When you're looking for wedding vendors, it's really hard to know what to look for in each one. Every industry is so different, it makes it quite difficult to pinpoint exactly what you need to be looking for per vendor genre. When it comes to wedding photographers, there are some essential questions you must ask. As a luxury wedding photographer myself, I make it a point to ensure that these items are included in my offered packages.
1. A Contract
When looking for any vendor, they should have a contract. Contrary to popular belief, a contract is actually meant for not only the vendor, but the clients too! In looking for the contract, ensure that it in some way protects you as well. For example, in my contract I have a backup photographer clause. This ensures that even if I am in the hospital or something tragic happens, I will have a photographer in my place.
2. Turnaround Times
Most turnaround times for photographers range from 6 weeks to 4 months. This is something that you must ask your photographer. Turnaround time is what determines how soon you get your pictures back. My turnaround time is 30 days, but this is very very rare in the industry. Make sure you look at your turnaround time and that it is listed within the contract so that you know when to expect your pictures back.
3. Photo Styles
What you see is what you get. If you like the style of the work you see on the photographer's website, you'll like their pictures they take of your wedding. In the contract, it should state that all pictures will reflect the work on the website. This can also protect you and ensure you're getting top quality that matches their website.
It's important to know that they have equipment that can handle the job. Ask what types of lenses they use, as well as bodies. You may not know much about the equipment and that's okay. Know that if they are using an 18-55 lens for example, this is a "kit lens" meaning that it is very low quality (comes free with any camera). If they are using lenses such as a 35, 50, 85, 135 mm, or 24-70, 70-200 mm, you're in good hands.
Make sure they have flash equipment as well! This is needed for almost all receptions. If you don't want to ask about equipment, ask how long they've been shooting weddings.
5. Two Photographers
Any wedding photographer will be able to tell you why two photographers is a good idea. Some include them in their packages and others do not. Two photographers is something you probably want to consider, as it will give you two different angles on your ceremony, allow you to do getting ready and family pictures at the same time to reduce the time booked.
6. Flash vs. Natural Light
Flash looks VERY different than natural light photography. Most photographers will let you know this and give you example pictures of both that they have taken. This allows you to see the difference and know what to expect. They should have flash equipment, mentioned previously, so that they can take good pictures in dark reception halls.
7. Deposits and Cancelations
All photographers should require a deposit, but they don't EVER ask for all of the money up front. If you are being asked this, you are getting scammed. Most photographers ask for 25-50% up front to hold your date for you. The rest is due closer to your wedding date.
For cancelations, most photographers include a clause in their contract that states any paid monies cannot be refunded. This is due to your date being reserve so that they can't book any other work during this time.
Both of these should be clauses in the contract.
8. Packages & Time Booked
Most photographers have set packages, which isn't really a good thing. Make sure you plan your timeline out and plan for the time you actually NEED. I see so often that couples book way too much time and end up wasting a lot of their budget on photographers sitting around. For the reception, a photographer only needs to be booked until the main events are over and about 45 minutes into the reception. The whole reception should only be photographed if you want a lot of the same looking dancing pictures OR if you're doing a grand exit at the end of the night.