For weddings that go by in the blink of an eye, it’s important to have a good photographer.

But picking out the good from the bad can be difficult, because almost any photographer can put together a website with a couple good photos, according to Ron Canby of Rgcvideo Weddings. To ensure that the photographer has the capability to produce the quality and style of photos a couple wants, they need to do some homework.

One of the thing many couples neglect to do is check references, Canby said. By going to past customers, you get a feel for whether other couples were satisfied with the overall job of the photographer, or if they managed to get a few good photographs.

Elise Beall of Elise Beall Photography in Jacksonville said couples should also try to find a photographer who displays photos from throughout the wedding in their portfolio.

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“Most anybody can get a few good pictures, but look at the entirety of the work to see what they’re like,” said Beall.

Even if a photographer has captured a few weddings successfully, they might not have experience in certain settings. When talking to a potential photographer, ask what types of churches or outdoor weddings they’ve covered and if they’ve photographed wedding parties your size. Couples should also make sure the photographer has experience in different lighting and weather conditions, Beall said.

A good photographer will also prepare for the worst. In addition to having high quality equipment, an experienced photographer should have back up equipment in case something goes wrong, Beall said. Any time spent scrambling to deal with faulty equipment will result in parts of the wedding day not being captured.

“You don’t get a second chance at a wedding,” Beall said.

Besides hiring a quality photographer, one of the best things a couple can do to ensure a good experience is to give the photographer an outline of what kinds of photos they want, who they want to have in the photos and a description of the venue the wedding will be at, Canby said. This will allow the photographer to give a pretty accurate estimate of how long any posed sessions should take and what shots they will definitely need to get during the ceremony or reception.

Couples should also check with the management of their wedding location to see if they have any rules about photography. Canby said that some churches don’t allow flash photography, so the photographer will need a heads up so they can bring the appropriate lenses. If the ceremony is only going to be lit by candlelight, the photographer will need to know so they can bring equipment to adjust to the setting.

Depending on what kind of shots a couple wants, the number of photographers might be a factor to consider in choosing a company. A small beach wedding might only need one, but if you want a photo of the bride walking towards the groom from front and behind, two photographers are needed, Canby said. It’s also important to consider whether you want photos of the bride and groom getting ready, which will likely be done at the same time in two different rooms.

While making hiring decisions based on photo quality and photographer experience is important, don’t overlook the sense of professionalism, said Beall. A very important but often overlooked factor is whether or not a photographer has insurance.

“Insurance covers not only the photographer’s equipment, but includes liability in case anyone is injured due to wedding photography,” said Beall.

The insurance should also include a special errors and omissions clause in case the photographer does not deliver on important parts of the day. There should also be a written and signed contract between the client and photographer, Beall said. This helps protect both parties, as it goes over what is covered, the total fees involved, payment options and what to do in situations where the wedding is cancelled or if the photographer becomes ill.

As far as pricing goes, there is a wide range that could be considered acceptable. Be wary of anyone offering their services for very cheap, said Beall. Her pricing includes the hours she spends taking photos, the editing process and the expenses that come from taxes and insurance. If a photographer is only charging a few hundred dollars, it may be because they don’t plan on doing much other than taking photos.

Pricing can also vary depending on what’s included. Some packages are priced lower than others because they only come with digital photos, while others may include prints or other benefits. Make sure that you’re comparing packages with similar products when you compare prices, Beall said.

Ultimately, both Beall and Canby agree that you get what you pay for. Beall said she sees many stories of people who leave the task of taking photographs to a relative, and are later left with nothing to remember their special day by.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do is communicate with your photographer, Canby said. If you find a photographer with work you like, if you let them know what you want, and pay a reasonable amount, your wedding photos should turn out nicely.

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