You will want to treasure your wedding photographs for years to come. You will want to look at them and show them over the years to help you recall everything – the first kiss, the first dance and all the many other things that made the day special. You will want to show your wedding photos to your children and your grandchildren, therefore selecting the wedding photographer is one of the most important decisions you will have to make, and this takes time and attention.

You will not get a second chance at this and it is therefore crucial to find a reliable professional, who is in tune with your vision for the day and is confident that he or she can capture this.

It is very important to book your wedding photographer as soon as you have set the date – some popular photographers are booked out a year or more in advance, especially if you are planning a summer wedding. It would be a good idea to book your wedding and reception venue, as these may influence the style and content of your photographs. You should also set a budget for the wedding photographer – as a rule of thumb, the wedding photographs can cost around 10 per cent of the total wedding budget.

You should give careful thought of how you want your wedding photos to look. Do you prefer posed shots or do you like the idea in images that have been captured on the spur of the moment, often with the subject being unaware that they are being photographed? A modern trend is to present the wedding and reception as a story told in sequence – the choice is entirely up to your taste and preference.

When searching for your wedding photographer you could ask recently married friends for suggestions, or you could ask your wedding planner for advice. If you cannot get a personal recommendation try the numerous wedding magazines, they all carry ads for wedding photographers. Many wedding photographers have websites where you can check out their previous work. This is particularly useful if the wedding photographer does not live near you.

After doing your research you should draw up a shortlist and contact the various photographers by phone. This will establish whether they are available on your wedding date and whether they are within your budget. Most wedding photographers will be happy to send you a portfolio of sample images, either as prints or digital files, before your first meeting. Make sure that the groupings are from recent weddings and are taken at a similar venue to yours and also that they were taken at the time of day when you are having your wedding – the light can make a huge difference to the finished shot.

When you meet with your potential wedding photographer try to find out who will shoot the pictures. Larger studios employ a number of photographers and even single-person outfits usually have an assistant. Sometimes the assistant takes the pictures of the wedding guests while the main photographer concentrates on the bridal party. You should request to see the work of the actual photographers that will be handling your wedding.

You will need to discuss the fees. Some studios charge an hourly rate and then charge for any pictures you may want while others quote a flat fee that includes a specified number of prints. Often you have the choice of several different packages. Make sure you understand what is included in the package. Once you have selected your photographer, you need to discuss terms of payment – you usually need to pay a deposit to secure your date and don’t forget to check out the refund or cancellation policy. You should also try to establish who owns the negatives. Some photographers hand over the negatives with the wedding photos, while others keep them to make more prints on request. While it might be tempting to keep the negatives yourself, bear in mind that a professional photographer will have more experience regarding their safe storage.

The most important thing is to take up references before you engage your wedding photographer. Check out whether previous couples have been happy with their wedding photos and whether they would be prepared to recommend that particular wedding photographer.

After the wedding your photographer will select an agreed number of images to show you. Depending on what you agreed in the contract your photographer will send printed proofs or post images online at a password protected site. This is really useful, as family members can order their own prints. You could also receive your images on a CD. Printed proofs (small examples of the photographs) will arrive as contact sheets or as numbered prints in a display album, known as a proof book. You make your selection from this and your actual wedding photos will arrive in due course.

There is a great deal to consider when selection a wedding photographer. Taking the time to choose one carefully is an investment worth making. Every time you look at those wonderful images of the day, you will be very glad that you took the time and trouble to do your research before engaging your wedding photographer.