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Getting What You Pay For: How to Choose the Right Wedding Photographer

National Proposal Day was March 20, and since then, our lives have been a flurry of Save the Dates, bridal showers and wedding invites. If you're one of the lucky ones who popped the question or said yes, get ready for what can be a long and often expensive process of planning a wedding. Perhaps one of the most debated and potentially expensive parts of planning a wedding is hiring a photographer to take your engagement and wedding photos. There are just so many factors to consider. But you’re in luck, Quarterlifers! We spoke with photographer Kelly Dyar of Amerine Photography and she offered some tips on how to make your wedding photography experience as seamless as possible.

Tip #1 – Know exactly what you want and what your photography package includes. Engagement and photography packages can run the gamut of prices, from $1,000 to more than $5,000. Most packages include a pre-determined amount of photography time, editing, proofing and engagement photos. They can also include additional photographers, prints and albums. However, most photographers are willing to work with a couple and create a custom package that fits their budget. Do you want a DVD of your photos? Great. Your photographer can handle that. Dyar suggests paying your photographer for a handful of professional high-quality prints from your wedding. “When you see a professionally printed photo compared to one from your local one-hour store, there is a very clear quality difference, so I believe larger photos should be printed through your photographer and their professional lab,” Dyar says. There’s no point in paying top dollar for photos if you’re not going to get them printed by someone with the proper equipment and know how.

Prior to choosing your photographer, it’s important to set your budget in advance so you know how much you are willing to spend. Don’t forget to negotiate with your photographer and let them know up front about your budget so there are no surprises.

Tip #2 – Spend some quality time getting to know your photographer and letting him/her get to know you. It’s important that a couple pick a wedding photographer whose aesthetic matches their own and aligns with their personalities, particularly when it comes to engagement pictures. The engagement is a special time in a couple’s life and it is important to capture that time in a way that lets the couple’s personality shine. If you and your fiancé are a couple who march to the beat of your own drum, find a photographer who also has a unique style. The photos should reflect you and who you were during that stage in your life. Dyar says to make sure you go through the photographer’s portfolio and interview each one before deciding who is the best fit. The better you and the photographer know each other – the better the end result.

Tip #3 – Your wedding is something you’ll want to always remember, so make sure it’s documented properly. In a world full of people with DSLR cameras, it can seem easy to ask a friend or family member to stand in as your wedding photographer, but Dyar advises against this, “Friends often want to be a part of the wedding, and it puts quite a bit of stress on them to have to capture all the key moments.” Your wedding photographer is also more than just a person with a camera. Professional photographers are knowledgeable about lighting, editing and design.

It’s also important to have a photographer who is comfortable directing large crowds of people – they know what will look best on film and how to get everyone in the right place at the right time. Speaking of documenting your photos properly, always ask your photographer how they backup the pictures they take. After all, you cannot retake your wedding photographs, so make sure you’re not put in a situation where the photographer may lose your pictures. Make sure you know ahead of time whether or not your photographer carries liability insurance in case the camera or photographs get damaged or lost.

Tip #4 – Have an idea of the pictures you want, but give your photographer some creative freedom. Of course there will be standard photos that you’ll want taken – the bride getting dressed, the rings, the cake, the first dance – but it’s also nice to let the photographer express their own creativity. After all, they are a professional. Dyar says that some of her favorite photographs are of the unexpected moments between the bride and the groom.

Wedding planning can be a stressful process, but hopefully these tips will take away some of the stress and confusion when it comes to picking a wedding photographer. After all, your wedding day will be one of the most memorable days of your life, and looking back on those photos will put a smile on your face in the years to come.