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All Things Wedding Photography | Interview with Host Sara Zarrella and Co-host & Producer Dan Phillips | Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Finally! We are giving you one jam-packed episode on all things wedding photography! As two wedding photographers for over 20 years, boiling down all of our experience and information into a single podcast episode has been a daunting task. Well, Sara and Dan are finally sitting down to answer all your questions about wedding photography in episode one of a three-part mini-series! Should you have engagement photos taken by your wedding photographer? What does photography pricing look like? What can you expect from your photographer on and after your wedding day? Sara and Dan answer all these questions and more on today’s episode of Wedding Secrets Unveiled!

All Things Wedding Photography: an Interview with Host Sara Zarrella and Co-host & Producer Dan Phillips on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

I’m so excited to have you with me for this episode. It’s so funny that we’re finally sitting here on the almost two-year anniversary of the podcast. 

Yeah, I remember the text I got at two in the morning from you about wanting to start the show. Why don’t you tell our listeners how this all started?

Well, I’m a night owl compared to most people. But I don’t know was keeping me up with this idea, but I was excited. We were in St. John, and I just had this idea of wanting to start a podcast for everyone to listen to that was free of charge but would help you plan your wedding. So, I texted Dan and like 2 in the morning and I figured he’d get back to me the next day. But he responded right then and there and said, “let’s do it” and here we are. We had our first recording with Karen of Blackstone Catering about finding the perfect caterer and now here we are. 

And if you follow the podcast, you know that there’s not really an episode about wedding photography. You might be wondering why that is since we are wedding photographers. We’ve done some mini-series about photography: Episode 56 Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer, Episode 21 is a first look right for you, Episode 22, editing and retouching the difference and what that means. We also have Episode 25, which is if you should have one photographer, verse two. Finally, we have Episode 38, which is understanding wedding vocabulary. So, we have all these little mini episodes, but we don’t have one about actually how to hire a photographer, and what to expect for photography and pricing.

There’s so much knowledge that we want to share with you. So, for today’s episode we’re going to break it up into three sections. The first is about what you should ask potential photographers when you chat with them. We’ll also talk about how to prepare for your wedding day with your photographer and some day-of tips. Finally, we’ll talk about after your wedding and what to expect from your wedding photographer. 

All Things Wedding Photography: an Interview with Host Sara Zarrella and Co-host & Producer Dan Phillips on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

So, let’s get going. What should couples be asking when they’re chatting with a potential wedding photographer? 

Step number one actually seems kind of silly because it should be a no brainer, but it’s really important that you make sure that the person that you’re hiring has insurance. Believe it or not, a lot of people in our industry don’t. I don’t know why. It’s one day, it’s a lot of money, you can’t get it back. We are sometimes one of the most important vendors on site. And we’re also there’s a lot of liability that comes with us. We have a lot of gear around, we’re dealing with people, we are dealing with different environments, and we’re working around various properties. So, for their liability purposes, they need us to have insurance and you need us to have insurance. So right off the bat, please ask any photographer that you are working with if they have general liability insurance.

Many venues right up ask if you have it and you have to send it over before the wedding, too.

So interesting that you say that, Dan! A lot of people probably don’t think about this, but sometimes you might hire a photographer, right? And then the event coordinator is going to ask you all for every single vendor that’s coming on their property for their certificate of insurance. And you’ll be surprised they will not allow us on their property without our own insurance. Honestly, that is that that is something that they need to be asking. It protects the venue. 

Even if you’re having a small backyard wedding, you should still ask if your photographer has insurance. It protects you and your property. 

All Things Wedding Photography: an Interview with Host Sara Zarrella and Co-host & Producer Dan Phillips on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Another question that you should be asking your photographer is: how many images are they expected to get per wedding? Now, this is interesting and there’s so many photographers – and we all work differently – so this can be a difficult question to compare answers for. With photography, you can see what people do and if you like the style or not. So, when you know that and start to ask some of these questions, I can’t tell you what the “right” answer is. We just want you to understand what to look for.

So, for our studio, our rule of thumb is approximately 100 images per hour. Now, obviously we’re not photographing every minute of every wedding. We have to travel, eat our meals, and do all of that stuff… and yes, you have to pay us for that time too. But, if you have someone there for about 8 hours, you’re probably looking at about 800 to 1200 images. 

The other thing you want to think about is that your photographer knows how to read the room. If you’re photographing everyone on the dance floor, you might actually kill the party by photographing everyone too much. Or have 100 photos of the same two people out there. A good photographer will know when to step out and get what they need, without being in a couple’s face.

You’re right. And it’s easy to think that more is better, if you have a true photographer knows how to get the exact moment for you to remember and document it and then back away a little bit to honor and like what’s happening the day up, then that’s what matters most. The other thing is if you have a ton of images, it’s really, really, really daunting to go through them all. So having a photographer that can precisely cull down your wedding is helpful. 

All Things Wedding Photography: an Interview with Host Sara Zarrella and Co-host & Producer Dan Phillips on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Another question that you should be asking is: will you own the digital files? 

So, here’s the thing, different photographers do different things, but you have to ask if they’ll own the digital files when all is said and done. You have to ask if there’ll be them ready for print, too. Many people see our images online with our watermark and they ask if theirs will have that, too. Most photographers do a watermark because of copyright laws. No matter where you live, there’s a thing called copyright laws. Photographers didn’t create it. It’s just the law. In the wedding industry, and in photography, the creator is the owner, period. 

However, in some contracts is you’re buying the rights of those images, which means now you’ll be a dual owner. So, ask your photographer if you’re buying the rights of those images. Something else you’ll need to discuss is if you don’t want them to use your images. Even if you buy the rights and have dual ownership, you need to talk with them about that. 

Yeah. Just ask if you get the right. And then some photographers do not release the rights. But there’s other things like maybe you buy albums and maybe you buy products. Ask about the rights to those images.  

All Things Wedding Photography: an Interview with Host Sara Zarrella and Co-host & Producer Dan Phillips on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Another question to be asking is: when should you expect your images? You’re not going to like this answer. We’re in a really weird world right now with instant gratification. And a lot of people have these editing apps on their phones. So, many people think they get their wedding images right away. But the reality is that we’re not doing the same thing as those editing apps on your phone. Professional photographers are going to take longer than you think – and that’s a good sign. So, just ask for their turnaround time. 

Again, we’re sharing knowledge. I’m not saying that any turnaround time is right or wrong. But I can definitely tell you, you’re not gonna get instant gratification. And if you do, I would just be really skeptical the studio and why that turnaround is so fast. It takes a lot to even render these high-resolution images on our computers. We won’t bore you with all the details, but our turnaround time can be anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks. 

So, what would be a solution if somebody really wanted images quickly? A photobooth. So that’s a good question: how quick can you get your photobooth photos?

Yeah, I mean, that’s a great question. Obviously, you can’t compare those two (wedding photos vs. photobooth photos). But photobooth images are usually instant and you’re getting digitals within a set timeframe. 

We own Rock Your Booth. We’ll go out for a wedding on the weekend and then pull the images off the machine on Monday, sending them to you that day. Your guests get the photos that night, but the digitals come within a few days. 

Another question that I always get is: what is a typical timeline of a day or how many hours of photography do I need? We have some other episodes on timelines, so check those out. But typically, I tell couples they need 8 hours minimum. Now, there some factors to consider – where you’re getting married, how long into the night you want us to stay and if you’re doing getting ready photos. But, for a typical wedding day, 8 hours of photography coverage is a good place to start. 

Also, photography in Rhode Island is a taxable product. So, don’t be surprised when there’s taxes on your invoice. It’s not sexy or fun but it’s something you need to be aware of when hiring a photographer. 

Let’s talk more about pricing. We’re located in New England and pricing here for wedding photography is higher than in other places in the country. In fact, Newport is the destination wedding capital of the US. 

Yep, so the cost of doing business here is far more significantly expensive than other parts of the country. If you are getting married in this part of the country, you’re definitely looking at a higher ticket price. But, even with that in mind, you’ll still find a wide variety of pricing across the board. So again, there’s no right or wrong number here. But if your photographer has the proper experience, insurance, output of images… that’s going to raise the price a bit. But, at a minimum, you’ll probably be paying about $3500 for an 8-hour day. As you add in more hours, more photographers, or other parts of a package, your cost will increase. 

All Things Wedding Photography: an Interview with Host Sara Zarrella and Co-host & Producer Dan Phillips on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Something else we get asked a lot too is if a couple should have an engagement session with us to “test us” out. There’s lots of pros and cons to that. We’ve been doing this for 20 years and we don’t need an engagement session to “test” us out. These days, there’s so many ways to determine if you want to work with a photographer other than a session. Instead, consider an engagement session a chance to just work with your photographer and prep for the big day. A lot of times couples haven’t been photographed professionally before, so then that’s why you do an engagement session. 

It’s not like we need a prep day, but it can be nice to have an ice breaker with the couple and to play around with poses. On wedding days, I’ll bring up posing we liked from their engagement session – or things like that too. 

If you want pictures of you as a couple, do an engagement session. I know at least my house; my engagement pictures are more dominant in my house. Because it’s us. It’s us as a couple.

Also, during an engagement session you can do stuff you can’t on your wedding day. Have a picnic, get wet in the ocean, and things like that. You can still go to the beach on your wedding day, but you aren’t going to want to get soaking wet or dirty. 

Yes! We did that for our engagement session. We were literally in the water. We didn’t get married on a beach, so it was nice to go somewhere different. That’s another reason to do engagement photos – you can get portraits somewhere different than on your wedding day. 

All Things Wedding Photography: an Interview with Host Sara Zarrella and Co-host & Producer Dan Phillips on Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast

Now, let’s talk about your wedding day and what to expect from your photographer. I have a lot to say about this! In regard to pricing, you get what you pay for. That’s the truth with everything.  Now, I know the reality is that not everybody can afford everything. So, you have to really figure out what’s important to you. If photography is important to you, you’re going to have to spend a little bit more in the photography budget than you probably were expecting. But you can save in other areas. Regardless of what you pay, you need your photographer to behave like a professional. You want your photographers to be there to help serve you on your wedding day. We wear all black on wedding days, with no logos, so we blend in. 

Yes, we actually had a final call with a couple, and they asked us not to wear anything crazy. I guess they had attended a wedding where the photographer was in a bright outfit with crazy socks. I get it: people want to express themselves. But it just wasn’t the right moment. So don’t be afraid to mention that to your photographer or ask what they’re wearing. They shouldn’t look like a guest. They should look like a professional. 

The other thing is asking how a photographer will handle things if you’re less comfortable in front of the camera. If you don’t do an engagement session, this is important to ask. We use a lot of prompts instead of posing. There’s obviously different styles of photography and we don’t use as much posing – like a traditional photographer. So, make sure you ask about someone’s style and what they do throughout the day. 

Another thing to consider when picking a photographer is asking to see a full gallery. Any photographer can put up 50 good photos on their website or social media and you can see their style. But you also want to see their consistency throughout a day. 

I have a love-hate relationship with this question. Because it is someone else’s day – their family, their vibe – some of that has nothing to do with us. But it can still be helpful to see as much of a full day as possible. Ask for galleries, blogs, or whatever. And if you do, go in there with an open mind that you’re looking at someone else’s day. But definitely do your research more than just what you see on social media.

Okay, let’s talk about what happens after your wedding. Photographers are one of the vendors that you stick with after the big day. So, first, you have to wait some time for your final product. Some photographers give just digital images and others do products – like prints or albums. Let’s actually talk about albums for a second. Normally, the albums your photographer designs are better quality than what you can buy online. That’s not to say you can’t make your own. But it is important to have something tangible from your wedding day. We’re in an age right now where most of your images are going to go cycle through your social media posts and live on your phone.

But there’s something really special about a wedding album. Remember, ultimately your wedding day is YOUR wedding day. But it’s also got a lot of family photographer involved too. It’s one of the only times you’ll have all parts of your family together in one place. Your album can feature some of those really special images of all of your family together. So, when you’re choosing a package, don’t write off some of those extra physical products. 

I just thought of a question: what would you tell your younger self about getting into photography? I know we’re talking to mostly couples here but there might be some younger photographers listening!

Okay. I love that question. So, thank you for asking that. Being a photographer is so special. We’ve both been doing this for a long time and every time, there’s this electricity that happens on a wedding day. Every single one. I want to enjoy it and have fun with my couples. But, how do you do that? You pre-plan. If I was talking to my younger self, I’d tell her to have an amazing contract. Please pay money to have a contract written that will protect you. Good contracts make for good business transactions. A good contract is going to cover so many things you never even thought about. Make sure it protects both sides.

What about you? What would you say to a younger Dan?

I would tell him to go to the store and buy the best camera you could because it’s all about the camera, right? Just buy the most expensive camera. And then always be learning and trying new things. 

Wrap-Up Question 

What are some key points that couples should be asking their wedding photographer, so they know that they are inquiring and working with a professional company to make sure that their wedding day is a perfect event?

Make sure they have insurance and a good contract. 

Choose a photographer that you vibe with and who has a style you like. 

Talk with them. From the first time you meet to the delivery of your photos, you’re with them for a long time – so make sure you like them, trust them, and feel comfortable. 

What We Discussed

Why Insurance Matters (8:42)

Questions to Ask Your Photographer (11:00)

Digital Files (17:12)

Engagement Session Tips (32:06)

Wedding Albums (47:25)

Wrap-Up Question (54:40)

Links Mentioned in the Episode

Other Photography Episodes: Questions to Ask Your Wedding Photographer | Is a First Look Right For You? | Editing and Retouching: The Difference & What it Means | One Photographer vs. Two | Understanding wedding vocabulary

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