With all of the details involved with planning a wedding, it can be easy to fall into a trap of saying “that looks good, we’ll just go with that” in order to save time and your sanity. One area you absolutely don’t want to do this is when hiring a wedding photographer. You may be ok with choosing a slightly less expensive favor for guests, but you want your wedding photos to be top-notch. You’ll have them sitting around forever and will cherish them like you would any other family heirloom. When you’re deciding which photographer is right for your wedding, ask these five important questions before anything else.

#1:  Is my wedding date available in your schedule?

Sound silly? It’s not. Don’t fall in love with a photographer’s work before knowing if they have time to shoot your wedding date. If your date isn’t available and you can’t or aren’t willing to move your date, you have to be able to move on to other options. Other things about the date to consider include asking if the photographer will be shooting the event themselves or if they will employ other photographers to assist. Ask to see work from anyone that may potentially be a part of your big day to ensure the photos are what you’re looking for.

Bonus Question: How many other weddings are you shooting that weekend? This question can give you some insight into how the photographer handles a potentially busy workload. Do they seem apprehensive about “squeezing you in”? Move on. You will want all of their attention on wedding day, and if they are spread too thin their mind may be elsewhere.

Wedding Photographer

Photo via Danielle McAfee Photography

#2: What’s included in my photography package?

You’ve got the wedding date nailed down, now is the time to make sure you’ll get all the prints and digital images you want. Ask for everything in writing so there isn’t any confusion after the big day. If you want digital images that you can print yourself, ask how and when you will receive them and how many images your package includes. Be sure to ask if you can choose the digital images you get or if that is up to the photographer’s discretion. Remember that a photographer may shoot thousands of images on your day, and will probably weed through quite a few before you see any proofs. If you’re wanting to print lots of small photos for friends and family or to send in thank you notes, it may be worth it to get that image digitally so you can take it to your local discount store and print them yourself in bulk.

Bonus Question: May I please see some photos from a wedding you’ve shot recently? Photographers will put their best work on their website, but asking for some recent work will help you get a good idea if their aesthetic is still what you’re looking for. Artistic preferences change over time, so asking to see recent work isn’t out of line.

#3: If my event goes longer than expected, are you able to stay? Is there a charge?

This is always a good question to ask your photographer, as you really can’t know exactly how the day and night will go. It can be hard to corral family for big photos, kids may not cooperate at certain times, and you may just be too excited celebrating that your reception starts or runs late. Ask the photographer if they are willing to stay extra hours and what that cost is. You don’t want to miss out on great photos of any late-night champagne shenanigans simply because the photographer’s time was up.

Bonus Question: Are my family and friends allowed to take photos while you are? There’s no getting around smartphone cameras anymore, but talk to the photographer about their preferences during the ceremony and any other light-sensitive areas. If they don’t want anyone taking flash photography in the church or ceremony venue, you can put a note in the program asking friends and family to turn flashes off or refrain from taking photos altogether.

Wedding Photographer

Photo via Erik Kraft Photography

#4: Have you ever shot a wedding at my ceremony and/or reception venue?

This question is a great way to find out what your wedding photos could end up looking like. If the photographer has worked in your venues, even better. They know the space, they know how the light works and may even be able to tell you about some hidden gem spots in the venue for a really beautiful photo. If you can see any past work of weddings in your venue, you can begin to visualize your own photos. If they have never been to your venue, ask them if they plan to check it out beforehand. You can even offer to walk through with them, so your’e both on the same page before the big day.

Bonus Question: May I see some references? It always feels a little awkward asking for references, but you can guarantee a quality photographer will have them. So many of these artists get more work from referrals, so having testimonials about their work helps them out too. Feel free to contact one or two brides that were happy with the photographer’s work and ask questions. A good Google search for reviews – good and bad – isn’t a bad idea either!

#5: Can I provide you with a shot list?

If you have a very specific vision for your wedding photos, this question is crucial. Some photographers welcome a shot list to ensure you’re happy with the different photos you end up with. Others feel restricted by lists, preferring to capture the moments of the day as they unfold. If they are a seasoned photographer, they probably know that you want a photo of you with your parents, or your flower girl and ring bearer together. It wouldn’t hurt to print up a shot list anyway, and have a trusted friend or family member discreetly follow the photographer around and check the photos off  your list as the day goes on, just to be sure.

Bonus Question: When will I receive a written contract? This contract should outline all of the dates, times, package contents and pricing that you’ve discussed with your photographer. Ask someone you trust to read through it with you, just to make sure it says everything you want it to and nothing you don’t.

After all is said and done, your wedding photos are a beautiful preservation of a very special day in your life. If your photographer doesn’t offer an album service or their offerings are too expensive, Albums Remembered can create a professionally-designed lay flat photo album at a fraction of the cost. These albums are designed, printed, and bound in the USA, and with a variety of beautiful cover options and a top-notch professional design service, your photos will turn into a priceless family heirloom you’ll cherish forever. Check out all of the great options at www.AlbumsRemembered.com.