A picture says a thousand words – and an album full of them can cost thousands of dollars.

Couples spend about seven to 10 percent of their wedding budget on a photographer. Because it is a significant investment, it is wise for a couple to do their homework before making a decision.

Here are 15 wedding photographer tips you shouldn’t do without:

1. Start your search for a wedding photographer as soon as possible. Some say you should start as soon as you are engaged.

2. Choose a photographer you get along with. There are some photographers who are only concerned with the pictures. They really aren’t that concerned with making your day enjoyable. Spending 8-12 hours with someone who is overly demanding or inconsiderate can put a huge damper on your wedding day mood. In the end, you might get marvelous pictures, but will it have been worth it?

3. Ask to see a wide selection of the photographer’s work. Don’t just look through one album of pictures. Ask for as many examples as possible. Even if you are impressed with the photographer’s work, don’t make any hasty decisions.

4. Don’t meet just one photographer. Some experts advise that you meet with at least three photographers before making a decision.

5. Ask the photographer for references. Contact the references and ask them if they were delighted or disappointed with their pictures. Also, talk to friends and acquaintances that may have hired the photographer for their wedding day.

6. Don’t assume that the wedding photographer you are interviewing will be the one who is sent out to cover your wedding. Some larger studios have several photographers on staff. Also make sure that the work you are viewing is the work of the photographer who will be at your wedding. Some companies don’t even have samples of a photographer’s work before sending them out on the job – and that’s fine if people want to take a chance and get a bargain, but if photos are important, you should be looking at images from the photographer that will be at your wedding.

7. During your introductory meeting with a photographer, you will be given a price list that will include various wedding packages. Make sure you are clear about the prices, and that there aren’t any hidden costs.

8. Ask how your photographs will be ‘finished.’ When you see your proofs, they are just raw proofs. When you get your finished picture, they are all custom printed. You are getting colour correction, colour balancing, cropping, and retouching if necessary. Some places don’t do that.

9. An important question to ask a photographer is: ‘Do you have a back-up?’ Death, illness, or other unexpected circumstances do occur, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re covered no matter what. Also, ask for samples of the back-up photographer’s work.

10. Ask the photographer if s/he belongs to a professional photographers organization like the WPJA (Wedding Photojournalists Association).

11. When you meet with a photographer, bring pictures that you like from magazines to the consultation so that the photographer will better understand your preferences.

12. Although photography is usually “way up there” on the list of wedding day priorities for couples, many make the mistake of calling around for prices first, instead of seeing a photographers work firsthand. The first question many couples ask is ‘How much?’ Sure you might get a great deal, but how will the pictures turn out?

13. Don’t cheap out. This is one of the most important wedding photographer tips. Although your wedding pictures might seem like a big investment, if you’re happy with them, you’ll cherish them for years to come. (You can cut back by buying a basic package, rather than the one with a truckload of images.) Once the vows are taken, the cake is eaten, and the tuxes are returned, what’s left aside from the great memories? An album full of pictures. Pictures that tell the story of a couple in love.

The following tips were provided by the talented Anne Ruthmann:

14. Ask to view an entire set of proofs from a wedding that will have similar lighting conditions to yours – for example, historic church and golf club reception, or outdoor ceremony and tent reception, etc.  If you can view the entire set of proofs from one or two full weddings, then you’ll have a better idea of how the photographer captures and edits the entire wedding day- which will give you a more realistic idea of what to expect from that photographer.

15. Ask the photographer about the album process up front.  Some will create a draft design of the album, which may be more pages than they’ve actually been contracted for in the hopes of upselling.  Some will have the client select the images before starting the design.  A client should be comfortable with the album design process and know what it will be up front.  This is often one of the most elusive parts of the process.

Photo: Anne Ruthmann Photography