Here are the 5 biggest mistakes couples make when it comes to wedding photographer.  Don’t make these mistakes!

1. Hiring Based on Price, Not Based on Style

The number one mistake couples make when hiring a photographer is to choose a photographer based on price, and not whether his/her style matches what they are looking for.  In talking to countless couples and wedding photographers in the industry, this is the biggest mistake they make and often results in couples not being happy with their images.  Usually, the problem lies not in the quality of the images, but a mismatch in what the couple wanted and the photographer’s style.  They may have gotten a “good deal,” but ultimately they paid the price in getting wedding images that they didn’t like.

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The lovely Sara at Villa Antonia wedding venue. She’s so excited about getting married to her beau!

Recently a close friend of mine called and asked me a question.  He was engaged, I was invited to attend the wedding as a groomsman, and they had recently hired a photographer.  “The price he gave us was unbeatable,” he said.  “That’s good,” I said, secretly worrying about the quality of this photographer if his number one credential was how little he was willing to work for.  

A few weeks later my friend asked for advice.  You see, the photographer they hired was more of a traditional wedding photographer.  He didn’t really capture the big picture, the “candid” moments seemed posed and fake, and the images all looked pretty much the same.  My friend confided in me that he and his bride really wanted more of a reportage style, more candid moments, and more wide-angle shots that captured the whole moment.  He asked me how best to communicate this desire to his hired photographer.  I gave him some advice, but inside I cringed.  

Asking a traditional photographer to shoot reportage style, or asking a fashion-inspired photographer to shoot more candid images, etc. is asking for trouble.  Photographers shoot they way they shoot because (1) that’s their artistic vision and (2) that’s what they are comfortable/experienced in shooting.  Asking one type of photographer to be more like another type is telling a photographer to not be themselves, to not follow their own vision, and to try something they are not comfortable or experienced with.  This is not a good recipe for great wedding images.

When you’re in Hollywood and you’re a comedian, everybody wants you to do things besides comedy. They say, ‘OK, you’re a stand-up comedian — can you act? Can you write? Write us a script?’… It’s as though if I were a cook and I worked my ass off to become a good cook, they said, ‘All right, you’re a cook — can you farm?’

— Mitch Hedberg

Or perhaps it’s more like hiring a newspaper reporter to write you a poem, or hiring a sushi chef to make a pizza.  Yes, they use some of the same ingredients and processes, but these are entirely different worlds.  If you want a poem, hire a poet.  Don’t expect great pizza from a sushi chef.

So DON’T HIRE MERELY BASED ON PRICE.  First, find photographers whose style you LOVE, and whose images touch you, inspire you, or make you want to see more.  Identify several of these photographers who, if price wasn’t an issue, you would be elated to have shoot your wedding.  Only then should you start comparing prices and packages.  Chances are you can find the style you want at the price you can afford.  Do NOT expect your photographer to shoot all of their weddings one way, and then magically switch to another style of shooting for your wedding.  Neither you or your photographer will appreciate the results.

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The beautiful Sarah at Camp Lucy.

2. Not Asking The Right Questions Before Hiring

The second biggest mistake couples make is not asking the right questions before they put down that deposit.  This is understandable because most couples don’t hire photographers as part of their daily life, they don’t know what to ask.  But without thoroughly screening your potential photographers, you might be hiring the wrong photographer for your wedding.  

Does he/she know how to use flash if it’s too dark for using ambient light?  What if he/she is sick the day of the wedding?  What about camera malfunction?  How does he/she backup the images?  You need to know these things before you commit to your photographer.

What should I ask.  You’re in luck, we compiled 18 “Must Ask” questions for your wedding photographer.

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Pam & Will outside Duchman Winery wedding venue.

3. Overloading Your Photographer with a “Must Have” Shot List

One downside of the social media world we live in now — and the ubiquity of images — is the fear of missing out (FOMO) on great wedding images.  Sign up for wedding planning websites and you’ll see a proliferation of “10 Must Have Shots of Your Bridal Party”  or “Don’t Miss Out on these Great Bride and Groom Shots.”  Even websites for photographers perpetuate this idea that weddings are nothing more than checking the box on a collection of pre-planned, staged photos.  

Back in the beginnings of wedding photography, photographers did rely on a list of must-have shots to document the wedding.  There was the dress shot, the veil, the kiss, the cake-cutting, etc.  Film was expensive, and if you only wanted to shoot a couple rolls, it made sense to focus on tried-and-true posed images.  But now, we can shoot thousands of images at a wedding.  So why should we be chained to a list of posed boring photos?  

Your wedding is a unique event.  It has never happened before, and it will never happen again.  The candid, unscripted moments — your dad practicing his speech, your flower girl admiring your dress, your tears of joy, moments of true connection, laughter, and hilarious dance moves — these are what your wedding is really about.  But if your photographer is looking at his/her list of Pinterest’s “20 Must Have Wedding Photos” making sure not to miss any staged photo, he/she is missing countless beautiful candid moments.  

A moment before the reception.

A moment before the reception.

Unchain your photographer and release him/her from lists of wedding images for fear of missing out.  Truth is, if you had to choose, wouldn’t you rather have a photo of real, genuine emotion instead of a cheesy Pinterest photo that everyone else has?  

If you hire an experienced wedding photographer worth their salt, they will get all the typical photos of your wedding day.  They will get the dress, the shoes, the walking-down-the-aisle, the kiss, etc.  If they are pros, you don’t need to ask them to do this.  And whatever you do, go easy on any other “must have” poses.  One or two posed photos you are particularly drawn too is okay, but I guarantee you that you will prefer the candid real moments to the posed Pinterest-inspired attempts to replicate someone else’s wedding photos.

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“Tell me about it, girl…”

4. Not Leaving Enough Time for Photos — or for Anyone (e.g. Bridesmaids) to Run Late

The fourth biggest mistake couples make is not leaving enough time in their schedule to accommodate everything they want on their wedding day, including photos.  The key to avoiding this mistake is to assume that everything before the ceremony will run a little bit late.  This is not always the case, but someone or something is running late at more than most weddings.

For example, here is a sample pre-ceremony timeline:

  • Hair/Makeup: over by 4:30PM
  • Bride puts dress on: 4:45PM-5:15PM
  • Father of Bride “First Look” : 5:15PM-5:30PM
  • Bride & Groom “First Look”: 5:30PM-5:45PM
  • Ceremony Start Time: 6:00PM

This timeline is too tight.  If anything runs behind, something will have to be left out, and unfortunately that something is always photography.  Suppose the bride and bridesmaids aren’t ready until 5:30pm.  That means no father first look photos.  Or if we do the father first look, then we don’t have time for the bride and groom first look.  In addition, even if everything runs on time, we will be finishing up the first look while most of the guests will be arriving, severely limiting where at the venue we can do the first look without running into guests.

While it is possible that everything runs completely on time, why take that risk on the most important day of your life?  Instead, build at least 30 minutes of possible delay into your timeline and, best case scenario, you’ll have a little more time to relax with your bridal party before the ceremony.

Ceremony time!

Ceremony time!

In addition to planning too much in before the ceremony, many couples do not carve time out of the timeline for photos.  We suggest everyone reserves at least 30-45 for family and bridal party photos, and at least 30 minutes for couple’s portraits.  In addition, most couples want to get some beautiful sunset photos, which in the summer requires pulling couples out of the reception for 15 minutes to create some amazing images.  If you want these photos — and if you don’t you probably aren’t reading this post — you will want to reserve plenty of time for these images.  

Please make sure you go over your draft timeline with your photographer as soon as possible.  He or she will have suggestions, hopefully, to make everything go by smoothly and make sure you have plenty of time to get all the images you deserve.

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5. Not Getting the Full Return on Their Photography Investment

Undoubtedly you have heard that photography is an investment, as opposed to an expense.  An expense means you spend money without future return.  An investment, you deposit funds for future benefits.  As a true investment, photography pays you back over your entire lifetime with beautiful images that bring you right back to what you were feeling on your wedding day.  These images capture genuine emotions and will trigger your memories long after the wedding cake has dried up and the kids are off to college.  

Way too many couples fail to reap the benefits of their professional photography.  Instead of ordering prints or albums that you truly show the quality of the photography, they get a USB drive and stuff it in a desk drawer.  As with most investments, the benefits you get in return is directly proportional to how much you invest.  If you just post your wedding photos on Facebook and keep those high-resolution files in your desk, you will not be getting the full benefit of the images.  Instead, we encourage all our clients to order large professional prints or an album so they have something tangible to cherish, to show their kids, and to relive those moments forever.

Imagine having a beautiful 16”x24” print on your bedroom wall of you and your partner walking back down the aisle after the first kiss as a married couple.  You are both smiling ear to ear, you look amazing, your heart is glowing, and your brain is full of those neurotransmitters that make you feel euphoric.  You are absolutely in love and can’t wait to spend the rest of your lives together, and you are absolutely committed to keeping those vows.  Now imagine waking up each day to see this image of the two of you.  Through good times, and bad times.  Through career changes, moves, having kids, kids’ first steps, obstacles and adventures, struggles and successes, graduations, marriage announcements, grandkids…you will constantly have a reminder of that one beautiful, glorious day when you began the rest of your lives together.  The perfect moment, beautifully captured, can bring you right back to that day, preserve your memories, and constantly remind you and your partner what you mean to each other.

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You’re paying so much on your wedding day for stuff that won’t last beyond that night.  You’re investing in photography because you know you want these moments preserved forever.  Make sure you’re getting the most out of your investment, start thinking now about where you want your prints hung, or what kind of album you would like to pass down to your children.  Find a space in your home that’ll be the perfect place for a daily reminder of the love you and your partner share.

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We hope this article was helpful.  Here are the 18 Questions You Must Ask Before Hiring a Wedding Photographer.