There are hundreds no, thousands, of “How to find a wedding photographer” lists and blogs, but there are seldom any resources to help brides and grooms-to-be with recognizing that the wedding photographer whom they are considering might not be all he or she is cracked up to be. I’m writing this having worked on numerous weddings as both a second photography – the second guy who captures the details and candid shots – as well as the lead photographer – the guy who takes all the formal photos, negotiates rates, handles logistics, etc. and I feel compelled to do so because quite often, newlyweds come to me to photograph a “second wedding” or “reception” because they either got jilted the day of, or were mislead by their “dream photographer” and the quality just wasn’t what they were hoping for. In no particular order, here are three of the most important things I think people need to watch out for when looking for a wedding photographer.
1. Negativity Towards Other Photographers.
When you’re meeting with a photographer, it can be a bit nerve wracking because for many of us, this is a brand new experience. Quite often it’s a learning process that removes us from our more secure sensibilities. I mean, how often do you consider hiring a photographer for $3000 for one day’s work? (Okay, actually it could end up being a month or more on the back end.) It’s stressful for you, but even worse, many photographers are aware of the fact that many brides and grooms can easily be misled.
When discussing your wedding plans with your potential photographer, keep an ear out for sentences and phrases like “No one else in *location* can do what I do,” “No one can do what I do for what I charge,” or my personally most disliked phrase, “I’m the best in the area” as well as putdowns about other specific photographers that offer similar services. Truth be told no matter where you are, there are going to be many photographers to choose from at all price and skill levels and invariably, more than one that will be able to give you exactly what you need or want on your big day. These phrases are a manipulative tool that many photographers employ to try to lure you into a false sense of trust with them while convincing you to avoid seeking out other photographers that might actually better deserve your money and time.
Don’t make the mistake of only contacting one photographer. You might miss out on a someone that is a better fit for your big day.
2. Spoken vs Written
I cannot stress just how important this piece of information is so I’ll say it again, read the entire contract. This seems self-explanatory, but so many people avoid reading it and find out the hard way that something isn’t right–usually AFTER the wedding is over. Some photographers will try to convince you that time is critical and that there isn’t enough time to read it or that they are in a hurry in the hopes of trying to get you to avoid looking through it. Don’t allow yourself to be rushed. Read it. Make sure that what the photographer is saying matches what’s in the contract. Often, fly-by-night photographers will build contracts that say one thing but tell you something completely different.
Things that you want to ask and read about are cancellation policies, payment deadlines, what happens if the photographer is grossly negligent in his or her services, and how your photography will be used outside of what is provided to you. Most photographers will volunteer these details because they care about you as much as getting paid, but as with anything else, there are some that want nothing more than to get paid then run.
3. Dismissive Behavior
Ask questions. As many as you want until you are completely satisfied that you know every detail of what to expect. Photographers that have something to hide tend to deflect or misdirect you when put on the spot. If you can’t get a clear and concise answer about something that matters to do, then you’re probably better off working with someone else. This is one of those times when your gut feeling has more to do with how you read the situation than anything else. On many occassions, I’ve spoken with brides who told me that they wish they trusted their gut instincts but felt pressured to use certain photographers anyway and they regret it. “Our photographer didn’t work out and we can’t just recreate that big day.”
As with any advice, take everything with a grain of salt. Everything that I’ve written here is built from stories that people have told me after their wedding days and from witnessing it first hand at friends’ and families’ weddings. My motivation for writing this today came from the anger I felt when a friend hired the wrong photographer for her wedding. I wanted nothing more than to go back in time and be her photographer and make sure that it’s done the right way. I don’t like seeing people getting taken advantage of and I don’t want any of you to be taken advantage of either.
If you have any advice or insight that you think should be included in this list, let me know. I’d love to add some other views and ideas that anyone might have. Credited of course.