09/24/2014 06:10 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2014

Style and Price Both Matter When Choosing the Right Wedding Photographer for Your Big Day

Let's talk about wedding photography styles and budgets. How is it that some brides and grooms spend five times as much money as other couples, and often get the same product? All wedding photographers are not alike. Nor are their rates or packages.

Photography is a very important selection in the wedding planning process for some couples (well, mostly for the brides, to be honest). Others, not so much. I have a list of recommended photographers and videographers that I've worked with and some of my clients send me their first choice within 24 hours of receiving the list. Others spend more time on it, but they stick to my recommendations. Some girls go far and wide all over the internet searching for that specific special photographer that makes her heart go pity-pat when she looks at his photos -- and that's totally okay to do. If you can afford it.

Ask yourselves the following five questions before you choose a photographer:

  1. Do you want very formal-looking, traditional wedding pictures?
  2. Would you rather have more artsy pictures?
  3. Do you like it when the photographer plays with the lights in trippy ways or are you just looking for excellent documentation of your event without much artistic interpretation by the photographer?
  4. Do you want the photographer to be in your face throughout the entire event, documenting every second up close, or would you prefer they drop into the background after the formal shots are finished?
  5. Do you want someone who will take control of directing and organizing your group for pictures or are you hoping for more candids in general based on whatever happens?
When you look at the work of different wedding photographers, you can see if their portfolio matches up to the desires you've identified above. And don't let anybody tell you that ANY photographer can shoot a wedding because that's just not true. Wedding photographers know to get the detail shots before the guests mess up the tables and other little tricks like that.

The first thing to remember when choosing your wedding photographer is that it is MUCH more cost-effective to choose somebody local. And I'm not talking about a famous photographer if you live in New York or some other major city that has a kazillion photography options -- I'm talking about somebody who does wedding photography (most of the time) as a profession.

You might not have heard of them or seen their work in the expensive glossy bridal magazines, but there are lots of absolutely amazing local wedding photographers available pretty much everywhere you look. They all have different styles of shooting and that's what a bride and groom need to take a look at before they decide. But if the photographer is way outside the budget range you were looking in, stop looking at that photographer. You can find somebody you like and can afford.

If you don't find a photographer you like in the area where you're getting married, you can immediately tack a couple of thousand dollars onto your photography budget. Airfare, accommodations, meals and transporting all that gear adds up quickly and unless you're working with a particular destination package (I have a few that out-of-town photographers created specifically for our island), you're not even exactly sure how much money you're committing to on the front end. Agreeing in a contract to pay "travel expenses" doesn't guarantee you they're going to buy the cheapest flight or change planes to save you a few hundred dollars. Unless there's something in there that caps the costs, you could get a much bigger bill than anticipated.

It's also important to identify on the front end whether you want the photographer to make albums and prints for you because some packages have it and some don't. It's more expensive than doing it yourself -- there are a huge number of websites that make it all very easy and fun -- but if you're like I was when I got married, paying the extra money to have the album made for you is well worth it. Otherwise, you'll never actually find the time to really create the memory book that you wanted to have. Oh yes, someday I'll find the time, but for now, most of my wedding memories are on the hard drive. Don't be like me.

There are some amazing services that work with you on putting your photography and videography together in a really presentable way, even if you're planning to incorporate the pictures that your friends have taken on their own cameras and phones. Storymix Media is one of those companies and a few of my clients have used them with success. It's run by another Huffington Post wedding pro blogger and worth checking out before you finalize your wedding videography plans.

You can definitely DIY your wedding albums (prints and video clips) and use exactly the music you want and the format of your choice. But you have to actually make the time to do it within six months of your wedding while you still remember what was actually happening when those pictures were taken. Wedding weekends are a whirlwind and afterwards, many brides and grooms feel like it all went by in a haze. If you're making your albums yourself, don't put it off.

But also, don't choose a photographer just because they do make albums. And it's okay to reject a photographer who requires you to purchase a package that includes albums and prints (that's just out-of-style now -- almost everybody offers options that deliver your pictures on disk or online as an alternative to proof sheets).

If you fall in love with a photographer online, research him thoroughly. If you don't know him or none of your friends has used him, make an effort to reach out to some of his previous clients to see their pics. Don't always believe everything you see on websites. Those pictures may have been altered (more than edited) or "borrowed" from another photographer. Make sure you're actually paying for what you bought. Sure, you can ask for a referral to a previous client from the photographer, but make sure you're not having a conversation with his cousin who is pretending to have been his client bride.

Don't get bamboozled by frauds because any idiot can make a website now and call himself a photographer. And no, that's not a cheap shot at photographers by any means -- the same problem exists with newbie wedding planners stealing material from legitimate wedding company's sites too. I've had to call in the lawyers about it more than once.

I don't suggest that you spend hours and hours agonizing over your photography decisions -- trusting your gut instinct about what you like seems to work best for most brides and grooms. That said, if you're going for someone who is an unknown quantity to you, you should make sure they're the style of photographer you want for the budget you can afford before you enter a contract.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Sandy Malone Weddings & Events!