the flow of your wedding day, are quite skilled in wrangling members of the bridal party and family for photos, keep your photo schedule on time, and arrive with all of the tools in their camera bag for nearly any situation a crazy wedding day can throw at them.
[Note: Did you catch our reference to wedding photographers, not just photographers? Someone who primarily photographs children and families might take beautiful photos, but also may not have the experience needed to efficiently capture all of the elements of your wedding day. There is an obvious difference between 'wedding photographers' and family, landscape, etc. photographers on a wedding day in our experience.]
The Reality of a Budget
I say it often, it doesn't matter what your wedding budget it - there is never enough. With that being said, it is our recommendation to prioritize your wedding budget based on what is most important to YOU. For some couples photography may not be toward the top of the priority list, or based on other budget constraints, hiring a professional just might not be possible.
First, let us say that I truly believe that everyone starts somewhere. Ideally that means aspiring photographers learn the ropes by taking lots of second shooting opportunities with a seasoned professional (and they are honest about their intentions to go out on their own). The last thing you want is for a photographer to "practice on your wedding."
Your wedding day is a one day opportunity. You don't get a do over, and after the day has come and gone, photos and video (along with your memories), is what will remain.
Selecting a photographer is about so much more than pricing and portfolio. Below I'll share a list of 8 questions to ask your potential photographer if you are considering hiring someone who isn't a seasoned wedding photographer.
8 Questions to Ask an Amateur St. Louis Wedding Photographer
1. Do you bring a second shooter?
There is SO MUCH VALUE in hiring a second shooter (whether you hire a professional or an amateur.) Second shooters generally mean you have the chance at twice as many photos, twice as many angles, and let's face it, no single person can be two places at once. It also means that in the case that something happens with one of your photogs (like getting sick - it happened at my own wedding!) you already have a qualified person covering. Professional photographers are able to capture your day without a second shooter, but I wouldn't take that chance with someone with less experience.
2. Who are your second shooters?
Does the photographer often work with the same second shooters, or are they asking in a photography group, "who's available this Saturday?" As you can imagine, there is value in pairs who work together frequently. They are more likely to have a similar style, know who generally gets what shot (like your rings or dress), and have a good working relationship.
3. Do you use flash indoors? In what situations?
"Natural light photography" is great, but let's face it, there are situations that require additional lighting (like reception photos.) A photographer who uses flash indoors all the time very likely doesn't have a full understanding of their camera and lighting situations. There are many situations indoors that don't require flash photography (such as areas with lots of natural light), and when a photographer uses flash all the time, photos look washed-out.
4. How many backup cameras do you bring?
I'll keep this simple - the answer should be at least one.
5. What camera mode do you usually shoot in?
Most photogs have a favorite camera mode. If the answer is auto, you are likely talking with an amateur photog and it will show in your photos. Shooting in auto mode means that the camera is making all of the decisions about the outcome of your photo instead of your photographer making those decisions based on their knowledge and experience.
6. Do you backup my images to a secondary location? If so where (the cloud, a flash drive, etc) and when (that night, days later, never)?
We really hope the answer is yes and within 24 hours. We wouldn't feel comfortable with irreplaceable photos just hanging out on an SD card for months...
7. How many weddings have you been the primary shooter?
My vote would be at least 10 weddings as the primary shooter.
8. Can I please see several FULL albums? Including indoor photos, rainy day photos, and images in less than ideal lighting.
Here's the deal. I'm an amateur photographer with a decent camera. Even I luck into a few pretty shots, but what you don't see is how long it took me to get my camera settings correct, or how many photos I had to take to get THAT ONE.
In my opinion, before hiring a wedding photographer of any kind, I would ask to see some examples of a complete wedding day. Pros should wow you with their work all day long. Unfortunately, I've heard stories of amateurs posting only the few great shots on social media (who wouldn't?), and when the couple saw the full wedding collection they realized the only great photos were the ones included in the highlights on social media. Specifically ask for wedding day examples in rain, a dimly lit church or event center, etc. If you are checking them out you've already seen their work in the most ideal environments. You need to see it in all lighting and weather situations.
Additionally, when you see a full collection or several wedding collections does their work look cohesive? Is the editing consistent? New photographers often has a less consistent editing style and while you might have loved some light and airy photos you saw, they might edit your collection with bold and bright colors. If you notice inconsistency, ask more questions before signing on the dotted line.
Don't forget - in addition to all the technical stuff that is important, you'll spend more time on your wedding day with your photographer than almost anyone else. Make sure you actually like THEM and not just their work!
A thorough review of a professionals website will tell you a lot. Not only will you find their work, you'll also likely find out some details about them as person, reviews, and more. Before you spend your time (or theirs) in an in person meeting, do your homework online and you'll save yourself time and stress in the planning process.
And finally, don't rule out hiring a pro so fast. Photos and video are what will remain after your wedding day and some professional photographers offer smaller packages of hours that might be within your budget range.
About The Author
Kristin Binford, Co-Owner & Managing Partner at Haue Valley
Prior to co-founding of of St. Louis' most sought-after wedding venues, Kristin graduated with an MBA from Drury University and went on to spend 13 years in corporate marketing leadership roles. She loves to share tips and tricks she's learned with couples and venue owners near and far. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.