Not to scare you or anything but …
Honestly? Red flag #1 is the guy was charging just over $800 for a full day shooting, editing and providing product. I suspect that his “weather” issue meant he didn’t know how to adjust for shooting inside and did not have gear that could handle the dim lighting.
Don’t worry, he’s not shooting anymore. He said, “‘I got so much hassle through weddings that I just stopped doing it.” Uh huh, I bet you did, pal.
So what should you do?
1) Ask your potential wedding photographer to show you complete wedding shoots not just a gallery of highlights of his best shots.
2) Take some time to really look at the photographs. Are they strong inside and outside and in dim light and bright light?
3) Ask how long your photographer has been in business? Do they have a stable, consistent track record? Are they likely to still be in business in a few years?
4) Be careful with the low-budget photographer undercutting most everyone else by 50-70%. Why are they so much less? If they admit to less experience and are still learning the craft and you decide the risk is worth it, give them a try! But don’t freak out when your results are not magazine worthy. There are lots of very talented students out there building careers. We all start somewhere.
5) Ask your photographer if they can provide your venue with a liability insurance binder. If they can’t or look totally confused, they are uninsured. How many legitimate businesses are uninsured?
6) Ask about their equipment and if they have backup equipment. Expensive equipment does not prove ability but prepared pros are ready for equipment malfunction and a lot of us are equipment hoarders. 😉
7) Ask if your photographer has a plan B should she get the flu two days before your wedding or break her ankle hiking. Networking with other pros in the MPPA and PPA, though it costs, provides pros with a source of emergency support in case of an accident.
8) Reviews and references? This is a tricky one. Don’t give a negative review too much weight when other reviews glow. Hostage-reviews are common in this field. A reviewer will post a negative review, never having used the services, and then take it down only when a ransom is paid. Ask your photographer if you can call some past clients. Look at the full body of reviews to get a sense of their approach.
9) Don’t immediately take your friend up on the offer to photograph your wedding as her gift to you. Do you want your friend to work your wedding or enjoy it? Will your friend be a guest first and photographer second? Use caution if you want your friend to enjoy your wedding, dance and especially visit the open bar while also carrying the photography responsibility.
10) Quantity and quality are two entirely different things. Beware the photographer who promises to give you thousands of digital files. Instead, you want a photographer who will sort through and do the bulk of editing for you. Three great pictures of Crazy Uncle Charlie doing his traditional family wedding dance will make you smile. Going through 250 pics of Uncle Charlie will drive you nuts and waste your time. 10 fantastic shots of hair and makeup is better than you having to go through 300. Quantity promises are often just another way of saying, “I don’t want to go through all these files. You do it!”
We photographers can tell you some horror stories. My friend Brittany just reposted a woman asking “which camera should I buy?” She openly admitted to putting up a website using stock photography and boasted that she already has “three weddings booked” and is excited to start her new business!
I saw another one on an online photography forums from a person asking “what settings should I use to photograph weddings?” I just shake my head.
Karen emailed asking for my help to rescue her wedding images. All of her friend’s pictures of the ceremony were “blurry and dark.” I felt bad for Karen and almost as bad for her friend doing her best in a dimly-lit church on a cloudy day. She was clearly in over her head. There was nothing I could do to help Karen rescue her motion-blurred images. 😦
My advice is simple and not surprising. Resist the urge to use the wedding photography category line item as the place to trim your budget. Instead, lose the open bar and choose some chicken and pasta entrees over lobster. Or, trim the 20 minute ride to the ceremony in the tourist trolley.
35 years from now, you will be able to take your wedding album off the shelf and sit in the corner of your couch with your granddaughter showing her how skinny and handsome her grampa was. You’ll be able to laugh at how out of style and classic your bridesmaids’ dresses are. The fact that you had stuffed chicken instead of beef won’t matter at all.
Robin and I would love to help with your wedding but we only have a few 2018 openings left. If we can’t shoot your day, we’ll gladly recommend some of the talented pros in our network to make sure you are in good hands. But 2019 is still pretty open!