1. You Need to Book Early: In most cases, you should have your pick of photographers six months before the wedding. But in peak months (May, June, September, and October), consider booking 9 to 12 months in advance to guarantee your first choice—even earlier for holiday weekends.
2. Get Referrals: "A wedding planner is a great source for finding photographers," says Lisa Lefkowitz, of Lisa Lefkowitz Photography in San Francisco. "So are recently married friends." Also check with the Wedding Photojournalist Association (
) and the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers (
3. Size Matters: Both large and small studios have advantages. Larger studios have more photographers, which is especially important in the most popular wedding months. Small ones often give more personalized service—you'll typically deal directly with the photographer who will shoot your wedding, rather than with an office manager.
4. So Does Personality: You don't have to be BFFs but you should feel like you click on a personal level. If she makes you uncomfortable, look for someone who puts you at ease.
5: There are Ways to Save: In this economy, even in-demand photographers are often willing to negotiate. Just be reasonable—asking nicely how to cut costs by 10 or 15 percent may be doable; asking for half off is not. And don't be afraid to inquire if there's any way to downsize standard packages, too.
6. Digital is King: Why are most wedding photographers devoted to digital? According to David Roberts of the WPJA, most pros think the image quality is now on par with film. The digital format allows them to shoot many more photos without having to load a new roll of film; it's also easy to preview shots immediately and convert images from color to black-and-white.
7. Don't Settle for One Style: It used to be that you had to choose between "traditional" (posed shots) and "photojournalistic" (candid) but the landscape has shifted. Most pros now shoot both. Look at a photographer's overall style and perspective to decide if she's the one.
8. Snoop Before Signing: Ask to see two of a photographer's full wedding-day albums, not just "best of" collections, says Josephine Solimene of New York's Rabbani & Solimene Photography.
9. Have the Dress Code Talk: While most photographers will dress appropriately for a formal wedding, they must be very active and comfortable to get the job done right. Though you can ask that they leave the orange sneakers at home, be prepared to bend a little. As in black sneakers.
10. Get It in Writing: Your contract should include prices, names of your photographer and backup, hours of coverage, the number of prints, and the type of albums.