Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life but it’s also a very hectic one. That’s why photography is so important; your photos will be with you forever so you can always remember the day.

So how do you end up with the best photos possible? We asked four local photographers to share their advice.

Find the Right Photographer
Yes, deciding on a good photographer is an obvious tip, but the decision isn’t as easy as it sounds. Finding the right photographer for you requires extra effort.

Each photographer has a different style and different take on how to shoot weddings. Months before your wedding, set up an appointment in person so you can meet with the photographer and see if you feel comfortable with him or her. Make sure to ask to see an example of a finished wedding album because looking at the photos online isn’t always the best judge.

Once you have a feel for the photographer, make sure you know what you’re going to be paying for and what the package entails. Penton Studio, for example, does two extensive pre-wedding sessions with the bride in her dress and offers the option to make a guest sign-in book for the reception with both engagement photos of the couple and pictures from the pre-wedding sessions in it. GK Photography has started doing something called the “first look,” when they pull the bride and groom aside before the ceremony to capture the moment when the groom first sees the bride in her dress. “It cuts down on taking photos after the ceremony and allows the photographer to capture the emotion between the two,” says George Kuchler, owner and photographer at GK Photography.

Before you sign a contract with any photographer, shop around and find someone who will accommodate everything you envision. Keep in mind that most photographers will customize their services to fit your needs. As Kuchler says, the job of the photographer is to help you capture the wedding. “We like the bride and groom to remember their day,” he says. “We are just there to capture the moment.”

Focus on Timing
Timing is everything when it comes to your wedding day. The day needs to be planned out, so you have ample time to get all the shots you are looking for.

Tim Pham, owner and photographer of Ardent Studio, says time is a recurring problem too often when shooting weddings. “The prep time prior to your ceremony and reception is where we usually run into our problems,” he says.

The bridal prep can take 60-90 minutes. For Pham, the most frustrating thing is when makeup and hair is running late, which cuts into his time to get all of the photos the bride has requested. Pham suggests making sure you have good communication with your makeup artists and hairdressers so you allot enough time to get everything done before photos.

It’s also important to allow more than enough time if you’re taking photos at a different location before the ceremony. “You need to keep in mind that on your wedding day,” Pham says, “the time it takes to get from point A to point B is usually double what it would normally be.”

Capture the Uniqueness
Your wedding will always be special because of the people involved, but it’s also nice to make sure you get photos of what made your wedding day unique to you.
Marlin Penton, photographer and owner of Penton Studio, says that in the pre-ceremony prep, accessories are a good way to showcase the bride’s personality. “I like to shoot the something blue, or something borrowed, the bride’s perfume, her purse or a special sash before she puts it all on,” Penton says.

Some new trends include the bride having the hanger for the wedding dress bent into her new last name, and for the bride and her bridesmaids to all have robes with “bride” or “bridesmaids” and their name monogrammed on the back. “Weddings have become more customized and personalized in the last 10 years,” Penton says.

Other ways to express the bride’s uniqueness are a bit more personal.One shot Penton likes to capture is the bride getting ready at home before the ceremony. “It’s really nice to have a picture of the bride outside her childhood home.” Many brides are also remembering a deceased family member in a charm on their bouquet, making the bouquet something really special to photograph. Penton says many brides also like to have a photo with their pets. Some brides even dress up the animals for the wedding.

At the reception, the little details are what allows the bride’s personality to shine through. Kuchler from GK Photography notes that some things he likes to photograph at the reception are interesting place cards or chair wraps, as well as the flowers. “It’s the little things that will make your wedding more unique.”

For New Orleans weddings specifically, lots of couples have a second line. If you are planning on having one, it’s a good idea to decorate your umbrellas beforehand with the name of the bride and groom and the date of the wedding so your photographer can shoot it.

Be a Good Communicator
One of the best ways to ensure you get what you want out of your wedding photos is clear communication with not only your photographer, but with your bridal party and family as well.

Fabi Asencio Orgeron, the owner and photographer at Fab Fotography, suggests making a schedule before the wedding weekend so the maid of honor or mother of the bride can keep track of everything and keep everyone on time.

Orgeron also suggests making someone responsible for getting all of the little details together during the prep. “I tell [the bride] to get the maid of honor or mom to get the invitations, shoes, bouquet and any other detailed items ready for me, because that’s an important part,” she says.

Another great way to keep communication clear with your photographer is a questionnaire. Before the wedding, Orgeron asks the bride to fill out a questionnaire where she puts down all the locations where the bride will be, the times she will be there, the pictures she wants, what time hair and makeup will be done, and who she wants pictures with that day.

“I always tell them to make a list of important people, with the names beforehand, because I don’t know the family members, and I will try my best to get pictures with those people,” Orgeron says. She adds it’s also good to inform the family members when photos are going to be taken and who is going to be a part of the photos.

Have Fun With it
When it comes to wedding photos, everyone wants the traditional group shots of the bridal party, the grooms’ party and the family, but it’s easy to add fun, wacky shots of the group after the traditional photos are done.

Kuchler says in the last 10 years he has started thinking with the “shoot for mom and shoot for me” philosophy. “You have got to take the shots for mom to put up on the wall, or in a book, but the bride sometimes wants to have a little more fun with her photos,” Kuchler says. He tries to add in a shot at the end of the traditional group photos where he tells the group to “do something crazy.”

Another way to have fun with your photos is a newer option Fab Fotography offers: a photo booth at the reception. For Fab Fotography (and many other photo booth vendors), there is a photographer stationed in front of a green screen or black screen and there are props for people to use in their photos, such as boas, hats, big glasses and anything the bride and groom want to add to the mix. It’s a fun way for guests to be able to let loose and take some fun photos together.

Orgeron says, for her business, a regular package includes two print outs of the photo strip for guests. The other option is to give one print to the guests and put one print in an album, where the guests can sign and write a personalized note next to their photos for the bride and groom. “It makes it more fun for the bride and groom,” Orgeron says, “because later in the night people get a little crazier, and at the end of the night they have an album of all the fun photos.”

Bring Your Optimistic Attitude
The easiest way to ensure your photos come out great is to make sure you have a great outlook on the day of the wedding. “I think the most important thing is the attitude of the bride on her wedding day because it shows in her pictures,” Orgeron says. Trying not to stress is the best way to insure your photos come out beautifully, because if you are relaxed and happy, your photos will reflect that.

“It’s your wedding day, and it only happens one time,” Orgeron says, “so enjoy it because you can’t replay it.”

Should you get a videographer, too?
In the past, wedding photos were the major way to capture the memories of your wedding day, but in the last couple of years, wedding videos have become another popular way for couples to document their big day.

“With a video, you can see and hear what happened on that day,” says Brock Gomez, the owner and videographer of Brock Gomez Productions. “Photos don’t have the voices and sound from the day, so it is a more immersive experience.”

The typical wedding video today is a lot different than the classic, documentary style of video that was once the standard. “In the ‘80s, wedding videos were focused mainly on documentation,” says Joe Taravella, owner and videographer at Studio Vieux Carre. “Since then, the industry has flourished and some notable changes are how they are procured and the equipment that we use to film them.”

Today’s wedding videographers use cameras and lenses that are used for real film making and they spend hours documenting not only the ceremony and reception, but also the prep time and other pre-wedding events, like the rehearsal dinner and anything else that is important to the couple, Taravella says.

Finding a videographer is a lot like looking for a wedding photographer: It’s important to know what you want before you talk to a videographer because many times he or she will work with you to customize the video. “Don’t shortchange yourself on documenting your day,” Gomez says. “You have spent so much time planning it, you want to have something to look back on and really be able to relive the day. A video takes you back through the excitement, the drama, the partying, and each wedding is unique for each couple.”