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15 Essential Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Wedding Photographer

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Corrissa + Jon Wedding-3

For many, planning a wedding is preparing for life’s greatest adventure and grandest party. There are many pieces that must come together to create the perfect event, much like a jigsaw puzzle. Each couple has an idea of what they think their special day should look like — from flowers, food, location, dress, and music to photography. After comparing notes on our past weddings, I asked my friend Jessica Gordon Ryan to pen this piece on that ever-important “wedding photographer.” Here is her carefully considered take…

When it came to my own Newport wedding nearly 20 years ago I put great emphasis on the photography. Sure, the food, band and flowers were all important, but I wanted to be able to revisit this once in a lifetime event over and over again. I wanted a photographer who would be able to capture the things I might miss, not particularly caring about the standard, posed formal family portraits. I wanted images of my friends and family being themselves, laughing, dancing, engaging and enjoying themselves…and to capture my new husband and myself in the same light. Someone with a creative, artistic vision who could record the nuances of my wedding that might go undetected by other photographers was paramount to me. And so I found an artsy, Brooklyn-based photographer to capture my traditional Newport wedding in a perfectly non-traditional manner.

Wedding photography has come a long way over the past couple of decades and there are many more options to help you find one who best reflects your style.

Maria + Andrew Wedding-159

With “the season” fast approaching, I recently had a chance to sit down with Maaike  (pronounced “Mike-Ah”) Bernstrom, Newport’s premiere wedding and lifestyle photographer, to talk about wedding photography. Her style is carefree and easy and she prefers to shoot with natural light.  Maaike’s true talent is the ability to find the beauty in every person and locale, celebrating relationships and beauty, weddings, children, family and friendships. As you’ll see in the images selected, she shoots both in black and white and in color. She perfectly captures every detail of the wedding, from  the wedding party and guests, to the location to the smaller details a bride might not have time to notice on her busy day.  Below, Maaike answers some of the questions that I posed that will help the bride-to-be select her perfect wedding photographer.

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1. Where does one look for a wedding photographer?
Social media is a great place to start. You can also search local wedding magazines, websites, and all the wedding blogs that exist now. Some great ones are Style Me Pretty, The Knot, Carats and Cake, Gray Likes. I have to say, I have been so lucky with the power of “word of mouth.”

 

2. What should a bride look for in a wedding photographer?
I would say that style and budget are important, as is finding one you connect with.  

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3. What questions should she ask?
Definitely ask about availability first. If he or she is not available you’ll need to look elsewhere. Also inquire as to whether a photographer shoots with a second photographer, if she gets all the edited images or has to pay extra for them,  and if she will also get engagement shots.

Sarah and Sean McNeill-41

4. How far in advance will she need to book?
Typically, brides book me about eight months to a year in advance.

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5. Do you offer packages?
I am probably one of the only photographers in Newport who does not offer any packages. I really work with each bride and groom to accommodate their budget and what they are looking to achieve out of the day. Timing, location and size of the wedding do factor into the overall budget.

Julie and Mikey Sneak Peek-41

6. Do you do engagement photos? Are they part of the package?
Yes, I love shooting engagement photos!!! However, not all of my brides want them so I offer them as a separate deal… I do offer a big discount if they book with me.

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7. Will you travel to a destination? Who covers that expense?
Absolutely, I will travel off Aquidneck Island to shoot weddings. Gas, lodging, and food are usually covered by the bride and groom.

The Fulham-Lipinski Wedding-432

8. How long will I have to wait to get proofs/pictures?
My usual turn-around time is under four weeks which is really fast. Most photographers take about three or more months; however, after shooting three back to back weddings this past November I just changed my contract to under eight weeks.

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9. Will you edit/Photoshop?
YES… I edit each and every photo I deliver to my clients. Nobody wants lipstick on their teeth!

The Vroman Wedding-64

10. What if the photographer gets sick?
We do NOT GET SICK…EVER! But in all seriousness I always have a second photographer with me. It also helps to know a ton of super talented and amazing fellow photographers in the area for those “ just in case” moments; but again, we don’t get sick.

The Fulham-Lipinski Wedding-31

11. What if it rains/snows?
Shooting a wedding in the snow or rain is both magical and romantic and are some of the coolest weddings I have ever photographed. I say bring it on, mother nature!

The Melberg Wedding-13

Other Questions to ask:

12. Does the photographer always shoot with a second photographer?

13. Does the photographer give the bride and groom ALL of the high resolution images or do they have to purchase them? Some photographers will give them all to the bride and groom, and others will charge for them.

14. “First looks” are becoming really popular and ensure that the  the bride and groom don’t miss a minute of their cocktail hour prior to the reception.  A “first look” is when the bride and groom first see each other before the actual ceremony. Traditionally, that would not have been until the bride walked down the aisle; but today, practicality prevails. Now that “first look” is backed up so that the couple can have the formal photographs taken before the ceremony and then get right to the cocktail party after the ceremony and start enjoying their guests. If this concept had existed when I was married I would definitely have opted for this. So do be sure to ask your photographer about the “first look.”

15. Get to know your photographer during the interview process. A good personal connection and comfort level is really quite important. Your photographer will be capturing and telling one of the most important stories of your lifetime.

Eliza + Andrew-4


I’d like to thank Maaike forsharing her invaluable and sage advice. If you are interested in contacting Maaike Bernstrom she can be reached at 401-662-6294, or by emailing her at maaikebernstrom@yahoo.com.

All images are property of Maaike Bernstrom Photography and may not be used without permission.

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6 thoughts on “15 Essential Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Wedding Photographer

  1. These are really great questions to ask a photographer when it comes to doing a wedding. I think the question about how far in advance would you need to book the photographer is very important mainly if you really want them. I would hope that the photographer has a sense of humor and likes to take silly photos too.

    1. Good points, Luke, especially about the sense of humor…even if you’re not a photographer. Enjoy your (I’m sure busy) Holiday weekend. Cheers, Bettie

  2. Indeed a great list of questions, Jessica! Speaking of my personal experience, many people tend to ignore most of these questions, only to create confusion in the end. Sometimes it’s really hard to find a decent wedding photographer during peak season. Therefore, you need to ask if a photographer is actually available to begin with. The second most important thing is to ask about different packages and what they consist of. Smart people usually ask about my ideas on choosing locations in their city and how I’d plan to shoot outdoors in a city I’m not particularly familiar with. It really helps a lot when the clients is cooperative and approachable. Thanks again for the great post.

  3. Great list of questions that you should be asking before hiring a wedding photographer. Good advice to get references. There’s no better way to make sure they are legit than to ask someone who has used them before. Thanks for the tips.

  4. My fiance and I are trying to find the right photographer to work with us, because we just got engaged. I think it is a good idea to see if they do any packages that involve engagement photos as well. That way, you can get all your photos from the same place!

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