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Here are some helpful hints when

1. Hire a professional.  There are many affordable professional wedding photographers out there.  Watch for the ones who have never done it.  You can not do this over so make a good choice.  Your medium format traditional photographers will usually cost you more than the photojournalistic 35mm photographers.

 Find out what you want first of all.  Color? Black and White? Formal poses? a mix? more photojournalistic? Do you want the Formal Album or just a proof book? Do you want the negatives?

2. Compare the prices between the photographers package prices and ala carte pricing.  One package may work better for you. Find out before hand if you take the ala carte plan, how much are the reprints and enlargements?

3. The more they cost, the better they are: NOT TRUE.  This is up to you and what you are looking for.  You will pay more for a photojournalist.  You will pay more for artistic pictures, Infrared, and hand tinting.  The cheapest might not be your answer either. They may not have the experience.  Don't put your wedding in the hands of someone who is not experienced.  Remember you can not re-shoot it later.  

Rates: What you can expect to spend

Traditional - 150-200 proofs - medium format.  $1400-$2000

Photojournalistic - 300+ proofs - 35mm $2000-6000

Artistic - 300+ proofs - 35mm $3000 - 10,000

4. Do you want a female photographer (they come with the woman's perspective of course) or a male photographer?  Woman have made great strides in this industry which was dominated by men.  Man or woman it doesn't really matter, what does matter is that you like the person you are working with, you feel you can trust them, and you are comfortable with them.  

5. When viewing the portfolio: Do you like what you see?  Why would a photographer show something that was not the best work?  Every photographer should furnish you with a standard portfolio.  But what are you going to get? Ask to see a complete wedding in a real proof book. This will give you an idea of really what to expect.  A heads up: Not every image is the perfect picture! and there is no photographer who can guarantee picture perfect each and every shot.

Do you see a variety in the portfolio? Is there a mix of candids and formal portraits? What about black and white? Infrared? Sepia? Hand Tinting? Do they offer retouching of blemishes? What about scanning to CD Roms?

6. Meet the photographer.  Many companies have multiple photographers and it is important you get a feel for the personality and work of the actual person who will be there.

7. Dress Code: I am always shocked when I see a photographer dressed inappropriately for the occasion.  It is embarrassing!.  If your wedding is formal they should be formal as well, (or at least wearing the same as the service).  Men should always wear a suit.  Woman either black slacks and a button down shirt (for formal they would match the caterers or the guests).

8. Processing time:  Now that you know a little more about cameras and film, if the photographer tells you 4-6 weeks that is very reasonable.  Some 35mm photographers can get the proofs to you in 3-4 weeks depending on the lab.

If you hire a 35mm photographer what lab do they use? Is it a 1 hour mini-lab? Is it a professional lab? Is it a mail order lab?  A professional 35mm photographer should be using a professional lab.  They should not be going to the mall to have the proofs printed! Professional labs  offer "dip and dunk" processing. This means the film is dipped into a tank and avoids any possible scratches. It is also much more archival (it will last longer in time).  Ask your photographer if their lab offers this service as well.

9. The contract:  Do you understand the payment terms?  Does the photographer require full payment the day of the wedding?  If so what is the guarantee he/she will deliver the proofs?

What happens if the photographer is sick?

What is the cancellation policy?

10. References: Get a few references which you can contact.  When speaking with the references remember they are regular people taking time out to answer questions.  Be courteous to them and remember one day you may be a reference.  

Your gut feeling about a person or photographer may be a good thing to tune into to.  If you don't feel comfortable, they probably are not the photographer for you.  You may end up worrying about the photographer the day of your wedding.  You shouldn't have to worry.