Picture Perfect

By Chandra Orr

December 19, 2008 5 min read

PICTURE PERFECT

Here are the best tricks for the cheapest clicks

Chandra Orr

Creators News Service

You'll have your ring. You'll have your vows. And you'll have the photos.

Long after the guests go home and you pack away that gorgeous gown, your wedding album will be one of the few lasting reminders of your big day -- but it will also be one of your biggest expenses. By making smart choices and a few small sacrifices it's possible to get a deal, or at least get more for your money.

"After the cake has been eaten, the flowers wilted and the tan lines faded, the images and the moments of your wedding day are the one thing you'll go back to time after time," said Mark Davidson, a professional wedding photojournalist based in Cleveland. "Choosing the right photographer to represent your day while being budget conscious is not a light affair, and sometimes requires a bit of sacrifice for lasting quality images."

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT

Have a clear idea of how you want your wedding captured and how much you're willing to spend. How many hours do you expect the photographer to put in on the big day? Do you prefer traditional posed portraits or more contemporary candid shots? Do you want a lavish leather album or just a few prints?

If you know exactly what you want, you won't be tempted to stray from your budget when you're on the spot.

"If you find a photographer you like but their prices are a bit steep for your budget, don't be afraid to ask if they can work with you to get costs down," said Dennis Drenner, a professional wedding photographer in Baltimore who has also shot for publications such as the Washington Post. "A lot of photographers are feeling the pinch these days and will be happy to work with you."

NEGOTIATE

Don't be afraid to discuss pricing in detail. Photographers will often remove prints or high-end wedding albums from their package in order to get the booking, Davidson said, and professionals will keep your images on file for a few years so you can spring for the lavish coffee table tome when you have the extra cash.

You can also ask them to throw in the high-resolution digital images for free.

"There are many photographers who will only charge you for their service and give you the rights to the photographs to reprint on your own," said wedding and event planner Natalie Bradley, president of Natalie Bradley Events in Athens, Ga. "You can save thousands by printing the pictures yourself or creating your own wedding album."

SKIP THE EXTRAS

Don't be lured by the package deal -- pay for the photographer, not the album.

"Invest in a great photographer and avoid spending money on fancy albums," Drenner said. "I have seen many couples go with lesser photographers because they threw an album in with their package. You can always get a fancy album later, but you will never have another opportunity to get the great photographs."

Also consider customizing the photographer's hours. Do you really need professional photos of your bridesmaids at the salon? Maybe you can cut your photographer after you cut the cake instead of having them stay through the last dance.

BE FLEXIBLE

Professional wedding photographers aren't the only ones who can get the job done. Local journalists, college students and associate photographers might surprise you with their keen eye and low fees.

"There are many amazing photographers out there who do not charge tens of thousands to document your dream wedding day -- and that doesn't even count all the outstanding new photographers dying to fill up their portfolios," Bradley said. "Why not consider being one of their first couples to be photographed and getting more bang for your buck in the process?"

READ THE FINE PRINT

Know exactly what you're getting before you sign the contract. You don't want any surprises down the road.

What happens to your deposit if the wedding is postponed? Who fills in if the photographer is sick? When will the proofs be available for pick up? Do they charge extra for retouching, color corrections and cropping?

"If you don't understand the packages or services offered, or the contract is unclear, ask. It's your right. After all, it's your wedding and your money," Bradley said.

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