Confessions of a wedding photographer

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Courtesy of Thomas Dunne Books

After more than twenty years of photographing weddings, Claire Lewis is sharing her behind-the-scenes secrets with brides everywhere in Exposed: Confession of a Wedding Photographer, an uproarious memoir of one woman's adventures in an unpredictable but always exciting career. Read an excerpt from the book here and check out Claire's expert advice below. —Kathryn Papanek

How should a bride go about choosing a wedding photographer?

First, figure out your budget. Then, go online and choose two or three photographers that you would like to meet in person. It's a good idea to just visit with a few people so that you don't overwhelm yourself with choices. When you visit the photographers, keep in mind that the most important thing is that you like both the pictures and the person. Your photographer is very different from your caterer or your florist. It's nice if you like those people, but on your wedding day, the florist drops off the flowers and the caterers go back in the kitchen. And the photographer is there with you throughout the day. They're there when you're half dressed and putting on your clothes and when you're having a private moment two minutes after you've said your vows. So, you will want to really make sure that you like the photographer as a person! ...

There's more!

What's the one piece of advice every bride should follow?

Forget about the photographer and enjoy your wedding. The pictures that people really love twenty years after their wedding are the ones that show people relaxing, having fun and not in any way dealing with or relating to the photographer. You will look beautiful on your wedding day because happiness is beautiful.

Are there any must take wedding pictures?

I actually suggest having no must take pictures. Obviously, if you or your family wants pictures of certain family members, then you should make those happen. But I think that the best way is to trust that the photographer will create a visual memory of your day instead of asking them to take specific shoots. A list of must take pictures imposes ideas of photographs before the wedding actually happens. That's how you end up with cliched images. I've had people hand me lists of must take shots that include "a picture of the groom gazing adoringly at the bride" and I thought, if he happens to do that I'll be there, but if he doesn't I won't tell him to.

How should you choose a photography style for your wedding?

Think about what sort of pictures you would like to have on your wedding day. Are you comfortable posing? Do you want to just be there and not pose at all? Tear a bunch of pictures that move you out of a magazine (they don't have to be wedding pictures) and then see what those images have in common. Are they black and white? Are they mostly color? Are they styled, are they natural? Then look for photographers who work in that style.

What can a bride do on her wedding day to help the photographer take great pictures?

Again, I honestly think the most important thing is to just enjoy your wedding. Don't worry about the schedule. Hug and kiss people without regard to your dress or makeup. Don't worry about the small stuff! The pictures will be great because they will reflect a person who is really celebrating her wedding and having a fantastic day. The photographer will have a blast watching you have a fabulous time, and you'll get some absolutely great pictures.

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