1) Do they have insurance? This can be a deal breaker. What happens if you trip over the guy’s camera and it smashes to the ground? What if grandma falls down the steps while posing? Have a plan for the worst case scenario.
2) Do you like his/her work? This sounds like a really silly thing you should know, but many people just look at the pricing in photography. Don’t compare two photographers by their pricing, compare them by their photos. Do you like the photos? Remember that photographers often put only their best work on their website and you may want to ask to see more photos or a full album.
3) How many events like yours do they shoot a year? If it’s a large event, like a wedding, you may want to know how much wedding experience your photographer has. If you hire an amateur that is fine, just take it into consideration. If their portfolio only shows one couple you may want to ask about it; find out if that’s the only couple they’ve shot. Everyone starts somewhere and you may be okay with that… you may not be.
4) It’s not about a nice camera! “My cousin is going to do our wedding photos for free, she just got a really nice camera!” A camera is a tool just like an oven is a tool for a professional cook; if you’re not Gordon Ramsay, the food just isn’t going to taste as good. The talent lays in the person’s eye and skill level, not their camera. Will your cousin get that one moment you really wanted? Maybe. Will she capture that kiss that was backlit and most of the guests missed with their cell phones? Maybe. Professional photographers are consistent and will get you a larger number of quality images from your event than your cousin will.
5) This one could be the most important of all. Do you like your photographer? Do you have some rapport? If not, you won’t have as much fun. That will reflect in your photos. Find a photographer you like and can get along with. If they creep you out or annoy you, why hire them? This is super important for weddings since you are going to spend practically the whole day with your photographer.
6) Have an idea of how large your budget is and what you get for that budget. Know how much you can spend and if the photographer can get the images you want in the time you are willing to pay for. Haggling with a photographer may not get you the results you want.
7) What’s in the package? Photographers love to bundle things. And they make all kinds of fantastic names for them! The brides package, the bridesmaids package, the flower girl etc. etc. Make sure you understand what you are getting. If you are not sure, ask.
8) Can you get in writing? Will they sign a contract? A contract protects both you and the photographer – this is a must have for larger events. An itemized contract spelling out the expectations of both parties ensures everyone knows what to expect. You may not need a contract if you are meeting someone at the park for an hour photo shoot, but the more money and time you both invest into the photos, the better it is to have a contract.
9) Do they have backup equipment? If there is a problem with the photographer’s gear can they still get your photos? Do they have backup cameras, lenses and batteries? This may not seem like an important thing to ask, it is… see #1 above.
10) Two photographers are better than one – if the photography company you have chosen has the option for two photographers to show up, you should seriously consider taking advantage of it. It is less stressful for you and for the photographers when two of them are there. You will have more variety in the photos you receive and you will have a greater chance of getting “the shot”.