Choosing a photographer isn't easy: You want someone who understands your style, is easy to work with and most of all, someone you trust. The following guidelines will help you choose a photographer who will record your sentimental journey the way you want to remember it.
Know Where to Look
Ask recently married friends for recommendations or consult wedding professionals (catering-hall managers, wedding consultants, bridal salon owners, etc.) for suggestions. Open up the Yellow Pages or, better yet, check out Brides.com's Local Services sections. You may be able to see samples of their work online.
Think About What You Want
Are you into a photojournalistic style, where you get lots of candids, instead of posed, shots? Or do you like a more traditional look, with every picture artfully set up? "The most important thing is finding somebody whose style fits yours," says Ray Pfeiffer of Anything Photographic in Buffalo, NY. "If the photos in the portfolio aren't what you want, use someone else. Even if the photographer says he can do it, most of the pictures will be what he's used to doing."
See the Proof
Ask to see a client's proof book—the collection of all the shots the photographer took at a wedding. It'll give you a more accurate picture of his work. "You see everything, not just the best work," explains Diane Sattler of Sattler Studios and Indelible Images in Mount Kisco, NY.
Ask About Specialties
Many photographers have mastered special techniques, such as hand-coloring, infrared, black-and-white, or sepia-tone photographs. These unique effects will set your album apart. Also, ask to see all album choices (leather? cloth? colors?) to be sure you like the "whole package." Don't forget to ask about digital photography, too. When it comes time to send photos to everyone, it's a lot easier to just upload a file and set up a wedding site for friends and family to visit.
Get to Know the Photographer
Your photographer will be by your side all day, so your personalities should click. "Nothing will put a bigger damper on the day than having to deal with somebody you think is a real jerk," says Pfeiffer.
Beware of the Bait and Switch
Make sure you're meeting with the person who will take your pictures—and that you're seeing his work. At some studios, a marketing person talks to you, but then you're assigned to a freelance photographer whose work you haven't seen.
Make a Battle Plan
The photographer should have a good sense of how to keep the day running smoothly. "If a photographer isn't organized, you can miss the whole cocktail hour," warns Sattler. "Ask how and when they will shoot the formal photos."
Ask for Backup
Find out if the photographer brings extra equipment and film in case something goes awry. If he doesn't, you may risk missing the ring-exchange shots because the flash was on the fritz. Also, make sure there's a backup photographer in case of an emergency.
Hire Extra Help
If you have a large wedding party, a photographer's assistant may be worth the extra cash. He or she will organize the shots, fix your train, and hold backup equipment so the photographer can snap shots more easily and quickly. "Weddings are so hectic, and one person can't be in all places at all times," Sattler says. "If you get two photographers, you have two different perspectives on the wedding, two people capturing the details. Nothing is lost."
Your potential picture-taker should have a list of former clients. Call a few to see how satisfied they were with their pictures.
Handle the Nitty-Gritty
Find out about the payment plan, how many proofs you'll get, how much time they'll spend shooting at your wedding, and what packages they offer. Be sure you get everything in writing, in your contract.
Remember That Photos are a Worthwhile Investment
"Pictures appreciate in value," says Pfeiffer. "As time goes on, you forget things, and pictures are the only record you'll have.