Questions you should be asking your event photographer

One of the most important vendors you hire for your event is your photographer. While your event will be over before you know it, your photographer will capture images that will last you a lifetime. We recently sat down with a two Maryland photographers, Rachael Spiegel and Josh Barry, to talk about the important questions you should ask when considering who to hire for your upcoming event.

Rachael Spiegel Photography  specializes in modern  B'nai Mitzvah photography . Our team is dedicated to telling the story of your simcha with stunning documentary images. We patiently wait to see moments unfold and illustrate the narrative of your family.

Rachael Spiegel Photography specializes in modern B'nai Mitzvah photography. Our team is dedicated to telling the story of your simcha with stunning documentary images. We patiently wait to see moments unfold and illustrate the narrative of your family.

We first spoke to Rachael Spiegel, owner of Rachael Spiegel Photography, whom we have known and worked with since she began her career in photo journalism. Rachael is a Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah event photographer working throughout Maryland, Washinton DC and Northern VA.

IPP: Who should families include in their portrait session?
Rachael: Immediate family should be present at the synagogue session. If grandparents live locally it’s lovely to include them as well. For portraits of aunts, uncles and cousins it is best to shoot extended family portraits the hour before the party starts. 

IPP: When should families shoot their portrait session; and how long will it take?
Rachael: Portrait sessions are photographed separately from the rehearsal and take two hours in the sanctuary, as well as 30 minutes of setup time. When scheduling your session I recommend picking a day when you can arrive rested, relaxed and excited to make beautiful portraits. While I know it's difficult to carve out a window when the kids aren't rushing to/from school, or there are rehearsals and other events, you are investing your time in this shoot. My goal is to make our time together as enjoyable as possible and capture the love you have as a family. If you are feeling enthusiastic and rested it will shine through in the photographs.

IPP: When should clients check in and touch base before their event?
Rachael: I reach out to clients several times before the big day. I check in six months, three months and one month before the event to go over details and scheduling. If your photographer does not do this definitely reach out six months before your date to confirm your event time, location and to schedule your portrait session. Also let your photographer know if you change your venue or event time.

IPP: How does your album design process work?
Rachael: Clients select their favorite images from their gallery of online proofs. Once they have their favorites I layout the album. When they come in for their album consultation we will view the layout, sit together and make any changes to the design, select cover fabrics, and finalize all the details. 

IPP: What sets you apart from other photographers? 
Rachael: As the only photographer who shoots bar and bat mitzvah celebrations and nothing else I am able to focus exclusively on my clients. I return phone calls and emails immediately, turn around photos and albums quickly and provide a level of service that is unmatched. I also do not double book days or weekends, so each client has my complete focus and flexibility.

Specializing also gives me a detailed knowledge of the flow of a bar/bat mitzvah, how to work with thirteen year olds to draw out natural relaxed smiles during portraits, and a close relationship with other vendors who will be working your event. Most importantly the passion that has led me to specialize in mitzvahs is clear in the level of my work.

Josh Barry  who has photographed over 200  Weddings and Bar and Bat Mitzvah  styles the lighting and poses the Bar Mitzvah

Josh Barry who has photographed over 200 Weddings and Bar and Bat Mitzvah styles the lighting and poses the Bar Mitzvah

Next we spoke with Joshua Barry of Maryland Photo Video to share his thoughts on albums and the album process as well as some questions you should ask any photographer you plan to hire for your event. Joshua can be found at events throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

IPP: Please share your thoughts on albums and the album process.
Josh: We create an album design for you right away, immediately after the photographs have been edited, so that when you view your images for the first time you also get a model album design. This step alone saves clients months if not years in time because we take the most painstaking step of the process of choosing the images and take on that responsibility and create a customizable album design for our clients. This removes so much stress from the entire process.

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We don’t stop there. We know that the task of making album changes to your album can still be a bit of a task, although not as tough as the first step, so we try to make that process as easy and as stress free as possible. We put our album designs on special album proofing software online which makes the album change steps so much easier so you can communicate your changes to us so much more efficiently. Also if you have any trouble or require a bit more help we can invite you into our studio to sit comfortably and look up at a huge projection wall and we can work on finishing your album together face to face so that when you leave our office your album is on it’s way to the printer.

IPP: Do you have backup equipment?
Josh: Equipment breaks down. Thats a fact of life for a photographer, which is why I always have a backup camera should that happen, and it has already happened twice!

Ask your photographer if he or she has two cameras in-case one breaks on location. The worst thing you want to hear from your photographer is “My camera stopped working and I don’t have a backup camera to use.” A battle tested photographer always has a Plan B or in some cases a Plan C in the event of equipment failure. A good photographer may have equipment failure and you’d be none-the-wiser because their transition from A to B was too fast for you to even notice.

lighting equipment

IPP: Why is lighting so important?
Josh: Your images and album take on a whole different feel and presentation when photographers bring and use their own off camera lighting at events rather than rely on just the available light or only the flash on top of our camera. Images seem to look more flat or like they were photographed inside a dark cave when a photographer only uses or doesn’t properly use their on-camera flash. When photographers bring external flashes and lighting the images overall have a much more dynamic professional look than other less experienced or under equipped photographers. Again this goes back to Plan A and Plan B. You want a photographer who can handle all types of lighting environments. It is often the difference between acceptable photos and photographs that take your breath away.

A photographer has to be prepared for any lighting environment. They could photograph the same venue for 4 weekends in a row and each time they are there it is lit differently than the last time. A good photographer will know how to combine both on-camera and off-camera lighting as well as ambient light to give your images that pop that you won’t see from less experienced or under-equipped photographers. The room could be totally dark but, with a smart, well equipped photographer, you wouldn’t know it by the end result seen in the final images.

photographer lighting

IPP: Are you willing to follow a 'shot list'? 
A ‘Shot List’ is a list given to your photographer of special ‘must have’ combinations and groupings of important friends and family, that you would like to capture either prior to the start of your reception or during. It’s a great way to ensure your photographer knows what is most important to you.

We don't always recommend a full shot list since you want to give your photographer the freedom to capture candid moments. Plus, they're the pros so they often know how to best capture the day. But if you know you want some specific posed portraits prior to or during the party, ask them if they are willing to collaborate with you on it.

We use a shot list to help prioritize and help stay organized, especially during portraits prior to the party starting. For combinations to get during the party itself, we recommend assigning a family member to help locate them. We won’t be able to attach a face to a name on our list without help and there is always an over-zealous, eager-to-help family member who can help point people out to us who are on our list. This allows the client to enjoy their party while we work in the background.

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In addition here are a few additional party pointers to consider when hiring your event photographer.

  • Find someone who you connect with, can feel relaxed and comfortable around. Make sure your child or other family members feel the same so the photographer can put them at ease and allow for more natural smiles as well as capture your personality.

  • A professional photographer will best capture the story of your day so you can enjoy it for years to come. Allow them to express themselves artistically without calling out every shot.

  • Your photographer is not only spending the day with you, they will spend many hours after your event going theough the photos to narrow them down, edit the photos and design your album. They are the one vendor who you will continue to work with after your event.

  • Before beginning to shop for your photographer, consider if you are looking to purchase only the images or if you also want an album to preserve and share as well as framed images. If you are only looking for the digital images, would you like your photographer to retouch he image, or are you okay with unedited photos? This is a post process and will affect the cost.

Do you have any topics you would like us to cover in our Party Pointer Series? Let us know!