You’ve already decided on tablecloths and little shapes for your napkins. Choosing a wedding photographer, however, is a bit more time-consuming. With so many studios and freelancers clamoring to capture your big day, how do you look past the lens and know which one is right for you?

Here are a few tips for choosing a the best photographer for your wedding day.

Choose A Photo Style

The easiest way to find a good wedding photographer is simply to flip through portfolios until you see something you like. But what if you don’t have time for that?

Start by narrowing your search and focusing on a particular style. Different photographers specialize in different areas, like outdoor weddings versus traditional settings, black-and-whites versus color photos, etc. Some studios like Lasting Expressions do them all. It doesn’t really matter what you decide to focus on so long as you have that focus: Construct a detailed vision of what you want your wedding photo album to look like, then search for a portfolio that matches it.

Know Your Limits

Once you’ve found your niche, you can eliminate more options by setting a price range and deciding the extent of your required services. How much of your wedding budget can you set aside for the photographer? Will you be asking for physical prints or just a CD/film roll? Do you only need someone for a few wedding portraits, or do you want them cataloging every step of the rehearsal, reception and ceremony? Can you afford it?

Meet The Photographer

Be sure to actually meet your photographer in person before committing to their services. They’ll be sticking to you like glue during the most important day of your life, so you’ll want your personalities to mesh! You can also take the opportunity to really hash out the details of their employment and re-negotiate any complicated points.

Know Who To Avoid

Don’t ever hire a relative! Not ever! Just don’t do it!

You should also watch out for anyone who has an insanely busy schedule. They’re either overworking themselves, which means they won’t be at their best for you, or they’re handing off events to assistants and associate photographers.

Seek Unbiased Opinions

A good way to vet any potential photographers is to figure out what previous customers have to say about them. Don’t trust the reviews on their personal website; look for third-party ratings and rankings. The best review anyone could give goes something like, “I was having (X) problem but my photographer managed it efficiently and got my portraits back on track in a minute!”

You should also be wary of photographers recommended by your venue or wedding coordinator. They may, in fact, be great at their job, but chances are high that they’re paying to be networked and endorsed by other industry professionals.

100_2018Trust Your Instincts

You can’t be sure how your pictures will turn out until you actually have them in your hands, so choosing a photographer is by necessity an act of faith. Once you’ve browsed, classified and analyzed all your options, all that’s left is to go with your instincts.

They led you to your spouse, after all. They can lead you to a wonderful wedding photographer as well.

And once you have found the perfect photographer, make sure to give him a list of the shots you want him to take. One great shot is a picture of your wedding invitation bring it to your engagement session or have some at the wedding venue.