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Photo by Kevin Trowbridge Photography

See the big picture

After browsing an array of wedding photographers’ websites, you've fallen head-over-heels for alluring images of couples posed in classic and au courant settings and styles. Before you get swept away by the photos, make sure you consider the big picture. “It’s important to see a series of photos from the same wedding to see the consistency of the wedding photos,” says Ellen Ho of Hong Photography. And make sure to also look at a photographer’s blog, advises Barb Walker, lead planner at French Kiss Events. “While a website showcases their best images, the blog will show you a more complete snapshot of how they capture the entire day.” 

Consider talent and experience 

“A great photographer can be judged by their work,” says longtime wedding photographer, Hamid Attie of Hamid Attie Photography. Talent, however, is only half of the decision-making equation. Hiring a novice might not break your budget, but the skills established photographers have attained, shoot aftershoot, account for plenty. “Their experiencecan be judged by their ability to help you plan your wedding day well – as it pertains to photography – and also their ability to take into account that this is your one wedding day, even though they may shoot 30 a year,” he says.

Make a connection

It’s true: You’ll spend the majority of your wedding day with your photographer, so make sure your personalities mesh. Walker suggests narrowing down your favourite photographers to two or three, and then setting up a phone call or coffee date. “Make sure you have a connection with them, and that it is the right fit for everyone,” she says, including your guests. Attie adds, “Hire a photographer who has the people skills to capture the great candids as they happen.” The day will be overflowing with emotion and unexpected “moments between the moments” are as important as classic money shots, like the married couple’s first kiss. 

Save the date

“Many of the top photographers start booking weddings more than a year out, so as soon as your venue and date are locked in, start the hunt!” says Walker. Remember, a photographer can shoot just one wedding a day, so unless you’re willing to change your date, you may have to settle for your second or third choice. “Most photographers will take a retainer deposit that reserves the date, with the remainder to be paid closer to your wedding or upon completion of images.”

Dive into the details

During the pre-wedding consultation discuss price and what’s included in the wedding photography package. Although this varies greatly from photographer to photographer and wedding to wedding, says Attie, there are some rules of engagement. “An eight-hour wedding should yield approximately 500 ‘keeper’ images.” He turns digital photos around in two weeks, but says four-to-six weeks is reasonable. “I’ve heard horror stories of couples waiting a year.”

Find out what the photographer’s policy is if the booked time starts running out and there are still important moments to capture, like the cake cutting, adds Walker. “It’s nice to have a photographer willing to stay a bit late for an additional hourly fee.”

Settle on a style (or two)

Wedding photography styles are more diverse than ever, with classically composed family portraits, dramatic documentary-style shoots, and even staged “play,” where guests goof off with wedding-themed props. “Photos that are timeless are always my favourite. So pick the style that you think you will still love in 20 years,” says Ho. Once you’ve found a photographer whose style suits yours, don’t be afraid to mix it up, suggests Attie. “Set aside an hour and a half for formals … the rest of the day, be yourself: candids are the greatest part of the wedding day coverage.” 

And trust the photographer to capture the day perfectly: try to not direct the photos, says Walker. “This will only slow things down, and also make your photographer feel nervous that you don’t trust their skill and artful eye.”

Make a break from tradition

Consider doing pre-wedding “first look” photos as nearly-weds (dressed in your wedding finery), so you’ll have more time to spend with your guests during the reception. “If a couple is not superstitious, I always encourage them to consider doing a first look,” says Walker. “Many couples are concerned that the ceremony won’t be as emotional. I often find that the ceremony is more special, as the couple is less nervous and so able to be more present throughout.”

And perhaps the best advice for getting the best photos on your wedding day? Says Attie: “Avoid being anything other than yourself.”