Don't make these 7 mistakes when booking a wedding photographer

February 25, 2020

“The only regret I have about my wedding is not spending more on photography” - Post in (Canada) Victoria and Area Wedding Swap & Shop Facebook Group

I came across the above post on the (Canada) Victoria and Area Wedding Swap & Shop Facebook Group recently and was astonished reading through the some 50+ comments from couples on the thread talking about their disappointing wedding photography experiences as well. 

It’s always sad to see couples disappointed by their wedding photography and it seems like it happens far too often, so the team at Focal has created a quick guide to avoid some of the common pitfalls of hiring a wedding photographer.

Here are 7 common mistakes to avoid when choosing your wedding photographer:

1. Picking a photographer without seeing a full wedding gallery

A lot of comments on the thread revolved around brides being unhappy with their photos. One bride even said she cried when she saw her wedding photos and ended up hiring a different photographer to try and recreate some of the moments from her wedding! If you want to avoid a situation where you aren’t happy with your photos our biggest recommendation is to look at a couple of your potential photographer’s full wedding galleries. One of the biggest mistakes couples run into is choosing a photographer based solely on the handful of photos from their website or portfolio. The problem with this is that these are their very best selected photos (usually 1 or 2) from a bunch of entire gallery of 400-800 photos. This means that if you base your expectation for your wedding photography on only those best photos, you’re going to be disappointed by the other 798 in your gallery. It’s important to remember that there are a ton of different types of photos that will make up your wedding gallery. There are the grand, carefully planned and directed shots, then there's the getting ready shots, the details, all those candids, the ceremony, the formals etc. By looking at full galleries from a photographer you can get a better idea of what to expect from the gallery you’ll receive from your wedding. Don’t judge a book by its cover and don’t judge a photographer by one photo.

2. Hiring a friend or someone you know that’s a “photographer”

This is a tough one, and while we know some of you have some incredibly talented photographer friends - letting a friend shoot your wedding always has its pros and cons. If you are considering letting a friend be your wedding photographer, please ensure they really are a professional and have shot weddings before. Friends always want to help, which means that sometimes they bite off more than they can chew. In reality, being the primary wedding photographer for a wedding is extremely stressful. You have to be diligently organized otherwise you risk missing out on important moments. Someone that hasn’t shot a wedding before may get overwhelmed by the pace or be unprepared when it’s time to capture that important moment. Lastly, consider the fact that your friend probably wants to try and experience and enjoy your wedding. If they have to focus on the photography it will probably mean they won’t get to enjoy a whole lot of your wedding as they’ll be focused on shooting.

3. Hiring someone starting out to save money

While it might seem like a great idea to hire someone who’s just starting out to get a huge discount on your wedding photography - this is probably the biggest pitfall that leads to couples being disappointed in their wedding photos. It’s pretty simple, if someone hasn’t shot a wedding before, they just don’t know what to expect. They don’t know when to prepare for those important moments, they don’t know how to keep everyone organized for the formals or they don’t know how to direct and make you comfortable in front of the camera. They may be a great photographer, but they may not be able to keep up with the sheer pace and chaos that is a wedding. Trust us, you don’t want someone trying to figure it out on your wedding day. If you do insist on hiring someone that is just starting out, at least ensure they have 2nd shot for another photographer so they know what to expect during the wedding.

4. Not going over your wedding day timeline with your photographer

Knowing what to expect on your wedding day should be a priority for both yourselves and your photographer to ensure everything runs smoothly and no important moments are missed. Making sure your photographer has a step by step timeline for your wedding from capturing “getting ready” to the “first dance” is critical and will really make all the difference in the chaos of your big day! Also be sure that you have planned out the logistics required for getting yourself and the photographer from one location to another and where to meet, the last thing you want is your photographer wandering around Beacon Hill Park trying to find you when you only have an hour to do your formals!

5. Not having a 2nd shooter

A lot of people wonder what the point is of having a 2nd shooter at their wedding and so it’s often the first thing they try to shave off their wedding to save money. But for the small amount of money you might save you are giving up a lot of value in terms of your photography. The main benefit of having a 2nd shooter at your wedding is because your primary photographer can’t be in two places at once! For example, if you want to capture the moments before the ceremony when the bride and the groom are getting ready, you need a photographer to be with both of them. During the ceremony, the primary photographer can focus on the bride as she comes up the aisle and the second shooter can capture the groom, the audience and wider shots of the whole ceremony. Overall, having a 2nd shooter allows for much greater coverage of the wedding, prevents any missed moments and ensures the whole photography experiences is smooth! If you’d like to read more about reasons why you should have a 2nd photographer for your wedding - read 5 Reasons you need a 2nd photographer for your wedding.

6. Not doing an engagement or pre-wedding session

Most photographers include a free engagement session with their wedding packages! We highly recommend you take them up on this opportunity, not only because you can get some amazing photos to show off before your wedding - but because this is an excellent opportunity to get to know your photographer and make sure you have an expectation for the experience on your wedding day. When booking a photographer, it’s really easy to get hung up thinking about all the amazing photos you’re gonna get and forget about the fact that you have to be in the actual photoshoot first! If you’ve never been in a professional shoot before, it can be a bit intimidating being in front of the camera. Lights are going off, the photographer is directing you to get the perfect shot and it becomes a whole experience within itself! It’s really important that this experience is fun, and that you get along with your photographer because on your wedding day, if things are awkward or you feel uncomfortable, it will be reflected in the photos. At Focal, we always say, great experiences = great photos. 

7. Not having a photographer with backup gear/camera with a backup memory card

A lot of people take this for granted, and 99% of the time they don’t have to worry because most photographers are covered here. But it only takes one dropped camera, a dead flash or a memory card to fail to completely wipe out the captured moments of your big day. Make sure your photographer has appropriate measures in place for when things go wrong. When things hit the fan, it really separates the professional photographers from the amateurs. Pros don’t even break stride, they go to their bag, switch cameras or replace a flash and just keep on shooting.


While It’s always sad to see couples unhappy with their wedding photography, what really strikes me is how avoidable these situations are if couples have some basic information about what to look for when they chose their photographer. So the team at Focal decided to compile a simple yet invaluable guide to choosing the perfect wedding photographer. We cover things like: What to expect, what you should look for in a photographer and questions to ask potential photographers to make sure that they are perfect for your big day.

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