One unfortunate part of being in the industry is that I hear horror stories, hear the crying, and see the tears from bad decisions. Unfortunately, weddings can’t be relived, and bad imagery or even worse, no imagery, from your wedding is permanent. I’m gonna share some of the stories I’ve heard from weddings past that people I personally know who have shared with me about their wedding photographers.
- I needed a model in a wedding dress, and none of my brides were available for the afternoon I needed to do the shoot, so I opened it up on facebook. I eventually found a beautiful young lady who I’ve since become friends with that was married the year before, and didn’t have any wedding pictures at all. Her mother in law convinced her to use one of the groom’s distant cousins who took very nice pictures of cars, and she offered to pay for the photography if they chose him. Being a budget conscious bride, she went with her mother in law’s suggestion. She thought he seemed to be doing a good job, and moved around during the ceremony, took formals, took pictures during the first dance, cake cutting, and all that fun stuff. 4 months after the wedding, he told her that none of the pictures “came out” and he refunded the mother in law what she had paid him to take the pictures. The only problem was that the only pictures she had of her wedding were the images she was tagged with on facebook by guests, and reached out to them to see if they had the full sized images so they could at least be edited by a professional if she could find one willing to do it. No luck. She told me she cried for days over not having anything she could even put on the wall. She still had her dress though, and got her husband in his tux, and they did the shoot with me so they would at least have images in their wedding finery. And now they do, but they aren’t wedding pictures.
The only person you should trust on your wedding day to capture your images is a real wedding photographer. Budgets matter, I get that, but after the wedding, you guys have your memories and you have your pictures. Hiring family to work your wedding is never a good idea because they want to visit, they want to socialize.
- I took some baby pictures for a lady that chose her wedding photographer because the photographer was the cheapest she could find. She was a very budget conscious bride, and was paying for her own wedding, and thus her own photography as well. She wanted a nice wedding, and had a lot of guests to feed and entertain, but the wedding photography was just last on her list of priorities during her planning. She found one willing to spend the day with them and the cost was under $1,000 so she was happy until she got her wedding images. I asked about the photographer and gear, and she only knew that her photographer’s gear looked nothing like mine, and she only had one small camera with one lens. While she did at least have pictures from her wedding, she knew they were terrible. She knew the photographer was new to wedding photography, and new to professional photography in general, but says even now that should couldn’t afford a real wedding photographer at that point because she just didn’t have the money, and had already gone through her budget. She got her images on disk, and picked the best 2-3 to have some prints made, and they’re on her nightstand and at her desk at work. They’re not edited correctly, and the exposure is bad, but they were the best she got.
Again, budgets matter, but you’re better off getting a great photographer for just a couple of hours than an inexperienced, under-equipped, or beginner photographer all day. I will do small weddings, or limited time weddings. Great photography doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars.
- I had a wedding last year where a guest contacted me after seeing the images to ask me about how I worked the wedding. She had been married for 2 years already, and had hired their photographer at a bridal show. The price paid was realistic, but the images were mostly detail shots, formals, ceremony, and cake shots. There were a few shots with some of the guests before the ceremony, and almost none of the reception, and very few shots of her interacting with her guests. I asked a few questions, and discovered her photographer was a “Natural Light” photographer. Natural light photographers use ambient light and day light to get usable exposures, and with an indoor ceremony in a dark church, or a darker reception venue, they’re awfully limited. Her images from the reception were softer and all in black & white, and that confirmed it. Any professional photographer just isn’t going to show bad work, and being limited to ambient light means less images at a reception unless it’s in a brighter, well-lit venue, unless your photographer can use off camera flash.
If you’re planning a church wedding, a night reception, or you have portions of your event where light is limited, you need to have a photographer that has lights on stands. In the business, we call it “off camera flash” and having a reflector is not the same thing. Being able to use off camera flash means I’m not limited to daylight and the lighting in a church or reception hall. Learning how to get beautiful imagery in low light light situations took months of practice and a sizeable investment, and it’s just not something every photographer can or wants to be able to do.
- My girlfriend is a wedding planner, and she’s been doing it for 10 years. She’s told me lots of horror stories involving all kinds of problems with weddings, but the most cringeworthy to me is the “Yelling Photographer.” This guy was pretty good, but he had anger issues or something. Take pictures while he’s taking pictures and he would get set off. Not pay attention to him during formals, and he would get set off. His images were beautiful afterwards, but he was a terror at the wedding and rude to the guests. The wedding was a shoot to him, and he was going to get his images come hell or high water, and no one was going to take pictures of his set ups because he wanted to be able to sell them images afterwards. He hijacked her wedding.
I think this just comes down to respect. You respect people or you don’t. You respect an event or you don’t. Last year at the rehearsal, I had a minister tell me I couldn’t take any pictures during the ceremony, or he would stop the ceremony and kick me out of the church. Was I happy about it? No, but I didn’t complain to him at all, I told him that I respected what he was doing and would comply with his wishes. Then I asked if I could sit in the very back and take some pictures of the ring exchange and the first kiss. Because I was coming from a position of respect, he allowed me to do it.
Unfortunately, most brides aren’t photographers. You can’t tell by looking at a portfolio what is missing, and what the weaknesses of that photographer might be. There are a lot of brides that can’t tell the difference between photographers based on their websites, so they base their decision on price alone. Some brides base their selection decision on the attractiveness or stylishness of the photographer in person. Photography is an art, but it’s a technical art. The photographer you choose should have a balance of creativity, technical competence, and understanding of light and how it works for the camera.
Photography doesn’t have to break the bank either. If you find a photographer you trust, tell them what you’re working with. Try to find a way to make it work. If the photographer you really want to work with feels like you respect them and you aren’t trying to take advantage of them, and you’re set on having them for your wedding, you can work it out if you’re willing to compromise. Photographers are people too, and sometimes we just really want to do something, even if it makes no business sense at all. Maybe you can pay for the shoot, then pay for the editing and images later? Maybe you can get them agree to a payment plan? Maybe you’re having the kind of wedding the photographer loves doing, and it’s not on a Saturday during peak season?
And I understand you don’t know photography the same way I do. If you’re getting married somewhere else, send me a link. I’ll be happy to share with you what I see when I look at a photographer’s portfolio. You can contact me here- Savannah Destination Wedding Photographer.