You’r getting married in Costa Rica. You have lots of decisions to make. One of the more important decisions is choosing your wedding photographer. After all, the photos are how you will remember your wedding day.
This is the first article of a two-part series what will help you choose the the wedding photographer that’s right for you. This page has a number of questions that will help you narrow down the short list of photographers you made with the help of our first article, How to Choose a Wedding Photographer, which is a great guide for the preliminary research you can do before contacting any photographers.
1. How do you classify your photography style?
This is be your first question to ask potential wedding photographers. Most photographers have a unique style, be it photojournalism, classical, filmic, grunge, dystopic, etcetera. If there is a specific style you favor, look for photographers who have that style.
At Arenas Foto Wedding Photography, our photography style is based primarily on photojournalism with a mix of fine-art wedding photography and fashion. You can read more about our wedding photography philosophy on our About Us page.
2. How many weddings have you photographed?
The number of years someone’s been a wedding photographer and how many wedding’s they’ve photographed are two distinct topics. A photographer who’s photographed 50 weddings over two years has more experience than one who’s photographed 40 weddings over five years. Some photographers are weekend-warriors, work part time, photograph weddings as a hobby or a way to make extra money on the weekends.
3. What other types of photography do you specialize in?
Not all photographers who promote themselves as wedding photographers specialize in wedding photography. They may “specialize” in various genres of photography – family portraits, newborn photography, glamour, fashion, corporate, food, and so on – and photograph an occasional wedding . Being a wedding photographer requires a certain skillset, an ability to provide a unique customer service experience, and provide a wide variety of resources for clients to help them with the wedding planning process, among other things. It’s better to find a photographer who specializes in wedding photography than a jack-of all-trades who’s a master of none.
4. Who Will be My Photographer?
If the wedding photography studio has multiple photographers on staff and/or if it subcontracts photographers, it’s imperative you determine who will be your wedding photographer. Once you find out who will photograph your wedding, request the studio send you links to view that photographer’s portfolio. If the photographer is subcontracted, request the studio send the link to their website to see their work and to find client reviews.
5. Will you photograph other events the day before or after our wedding day?
Some wedding photographers will book multiple events on subsequent days, and even on the same day. Wedding photography is not for the faint of heart. It can be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining, especially in very humid and hot areas where many weddings take place in Costa Rica. To be able to shoot various wedding on consecutive days, the studio should have multiple photographers and have the resources to do so. A wedding photographer who shot an 8-hour wedding the day before in the heat will not have the same energy, creativity, and patience as one who didn’t. At Arenas Photo Wedding Photography, we have two master photographers, allowing us to book multiple wedding in a row and remain fresh and creative.
6. Is a contract required and what will be in it?
If a photographer does not have clients sign a detailed contract, you should avoid that studio. The contract is for your protection as much as it is for theirs. The contract should detail what exactly they are providing, then they are providing it, and where they are providing it, along with explicit information regarding the total cost of services and products, payment schedules, and how payments will be made, as well as how many photos you will receive, when you and how you will receive hem, how the photos will be edited, and the image file specifications. If it’s not in writing, it simply does not exist, and you will have to recourse if the photographer does not give you what was promised.
7. What if your photographer can’t make it on your wedding day?
Ask if the photographer has a Plan B in case the photographer for your wedding gets sick or has an emergency. While unlikely, it’s a possibility. Though neither Lindsay or me have been so sick we couldn’t photograph a wedding, there are two of us, you we have you covered.
8. Can you provide an assistant photographer?
Larger weddings – ones with 50 or more guests – require two photographers. There are just too many things happening at once, too many moments, too many people for a single photographer to be able to capture it all. It would require the photographer to be in two places and once and have the right lens at right moment to best capture a specific moment.
9. Do You Shoot in RAW or JPEG?
RAW and JPEG are digital image file formats. RAW is an uncompressed and unprocessed image file format that captures all the digital information a camera’s image sensor is capable of capturing. JPEG is a compressed, processed image file format. Images taken in RAW have no picture profile imposed on them, whereas photos taken in JPEG do. “Picture profile” refers profiles such as Portrait, Landscape, Standard, etcetera that predefine the contrast, sharpness, saturation, and other parameters. Photos taken in JPEG, therefore, are preprocessed with these setting which cannot be removed.
Think of RAW image files as dough waiting to be processed. You can turn it into whatever you want – a croissant, French bread, chocolate chip cookies, pasta. JPEG image files, on the other hand, would be the finished product. They come out of the camera already “baked”. You can’t turn a croissant into pasta. RAW image files are indispensable for photo editing. JPEG image files are for image delivery, not editing.
10. Will you edit my photos? How will you edit them?
Many wedding photographers do not edit their photos. If you are paying professional prices, you should receive a finished, professional product. That is, your photos should be fully edited. What’s done when they are edited is another matter.
Some photographers deliver photos right out of the camera, meaning they do nothing more than select which ones to deliver. Other photographer will adjust only the white balance, exposure, and color setting. This is not photo editing. This is only the first step in the photo-editing process.
Taking photos straight from the camera and running them through a preset and delivering them is not editing photos either. A “preset” consists of all the adjustments made in a photo-editing program to achieve a certain look that are then recorded as a preset that permits applying that look to multiple photos at once. It’s production line. When editing large numbers of photos, a certain amount of automation is necessary. This, however, should only be a part of the photo-editing process, not the entire editing process.
The issue with presets is that one size does not fit all. Applying the same preset to multiple photos does not ensure all photos will look the same. Each photo has as to be examined individually after applying a preset to ensure consistency from photo to photo, as there are variables that can dramatically change how a photo looks.
Arenas Foto Wedding Photography will fully edit your photos, providing you with a professional, finished product. To read about our photo-editing process, check out our article on How We Edit Your Photos.
11. What styles of photo editing do you offer?
The two main factors that will determine how your photos will look are: 1. How they are taken, and 2. How they are edited. Most professional wedding photography studios have a signature style from which they do not deviate. This means they have a specific way of taking and editing photos.
What differentiates Arenas Foto Wedding Photography from other wedding photography studios is that we work with each client to ensure we deliver the style of wedding photos they want that capture the moments that are most important to them. We do this by having clients create a Photo Mood Board, and complete a Wedding Day Photo Shot List.
12. What photography and lighting equipment do you use?
A professional wedding photography studio that charges professional prices should be using professional-grade cameras, lenses, and lighting equipment, as well as photo editing equipment and data storage. Ask potential photographers to provide you with a list of the photography, lighting, and photo editing equipment to make sure will get what you pay for. Our Engagement & Wedding Photography Equipment page will give you an idea of what sort of equipment a pro wedding studio should be using.
13. Will You Make Backups of Our Photos?
Ask your photographer if they make backups your photos while editing them, how many backups they make, and where are they located. A wedding is unrepeatable. Losing all your wedding photos due to negligence on the part of your photographer would be heartbreaking. A professional wedding photographer should have at least 3 discrete backups, two onsite and one offsite on enterprise-class hard drives and/or a cloud service.
14. What happens if my wedding goes over schedule?
Find out what a photographer’s policy is regarding additional coverage before signing a contract. Not doing so can lead to quite a shock and an unpleasant situation. If it’s not spelled out in the contract, you could receive a bill for $1,500.00 for an additional hour of coverage, and your photos could be held for ransom until you pay. If it’s not in writing, it does not exist. Also, when the moment your coverage is set to end, it’s possible your photographer will pack cut and run in the middle of an important moment. It’s not unheard of.
15. What will our photographer and assistants wear?
This question is often overlooked. You don’t want your wedding photographer to show up wearing a neon-teal shirt and pink pants. That would be quite a distraction. Our wedding photographers and assistants wear only black casual-formal wear to avoid becoming a distraction. We also do this to avoid color cast, especially with white wedding gowns. Were we to wear red shirts, the light reflecting off our shirts would result in the color red being cast on your wedding dress, resulting in it having a red hue in you photos, which would lead to lost hours removing it in post-processing.
16. When Will I Receive My Photos?
Most wedding photography studios, if they fully edit your photos, deliver photos within 4-8 weeks depending on their workload. It’s not that it takes 4-6 weeks to edit them, it’s that there may be photos for 6 weddings ahead of yours that need to be edited. If a studio promises to have your photos within a week, this is as red flag. It’s highly doubtful they will be able to fully edit your photos in that time if they are a moderately-busy wedding photography studio.
17. How will I receive my photos?
Photographers who charge professional prices should offer professional services. Downloading your photos from a Dropbox, Google Drive, or some other cloud-based storage is not a professional service. A pro wedding photography studio will deliver your photo via a paid, private, online photo gallery service that allows you to view and download your photos among other options. Find out our client photo gallerires on our How We Deliver Your Photos page.
18. What happens to my photos after delivery?
Your photographer should keep your original photos in long-term storage. This is a service professional wedding photography studios offer in case a client loses their digital image files by accident by oversight, hard drive failure or force of nature, as well as data corruption and viruses. This is not unheard of in the digital age.
19. Do you offer photo books and prints?
Most professional wedding photography studios offer photo books and prints. Book a photographer who does. Many wedding photographers claim to tell wedding-day stories, that they will tell your unique wedding day story. A photographer who designs photo books can see your wedding day story and will know how to capture it keeping your photo book and prints in mind. By choosing a photographer who doesn’t, you more than likely will end up with lots of photos that might look great on their own, yet when put together, don’t tell a story.
Also, find out the name of the company that will print your photo book to make sure it’s a reputable company that produces high quality photo albums. To find out more about our high quality, artisan, hand-made photo books, visit our Photo Books Information & Options page.
We also recommend you choose a studio that offers prints. Taking photos, editing on a screen, and delivering digital image files for viewing on a screen is one thing. Doing so for prints is something else. Photographers who don’t print their work – either in prints or in photo books, really don’t know what their photos will look like when printed. There are many technical aspects to this topic that we’ll avoid here. Let’s just say there’s a lot more to printing than just taking a digital image file to a printer. If you plan on printing your wedding photos, choose a photographer who prints, either on their own printer or at a professional printing lab.
20. When will my photo book be ready?
First, ensure the photographer fully edits your photos. Otherwise, it might not be worth paying for a photo book. First, your photos have to be edited. Then, the person who designs the photo book will choose the photos that best tell the story of your wedding day. How long this takes depends on how many different wedding day events were captured – preparation, bridal session, First Looks, the Ceremony, family formal, bridal party photos, bride and groom couple’s session, the reception. Once you approve the design, then it’s sent to the printer for production. Once completed, it’s shipped. Generally, the entire process and shipping takes 1-3 months. Read more about the process on our Photo Book Design & Order Process page.