My wedding planning faux pas
Utah Wedding Photography Tips
In light of the story KSL-TV did on the news last night I thought I would share my own wedding photography (almost) horror story. In case you missed it, their story on the runaway wedding photographer can be found here. It has created a lot of talk in my photography and wedding vendor groups today. I don’t personally know this gentleman or know how he runs his business but stories like this make me sad. It is so important to have a photographer you can trust on the day of your wedding who not only has a lot of experience but also has a compatible style. There are no do overs. Don’t make it ONLY about money. Really get to know your photographer and make sure you are a good fit.
I hear so often from people that decided to go with their “Uncle Bob” or “a friend” for their wedding pictures because he/she owned a nice camera who later wished that they would have just spent the money on a professional photographer.
I also have to say that photography is my biggest regret about my wedding. I loved every bit of my wedding but the one thing I would change would be the photography. Here is my “what not to do” story:
I got married before I started my business. I had worked in photography related jobs for years but at the time I didn’t know a lot about the wedding side of photography or a lot of other wedding photographers. Dan and I hired someone who we thought was a professional photographer. This gentleman said he had been in business for 30 years and he had a studio in the city where he lived. He had several associate shooters and his studio did around 200 weddings a year. He personally shot 40 of those weddings. Since he was an acquaintance of my husband he gave us a “great deal” and he was personally going to shoot our wedding. Sounds great, right? The day of the wedding came and everything went perfect until I got my pictures back. The pictures in general were fine but I was disappointed in the quantity and style of the photos. A lot of the photos I felt had a 1980s look to them and they just weren’t my style. There were also tons of photos of me getting ready and not as many photos of us after at the temple as I would have liked.
I realize now my complaints could have been avoided if I had done my homework better. For example my husband took care of all the photography arrangements since he was the one who knew him. I didn’t actually meet our photographer until the day before the wedding. Also the only work of his I had seen was what he had on his website, which wasn’t much. His website looked old and outdated and I should have realized that was a red flag. If I had spent more time and asked to see more samples of his work I would have discovered that he had more of a traditional style when I really wanted more of a photojournalistic one. We also should have done an engagement or bridal session with him beforehand. Then we would have known that our styles didn’t match. Also we could have had a conversation about which elements of the wedding I was most wanting pictures of. I really love that now grooms are coming along to the bridal session. We totally should have done that — then we wouldn’t have been as rushed to get to our wedding dinner.
In the end I feel my photos are pretty mediocre. They aren’t horrible, but they weren’t the artistic vision I was hoping for. The decision to hire him was based on money and convenience and that was a mistake. If you feel the price is “too good to be true” it probably is. He sold us the negatives and I was able to make my own album which turned out nice. However, I do really wish we would have spent more money and used a more artistic photographer.
I really consider us lucky considering less than a year later we learned that this photographer had gone out of business and skipped town on a lot of couples. One day his website disappeared and there was a story on the local news about him. A TV crew confronted him at a bridal fair where he was still trying to book more weddings when he had a long list of couples suing him for never delivering their wedding photos. Shortly after that he disappeared and customers and even the police were unable to find him for some time. I don’t know for sure but I think he had some personal problems and his business combusted, that and he must have had some unreliable people working for him.
Some of these missing weddings happened in the same time frame as my own. It scares me to think how close I was to being one of those brides. It could have easily happened to us too. It took several months to get our pictures back and I am so grateful we got them. Eventually he was indicted for theft in connection with these wedding photographs that were paid for but never delivered.
I feel horrible for these brides that he walked out on. I know I would have been devastated if my pictures never ended up being delivered. I can’t image ever doing that to a customer. Whoever you hire please make sure they are honest and competent. At the time I thought I was getting a professional and that any professional would do. After shooting weddings for so long now I realize that there is much more to it than that. Here are some good questions to think about when booking a photographer:
What training do they have in photography?
Make sure you see a completed album or proofs from a complete wedding.
What kind of style do they have and is it similar to your taste?
Am I going to get the main photographer for my wedding or am I going to get an associate?
Do they have a business license?
Do they charge sales tax?
Do they have backup equipment?
Are they insured? Not only equipment insurance but liability in case something goes wrong or somebody gets hurt.
How many years have they been shooting?
How many weddings have they shot?
Are they easy to get a hold of when you have questions?
I think this experience with my own wedding has helped shape who I am as a photographer. It was a hard lesson and I should have known better. I am so glad I have taken a more boutique approach with my business. I shoot a maximum of 15 weddings per year. I feel if I took on too many clients the overall experience and my customer service would suffer. The Jerry Maguire approach is the way to go, at least for me. Fewer clients = more personalized service. I really feel that I become great friends with my couples and that makes a difference. Please be careful when choosing your photographer. Don’t leave your wedding memories to chance. After the wedding is over your photos are going to be the only thing you have left to remember your day.
Happy hunting everyone and I hope some of you can learn from my mistakes when I was a bride.
To learn more about the Erin Langford Photography wedding experience click here.