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Choosing your wedding photographer

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The dress. Flowers. Decorations. Food. Ceremony and reception venues.

All of these are important details of a wedding day. But there's only one way to remember these details 20 years after the wedding, and that's through photographs.

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Three area professional photographers all stress the importance of hiring a professional to capture the details of the wedding, rather than hiring a family friend.

"Professionals retouch and know lighting," Jessica Wallentine, owner of Jessica Ann Photography in Raymond, said. "Editing takes up most of our time. I spend 24-30 hours editing per wedding. Your family friend is just going to throw those photos on a CD."

Marti Carlson, owner of Carlson Studios in Spicer, keeps a quote from Gloria Vanderbilt hanging in her studio to stress the importance of hiring a professional.

"She said that photos are the only tangible things left after all the bills are paid, so you should hire the very best photographer you possibly can," Carlson said. "There are no retakes of this day."

Once brides-to-be have budgeted for a professional photographer, they must decide who will take their photos on their wedding day. Amy Pawelka, owner of Images by Amy Lynn in Willmar, offered her tips for choosing a wedding photographer.

"Find a photographer that meets your style and personality," Pawelka said. "Find a photographer that has packages with stuff you actually want. Find someone you can trust, someone with a track record of following through with what they promise, and find someone with experience. These photos are the only thing you have left after your wedding day."

Once a bride and groom have contracted with a photographer, Pawelka, Carlson and Wallentine all have similar planning processes leading up to the wedding day.

All three photographers almost always shoot the engagement sessions for their couples, saying this is the best way to get to know a bride and groom before the wedding.

"It's a very good way to get to know them and to see how they work together and how their personalities are," Carlson said. "It makes the wedding day go so much more smoothly. When they choose which photos they want from their engagement session, we can also see what style of photos they really like, so it makes us understand the couple even better, and we can see what style they like best."

Pawelka said that once the engagement session is done, she plans a tentative timeline with the couple, provides any suggestions for vendors the couple may ask for and designs any extras, such as a guest book or save the date cards.

"About two weeks before, we meet to talk about the day," she said. "I'll suggest how long we need for each part of the photos, and we'll plan out the whole day to manage our time the best."

Once the wedding day comes, all three photographers had tips to ensure the bride and groom end up with the best possible photos.

"Invest in other professionals -- hair, makeup," Pawelka said. "Not only will they make you feel like a million bucks, but they'll also make you look like a million bucks."

Wallentine encourages brides to not stress and stay relaxed so their photos will look natural, while Carlson stresses an open line of communication between the bride and groom, their parents and the photographer to ensure everyone gets the shots they want.

"Let us know what you want, otherwise we'll just go along with our routine," Wallentine said.

Pawelka said she stresses having a timeline for the day.

"Try to stick to the timeline as much as possible so it's not so rushed later in the day," she said. "And make sure whoever you hire has a backup plan in case they end up in a situation where they absolutely cannot shoot your wedding."

But, no matter what, hire a professional, Carlson said.

"Cut corners anywhere else," she said. "I can't stress the importance of capturing photos from someone who knows what they're doing. Use a full-service studio that will give you a finished project."

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