How to Hire A Photographer

A how-to for picking clicking with your photographer

Since photographs may be the most lasting keepsake that you have of your wedding, slip-ups in this area take on added gravity when, as actually happened to one poor bride we know, your photographer loses all the rolls of film of you two as you are going down the aisle. Complaints also abound about late deliveries, non-deliveries, poor quality of photographs that are received, and—probably most frustrating of all—photography companies that go out of business before getting your photos to you! How to avoid this kind of, well, shudder-bug?

Find Your Candidates

First, by picking someone with impeccable credentials, says Marquita Thomas, editor of Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) in Santa Monica, CA, then asking a lot of questions, and making sure if you don't like the answers, you move on to the next candidate.

"It's research," says Thomas, who maintains you should treat your hunt for a photographer like an investigation project. The best method: talking to friends and relatives to find out whom they've used and liked, since there's no better resource than a satisfied customer.

If you can't get a first-person recommendation, consult's Local Resources section, bridal magazines, and photographers' publications to find work you admire. Many wedding photographers put their portfolios on their own Web sites, so cruise the Net as well. Then start getting in touch with your favorite candidates. Finally, contact professional organizations such as WPPI or Professional Photographers of America in Jackson, MS, which can tell you something about an individual's work or reputation.

Check the Books

Once you have culled a couple of potential candidates, the next step is to make appointments with them to look over their work and see if you, literally, click. This is someone you're going to be spending a lot of time with, says Thomas: You want "to see if the rhythm is good…is this someone you would want to go out to lunch with?"

When it comes to the photographer's work, don't just look at individual pictures that he or she may have taken, Thomas adds, but albums of actual weddings from cover to cover. Then, get into the specifics of what went into capturing a particular shot:

Did the photographer have an assistant?

Will this assistant be at the wedding as well?

Did the photo call for special lighting?

How long did the bride have to sit?

Once you find out what your predecessor had to go through, you might have a good idea of what you'll be in for as well.

The Cash Chat

Prices, needless to say, will vary from one photographer to the next, and, obviously, the bigger the name, says Thomas, the larger the bill. Schedule of payments will also differ, and you want it made specifically clear—in writing, of course—what your own individual contract covers:

Do you need to make a deposit?

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