What you should really ask before hiring a wedding photographer

Long after the cake has been eaten and your bridal bouquet has withered your photographs are one of the few aspects of your wedding day that will last long into the future. It's important you find a trustworthy photographer so that you can remember always the bliss you felt on your wedding day.

You're engaged. You're on an emotional high from the excitement of what's to come. You've just shared the blissful news with all of your friends and social media connections when it hits you: there's a lot of work to do!

Finding the perfect match of venue and vendors for your wedding day is daunting for sure. If you dare ask for advice from your Facebook friends you're certain to be bombarded with personal anecdotes of who's the best (they can't all be right, right?). And when it comes to photography nowadays it seems everyone and their mother is a wedding photographer. I'm not being cynical, just honest. And another truth is there's a lot of talented, professional wedding photographers out there. But, there's also a lot of poor, inexperienced ones, too. So, how can you tell the difference? Unfortunately there's no licensing or master test photographers need to pass to declare themselves "pro" photographers, but you make an educated choice if you simply ask potential photographers these questions below.

1. What type of equipment do they have? It may sound sort of invasive but any wedding photographer worth their salt shouldn't bristle when asked what's in their camera bag. Professional photographers should have at least two camera bodies (you know the nice ones with interchangeable lenses) and a variety of lenses and flashes. Why is this important? For one thing, image quality does sometimes come down to optics. I'll be the first to say the most essential piece of equipment is the photographer's mind and creativity. I think I can do a pretty decent job with an iPhone when it comes to composition of a photograph. That being said, I would never pass on such a photo for commissioned work. If you want quality photographs you can display in your home your wedding photographer better have top-notch camera gear.

2. Do they have back-up camera equipment? On top of everything outlined above back-up cameras and lenses are a must because (gasp!) equipment fails. It's sort of a dirty little secret among wedding photographers that technology isn't perfect, especially when it comes to digital photography. Our pro cameras run on computer software and it's easy for something to go haywire. Lenses stop focusing, flashes get dropped. Plus, there's the never-ending array of technical glitches we've never seen before that usually pop up at the most critical moments of the day. Scared yet? You should be. If your wedding photographer doesn't carry back-up equipment they might be running off to a camera store while they should instead be capturing that precious moment as your mother fastens a set of pearls around your neck that has been worn by every bride in your family for five generations.

3. How experienced are they — really? It can be easy to get up in the energy of someone who's super excited about every detail of your wedding day, but how far will that passion take you when the scenario outlined above comes to fruition? I've been doing photography as my full-time occupation for more than 10 years and I can tell you equipment failures do happen, and probably much more often than you can imagine. It's the photographer's job to make things run as smoothly as possible so that you're none the wiser. When your centerpieces haven't arrived on time and your brother forgot to pick up uncle Bill for the ceremony do you really need to worry about the error code your wedding photographer just received on his viewfinder? I don't think so. A true pro will simply start using her back-up camera and figure out what the heck went wrong while commuting from the church to the reception site. Yes, this really happens.

4. What does a real wedding look like? Many wedding photographers can fool you with an impressive portfolio. Most decent photographers can look spectacular when they're showing you the best 12 images they've ever made. What's worse, many photographers, especially the up-and-comers, set up or even PAY to have style shoots. What's that you say? They recruit make-up artists, hairstylists, décor divas, florists, tailors, you name it to set up a faux wedding simply for beautiful pictures to put in their portfolio. So, when you see a gorgeously adorned rustic table replete with gold-leaf place settings nestled under a willow tree chances are it's not a real wedding. Who seats a full guest list of 8, am I right? Pictures like these are fine and they can show the photographer's artistic talents. However, it's not a real wedding. You should ask to see examples of what the photographer's full day of photography looks like. You might discover she's really great at those table-setting photos, but terrible when it comes to posing the photos of you with your family. Figure out what's most important to you and find the photographer who fits those needs.

5. Are they insured? Professional photographers treat their work as a business, and protect it as such. Don't be afraid to ask potential wedding photographers if they carry equipment and liability insurance. If your photographer is caught up in the moment, backs up into a lighting truss and sends it tumbling down on the children carousing around on the dance floor you don't want to be held accountable, do you?

6. Who owns the pictures after the wedding? This is a big one, and often controversial. Pro photographers know that the pictures made from your wedding day are in fact their own intellectual property. Ask your photographer if your wedding photography package includes the rights to print photos on your own. You may be able to negotiate printing photos on your own at a certain size, but in the end the photographer technically owns the images. A photographer who hands off the pictures to you — no questions asked — is most likely a weekend warrior, or a full-timer soon to go out of business. Photography is an art and what you're paying for is the skill of the artist, the years of experience that went into creating the wedding day photos of your dreams, not the actual time it took to press the shutter release on the camera.

7. What does their dream wedding day look like? That's right, the photographer. It sounds like sort of a funny question, but this is a quick and easy way to determine if you and a potential photographer are on the same page. You may realize you have a completely different vision and expectation for what the experience and finished product may look like. It may be that the photographer doesn't really like to do candid photos, or they want to do everything outdoors because they're not really comfortable using artificial lighting in a church. Conversely, you may discover they put a huge emphasis on family groupings and that's the most important to you, too.

Do you have great or insightful questions you've asked a wedding photographer? Please let us know in the comments below. Thanks for viewing!

Is the wedding dance important to you? If so, just think how upset you'd be if the photographer left before this talented groom serenaded his bride on the dance floor. Be sure your expectations and those of the photographer are a match. Photo by Dan Iverson/www.theanthologie.com