Some hints on what to look for (and what to avoid) when searching for a wedding photographer.
The Amateur. When I first came to Austin, Texas about 10 years ago my family (my brother, my sister, my mother and I) were all together for a limited time and it was decided that we should hire a photographer to take photographs of us as a family. We all knew that we would be moving in different directions for years to come and who knows when the opportunity might present itself again. So my mother got in contact with a photographer who promised to meet us at Zilker Botanical Gardens and capture some family images. I distinctly remember what the photographer looked like. She was slim, small framed with short curly hair. She was quiet, reserved and she photographed us with what may have been a “Rolleiflex” medium format twin lens reflex camera. At the time I didn’t know much about medium format cameras, so I can’t say what kind of camera it was for sure.
After about 45 minutes of photographing in different locations of the gardens she let us know she was finished and that she’d be calling when the photos were developed and ready to view. Little did we know, that would be the last time we would see her or our photographs again. After some exchanges of voicemails, we accepted that we wouldn’t likely ever see our photos, probably because she really didn’t know the first thing about professional photography. We had simply been her experiment in portraiture – an experiment that went horribly wrong.
The Swindler (allegedly). And this summer I read an article about another photographer in San Antonio who is accused of not delivering what he promised to his clients. The surprising part in this story is that he charges so much and is apparently a talented wedding photographer. One couple even claim that they paid him as much as $7000! Wow! According to the article the photographer in question enthusiastically charmed his clients into paying exorbitant amounts of money for wedding photography. Then when wedding day came he photographed their weddings and they never heard from him again. I personally looked him up on Wedding Wire, and there are a lot of angry brides that are mad at him for not returning their money, and most importantly, not providing them with wedding photos as promised. I would be mad too!
So you’re probably asking, “Well, how do I tell the difference between a wedding swindler and a legitimate photography business?” That can be tough to do, but the most important thing you need to know about any business is their record of service. Do they have a history of providing a quality service? Are people talking raving about how great their experience with the business was? I recommend starting your investigation by reading my article on Finding The Right Wedding Photographer. Bottom line: do your homework! If he/she sounds too good to be true, perhaps you should look elsewhere. I wish you the best of luck in your search!
Martin Whitton is a professional wedding photojournalist who lives and works in Austin, Texas. Email: AustinAmericana@gmail.com
I recently ran across these 16 interview questions on a photo forum (which would be credited if I could find the link) and thought it would be interesting to answer them myself. So I did just that.
The questions and answers are written more towards newbie photographers who want to see how established photographers get started, but I suppose the audience could be anyone interested in the subject.
I’ve written several times about what separates serious professional photographers from any person off of the street who has a Digital SLR. I certainly don’t want to discourage the “newbie” who’s just starting out and learning about photography, but I’m continually hearing horror stories from brides and other wedding professionals about how a “photographer” was hired to photograph a wedding and didn’t deliver in one way or another.
First, let me say that there’s nothing wrong with a person who’s interested in photography going out and buying a new DSLR and experimenting with it; there’s no better way to learn that through experimentation with your camera. That’s how I started out as a photographer and many other photographers start out using the self-taught method as well. Where new photographers have to be careful though is in being aware of the range of their abilities and knowing when to say “no”.
If you’re new to photography and you don’t fully understand how your DSLR camera works (be honest with yourself) and your friend who’s getting married next week asks you to photograph their wedding what do you say? Many “newbie” photographers gladly say yes and are hopeful that everything will turn out well. If you’ve explained your inexperience to the bride and that you wouldn’t feel comfortable shooting the wedding and she insists, you should still say “no”. Why? Weddings are significant, milestone events in a person’s life that happen once and can’t be re-created. This scenario is definitely not the time to experiment with your new camera, at least not in an official capacity.
But many amateur photographers have gone a step further and actually solicited weddings far below standard wedding photography rates, only to confess later (after serious failure) that they were not prepared for the demands that a wedding can impose on a photographer.
I personally feel very passionate about this subject (bad wedding photography) because in many cases the events surrounding the unraveling of good wedding photography can be prevented by good habits, good technique and preparation. Here are 12 things you don’t want to hear from your wedding photographer, all loosely based on true stories.
1. Oops! I just accidentally deleted all your wedding photos from my compact flash card (CF Card).
2. Oh, sorry. I’m no longer in the photography business and I don’t have archive copies of your wedding photos/digital images/negatives.
3. The good news is that I have your wedding images; the bad news is that I’m going to have to charge you more than I had told you before.
4. [On location, at your wedding] I’m not feeling well and I have to leave now. Sorry about not being able to shoot your wedding.
5. Oops, I forgot to load my camera with film. Can we re-do those photos?
6. [On location, at your wedding] Umm, I forgot to print the bridal/engagement print you ordered. Oh well…
7. Sorry I’m late. (insert excuse for being late here)
8. I know some people in your wedding party said I was hitting on the guests, but I really wasn’t. Honest.
9. [On location, at your wedding] What’s wrong with me wearing flip flops and jeans to your wedding? It’s cool, right?!
10. I know I told you that I could shoot your wedding next week, but I’m going to have to cancel on you because I have another wedding.
11. I’m having equipment issues. Can we re-do those shots?
12. I don’t normally drink this much when I work at a wedding. I don’t know what happened!
All of the 12 things listed above are from situations where an amateur had the opportunity to be professional and do the right thing, but did not. Don’t let these things happen to you. Talk to friends and family who have worked with a professional near you. Do yourself a favor and hire a professional photographer with a track record. You’ll be glad you did.