I’m speaking to you as your photographer. As a professional with multiple years of experience and dozens of weddings under my belt. I will provide you with the best images possible because I am a Professional. This will be the one part of your special day that you shouldn’t have to worry about. But…….. Please do us both a favor and stop looking at Pinterest right now! Though I think Pinterest is a great place for ideas and possibilities, please keep these thoughts in mind.
- Those beautiful images you see take time to craft. (Not to mention organize) So don’t think you’re going to get that gorgeous image with your dresses hanging from the beautifully backlit window and all of your bridesmaids in front of them in the two minutes you’ve graciously allowed in between getting your make-up and hair finished and needing to leave for the ceremony.
- Please, Please, PLEASE hire a coordinator or designate somebody not in the wedding party to be your timekeeper and people wrangler. This can go a long way to help relieve some stress and anxiety on you. Which ties into the next thought.
- Allow yourself plenty of time for your formals. This is especially true if you have a large wedding party and/or family. Also make sure you’ve allowed enough travel time if you are doing the formals away from the ceremony or reception venue. Also make sure you’ve allowed some set-up time for your photographer. Those images you see on Pinterest don’t just happen. They take a little preparation. This is the place where the coordinator/people wrangler will definitely come in handy. If you don’t take the time for great images your images won’t be great.
- This is the “Big One”. Take the time before the big day to communicate with me. This can be a phone call, an email, or even a text, This one, simple, little thing can save both of us confusion, frustration and disappointment. In this communication let me know if there are specific shots or types of shots you want or if there are specific locations we will be going to and who will be going there with us. Give me a basic time line that we can discuss and maybe modify if need be. I’ll be able to tell you if the amount of time you’ve allotted will be sufficient. After all with my experience I can tell you if the 10 minutes you’ve allowed will be enough to shoot your bridal party of twenty and your entire extended family. Let me know who the contact person is at the ceremony, the reception location and who the coordinator or helper for you will be. The more information you can provide, the more prepared I will be and the better the images of your special day will be.
- Remember it’s YOUR big day. And while the coordinator and venue have a schedule they would like to maintain, if you want to take an extra 10 minutes for pictures before the introductions at the reception, that is completely up to you. Trust me none of your guests are going to mind or care. But you will forever remember the fact that you didn’t get the one image you really wanted.
- I’ll consider this the second “Big One”. If you’ve hired a “photographer” from Craigslist you can expect to get what you’ve paid for. The “photographer” you hired from Craigslist might be somebody who got an DSLR for Christmas, or a student or an Uncle Joe with a camera. Part of the reason those images on Pinterest look so good is because the bride and groom have shelled out a descent amount of money for a professional. Part of the process of being a wedding photographer is the post-production. You don’t see this work but you see the results. I spend hours and hours making your images look great. In most instances it’s more time than I spent at your wedding day. This is what really defines my style and why you to hiring me in the first place. If you’ve hired that Craigslist photographer for $400 to cover a 12 hour day, don’t anticipate that your images are going to be stellar. They just won’t be. In the end you’ll be disappointed. You’ll blame the photographer for this and that’s just not fair. Why is it your fault? You have not provided the photographer the time or budget needed to properly finish the images. In wedding photography, like everything else, you get what you pay for.
So. In the end the bottom line is; A) Hire a professional photographer. B) Be prepared to spend some money on them. C) Be realistic about your timeline for the day. D) Communicate with your photographer. E) Be realistic in your expectations of the product you wind up with based upon all of the factors listed above. F) And most of all enjoy YOUR day!
Yesterday I started watching a webinar on CreativeLive by Scott Robert Lim. He’s an amazing wedding photographer based in Southern California. Yesterday was the first part of a three part series he’s doing titled “How to Shoot like a $10K Wedding Photographer”. His high energy and coupled with a great approach to the job is just amazing. He is SOOOOO into it. Most of the day was spent on posing the bride and groom and what he does to capture some of images he gets. Well it got me thinking. How much time does he spend with these clients before the actual wedding day? More importantly. How much time do they spend getting the images that day? Well it got me thinking even more. How much of this is really about the client taking the time and effort to make these images great. He makes a point to note that in all of the wedding images he’s displaying neither the bride nor groom are professional models. As he said. It’s easy working with models. They know how to pose. The trick is getting people who are not models to pose like one. Here again it all gets back to the client. I started to think about a wedding I couple of weeks ago. Granted it was a slightly different situation. I was called last minute. Had no opportunity to talk to the couple prior to the day of the ceremony. And was just handed a scheduled and told where to be. A tough position for even the most experienced photographer. I knew it was going to be a tough day when the bride showed up at 3:15 for a scheduled 3:30 shoot on the beach. Oh. Did I mention she wasn’t dressed, didn’t have her make-up done and didn’t have her hair finished. Then the groom showed up an hour and 15 minutes later. The bride wasn’t done getting ready for another hour. Oi! Not a great start. NOT a great start. That left us a little more than an hour to get all of the formals, the group formals and the family formals. (I knew that we weren’t going to get half of the shot list done.) Well it turns out that neither bride nor groom were really into getting the formal portraits taken. This is the point of the this rambling. The biggest factor in getting great wedding portraits is…………… the couple. Understand that I’m not talking about getting nothing but beautiful people. I’m talking about a bride and groom that really want to be there. And most importantly are into getting beautiful images. They have to be into it. If they’re more into being with their friends and family (or eating) then the images are going to show that. A large part of it too is connecting with the couple. It’s a tough thing to do when you’ve only met moments before the shoot. I guess it all just comes down to getting it all together. Sometimes no matter how hard you try to connect with the couple it’s just not going to happen. So make the most of those times where you get the convergence of a couple that you connect with, a couple that’s into making beautiful images and beautiful venue.
It’s in my nature and I imagine a lot of photographers to go to extreme lengths to please the client. The question is when is enough enough? When do you put your foot down and refuse to do further work for want of feeling taken advantage of? It’s a fine line. Very fine. Since the passing of my friend and cohort Reid Mason, I had taken it upon myself to complete the weddings that he and I shot before his passing as well as several others that were in some state of completion. Well let’s just say that no good deed goes unpunished. The first one I had to deal with was actually the last one Reid shot. This bride was literally stomping her feet, screaming at me via email. “I JUST WANT MY PICTURES!!!!” was all her last email said. So I gave up trying to explain to her that none of the images had any post production and sent her the images. I knew that there were issues with some of the images. Exposure. White balance. Things of that nature. I sent her jpegs sized for 5×7 prints only. Bride two went off without a hitch. She went through and made her selections I did the post production and sent her a dvd. Doing good I thought 1 for two. Not great but I’m batting 500! Bride 3 has been nothing short of a nightmare! The kind of client every photographer dreads. A little back story is necessary here. Reid died on Sept. 24th 2012. Her wedding was on August 11th, 2012. So there was a little more than a month had passed since I delivered the images to Reid and his passing. So upon my return from WV retrieving Reid’s computer and sorting through his things I created a private viewing gallery on my website and posted some 300+ images. I sent the client the link and password and explained that she should go through and make her selections of for her album and prints. Didn’t hear back from her. Didn’t hear back. Didn’t hear back. Finally after almost two months I hear back from her that she can’t open the gallery and see the images. OK since I used to do technical trouble shooting I attempted to help her. I looked at the gallery to see if there were issues. Files too big, etc. Nope not a problem. The entire gallery took less than 2 minutes to load on my old PC with only a 100 Mbps connection and a download speed of about 24Mbps from the server. Not bad. We go back and forth several times with her not really answering the pertinent questions I was asking. She finally gets back to me a week later telling me that her system says its going to take 3 days for her to download the gallery. “No problem.” I send her a zipped folder of the proofs via You Send It. No word. Don’t hear back. She finally gets back to me telling me that her system is telling her this is going to take 18 hours to download. WTF! Long and the short of it she had a very slow DSL line. Now the panic sets in. She wanted the images so she could make calendars for Christmas presents. So I FedEX her a dvd of the proofs. (Complete with watermark at this point) to the only address I had for her. You guessed it. Wrong address. She had moved and forgotten to tell me. So when the first dvd didn’t arrive when it was supposed to I sent a second one. This time via USPS with over night delivery to the correct address. (I’m sure by now you’re saying to yourself OMG!) This is not where it ends. If you’re keeping track of time this is about 1 week before Christmas. She receives the dvd. I get a nasty email from her saying “What am I supposed to do with these? They all have “PROOF” all over them. I can’t make prints with these.” I told her that was correct that she should make her 50 selects, tell me which ones she wants for the calendars and I’ll get them printed for her out of the print credit she coming from the package she purchased from Reid. I checked with the lab and they said they could have things turned around in 2 days for me and so I passed that information along to the bride. You know the routine by now. I don’t hear back from her. 4 days go by and still no word. I drop her an email asking what’s going on. I get an email back where she’s blaming me for her not being able to get her Christmas presents done in time and that I should have just sent her all of the images. That’s all she wanted. I explained politely to her that that is not how it works. I didn’t hear back from her for more than a month and a half. Now she wants to order a canvas print of the formal image of the family. No problem. I send her the 3 options for canvas prints styles that I offer along with the pricing for the different sizes to her at a significant discount to my list price. You guessed it. Again I don’t hear back from her for days. This time she’s telling me how “frustrated” she is over the whole process and just wants to be done with it. At this point I’m done. I’ve done everything possible to make this bride happy. I figure she’s either not getting my emails or just ignoring what I have to say. I’ve come to realize that in none of our correspondence does she actually answer any of the questions I ask. So I politely tell her that I’m done with this favor and that I will send her a dvd of her select images (she finally did pick 75 as her selects) sized suitably for printing at 5×7 and that I would be removing her gallery from my website in 30 days. Amazingly I got a response within minutes. This time she was apologetic and explained how she and her friends were going to order all sorts of prints through me and I’d be able to make some money that way. Thanks but no thanks. This was the first time in 5 months of correspondence she had gotten back to me in a timely fashion. WTF!! I was just fed up. The amount of time this was taking was no longer worth it. Especially considering the only money I had made on the deal was my shooting fee. I’m sure this woman will slander my name all over West Virginia but I can’t care. As I said no good deed goes unpunished.
For weddings that is! The time when photographers who specialize in weddings go absolutely sideways. That time of year when ordinary women turn into “Bridezillas” and “Mother of Bridezillas”. I’ve come to the conclusion that it just can’t be helped. It’s the biggest day of their lives and they want everything perfect. Who can blame them. But it really doesn’t have to be that way. I have been watching Craig’s List and Mineeds and Wedding.com as the season starts to ramp up. I’m getting hit with multiple requests daily for quotes. The only problem is almost all of the contain this phrase in one form or another “Must work cheap”. And by cheap most of the time they mean “I’m only gonna pay a couple of hundred dollars.” Why? Why cheap out on the only lasting memories of your very special day? When the day is over you’re not going to have any of the meal left. None of the booze. You might have a piece of the cake that you throw in the back of your freezer to find again a year or two covered in ice and drier than a fist full of sand. Oh you’ll have the video too. That might get played a couple of times the first year and then again on your anniversary or when friend’s who weren’t there come over to visit. But that too will be forgotten as time moves on. To this day my parent’s have their respective wedding day pictures on their dressers. 51 years later!!!! So why trust your special day to an amateur or Uncle Henry or a student? These images will last your lifetime and beyond. Do yourself a favor. Cut out your Aunt Helen’s third cousin twice removed and her family from the guest list and splurge for a good photographer. You won’t be disappointed. I promise. A professional photographer is going to spend the time with you to make sure that your wedding is captured the way you’d like it. They are going to take the time to meet with you and maybe even come up with some nice creative ideas to take advantage of the venue, to coordinate the formal portraits and most of all make sure you have some incredible images. Today I’ve included a little PDF that my late friend Reid put together that he would give out to his prospective wedding clients. It’s short and to the point. And I think every bride should read it before hiring a wedding photographer.