What does a photographer do?
A wedding photographer is responsible for taking the formal pictures at your event as contracted by you. In many cases they will also take candid photos throughout your day, and may create artistic and playful shots. Some will also provide video, normally at an additional charge, or as part of a package. Most photographers will either charge you by the hour or have packages that include a set number of hours. If you go over that package limit they will charge you by the hour, and this is normally stated in your contract.
In this day and age of creative weddings, photographers have responded with amazing out of the box photo shoots including Trash The Dress. Many also offer a bridal session as part of their packages, which normally is done on a separate day prior to the wedding day. Whatever you want, whether part of a package or not, put it down in writing with your photographer. Most are very willing to oblige their brides requests.
How to hire a photographer
Now go to that website and look carefully through it, including looking for names of other photographers that might be contracted with the lead photographer. If you like the work of one and not the other, you will want to make sure you aren't paying for the other. Be very clear when hiring that you are getting the photographer who's work you fell in love with. Also, pay careful attention to the overall style and quality of your photographer's body of work. If you notice that one tends to take repetitious photos, using a similar format every time, make a note of that. Perhaps you like that format but you should at least be aware that this is how the photographer works. If you are looking for something unique or particular to you then now is the time to find out if you can have that.
Consider bringing your wedding planner with you. He or she has had experience working with photographers and know the pitfalls. They can ask questions you may not think of, like, how do you take the ceremony pictures without interfering with the guests being able to see the bride and groom?
As you meet with each photographer, try to focus on what your vision or theme is for your wedding day. Take notes throughout the meeting to use later when making your decision. Pay particular attention to how the photographer responds to your ideas, and how they talk about previous clients. Any indication that this photographer does not get along well with brides is a huge red flag for you. Clarify anything they say that is negative to insure you understand why they would speak badly of a paying customer. State clearly what you want your wedding pictures to show. It will help your photographer to know if you are trying to get a vintage look, or something chic and modern for instance as they have exposures and poses etc that will capture that feel in an artistic way. If you want a serious approach rather than cute and playful, be clear, as your photographer may have ideas that are not compatible with your personality. If you don't express who you are and what you want, you leave the photographer to create their own artistic vision. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as most photographers do an amazing job of creating truly artful work, but, if you have ideas that are not realized, you will always regret not having said something ahead of time. In the hustle and bustle of wedding day, you may not feel up to thinking about even one more detail, or you might simply forget that you wanted that fun shot of the groom the first time he sees the bride.
Ask about their contract and get a copy to review later. Do not sign anything until you have had a chance to read it without the pressure of the business owner hovering over you. As most deposits are non refundable, do not pay a deposit until you have read the contract fully and agree with the terms.
Always tell a vendor if you are interviewing others and that you will get back with them as soon as you make your decision. Before you leave, get a sample of their work, either a brochure or whatever they can provide.
Making the decision
Once you are down to just a few photographers, you are ready to make a decision. Pay close attention to the notes you made about each photographer. If more than one tend to be equal in their strong points, think about which photographer you had the best rapport with during the interview. Who seemed to get your vision and was as excited about creating your wedding memories as you were? Imagine yourself on your wedding day working with this photographer.
Now look at the cost of the remaining candidates. Can you afford them? If you need to slash something from your budget to have that photographer over another, are you willing to do that? If you find that your number one choice is either not available or is planning to have their partner cover your wedding, are you going to feel good about going with choice number two instead? You have to answer these questions before you call them back.
Booking the photographer
As you call the other candidates, let them know that you appreciate their time. Do not wait to make this call, as it is a simple courtesy to let them know you have made a decision. Some may have blocked out your wedding date in the hope that you would choose them, so, this gives them an opportunity to open that date to another bride.
It's that simple.