Wedding pictures are a cherished keepsake, passed down through generations, and the only commemoration of the thousands of hours and pounds spent to plan one of the most important days of your life. Other than the choice of a spouse, the choice of the wedding photographer is arguably one of the most important wedding-related decisions you will have to make. Following these steps can help you select the best photographer to record your Big Day.
Decide what style of wedding photography you prefer. Are you looking for a traditional approach with mostly posed images? Or do you prefer lots of candid shots in which the subject may not even know he or she is being photographed? Do you like the glamour approach of fashion photography? Would you prefer a photographer who combines all of these styles (a freestyle or eclectic wedding photographer)?
Decide what level of service you want from your wedding photographer. Perhaps you only need photographs of your ceremony so having just 1-3 hours of photography may be enough for you. Other couples may prefer a complete package that may include a pre-wedding engagement sessions, rehearsal dinner photographs, bridal portraits and newlywed photos.
Decide how many images you would like from your wedding celebration(s). Some photographers may provide you with under 100 images to remember your wedding day by. Higher-end photographers often capture thousands of images (generally from 1,000 to 3,000) for you to keep forever.
Figure out how much time and expertise you have to process your images yourself. Many brides who choose photographers that only give them a disc of their images (no album, prints or other items) find that they lack the time, software or knowledge to create their own albums, properly edit the photos (crop, color correct, etc.). Often, years later, these couples just have a stack of dusty, cheaply processed proof photos or photos on a disc that are not being lovingly displayed as a reminder of the wedding day.
Determine your Budget. Photographer fees, prints, albums, etc. generally come to approximately 12% of the entire wedding budget. This will allow you to quickly discard candidates which you cannot afford.
Decide how you will use your pictures. Do you plan to purchase just an album for yourself, or also pictures for your walls, prints to give to friends and family, or even put the images on stationery, invitations, calendars, mugs, T-shirts, and magnets?
Determine what form of your pictures you will want from your photographer. Just purchasing the prints is sometimes economical if you do not want an album. If you expect to need a large number of prints, it may be better (and faster) to purchase the negatives from your photographer and have the copies made privately, at your leisure. If you plan to use the images in numerous creative ways, or want to post them to a website or include them in a screen saver, you will probably want to receive the digital photo files directly from your photographer via the Internet or on a CD-ROM.
Research photographers. Ask your friends, inquire at bridal shops and with the management of the ceremony and reception sites you have chosen. Also browse bridal websites for information and links to photographers that work in your area.Make a list of photographers which seem to fit your criteria for price and available format.
Interview each remaining candidate on your list by phone. Make sure to ask if they are available on your chosen date, how much experience they have, whether they specialize in weddings, how soon after the wedding you can expect your prints or disk, and how long they keep the negatives.Make appointments and meet with each finalist face to face. Go to these meetings with your spouse-to-be if possible. Look at samples of their work, get a brochure with details about wedding packages, ask for a copy of their standard shot list (if they use a shot list which most experienced wedding photographers do not as they have well-memorized all the shots they need to get), and ask questions . Notice how polite they are. Ask yourself, “Is this someone I will want to be around when I am stressed, exhausted, dehydrated, overheated, and ready to faint in those uncomfortable shoes?”
Call your chosen photographer and ask them to pencil you in on their calendar until you can come back to sign the contract. Make an appointment to sign the contract.Confirm, confirm, confirm! This is the golden rule of wedding planning. Remember: your wedding is more important to you and your spouse-to-be than to anyone else. As such, you must confirm appointments, plans, reservations, etc., several times—Once at contract signing, a second time 3-6 months before the event, and again 1-2 weeks before, at which time last minute details, changes, and requests can be worked out.