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You may have spent months preparing for your wedding, but the day itself passes in a heartbeat. So you’ll want to re-live the memories, joy and romance of it all with your wedding photographs. That’s why it’s not worth taking chances with your photographer.

Your Uncle George might be snap happy – but will he successfully capture images that tell the story of one of the most important days of your life? To add to the confusion, there are literally hundreds of people out there who call themselves wedding photographers – so how do you know which one to choose?

Start by asking recently married friends whether you can look through their wedding albums. When you see a professional’s work that inspires you, contact the photographer and make an appointment to view their portfolio of wedding images. Study the prints closely. They should be consistently clear, imaginative and emotionally appealing.

Another great way of assessing a photographer’s capabilities is to have some pre-wedding or engagement shots taken. You will soon know whether you feel comfortable working with this person, and whether their style is compatible with the vision you have for your wedding photos.

Style is an important issue because different photographic styles can produce vastly different results – some you will like, others you may not.

Traditional Photography refers to the portrait photographs that were once standard at all weddings. The photographer will generally pose the couple or the group before taking the shot.

Although the type of shots taken for Illustrative Photography is also posed, the results are very different stylistically. They generally incorporate an element of drama (think sepia toned, or themed photos for example) or a sweeping background landscape.

Creative Photography incorporates the use of unusual angles and unexpected elements to capture an interesting and creative interpretation of events, and if your photographer is into Wedding Photojournalism, the day will be recorded as it happens. Nothing is posed and you may not even be aware that a shot has been taken.

Many couples opt to have black and white as well as colour wedding photos. Colour shots are a must. You will want a record of the colours that made your wedding so vibrant: your bridesmaids’ dresses, your flowers, the decorations at your reception and so on. However, black and white photographs have a timeless appeal and tend to emphasise the emotions and feelings that colour sometimes looses.

Black and white can also be more forgiving. For example, a non-essential background element that might be glaringly obvious in a colour shot will often fade into insignificance in black and white. Another black and white bonus is its flexibility. Images can be manipulated to produce some stunning special effects that simply would not work as well (or would be impossible) in a colour shot.

In terms of pricing, photography packages can vary greatly depending on many factors. You are not only paying for the photographer’s time, experience, skill and creativity, you are also paying for high grade film and/or digital equipment, quality processing, and professional cameras, lenses and lighting equipment. It’s important that right from the beginning you are absolutely clear on how you’re being charged.

Some photographers offer all-inclusive packages that can be tailored to suit your individual requirements. Others quote for their time only, and charge for prints separately. It’s also usual for photographers to keep your negatives, so ask your prospective photographer what their policy is, and how long they will keep your negatives on file. Take the time to ask exactly what your package will include so that you are very clear about what you will be receiving and how much you will be paying. Essentially, you need to find a photographer whose work you admire, who understands your vision, and whose charges fall within your budget. If you have decided on a studio that offers the talents of a number of photographers, be sure to meet the professional who will be attending your wedding. Ask to see their work, discuss your vision with them, and make sure that you can develop a rapport with this person. After all, they will be spending most of the day with you and will be witness to some emotional moments. It is very important that you feel comfortable with them.

You might be surprised to learn that good photographers can be booked out at least twelve months in advance. To be safe, you should start looking for your professional as soon as you are engaged, and book them the moment you set a date.

You would want the photography to cover getting ready at home, all aspects of the ceremony, your special location shots, the reception and your departure. Ask whether a second photographer will be necessary to help capture everything you have in mind, and if so, what the additional cost will be.

If your ceremony is to be held in a church, ask your minister whether there are any restrictions on taking photographs in sacred areas, or on the use of lighting. If so, your photographer needs to be made aware of this. And don’t forget to discuss your wedding make-up with both your photographer and your make-up artist, as there are certain techniques that can be used to ensure you look your absolute best in photographs.

Most professionals will want to be as inconspicuous as possible. However, you should still talk to your photographer about what you would like them to wear on the day, particularly if your wedding is going to be a very formal event.

Also let your photographer know whether you want photos only of the wedding party, or some of your guests as well, and if you’ve seen shots that you particularly like, either in a magazine or of a friend’s wedding, show them these so that they can see exactly what you want and what you’re envisaging.

Ask them how much time they will require to get the shots. Professional photographs can take longer than you might expect, and you will need to schedule sufficient time into your wedding day running sheet for a relaxed shoot.

And what if it rains on the day? Even if it’s pouring – don’t panic. Many professionals will tell you that some of the most atmospheric wedding photographs they have ever taken were shot in either overcast or rainy weather. If you are planning on having your wedding photos taken outdoors, discuss wet weather alternatives and arrange another venue in advance if necessary.

For the protection of both you and your photographer, you should have a written agreement. However, before signing anything make sure you have all the relevant information - cancellation fees, payment requirements, individual print costs, album and page pricing, and so on – and ensure that these details are included in your contract. You should also ask how long you have after your wedding day to order more prints at the quoted price. Usually a time limit applies because of the steadily increasing cost of photographic supplies.

Most couples view their proofs when they return from their honeymoon. It’s usual practice for professional studios to produce a set of proofs or prints so that you can select which shots you want included in your wedding album. This is an important part of the process. Don’t rush over your selection. A good photographer will spend many hours working on your album, so make sure that you put equal effort into picking your photos.

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