Why should you ask to see a full wedding gallery, and what are you looking for?

If you find searching for a wedding photographer daunting, a great tip is to ask your finalists to see a full wedding gallery. This is the complete set of pictures (usually available to view online by entering a password) that the photographer delivers to a client. It's a good way to see their style start to finish and decide if it's the right choice for you.

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What should you look for?

1. Does their style mesh with what you are envisioning for your day (candid, classic, modern, fresh, traditional, clean - there are many terms people use to describe photography - do you like how this LOOKS)? Can you see yourself in these wedding photos and if this was your wedding day captured, would you be happy?

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2. How do the pictures look indoors, at the nighttime reception or in the dark church? They should be sharp, well-lit and in color. Natural light photographs are honestly easier - it's the challenging low light or mixed light situations that can make or break an album. Be cautious of too much black and white. It can "cover" for poorly lit, badly exposed or incorrect white balance. Watch out for extreme color casts - these pictures should still look natural, especially the skin tones. There also shouldn't be only silhouettes (they are beautiful for a shot or two, but you don't want your whole reception to miss out on guests' emotions because their faces were too dark!), red-eye! or distracting funky shadows.

3. If you are considering a company with more than one photographer, make sure you ask to see a full wedding shot BY the photographer you want to hire. No bait and switch.

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4. Look at how the images were finished. Every photographer has a different workflow and includes varying amounts of retouching in the final gallery. Some do it all upfront; some save retouching for the images that are ordered in the prints/album - if that's the case with your photographer, you may want to ask to see a few of the album pictures too, just to make sure you are satisfied with their post-production.

5. If you really want to be discerning, ask for a full gallery at your wedding venue (or a similar one). Ask for a gallery from a rainy wedding (see how they handled inclement weather). And if you're hosting a winter wedding, definitely ask for a winter wedding gallery.

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6. Asking for a full wedding is also a great way to make sure that a photographer has the experience they are telling you that they do. All businesses start somewhere, but if yours is the photographer's first professional wedding, you should know this before you sign up. If the gallery they share has highlights only from the ceremony pews or reception tables, make sure that this person was the primarily paid photographer that day, if that's the story you got! ;)

7. And finally, read reviews!

(c) Kristin Gleason Griffin