Cover Photo image Credit: Desiree Allard, RVLTN Photos LLC
As a photographer, the number one question I am asked by potential clients is "how much does it cost?" I get it. Price is a huge factor when making decisions about whether or not to use someone's services or purchase their products. I also think a lot of the time people ask this question because they simply don't know what else might be important in helping them make their decision. Here are 10 additional questions you should be asking any photographer that you're thinking of working with to make sure they are the best match for you.
"What is included with my session?"
I would say that this question is honestly more important than how much the session costs. Depending on what is included in the session can greatly affect how much the session itself is worth. For instance, my session fee includes professional hair and make-up, wardrobe consultation or access to my client wardrobe, multiple outfit changes, access to a private professional studio, and other amenities such as a cake for smash cake sessions, or custom breastmilk jewelry for my breastfeeding clients. Other photographers only offer one outfit, no hair and make-up services, and things like a cake or props are additional charges. No shade thrown at those photographers, as they are likely more accommodating to lower budgets. It really depends on what type of experience you're looking for. So, you can see, it's important to know what you are getting included for the price.
"Do you offer professional editing services?"
I think it's safe to say that most photographers include editing services in their pricing, however, I have heard of a few who do not. I have also encountered several potential clients who have a preference for receiving unedited photos so that they can edit them themselves in their own style. Depending on what you're looking for, you'll want to know your photographer's policy on editing. For my clients, I edit their photos myself and I do not allow any editing outside of cropping for prints or products to be done to the photos after they are received by the client. I have this outlined in my contract. If you don't want to do any editing yourselves, this is perfect for you! However, if you were hoping to edit your photos yourself for whatever reason, we wouldn't be a good fit.
"Why did you get into photography?"
I personally love when clients ask me this! I have very personal reasons for choosing to become a photographer and for choosing motherhood as my niche and I love discussing this with clients. I believe this is an important question to ask any photographer you're choosing on working with because it gives you a glimpse into their inner world. If they have a personal tie to their niche or if there's a strong motivation behind why they photograph weddings or dogs or whatever the subject may be, oftentimes their work comes out better because they know what details are important. When your photographer has a strong passion for what they do, the extra effort and thought that they put into their work is clearly visible. Plus, this question helps you to know if you relate to your photographer and if this is someone you feel happy about giving your money to.
"Do you have any certifications/licensing/training?"
This question isn't important to every niche, but very important to some. This is something I wish my clients would ask me more often when I am on a discovery call with them. If you are looking for a newborn photographer, maternity photographer, or pet/animal photographer I highly recommend asking this question as these types of shoots can be dangerous if the photographer doesn't know what they're doing or haven't been trained properly. For example, I work with newborns. I have taken courses to learn about signs of positional asphyxiation, loss of circulation, and other risks associated with photographing newborns. I've also taken courses to learn about how to make sure the baby is as comfortable and safe as possible in props and wraps and I utilize an assistant whenever I photograph newborns so that the baby is never more than an arm's reach of an adult at any time during the shoot. I'm also certified in CPR and first aid for infants, children, and adults. Unfortunately, there are many photographers who do not go to these lengths to protect their clients. And it isn't because they are bad people or because they don't care. Many people just simply don't know the risks associated with certain genres of photography. And this puts you and your children or pets at risk for serious injury when your photographer isn't properly trained in safety protocol for their niche. Always always always ask your photographer what type of training or certifications they have. They should be more than happy to provide you with that information.
"How long is the session?"
You'll want to know how long to expect the session to run so that you can plan accordingly. There are so many factors that play into the length of a session. For instance, a newborn session might take me upwards of 4 hours depending on how restless or fussy the baby is, how often we have to stop to feed or change, if I'm coming to your home and thus have to set up and break down, how many other people are going to be in the images, etc. Whereas a simple family photoshoot might only take me 30 minutes to an hour, maybe longer if there's multiple outfit changes. I typically do my best to prepare my clients ahead of time so they have realistic expectations of time allowances, but sometimes we forget that these things aren't common knowledge to folks who aren't photographers.
"What is your refund policy?"
This is always important for you to know. As a general rule in the industry, most retainer fees are non-refundable, but this can differ from photographer to photographer and sometimes exceptions can be made for extenuating circumstances. It's good for you to know your photographer's refund policy in advance so that you aren't surprised down the road if you have to cancel or reschedule for any reason or if you're unhappy with the photos.
"Are any photos included with the session fee?"
Again, this is one that varies from photographer to photographer. Some photographers charge a flat rate for session fee plus all the digitals of your photos. Other photographers charge a completely separate fee for digitals. Others include a product credit in their session fee and others charge the session fee as the retainer with an additional minimum purchase requirement. This is absolutely not something where there is any consistency within the industry, so you'll definitely want to ask your photographer how they operate their business specifically.
"What is your turnaround time?"
Another super important question to ask you photographer is turnaround time! This is so crucial to know, especially if you have a specific date you need the photos by. For example, if you're gifting your husband a boudoir album for your 5th wedding anniversary or if you need engagement photos for save-the-dates, you'll want to know if your photographer is able to deliver the finished images or products in time for your big date.
"Do I get a print release with my digitals?"
Again, most photographers are happy to provide a print release, but there are some who don't or who charge an additional fee for one. If you're planning on using your photos for anything other than just posting on social media or sharing digitally, you'll want a print release. You may also want to ask what resolution the digital files you'll be receiving are if you're planning on having large prints made. Many photographers compress the digitals that they deliver to clients so that they aren't delivering massive files that will take up a ton of space on your computer or phone. This is a problem if you want to print anything larger than a 5x7 though as it will become pixelated if it's blown up too large at a low resolution.
"How long do you keep my images after our session?"
Depending on what you are having photographed, this could be a very important question to ask. When you're working with a photographer who will be capturing once in a lifetime images for you, for instance, of your wedding, the birth of your child, newborn photos, etc. you'll want to know how long they back these images up. Some photographers keep them forever, some delete after a month or two, and others delete immediately after delivery to the client. I personally keep all of my clients' images indefinitely. The subject matter that I photograph is so intimate and special and holds such deep importance to my clients and I never want them to lose access to those images like if their computer is stolen or damaged and they cant retrieve those images or they lose the flash drive they had them saved to. But not every photographer shares my same thoughts on this and they don't think it's their responsibility to protect your images for you. So definitely ask them about this ahead of time.
"How long have you been doing this?"
While I don't necessarily think this is the most important question to ask, this can help you to gauge the experience of the photographer and their potential pricing. I will say though that I have seen photographers who have been working professionally for less than 6 months put out phenomenal work and others who have been in the business for years put out sub-par work. Experience isn't always an indicator of the skillset or quality of photographer.
I hope that these questions help you out the next time you're in the market for a photographer! Nobody should have to suffer through bad photoshoot experiences or be blindsided by weird policies just because they weren't sure what to ask before booking! As always, if you found this article helpful, please share it around to your friends or on social media and feel free to join the mailing list to be notified of new content, sales, model calls, and more!