Historically, couples booked a wedding photographer between six and nine months before their wedding date. All of that has changed, thanks to social media.

When they become engaged, a third of brides-to-be will update their social-media status within a few hours; a quarter will do so within the next 24 hours. A flurry of engagement photos soon will make their way to social media accounts, too. That’s where the photographer comes in.

Many wedding photographers often include a complimentary engagement-photo session when couples book their wedding service. This isn’t just a ploy to attract business — it’s beneficial come the actual wedding day.

Engagement photos are a time for the photographer and couple to get to know each other photographically, and both learn what type of photos each likes. On the wedding day everyone is able to loosen up a bit more. There’s nothing but benefits.

They are a great way to show who they are right now, in this time of their lives.

Couples should not rush to book their photographer just so they can share some engagement photos.

First, photography and videography are two of the largest wedding expenses — the average cost for photography and videography in 2013 was $1661 and $1,017. Second, couples have one chance to capture these memories for the rest of their lives, so they need to make sure they are working with professionals they trust to do the job perfectly.

In evaluating potential service providers, make sure to ask the right questions. Inquiries should focus on package details, contractual agreements and final products, whether that is an actual album or digital prints — in addition to making sure your personalities jell (you will be spending all day together!). Consider asking the following questions:

• What packages do you offer?

• How much time is allotted for the day of the wedding?

• Are photographers available all day?

• Will you bring an assistant or second shooter?

• Is an album included in the package? If so, who designs the album? How much input do we get in the album’s design?

• What quality of paper, color and inks do you use for printed photographs?

• Is a DVD with digital negatives provided to order our own prints in the future?

• Will we have rights to our photos?

If you’re looking to save a few bucks on photographic services, consider looking for an associate to hire. Often times, an associate’s fee is cheaper than the main photographer’s. You also can pinpoint your coverage and only have a professional for certain parts of the day, if you desire.

The same rules for choosing the right photographer apply to video, from looking at prior work to establishing a good connection, but there are a few key differences.

While many videographers opt for a photojournalistic approach – inconspicuously shooting the day – others may take a more hands-on approach and interview guests or the wedding party, for example, which they use to add a documentary feel to the edited wedding video. Highlight videos or trailers also are popular today, as couples can easily share them via their social media accounts.

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