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How to Choose the Right Wedding Photographer - A Bride's Guide

written by: Annette Pope•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/23/2011

Wedding photographers seemingly appear overnight, all vying for the honor of shooting your wedding. Having so many to choose from, how do you know which is a true professional and the right fit for you? Go beyond the usual tips of choosing a wedding photographer in this informative article.

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    You're getting married! Few times in life produce such a combination of excitement, fear, happiness and overwhelming responsibility as tying the knot. Wedding planning can seem overwhelming--you've got to choose just the right venue, dress, flowers, cake, invitations, DJ, reception hall, bridesmaids and their dresses . . . the list is seemingly endless. Have you forgotten anything? What about photography? Don't discount hiring a professional wedding photographer right away, because most brides who forgo this important aspect of wedding planning usually end up regretting it later.

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    Why Invest in Wedding Photography?

    Simply put, photography is the one lasting memento you have from your wedding day. Long after the flowers have faded, the cake eaten and the decorations discarded, your wedding day photos will be just as “fresh” as they were on the actual day itself. These moments captured in time spur memories and emotions that other souvenirs don't, and help you remember the joy, the excitement and the happiness your wedding day held.

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    All Wedding Photographers are NOT the Same

    Wedding photography is a profession under invasion. Well-meaning or not, amateurs and photography enthusiasts with a camera and kit lens decide to “make a little extra money” by shooting weddings. By the same token, many brides “know someone” who likes to take pictures or owns a nice camera and ask them to shoot their wedding. Both of these types of “wedding photographers” should be avoided at all costs.

    Why? Because your wedding day is a once-in-a-lifetime event. The images from this special day should not be trusted to someone doing it for “extra money” or as a favor to you. Choosing a wedding photographer should be just as researched and invested as finding your dress or reception hall. It should not be a side-thought or eeny-meeny-miny-moe choice. This is the person who is going to be capturing the magic and emotions of your wedding day, and is not something you can just pass off to just anyone.

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    The 3 Things to Look for When Choosing a Wedding Photographer

    While there are many very good articles covering the basic aspects of choosing a wedding photographer, such as how to find one and what to ask, very few touch on more emotional and personal details that can be just as important in the selection process. These three things are:

    • Personality
    • Image Quality and Style
    • Price

    Using these three factors, in this order, will help you narrow down your choices and allow you to find the perfect professional wedding photographer to capture your big day.

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    One of the most important aspects you should look for in a professional wedding photographer is his or her personality. This is the person who will be with you throughout your entire wedding day, so it's important you don't hire someone you simply cannot stand, no matter how great the images are.

    Meet with the photographer, talk on the phone and spend some time chatting about things other than photography. Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel he or she is being genuine? While all professional photographers are salespeople to a certain degree, you don't want to feel like you're talking to a car salesman who's only interested in you signing on the dotted line. Most professional wedding photographers love what they do and truly want to provide you the best images of your big day. This passion usually shows in meetings.

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    Image Quality and Style

    When you meet with potential photographers, ask to see other weddings they've done. Look at entire weddings and not simply the two or three good images they have in their portfolio. Anyone can get lucky with a few images, but a true professional will have entire weddings full of high quality images to show. Most wedding photographers have a few studio albums you can look through, which are usually copies of actual wedding albums they've created for past clients to show to potential new clients. This is a good sign that this photographer is serious about wedding photography and not simply a “me too” wannabe.

    While looking at the quality of the images, take note of the style. Are they too candid or posed for your liking? A photographer whose style leans more toward a grunge look may not be the best choice for a couple looking more for a traditional feel. Imagine these were your photos. Would you look at them a month after the wedding and regret the choice? It's okay to pass on a photographer you like personally if his or her style doesn't match what you're looking for.

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    Let's not fool ourselves, price is important. Everyone wants to stay within their budget and finding the nicest photographer in the world with the best photos you've ever seen won't mean a thing if his or her starting price is three times what you've budgeted for your entire wedding! So yes, price is a very important part of choosing a wedding photographer. But not the most important. Realize that wedding photography is an investment that will give you a product that you'll enjoy for your lifetime, and budget accordingly.

    When looking for a wedding photographer, keep the old cliché “you get what you pay for” in mind. While you can certainly find “wedding photographers” happy to accept $500 (or less!) for a full day of shooting, chances are these are the “extra money” photographers who have neither the experience nor the quality you deserve. Most professional, full-time wedding photographers offer to work with you and custom design a photography package to suit your individual needs, or have pre-designed packages at varying price levels.

    Above all else, speak with your photographer about your needs. Chances are he or she will be happy to work with you to provide the service you need at a price fair for both of you.

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    Choosing a wedding photographer, more than with most other professions, can all fall to personal tastes. What some brides love about one photographer's work, others might find unappealing. With the abundance of professional wedding photographers available, chances are there's one for every bride's tastes. Don't fall into the “find the cheapest or ask a friend” trap, invest some time and money into quality services and work with your photographer for the type of images you're looking for and you'll soon have beautiful wedding memories to last a lifetime!

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