I wrote an article on my facebook page more that 3 years ago with this same title. A lot of people appreciated the content. Since then, I believe I've gathered more experience. I figure I'd put up a revised version of it, with a few more additions.
Camera's are just tools
This is predicament that all photographers face, not just the one's who shoot weddings. People assume that great camera's make great photographs. Don't judge a photographer by his camera. Camera's are just tools, in the right hands they create art. In the wrong hands they create...well...bad photographs. Don't fall for a photographer who pegs his worthiness on the kind of camera he uses. Base it on his or her work. Base it on your initial emotional reaction to their work. This leads us on to the next point.
Love at first snap
Attraction is the first step to a relationship, its only after this phase that you "get to know somebody and figure out the details". You've got to be attracted to your photographers work, it has to make you go "wow" or "beautiful!!" or "where's my jaw gone?". Now the reality that hits you hard on the head is "budget", I cant afford him/her. At this time you need to sit down with you partner or your parents and make the decision of "is he/she worth it?" "isn't this guy who is much cheaper as good as he is?" The important aspect is to evaluate the value-for-money quotient, this is the biggest day of your life (your hopefully gonna do this just once) capturing it is important, but considering my budget is it worth it? One aspect that will help you decide this is to know what kind of a photographer you would prefer. Whatever you do, don't settle for somebody whose work doesn't impress you.
Ying or Yang?
Do you prefer to capture the tear in your dads eye when he gives you away or do you want photographic evidence that your colleagues devoured the jilabees? There are 2 categories of photographers, the candid/artistic type and the documentarians. Most people can't decide between the two, so they hire both.
That does seem like a logical move. But in my experience, with more photographers, comes more chaos, and a reduced likelihood of quality photographs. Instead of focusing on my job, on many an occasion I've been elbowed by another photographer who is trying his best to stand in the exact coordinates that I chose to occupy. To add to the mess your going to be dealing with a whole lot of guests armed with SLR's, camera phones, tablets and laptops. That's right, laptops, I was whacked in the head once by a Lenovo. It's master was apparently Skyping during the nuptials.
My advice is to hire the right photographer for the right function. You need a candid photographer for ceremonies. The wedding ceremony, the Mehendi, the Roce, the bride's makeup sessions, etc. You need a documentarian for the Reception. Somebody who can give you a photographic record of every guest that entered your wedding venue. At most receptions I have the least to do, especially at the more traditional ones where the couple are greeted by guests. This is the shining moment for a documentarian.
This selective hiring of photographers based on the occasion not only benefits the quality of pictures that can be taken but directly saves you money. This way, if you have your reception on one day and the wedding on another. You dont have to pay 2 different photographers for 2 days.
Is he a photographer or a printer?
You need to find out if your photographer's cost includes an album and if he would reduce that cost if he did not include that album. At the end of the day, he is a photographer not a printer, he would definitely charge you more than if you went to the printers yourself. Pay him for his core competence not for someone else's.
If he/she tells you they have their own facility then let them show it to you, that would make him a printer and a photographer. And that would make it truly cost-effective.
If the albums are truly exceptional and unique, only then consider investing in them.
Well that about sums up my views on certain aspects of this matter; here are some pertinent questions as promised by the title:
- What’s your primary style? Posed and formal, relaxed, documentarian, creative, artistic, candid, traditional?
- Do you use an assistant? Is there an extra charge for this?
- Will you have backup equipment available?
- Do you shoot in color or black and white? Or both? Do you shoot in a digital format that can create both color and b/w versions of the same picture?
- Do you colour correct all your pictures?
- Do I like this person? Do I get along with them? Do I get a good vibe?
- Do I like their work as a wedding photographer? Is it well lit, focused, well framed? Looking at their portfolio, do I feel like I have a good feeling about him/her?
- What kind of equipment will you bring with you? How intrusive will lighting, tripods, other equipment or assistants be?
- How many other events will you also photograph on that day?
- Are you the wedding photographer who will actually take our pictures? If not, can we meet the person who will be?
- What time will you arrive and how long will you stay?
- Should the event last longer than scheduled, will you stay? Extra charge?
- What are the refunds/cancellation terms?
- Do you have any restrictions to the number of photos that you will take?
Hope this helps. My honest opinion :)