Take care in choosing wedding photographer

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— Photographer Sue Rife has recorded hundreds of weddings during the past 12 years, but she insists that each is unlike the rest.

"There is something unique about every wedding," Rife said. "The day belongs to the bride and groom, and each wedding has its own personality."

Rife should know.

Together with her husband, Joe, she has captured the moments that make the wedding day. Time and time again, she's photographed that magical moment when the bride and groom kiss for the first time as a couple, or clasp their hands as they enter the reception or embrace for the first time as man and wife on the dance floor.

Still, she insists that those moments are unique for each couple. It's one of the main reasons she is a wedding photographer.

"We are the memories," Sue said. 'The flowers will die, the food will come and go, and the location will be rebooked. But the photographs will last forever."

Rife insists that picking a wedding photographer is almost as personal as the wedding itself. She says that couples should spend some time getting to know the photographer who will record the big day.

When possible, she suggests meeting the photographer in person. If that's not possible, however, the couple should spend a few minutes on the phone getting a feel for the type of person that will be taking the photos.

They should ask questions about how the person works, what type of cameras they use and how much the wedding and the photos will cost.

If the couple and the photographer seem to be going in different directions, Rife recommends that the couple continue their search.

It's also important for couples to check out portfolios in person or online before hiring a photographer. The type of photographs in the photographers portfolio will represent the type of photos you can expect from the wedding.

Ken Proper, of The Proper Exposure, echoes Rife's suggestions.

He said the portfolio is a great place to get a feel for a photographer's style. But don't stop there. Couples should get a feel for the photographer's personality in a short meeting or by talking on the phone.

Outside of picking the photographer, Proper also suggests that couples relax before the wedding.

"It's going to happen," he said. "The photography is important, but not as serious as most couples think."

He also thinks good planning is important and most of the stress associated with the wedding can be avoiding by making a complete schedule and then sticking to it.

If his clients want a lot of formal portraits after the wedding, he suggests scheduling a cocktail service immediately following the ceremony. That way the guests have something to do while bridal party is tied up during the photography session.

He also tells his clients to talk with him, so that everybody at the wedding is on the same page in terms of what will be happening and what to expect. "If there is going to be a big surprise make sure you let the photographer know," Proper said. "Keep the lines of communication open."

As a photographer, Proper doesn't like to interfere with the flow of the wedding. He wants people to remember the photos he took at the wedding and not the photographer who took them.

"The photographs are the only memories the couple can take with them," said Karen Cattoor, of Cattoor Photography Studio and Gallery in Craig. "As photographers, we allow them to look back and recall those moments years down the road."

She said photographers have different styles, shoot in different formats and offer different services. Some photographers specialize in black and white, others use medium-format cameras, and a few have moved to digital imaging. She said photographers bring different strengths and different approaches to weddings.

"The most important thing for the couple is to get the end result they want," photographer Shauna Steele Lamansky said.

She has worked as an assistant or wedding photographer for more than 20 years and owns and operates Steele Images Studio in Steamboat Springs.

"We are lucky here in Steamboat because there are a lot of different styles of work," Steele Lamansky said. "Couples in this area have a lot of choices."

She suggests checking with the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association for a complete list of local photographers. She also said the phone book or asking married friends who they used in another good place to start.

"Most of my business comes from word of mouth," said Paula Jo Steele, of Natural Light Images.

She specializes in black and white photography but also shoots color film.

"Check out the photographer's work in a portfolio," Steele said. "Then let the photographer know what you are looking for. Every photographer has a different style."

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