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Finally, think it over carefully, and decide whether you actually like the samples. "Discuss your impressions with your fiancé," says Samson. "Are the photographs in the album warm and fuzzy? Cool and sophisticated?" What do you want? And of course ask each other if you can see yourselves in these photos. If so, you've met your match.

Partnering With Your Photographer

Once you've decided who will shoot your wedding, keep these things in mind:

  • The more you express your wishes, the better your chances of having them granted. If you want a lot of candid shots or closeups, make that clear. If you are eager to have many pictures of guests, say so. Ditto if you prefer the focus to be on the family or bridal party. "Great pictures don't just happen," says Samson. "They're a team effort."

  • Give the photographer a list of everyone who absolutely must appear in the photos. Also prepare an advance list of any special events scheduled to occur at the wedding.

  • Assign someone who knows you and your family well to shadow the photographer and point out everyone on the list.

  • Instruct the photographer to be as unobtrusive as possible. We've all been to weddings where the photographer steals the show, even blocking the guests' view of the bride and groom.

  • Discuss lighting. This is especially important if you are having an outdoor wedding. But Karlisch advises brides to be realistic. "Brides see magazine pictures of beautiful settings with natural lighting, shot with a long lens," he says. "They love that look, but then they get married at night in a hotel ballroom, which is the equivalent of a black hole. You have to understand the limitations. If you're unsure, ask what you can expect and how to make adjustments."

  • Decide whether you'd like to have your photos enlarged. Karlisch says it's important to tell the photographer in advance if that is what you are planning: "That way he'll be sure to use the right equipment for lighting and exposure."

  • Be on time for your wedding. "If you're an hour and a half late, that's an hour and a half less time for photos," says Samson.

Photographer Versus Videographer

Some brides have complained that their videographer and photographer seemed to be in competition for the best shots. To avoid this scenario, "find out if the photographer knows a videographer he likes working with, or one he prefers to avoid," says Meg Smith, a wedding photographer based in the Napa Valley. "What the videographer does affects my work in terms of lighting and position," Smith says. Typically the photographer has the right-of-way, but it's up to you to clarify it before the wedding.

You're going to spend more time with your photographer than with any of your other vendors because he'll be there all day. So be sure the two of you click right from the beginning.

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