This week's horror story in the media about the so-called Wedding Photographer who let her clients down in a big way is a big reminder that all that glitters isn’t Wedding photography. You are trusting precious, unrepeatable memories of an incredibly important day to one person (well, maybe two if you are having video), so what are the warning signs you need to look out for?
Experience – if someone is only 20, how many wedding have they honestly photographed – not taken pictures at, but actually been the lead photographer at? Yes, they may have been an assistant for their parents since they were 14, but how many Weddings have they really had full creative control over?
Physical location – if someone always wants to meet at a café, odds are they don’t have a studio, and if so, why not? Surely as a professional business they will have somewhere to operate from? It's also security for them and for you. If something were to go wrong it’s easier to go back to a bricks-and- mortar address than to chase down a mobile phone.
Hard to contact – why, why and why again? Unless you are in the middle of a shoot or appointment there is simply no excuse for not taking calls or responding to them within a professional, business-like timeframe (1-2 hours). Unless you’re moonlighting on the side of another full time job of course! If the phone rings and I’m in the studio or with another client I will always get back to the enquirer (by phone, text or email) within a couple of hours at the absolute worst. If your photographer takes a day or more its time to consider whether they really value your business.
Name Changes – Why? Big businesses don’t change their names unless they really have to so why would small businesses be any different? Name changes are expensive in terms of branding and unless you’ve got something to hide, you shouldn’t need to change. I have maintained the same business name for over 15 years!
Outsourced Editing – Is the photographer you are booking going to be the one doing the editing and if not, why not? Real professionals edit their own work to be sure of consistency – weekend warriors might outsource the service overseas so what happens to your images then? Will you find your wonderfully personal wedding imagery on a Chinese packing box or an Indian website?
Linked-in Profile mentions other jobs? Have a look up on Linked-in to see your photographer’s bio. If they don’t have one that should be a warning sign straight away, as should another, concurrent, position being listed! Are you just a few extra bucks on the weekend to you or are you their life blood? It's also a great place to check that they have had the experience of the weddings they claim!
Insurance and contracts – if you don’t sign an official contract with an ABN there is a danger you are unprotected should anything go amiss. Also, should anything untoward occur, there may be no reimbursement via public liability insurance available.
Are you my actual photographer – this is a growing trend with several organisations now contracting part-time and temporary photographers (many just amateurs), for weddings (just take a look at Seek - you'll see plenty of ads!). We see these companies making big promises with pretty stands at expos but we’ve heard first-hand stories of English as a second language when the photographer arrives or asking the Bride what they need to shoot – make sure you meet with YOUR photographer and make sure you complain, and tell other brides, if that isn’t who turns up.
There are many thousands of incredibly keen hobbyists and amateurs who can take wedding photographs, but there are far fewer professional businesses that actually do! Don’t get caught out and be aware that price is absolutely no indication of professionalism.