The Five Questions You Didn’t Know You Needed to Ask Before Hiring Your Wedding Photographer

Hey there!

I’m Nathan and I’ve been shooting weddings since 2007. I have one of the best jobs in the world because I get to work with so many amazing couples on one of the best days of their lives. Over the past 16+ years, I’ve shot around 500 weddings and have seen trends come and go, editing styles come and go, popular first dance songs come and go, but you know what’s stayed pretty consistent? The fact that at the end of the day, wedding planning is one of the most bizarre things a couple will ever do. I know it was when I got married and having talked to so many couples over the years, I know it’s the same for them too. You may rely on friends and family who have gone through the process already, you may hit Google for some planning tips, or you may just completely wing it. Then you get on the phone with different vendors and they all have a different process that can add confusion. It makes it really hard to compare apples to apples. It’s one of the things I dislike most about the wedding “industry”- It has a ton of potential to cause people stress and confusion.

champagne spay at wedding

Well, I’m not going to fix that entire problem with this article, but what I am going to do is give you five questions you likely didn’t know you needed to ask before hiring your wedding photographer. No, this isn’t going to be a regurgitated list that you can find anywhere with a basic search. This is a list of questions that I’ve been serving couples with for years and I think they’ll be helpful for you too. At the core of our photography studio, our goal is to give you total confidence in our process, experience, and value. Yes, you’ll find much cheaper photographers out there. Some may even do a good job with the photos they capture for you. The couples who move forward with us care more about just getting images they’ll like though. They care about the process being smooth, clear, and efficient from now until long after their wedding is over. They care about having the assurance that if something goes wrong, we’ll know how to handle it. They care about working with vendors who they actually like being around, and aren’t going to make them feel like an idiot for asking certain questions or proposing their ideas.  So what are the five questions you should be asking? Let’s dive in.

1- Do we need to give you a shot list before the wedding?

This is an excellent question because there isn’t a universal right or wrong response. It comes down to what level of involvement do you want to have in what shots are taken. Some studios rely on shot lists to know exactly who to photograph for family pictures or what types of images the couple wants for their portraits. I can understand that thinking on some levels, but the downstream side effect of this is that the couple all of the sudden has some homework to do to figure out what specific shots they want to be taken, what order they should be taken in, and then they have the anxiety of making sure they didn’t forget to add anything. Then on the wedding day, the photographer is fumbling through lists and relying on it as if those are the most important things to capture. While they’re checking a shot off the list, they miss the shot of you with your grandpa seeing you for the first time, your nephews swiping a lick of the cake or the arrival of your best friend who you thought couldn’t make it to your wedding. The other hangup that can happen is even if the photographer doesn’t miss a special moment because they’re looking at a list, it’s very possible that in all of the planning, you didn’t write down a certain family combo that you wish you had. The day comes and goes, and because that shot wasn’t listed, it didn’t happen…

Nathan Desch Photography

What we do instead is send out a questionnaire a couple months before the wedding and it gives us all of the logistical info we need. We know the size of the wedding party, the names and relationships of each person in your family, and the timeline of the day. Then, based on our extensive experience, we nail every possible combination you’d ever want without needing you to think about it. We also do it in an order that makes sense so that grandma isn’t standing up for a shot and sitting back down four times. Our experience and systems lead to practical efficiency for your wedding. Shortly before the wedding, we’ll jump on a quick call to make sure we’re on the same page and address any last minute changes to your plans. This sets us up in the best position to capture the day in the best way possible.

Summer Wedding at Drumore Estate

Maybe you’re looking for a photographer who works best off of a list. If that is the case, that is 100% ok. It may mean we’re not the best fit for your wedding day, but if you don’t ask the question to prospective photographers, you’ll never know.

2- With the coverage we’re looking at, which parts of the day will you be there to capture?

As I am typing out this section, I keep writing a thought and then deleting it to write a different thought- Here is why… There are so many reasons why photographers price their coverage in the way that they do and I hate to say it, but sometimes it’s not with your best interest in mind. A while back, I saw a post in a local photographer Facebook group and a local photographer mentioned that he always gets the couple to book the minimum number of hours that he offers so that closer to the wedding, when they’re going over the timeline, he can upsell more hours because he knows the couple will need them to have the whole day covered. While his intentions may not be overtly malicious, it’s basically taking advantage of the couples he works with because when they book their coverage, they think they’re getting enough time so the price looks great. But when they all of the sudden need to add more time, the upcharge quickly exceeds their budget.

Some weddings can be perfectly covered in four hours. Others in six or eight. Many more need 10, 12, or more. We’ve had some weddings where we started at 6am and went past midnight. Regardless, when you’re planning your wedding and begin reaching out to photographers, a good way to determine how long you’ll need your photographer for is by working backwards from the ceremony to start. If you’re having a first look, that’ll normally happen between two and three hours before the ceremony. Prior to that, you’ll be getting dressed and taking care of some loose ends. Prior to that, hair an makeup will be happening. We typically recommend starting with prep an hour and a half or two before you get dressed. So, pre-ceremony coverage, you’re normally looking at around 6 hours of coverage. Moving the other direction, the ceremony typically lasts 30 minutes to an hour long or more. Then you have cocktail hour. From there, most receptions are four hours or more. That’s another 6 hours. So, 12 in total. Maybe your wedding is a bit shorter and you only need 10. Maybe you have some traveling between locations that’s happening and you actually need 14.

Whatever the case may be for you, figure out how much of the wedding you want covered before talking to photographers because if they offer you a “standard” 8 hours of coverage, and you really need 13 hours, that will be a really pricey add on later.

Best Wedding Pictures of 2021

We combat this by doing entire day coverage in our base package. We don’t view “hours covered” as the service you’re paying for. When out couples hire us to photograph their wedding, we want to document as much of the day as they want and make it so their day can unfold naturally as opposed to packing everything in to a tight eight hour window. Want us to show up at the beginning of prep, no problem. Want us to stay until the after-party to get some shots of that, we’ll be there. No extra charge.

When you look back through your album in 10 years, we want you to be able to relive every moment that was important to you… Early in the day all the way through the end of the night.

3- Can you describe what your perfect wedding day looks like and why?

Wait, shouldn’t the photographer be asking this question to the couple and not the other way around? Well, yes, but we love it when couples ask us this too. Here is why. Some photographers excel with certain types of weddings. Some absolutely kill it with small intimate affairs in the couple’s back yard, while others prefer big elaborate celebrations in the city with portraits all over town. While one photographer may be in their element with a certain type of wedding, another type may give them anxiety and trepidation. You want to make sure that the photographers you’re considering are not only comfortable with the type of wedding you’re having, but that they’ll thrive with it and give you the coverage you’re looking for.

Our studio is based right between Philadelphia and Lancaster so we regularly shoot weddings in the city, barn venues, country clubs, private estates, back yards, and everything in between. For us, our perfect wedding day has a lot less to do with the location and a lot more to do with the couple and how much they care about coming away with images they love. We want to work with couples who love the work they see on our website and want the same for their wedding. We want to work with couples who are madly in love and are up for anything on their wedding day. Our perfect wedding day is one where the couple is awesome and trusts us no matter what.

If you’re reading this and say to yourself, “We’re really only hiring a photographer because we’re ‘supposed to’. It’s not a big priority to us”, well then we may not be the best fit. There are going to be much cheaper options out there (we’d be happy to refer you to some if you’d like). On the flipside, if you’re reading this and you say to yourself, “Having images we’ll love looking through on a regular basis from our wedding is one of our highest priorities, and we love the work we see on your website”, well then I cannot wait to connect with you and get the process started!

4- What is the biggest mistake you’ve ever made in photographing a wedding?

It should go without saying, but if you’re considering a photographer for your special day and you ask them this questions and their response is, “I’ve never made a mistake”, they’re either lying to you or they haven’t been doing this long enough. The bottom line is that wedding photographers are human and we are going to make mistakes at some point. The question isn’t whether we make them, but how we respond to them and grow as photographers. Let me give you an example- When I first started shooting weddings, I was an electrician and would wire houses during the week and then shoot weddings on the weekend. With a young family, this was a lot of work and required me to keep a lot of balls in the air. At that time, when a couple booked, I’d enter their wedding info into my trusty spreadsheet. Simple enough right?

Well at one point, I got an inquiry for a specific date and after some time, the couple booked with me. Great right! I sent over their contract via email, got it back and then went on with my life. Fast forward 9 months and I get a call one day from the bride and she wanted to go over some details for her wedding that was happening next weekend… Wait?!?! Next Saturday?!?!? Their wedding wasn’t next Saturday. I had another couple booked that date. What happened?! Long story short, when that couple signed their contract, their wedding date had changed from what they put down on their inquiry so when I entered their info for their wedding, I wasn’t using the right date. I double booked their day (this is the #3 fear of all photographers… I’ll tell you the top two when we jump on a call to talk about your wedding).

So what happened? Well, once I figured out what happened, I quickly found two other photographers I knew and trusted who were available. I talked to the couple about the mistake and how it was being handled, and also went above and beyond to make it right. In the end, was this the ideal outcome? No, of course not. But I owned the mistake, found a solution, kept the couple in the loop and made sure that it would never happen again. Learning from mistakes is the silver lining in all of this. FWIW, now that I’ve been doing this full time for more than 12 years, this type of thing would be virtually impossible to happen again because of the checks and balances we have in place.

Of course, if and when we ever make another mistake, we know that the right response is to own it, make it right, and go above and beyond for our couples.

5- What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done to “get the shot”?

Let me explain- When you’re working with creatives, of any kind for that matter, there are times when they get a twinkle in their eye because they see something in their mind and they’re not quite sure if they should suggest it. Is it too crazy to be considered… Should they just stick to the basics and go on cruise control all day…  Will this couple be up for it, or would it be better to not even suggest it?

Some photographers may have gotten turned down one too many times and now they’re stuck in a cycle of playing it safe. Give standard coverage and the couple will love their shots right? Well, standard shots aren’t bad, and make no mistake, we do those too… But when we see something that catches our attention, you can better believe we’re going to ask you if you’re up for it. Jump in a pool at the end of the night? Lay down in some tall grass while I climb a tree above you? Stand outside in the pouring rain? Get in a pasture with a longhorn? I could go on and on. If all of those things sound like something you’d be up for to get an epic shot or two from your wedding, don’t you want to make sure your photographer is up for it too?

On top of asking our couples to do some pretty out of the box things, there are times where we go the extra mile to make sure our perspective is unique and showcases a moment of your day in a creative way. Straight on shots are great for sure, but make sure the photographers you’re considering are willing to think out of the box and treat your day like it’s one of a kind… Because it is.

Wedding photographers in PhiladelphiaEven though we’ve shot hundreds and hundreds of weddings over the last 16 years, we know that this is your one wedding. Your one day where you two make this public commitment in front of all of your friends and family. You deserve a photographer who isn’t going to coast, put it on cruise control or play it safe all day because they’ve shot at your venue dozens of times.

Work with us and we promise to treat your wedding day like it’s the most important wedding we’ve ever shot… Because it is to you.

Do you have other burning questions? We look forward to discussing them with you when we connect.