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This weekend, we went to the Filoli Gardens to check it out for the first time. The historic site is located in Redwood City/Woodside and is a mansion with a huge beautiful garden. The garden was gorgeous and the whole place is maintained really well. Unfortunately, I did not really like the place because it was too touristy. The place surprisely had a ton of people and was basically a museum and a tourist attraction. From looking at the website, I did not expect so many people and thought it would be a nice place to have a picnic and do some hiking. However, the trails outside of the garden are all closed to the public, and there is no picnicing or food/drinks anywhere in the garden. I felt like the place was not very welcoming at all. The house and the garden also looked like it would be an awesome place for a wedding, but unfortunately, they do not hold weddings there. It might have also been a good place for an engagement session, but I am not sure if that is even allowed as any commercial photography is not allowed and requires a permit.
The house and garden is 16 acres and the whole estate is 654 acres. The house was originally built in 1915 for the William Bowers Bourn II family. Bourn was president of the Spring Valley Water Company, which owned the Crystal Springs Lake and surrounding area. The estate was later sold to Mr and Mrs William P Roth, who owned the Matson Navigaton Company in 1937. The Filoli botanic gardens was built by the Roth family and in 1975, the estate was donated to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
I am sure there are many compiled lists of questions for choosing a wedding photographer, but I wanted to compile my own from a photographer’s perspective and from my personal experience working with clients. I have organized it into sections with some of the basic questions that should be asked as well as a summary of what the responses and answers should be. Hopefully someone can find this list useful.
Experience Level – How long has the wedding photographer been shooting weddings and how many weddings does he/she do per year? Do you do this full time or part time?
I think asking the questions above is basically a default question that you should ask to get a better idea about the photographer. It is more important that you like the photographer’s style, but it is also important that your photographer knows what they are doing on the actual wedding day since there are no retakes and trial runs.
Personally, I don’t think someone who has been doing this for ten plus years always makes a good photographer. There are plenty of good photographers that have only been in the industry for around five years or even less. Pop Photo’s Top ten Wedding Photographers of the year is a great example as many of the photographers that make the list every year have less than ten years of experience.
As far as whether the photographer is doing it fulltime or part time, I don’t think this is a big concern but it helps to know the photographer as a person and its nice to know what they do for their regular occupation. Many people do wedding photography on the side because it is a great hobby that people love to do. An additional benefit to part time photographers is that they do not have to worry about booking as many weddings as they possibly can since they already have a regular job that can pay the bills. Other than the full time job, a part time photographer might even have more time to edit your photos since they are not busy shooting weddings every weekend.
Technical – What type of camera and equipment do you use? Do you have backup equipment? Do you have liability insurance?
Obviously, future brides and grooms should not be expected to know too much about the type of cameras and equipments that photographers should be using. It helps to know though that the photographer is able to explain their equipment and can say that they are using a professional grade SLR instead of just a point and shoot. Canon and Nikon are the top two brands of digital SLR cameras. Having backup equipment is also useful and all wedding photographers should have it. Insurance is also good to have in case something happens with the photographer’s camera and equipment or even if it gets stolen at your wedding.
Photographic Style – What would you say your style is? How do you prefer to shoot? Do you prefer using natural light, external flash, studio lights, strobes, reflectors, ambient lighting etc? How much post processing do you do?
It is good to see how the photographer works and what kind of style they prefer to shoot. As the client, there will be a particular style of images that you like and prefer, ie. photojournalism, modern, formal, candids, black and white, etc. Different Photographers also work very differently. Usually photographers prefer to use natural light, but using strobes and external flashes can also provide for excellent images as well.
As for post processing, there are different levels of processing that you can apply to images. Making minor color adjustments is perfectly normal and recommended and ideal for creating a perfect image. There are also many adjustments that can be made to an image such as filters, borders, textures, actions, saturation, etc that can drastically change the look and feel of an image. The amount of editing can vary among photographers and the type of look that the bride and groom prefer can also vary significantly. It is best to look at different photographer portfolios and blogs to see what kind of images you like and prefer and choose photographers that fit your taste. Make sure you like the work of the photographer since the images are an important keepsake to remember the day by. Some photographers may actually charge additional prices for post processing and may give you images without any editing so make sure you know what is included.
Price Range – What packages do you provide? And what options are available?
You should never pick a photographer based on price.
The price ranges for a photographer can start from free up to $10,000+. A wedding can be expensive so there should definitely be a budget set at no less than 10% of the whole wedding costs. There are so many amateur and student photographers and there are plenty on Craigslist that will do it for a very cheap price. Of course, the saying is very true for this industry and you “get what you pay for.” Since this is your special day, you should take some time to find someone that can do the job well and also find someone that you can easily work with. Look for different photographers, ask them for their prices, then set a budget and see if any of those photographers are within your range. Remember that there are no retakes and it is important to choose a good photographer.
As far as actual pricing goes, photographers can also charge by packages or a la carte. Even though some photographers may have a low package price, you may still end up paying a lot more at the end depending on what you want. Make sure you understand what the package includes and additional costs if changes and additions are made such as additional hours or other options. Think about what you want from the photographer.
Will you want an engagement session? – The engagement session is good because it usually occurs before the actual wedding day and allows the bride and groom to interact with and get to know the photographer. It helps everyone get comfortable in preparation for the big day as the bride and groom can see how the photographer works and the other way aroudn as well. The session helps the photographer come to know the bride and groom’s personality and how they work in front of the camera. Every bride and groom is different and by interacting more with the bride and groom, it allows the photographer to know what shots will or will not work with the couple and how to get the best emotions and poses from the couple.
Images from the engagement session can be great for the wedding day reception because there are numerous ways to showcase the images. You can display them in large prints, in a slideshow, in a photo album, or in the guestbook. You can also be creative and use it for table settings, souvenirs, name badges, etc.
Will you want prints of the images? Or a disc of the images? – Different photographers sell their work and packages differently. Some photographers will choose to show you proofs of all the images and you have to pick and choose the shots that you want to purchase. So even though, the starting package may be cheap, after you select all the images that you want, the price you pay in the end can be a lot more than you anticipated.Other photographers will include a disc of the images, either processed/edited, or unprocessed. Some may charge an additional price for providing the disc and some may charge an additional price again if you want the images edited. It is important to know what you want, and what you will be receiving and how much everything will cost.It is also important to verify that you get the high resolution versions of the images if you want to get prints developed on your own from the images on the disc as some photographers may still require you to purchase prints from them.
Once the actual wedding is done, will you want a photo album? Slideshow? Trash the dress/post session? – Photo albums created by the photographer is a great way to capture the special day all in a elegant book that you can easily look at to reflect upon. The album is usually a high quality product that you can present to friends and family to share and the page spreads that are created usually look a lot better than if you were to put prints together in a simple photo album.Online slideshows can be useful for sharing with your friends and family and is also extremely easy to share by sending the URL in a simple email or mail. A slideshow of the engagement session can also be nice to share and would be nice to show on the wedding day at the reception. Some couples also choose to do a post wedding photo session to capture some more images on a different day. This allows you to be a lot more relaxed with ample time to get quality shots. It also gives the bride another opportunity to showcase the wedding dress or to even “trash the dress,” which is when the bride is not afraid to get the dress dirty in order to get some awesome images in the wedding dress.
Actual Photography the day of – Make sure that the photographer you meet with will be the actual photographer that will be shooting your wedding. If you are getting a photographer from a studio or company, make sure you see the images from the actual photographer that will be shooting your wedding and request to meet that person. If for some reason, the photographer is not able to make it, make sure there is a replacement and that it is specified in the contract.
Personality/Appearance – You should always meet the photographer so that you can talk in person and see if he/she is someone that you can work well with. You should make sure that you are comfortable with him/her since you will be working with him/her the whole day.
Delivery – How long will it take to get the images, proofs, Album, etc?
Editing time can very among photographers and it can even take up to a year to get your images from certain photographers. It may or may not be stated in the contract so make sure you know what to expect.
Contract – Make sure you read the contract carefully and understand everything. If there are any changes and addtions, make sure it is in writing because if something was guaranteed or promised but was not written down in the contract, it means nothing in the court of law.
Deposits and payments – Make sure you know how the payments work and what is refundable in case of a cancellation.
References and Reviews – Can you provide me with a few references?
Hesitation to give you references would be a good sign that you should reconsider other photographers. It may also be a good idea to look for reviews online or on Yelp to get a sense of how they work from previous customers.