Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer… For Reals

Just about every bridal website and magazine I pick up has a list of what to look for in your prospective wedding vendors. Usually, the “Questions to Ask a Wedding Photographer” makes me laugh or cry, depending on the level of absurdity or uselessness. I mean, sure you can ask me about my equipment if you like, but you’re not really hiring me for my tools any more than you eat at a restaurant for their Viking stove. And let me tell you, I talk to a lot of photographers and A LOT of people about weddings. Regardless of when they got married, where, who did their photography—I ask people what they loved, what they would change, and what they wish they had known before the wedding.  So, here’s what I see as the important things to know about the person you’re hire to photograph your wedding:

1 – Why is photographing wedding important to you?

That really I think is the biggest tell…  You  know that having your wedding photographed is important to you, but is it as important to the photographer? And why? What’s keeping her from burning out, since she goes to a wedding every weekend for who-knows-how-long? I think your wedding photos are marriage-insurance. I think looking back on those photos is going to help carry you through the tough times that may lie ahead. So when I photograph a wedding, I’m doing it for you five, ten, forty years from now. It’s a big deal to me.

And that brings me to 2 – How long have you been a photographer?

There is no substitute for experience, including education. It takes 10,000 hours of deliberately practicing a skill to become masterful. There is no fast track to mastery. If you want to rest assured that your photographer will reliably cover your wedding, you have to spend the extra bucks on an experienced photographer. This is not about style exactly, it’s about being certain that what you see in their portfolio is what you’ll get for your wedding. This is not to say that a kid fresh out of photography school can’t do a great job. You’ll save some money, but you’ll be rolling the dice. After 12 years behind the camera, there are no questions about the reliability of my work.

2.5 How many weddings have you photographed as the lead?

Not that there’s a specific number to look for, but photographing weddings is not like any other photography pursuit. Someone who is great at photographing flowers, landscapes, portraits, etc is not necessarily going to know how to handle the demands of a wedding. First off, it’s a long day. It takes stamina to be “on” from when you get your hair done until the last dance. A full day of shooting also takes diligent management of camera memory and battery power. Second, weddings are chock full of surprises… like the one when the bride assured me that I would be able use my flash during the ceremony, and then after the bride had walked down the aisle, the officiant asked me to put my flash away. I smiled and adjusted, but I can only imagine how panicked I would have been earlier in my career. Lastly, photographing weddings means working joyfully with other vendors, being goofy with children, patient with grandparents, and maybe tactful with strained family relationships. Photographing flowers is relatively simple in comparison.

3. Is this your full-time work?

There are a lot of photographers who shoot weddings on the weekends and then have a 9-5, Monday-Friday. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just important for you to know where you fit on this photographer’s priority list. A part-time photographer will likely take longer to get your photos edited, your prints sent, and your album designed. It might also take him or her longer to answer your phone calls and emails. It also may be an indication as to how solidly committed they are to wedding photography. Even when I first started my business, I considered photography my full-time work, and taught Photoshop part-time. Teaching was second on my list of priorities.

4. What happens after the wedding?

Your photographer, and your videographer if you have one, will be the only vendors you will ever need to talk to again after the wedding. The venue is done, food is eaten, flowers are dead, music is over… but the photographs just begin. I’ve met a photographer or two who just wants you take a disk and never call them again—they don’t like to “deal” with the client after the wedding. And if that’s what you want too, then great.  I tend to fall in love with my clients, and they become my friends. We chat on Facebook, we meet for wine, they come to the little parties I throw now and then. If there’s ever something they would like, I’m here for them. If three years after the wedding they want another print of something, or now they can afford the album of their dreams, I’m here.

5. How long do you save the photos of my wedding?

Photo files get big fast when you shoot a lot. Some photographers promise to keep your photos for a year or so, and then clean out their hard drives. I’ve never been able to bring myself to delete my photos… I love them too much. And so, I’ve got hard drives backed up a couple times over locally and remotely so that I never lose a photo. A few months ago I met a woman who had lost her home in a fire, and she told me that the only things she misses are her photos. If I had photographed her wedding, she could get her photos back.

6. Ask to see one full wedding.

It’s easy to show you a couple great shots from a few different weddings, but make sure you see at least one full wedding. Whether an album on your lap, or an online gallery, look through the photographers full wedding. See if by the end you have a good feel for that wedding day—for the unfolding of the story, for the couple and their party.

Beyond these questions, see how interested the photographer is in you. Let them ask you questions and if a fun, joyful conversation flows easily then that’s a good indicator too. After all, this person is going to follow you around your whole wedding day; it’s more fun if you like each other and you’re comfortable with her.

If you have any questions about these questions, please ask. And if you’d like to learn my answers to them, let’s talk. 303-223-6419



Why Hire a Professional For Your Wedding Ceremony?

At a gala wedding I attended at one America’s National Monuments, The Ben Franklin Institute in Philadelphia – where no expense was spared (the groom’s dad was extremely successful and generous), friends of the couple offered to help and wound-up officiating, photographing and DJ-ing the wedding.

On a scale of one to ten, the catered food and drinks, the décor, the cake, the flowers, the Planetarium and the Grand Hall, the amenities, the dresses and tuxedos, the rings, the parents, the attendees, all were elevens. Over the top, world class. In fact, a Ben Franklin impersonator even gossiped and schmoozed through out the night with most of the three hundred guests. There were dozens of staff serving and coordinating everything beautifully: decorating, welcoming and seating guests, serving appetizers and dinner, coat checking, and a valet parking cars.

As to the friends who worked the wedding (officiant, DJ and photographer), well, they were in way over their inexperienced heads. For starters the “DJ” friend provided the officiant-friend with a microphone, black iron mic-stand, and hundred foot cord. The black rig was center stage amidst the white-lit white stage adorned with hundreds of white roses. The black cord snakes its way across the stage in every photo taken and now a permanent scar of the ceremony forever present. The two inexperienced friends with cameras never thought to mention the distraction of the cord (if they even noticed) or mic stand.

When the ceremony started, the officiant-friend never did ask the guests to stand for the bride as she came down the aisle. Seated towards the back, I stood on my own initiative for her. Only then, did the three hundred guests finally stand to welcome the bride down the aisle. Unfortunately, the friend officiating the ceremony forgot to tell guests when to sit down; thereby leaving guests to stand the entire forty minute ceremony! Yes, even the elderly aunts and uncles (some in their nineties) and the mothers with babes in their arms.

The officiant was competent enough to monotonously read the ceremony she and the couple had written, but as to the logistics for conducting an actual wedding ceremony, both were absolutely clueless. Neither her voice nor the staging was engaging, inspirational or conducive for good photographs. The bride and groom stood in the same spot for the entire ceremony, their backs to the guests, divided by the black microphone chord as if they were intentionally being “divided.”

During the ceremony, guests never glimpsed the blissful faces of the bride and groom, except for a moment in profile when they kissed in the middle of the ceremony without any dramatic build up. The touching love letters that the bride and groom wrote for each other were read without the benefit of the microphone that their celebrant cradled in her arms. Aside from the procession and recession, the attendants stood stiffly in place like backups of a chorus line with no part in the actual ceremony.

My suggestion: at your wedding, have friends be guests, not workers. Inexperienced and friendly is no replacement for experienced and professional. Every bride deserves a wedding ritual, fit for a queen, not a hodgepodge of elements cobbled together by friends.

Christina Gressianu Photographer

When was the last time you had a good photo taken of you or the ones you love? I mean a really good photo, a photo other than the pictures where you or your loved one was posed uncomfortably, smiling nervously and dying for the experience to be done with?  For my clients, those awkward memories are a thing of the past…

I am a photojournalist. I don’t pose you and I don’t make you smile for me. We just find a spot that works for you and I tell you where the good light is. And then you play and I “work.”  I can have my big lens, 40 feet away, and by the time we’re done, you’re left with a wonderful memory of just having fun and I have gorgeous photos for you to frame, hang, email, what-have-you.

People enjoy being in front of my camera. My clients say I have a “happy” lens.  Over and over, I hear people say they’re nervous and don’t like having their picture taken, and yet when our photo session is over they say how surprisingly fun it was. Your comfort is extremely important to me; after all, how “perfect” can a photo really be if you’re nervous about having it taken?  I make people feel comfortable, and their photos reflect it.

My approach is a fun documentary style, capturing the spirit of the occasion in an elegant and loving way. I catch details and emotions that create a story that is unique to each person and event. And I pay close attention to any and all special requests; after all, the story is yours, not mine…

Like everyone, I want to hang on to the laughs and the moments of sheer joy in life. I want to hang on to the way the moonlight makes people glow and the way late afternoon sunlight makes everyone rosy. I want to hang on to youth and playfulness. I want to hang on to beauty and love, soft kisses and sweet whispers. And I want to hang on to all those moments for those on my path, too.  My camera has been by my side since high school.  Time goes by so quickly, and my heart wants to hang on.  A camera on its own is only an instrument; anyone can play a tune on it.  But when that same camera is held in the hands of an artful storyteller, that little tune becomes a beautiful symphony…

phone: 917-328-0664