Pick Your Package
Once you've narrowed your list to two or more finalists, it's time to compare prices and packages. Every photographer puts packages together differently. One might include time, materials, proofs in an album, custom prints in a custom album, parents' albums, photo thank-you cards, and enlargements. Another might simply include his time and materials, with everything else à la carte.
Many photographers do not sell their proofs and even more do not sell their negatives—neither is necessarily a good or bad sign. (Some photographers let you keep the proofs, but stamp their name or the word "proof" in a conspicuous spot, making the pictures virtually worthless, so ask whether the proofs will be marked in any way.)
Jean Picard of Jean Picard Wedding Consulting in Ventura, California, suggests telling each photographer exactly how much you can spend. He or she can then realistically present the services and selection of photographs in that range. It's the best way to cost-compare one photographer to another, and you'll know exactly how far your money will go with each one.
Before you step foot into a studio, you and your fiance should agree on what is absolutely essential and what you can do without or purchase later. Choose a photographer you can communicate with, and one who can offer you your must-haves without blowing your budget. Do hire the best photographer you can afford, even if that means having fewer hours professionally photographed, or receiving fewer prints to keep. If you can't buy all the prints you want right away, most photographers keep their negatives on file; you can order more after you recover from the cost of the honeymoon.
The details of what's included in your package should be spelled out completely in your contract. Also make sure the contract covers how many photographers and/or assistants will be present, how many cameras will be on site in case of equipment malfunction, and the date proofs or tapes will be delivered.