The problem with events (weddings, birthday parties, etc) is that you spend so much time and money planning them out and trying to make everything perfect, then before you know it, the whole thing is over. After the mess is cleaned up, all that is left is the memories and the pictures.
A good photographer is essential to any event that you want to remember. Photos bring memories of the events alive. However, when I look back at the photos of important occasions in my life, I often wish I had more pictures, perhaps from other angles, with other expressions, or with individuals who did not pose in that picture.
When you are picking a photographer for an event, there are many things to consider. First and foremost is perhaps availability and reliability. No matter how good the pictures that the person takes, if he or she is not able to make it to your event, they do you no good.
Assuming the photographer is available for your event, take a look at their portfolio and discuss pricing. It is important to understand what you are purchasing. Will the photographer be taking photos during the entire event or just coming for a portion of the event. Will the photographs be posed, candid, or a combination? How many photographs will the photographer take and of those how many will you get to keep? Who will own the rights to the images? Will you be allowed to make copies or the images yourself or will you have to purchase additional prints from the photographer? Would you prefer to get a disc of photos that you can print yourself or an album of printed pictures? If you do not have a lot of time, the album may be more convenient, but if you want to give copies of the images to everyone involved in the event, digital copies will probably be preferable.
Most photographers are flexible with their options but the fee will depend in part on what product they are delivering to you. Purchasing rights to an image will probably be more expensive then just getting a print of the individual image.
On the event day, the photographer will be busy taking pictures. Make sure if there is anything or anyone in particular that you want photos taken of, the photographer knows. If there is any assistance you can provide, such as gathering people for photos, be sure to do so. If you are happy with the photographer and the images they take of your event, refer them to friends who are having events and remember them next time you are holding an event of your own.
As long as they are not distracting, it is never a bad idea to have a few extra cameras around an event, even if you hire a professional photographer. You never know what images an amateur may come up with that you may really like. You may also want to hire or recruit someone to videotape part or all of the event.
Photographs last much longer than any event, so make sure that you get plenty of good ones!