It’s currently April of 2015 and I’ve already received emails for weddings taking place as far as the end of 2017 and even 2018!  I’m a Toronto wedding photographer and I get it – our city has a lot of pretty venues but they book up fast.  Very fast.  So you have to set your date far in advance… but how far in advance should you book your photographer?  Do you really need to book them 24, even 36 months ahead of time?

While there is no standard in the industry, an informal pole of colleagues and Facebook group members yielded an interesting answer to the question of ‘How far in advance are you comfortable booking clients?’ and that number was between 12 and 18 months.

Yep – a year, to a year and a half.  That’s the time frame in which an average photographer is comfortable booking a client.  So as photographers, why do we prefer a shorter amount of time between inquiry and booking while many brides and grooms would feel better booking 2 – sometimes 3 – years in advance?  While some may argue that turning down business, even business that is 30-months away, is a really stupid decision, it’s possible that if you’re looking for a wedding photographer for more than 18-months in the future, you may be told “That’s awesome, but let’s chat again in a few months before we formalize anything.

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Roll your eyes if you want, but these are three of the most common reasons why a photographer prefers to book clients with no more than 12-18 months into the future:

Our styles change.  We are artists and as artists, we have a style.  Style can change over time; not only as our gear changes but as we mature and refine our vision for our work.  While styles remain very similar year to year, if you were to look back in a photographers portfolio at images created 2 or 3 years prior, you’d notice that they are very different than images created today.  By booking within a more reasonable period of time, there is a greater chance their final product will be delivered with a similar style to that which they see in the artist’s portfolio.

Packages and prices.  As our business grow, we expand to fulfill our needs.  Whether that means added equipment, extra resources such as assistants or teaming up with an editing studio – every business has expenses they must cover.  The average photographer prices their services for their anticipated expenditures for the following year – but 2+ years into the future is another story.  Securing a client 2 or 3 years in advance means that you’ll be working for less than you’re currently worth come that year.  While some photographers are okay with that, others simply are not and as business owners, everyone is allowed to operate their business as they see fit.

The need for breathing room.  Let’s face it – we have lives, too!  To have your life pre-scheduled for 2 YEARS in advance, let alone 3 years, is mildly claustrophobic to say the least.  While you’ve set your wedding date far in advance, that’s only 1 weekend of your year.  A full-time photographer can shoot between 20-30 weddings in a year – pre-scheduling 50% of your year, 3 years in advance is a different song and dance than scheduling 1 day.

Best of luck in finding your wedding photographers – and don’t forget to learn about the questions you should ask your photographer at an interview.  You’ll need to know that once you sit down with a photographer for the first time; regardless of how far away your date may be.