The last year or so for the wedding industry have been mired in controversy . Within the last few weeks a big wedding photography firm shut down out of the blue. Right up until the last minute they were apparently taking deposits and full fees leaving couples hugely out of pocket and without photographer and or videographer in some cases as well. This has yet again made a lot of people very aware about booking the right photographer, there's a lot of suspicion cast on photographers and wedding vendors as a general as a result of actions like these however. I desperately wanted to throw together a wee blog to tell you - the couples - what to look out for and hopefully help spot things that aren't quite right. Maybe even save you lovely people some unnecessary agro!
1. Photographers Portfolio! Where is it?
If you're anything like me you're now part of a huge number of Facebook bridal and wedding planning groups. This is a huge source of income for us aside from referrals, magazine ads, wedding fairs etc. If anyone posts looking for a photographer they will no doubt be inundated with hundreds of links, comments and offers from far and wide. Now these links should in theory be to a mainstream form of social media like facebook, twitter, instagram etc. The work should stand on its own without much explanation, so the photos are the main selling point. However in amongst these comments from time to time now, you will see someone who says - Hi XXXXX, I've just PM'd you! I offer full day coverage for £250. Its two photographers, and album and 100 prints and the kitchen sink all thrown in'. Now I started cheap when I started out but even I could not compete with this because after expenses I would have been in debt. So unless my client bought several more albums and several hundred more prints it would have been a total waste of time.
In cases like this even if the offer isn't dodgy it means your photographer has little to now concept of how to run a business and make a profit. So you can probably assume as much thought has gone into their customer service policy and everything else.
2. Where's the Website?
Today you can make even a template website from WIX, Weebly etc look incredible with a few days graft. You don't need to be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. You just need patience and a few good ideas.
3. If a deal looks too good to be true......
As I touched on before, sometimes you will see companies/photographers offering the shirt of their back for nominal fees. Just think about this - if you come across a photographer duo who traverses the whole UK free of travel charge and are based in Portsmouth? and will cover Scotland, Wales and NI, give you a photo book, parents albums, big old canvas and spend 12 hours with you all for £350 ( I exaggerate a bit but you get the idea ) how does this business model work? The cost price of even the cheapest professional quality photo-books run about £100+. Off photobox maybe cheaper but the quality difference is noticeable. So you've got a couple hundred left. Then you've got petrol. If you're traveling one end of Scotland to the next you're talking a couple of tanks of petrol. Let's say another £100 gone. So now you've got £100 left to pay yourself, your second shooter and take care of any random expenses that crop up. Bare in mind, decent second shooter can range from £80-£300 per day. So how they make any money is beyond me. In my mind this puts them in a financial hole they are soon going to wish they hadn't. This is how people go out of business. This is how couples are left devastated and high and dry.
4. Where's the contract?
A contract should be the first thing you agree with your vendor be it photographer, planner, venue etc. Imagine you pay your deposit (it could be £50 or it could be thousands mind) and you find out your photographer doesn't fly, or he doesn't travel on certain days of the week, or he can only be in a room with an odd number of people. You can have a bit of a struggle negotiating when the terms of your agreement aren't laid out in black and white. So be on it, get on it and get it signed straight away. If only for the peace of mind that legally it means he/she/they can't double book or back out without consequences and reimbursement.
5. Why do their photos look so different compared to one another?
Anyone with eyes can tell you that there are a lot of styles out there in the wedding photography world. If their style is truly varied then they might just be eclectic. However more and more we've heard tales of young photographers or newly started photographers stealing images from established shooters in order to present themselves as being more experienced than they actually are. What if there's only a couple of photos of each wedding in each gallery on their website? Do an image search now! It won't hurt and if you find they're knicked pictures from real photographers - let them know about it! This is their livelihood we're talking about.
6. Where are their reviews and testamonials?
I have a handful of reviews even though I've been going for a few years. Mainly because I'm horrible at the whole online thing. That said if there's no reviews whatsoever - this should ring alarm bells. Or if their reviews talk about how great their baby shoot was and there's no mention of a single wedding in their past I'd ask for a brides details and check them out. Never be afraid to ask for references. Some brides now pay upwards of £15k a day for their wedding photographers. This is not chump change! And even if you're paying £500 for the day - check that person out. Ask around. Don't be shy. This is one of the biggest days of your lives and you deserve to have everything perfect and to be surrounded by people who care about delivering top quality service right down the line and helping you achieve your dream.
Katie and I really really really hope this is useful to everyone here and on our social channels. if you have questions leave them below or message us directly and we will help in any way we can!
Big Love xx