Is choosing a wedding photographer really as hard as people think? What’s the worst that could happen?
Choosing the right wedding photographer is a tough choice for a soon-to-be-wed couple. If the photographer slips up, there is no second opportunity to re-create the event-not to mention the thousands of dollars lost.
Once my wife and I got engaged, we were in the same situation as other couples-we didn’t know whether to pick a wedding photographer. None of our mates is married yet, and we had no practical support to focus on.
We ended up discovering a list of candidates through Google (see SEO for Photographers) and walking around the nearby expo wedding show. We met with a number of candidates and ended up choosing one whose photo style we liked and who seemed to be a nice guy. His name was Tom.
Tom was the same age as us and ran his own company out of his house, but it was all right because he showed us around, and his basement was set up like a commercial workshop. In retrospect, we should have known that something was not right when he mentioned how he’d moved his workshop to his separate garage that he’d been constructing by hand “for the last couple of years.” Sadly, like a lot of other items to worry about, that statement did not even register.
Before the wedding, Tom replied instantly to all of our emails and phone calls, and we were all on the same page. He specifically set out our options and prices, signed a signature, and went on to the other 1,000 choices that we needed to make.
If you read this and you’re married, you know that the last thing you would like to be concerned about on your big day is your wedding photographer. I kept going through a checklist of what I had to do, don’t forget the ring, don’t forget the ring, don’t forget the ring-and the wedding photographer was not on the list. It was not until 15 minutes before the wedding when one of my fiancée’s bride’s maidens told me when Tom had not turned up yet that I began to worry.
I took a sheet of paper with the vendor’s phone numbers and held it in my car. I called Tom to figure out what had happened, and he told me not to panic that he was “about 10 minutes away.”
At this point, there’s nothing I can do but wait. I told my wife’s bridesmaid that he was driving into the parking lot right now. Sure, I lied to her, and she can tell my fiancée that it was all right. For all of us, there no point in worrying.
He did so in time and took pictures as my fiancée started walking down the aisle. He was not a concern at the ceremony or the reception. But after that was a different story.
The Wedding Book
Tom had told us that after our reception, our pictures would be available for viewing within a week and that after we made our picks, we would have our picture book in two months. Although the pictures were available within a week, the picture book’s completion and delivery ended up taking almost two years.
Tom slipped out of the face of the world for a couple of months, so he wouldn’t respond to emails or phone calls. Here’s the response I received to an email about six months after our wedding: “Thanks for your email to XXXX Photography.
By then, I am focusing on the needs of existing clients, and I’m not trying to take on any new projects. I hate to say so in such an impersonal manner, but I have slipped behind and felt compelled to keep up with my new customers.
I know I am in the midst of a lot of major projects — please don’t stress. And I’m still at the forefront of my upcoming planned shoots. One of the reasons for this auto-response is to provide you with improved support in the future.”
His concept for a more suitable service was an auto-responder.
It went on like this for nearly 18 months.
I cannot explain why I did not press hard, just to say that while we needed our wedding book, it wasn’t the biggest concern on our minds. Jobs, beginning a family, moving to a new home–the wedding book and the wedding photographer were never the number one concern.
It sort of gnawing at me-the pictures had already cost a huge amount of money. Plus, Tom was not going to get the balance paid until we had the script. How could he not have been in a rush to deliver and get his money?
When I was able to get him on the phone, Tom has always been extremely apologetic, and he did promise to get our book fixed soon. Eventually, about 18 months after our wedding, depressed and only having that nightmare behind me, I wrote a letter in legal (or my best imitation of it) threatening to sue.
Two months later, we got our wedding book.
My wife’s name was misspelled on the cover.
Tom also criticized the company that he outsourced the production of the book. And because they no longer edited the cover of the wedding book, he had to remove the nameplate by hand (it turned out to be ok).
Around a year later, we received a hotplate note from him to all his former employers, thanking all of them for recommending him to their colleagues, but that he had wanted to go back to the regular 9-to-5.
I think that was for the best.
Is Wedding Photography that Tough?
Wedding photography takes an incredible amount of research to do. Yes, I know that your mind flows directly to editing, and yes, that can be extremely time consuming, but I’m not just referring to post-production. I’m referring to the booking process, email communication, request facilitation, standards management, recording, editing, picture distribution, and other things.
You are committed to being entirely open to your customer for MONTHS leading up to the case and months following the big day. Make sure you are not over-committing because you are not open to your customers. Note, this is a relationship-based business. The more you take care of your new customers, the more likely they are to recommend you to their peers.
Customer Service for Wedding Photographers
Wedding photography is a partnership based — referral based. You just have to over-deliver at any single event. This refers to the distribution of self (more on that to come), pictures, communications, and finished goods. You’re carrying the Holy Grail for these people: Photos! You need to do the best you can to have happy and satisfied customers because they’re the ones who will spread the word about your brand and services.
Share, Give, Collaborate
Bear in mind to support, honour, and do whatever you can to please a planner. They have worked for months and months (sometimes a year or LONGER) to put together all these wonderful details. Offer them the love they deserve. They’re great people (and they have the potential to be great partners for you as your growth as a wedding photographer).
Part of having clearly established standards, and working successfully with your clients is ensuring you have a clearly defined style — a clearly defined creative expression.
This is a creative endeavour and that you’re continually evolving and improving yourself artistically, but your customers deserve to have reasonable perceptions of what they’re going to get from you. If you wish to make regular bookings from fans who are able to pay you equally, you need to show yourself to them regularly and efficiently.
Be Your Own Brand of Wedding Photographer
This industry does not need the zillion photographers simply to regurgitate each other’s work. The wedding photography industry wants your creative spirit, your special vision. You’re now a precious asset, rather than just another wedding photographer, and while that isn’t the inspiring end of view, the fact of the matter is that it makes you worth more. You’re a precious asset, rather than just another wedding photographer. While that is not the inspiring end in mind, the fact of the matter is that it makes you worth more.