With everything that goes into your wedding day, those once-in-a-lifetime moments will go by in a blur, which is why hiring a professional wedding photographer is a must. After all, the last thing you should be worrying about is whether your photographer will be able to capture your big day.
The key? Prepare yourself so that you can accurately evaluate the right photographer for you.
"The best photographer will take time to build a rapport with you and use his or her experience and creativity to capture the mood, personality, ambience and even the geography of your wedding," says Professional Photographers of America (PPA) photographer Berit Bizjak. "The finest wedding photography is more than a series of still pictures. It's physical poetry — it tells the story of the day and portrays the essence of both people and place."
To this end, PPA offers six tips to help you plan your wedding photos like a pro:
1 Book far in advance. The best photographers get booked quickly — sometimes as much as a year in advance — so don't wait until the last minute to finalize arrangements with your photographer.
2 Show them the money. Now is not the time to skimp on the budget. Call around and get a price range for services, and remember: Long after the cake is gone and the dress is stored away, your wedding photos will be the main things left to share and enjoy for years to come, so don't cut corners on your photography budget.
3 Make sure your photographer is a real pro. Hire someone who has liability insurance, experience taking the style of photos you want, backup equipment and a plan in case things go south.
4 Request to see a full gallery of real weddings. Look at full wedding coverage (not just a small selection of each wedding's best moments) to see a photographer's true style and get a sense of how he or she might tell your story. Do you prefer more artistic or traditional poses? Would you rather have a photojournalist approach or a mix of all styles?
5 Work with your photographer to create a detailed shot list. Talk about your must-haves and walk through the entire program with your photographer ahead of time. Share your expectations in advance to ensure that he or she captures the key shots, while remaining attentive and available to catch the best candid moments.
6 Plan your post-wedding photo strategy ahead of time. Almost as soon as the festivities are over, you'll be eager to look at the photos so you can relive your big day over and over. Ask your photographer for teasers or a "sneak peek" and a timeline for when the rest of the pictures will be available. Will they give you an online gallery for family and friends to choose the images they want? Knowing these things ahead of time will make things easy on the back end, sparing you any stress.