Sometimes though, you don't hire me. Sometimes you don't hire anyone....
Here are two of my favorite "thanks but no thanks" replies I get from potential wedding clients:
1.) Thanks so much for your help on all this, but we had a friend of a friend/family member with a nice camera offer to shoot our wedding for FREE, and we simply can't turn that offer down. We absolutely LOVE your work and while we really want you to be our story teller at our wedding, and your prices are more than fair for the beautiful work you provide, we just can't afford you [a professional] - thanks again. We'll surely recommend you to all our friends.
2.) Oh my! Sorry but we need to cancel our consultation - it turns out our parents bought us a photographer for our wedding as a surprise! We had no idea until we said we were meeting with you to book. SO SORRY! We really liked you! Thanks for everything - we really do ADORE your work!
In #1, this is what happened:
I lost a professional job to someone with NO experience. Imagine you losing your job to some shmo off the street with no experience because he's doing it for FREE....hmmmm, sound vaguely familiar? "Outsourcing" is alive and well in IT & MBA jobs, but in those cases the jobs are being done for a cheaper price with little to no sacrifice of education and experience. (Or is there?) In my profession, it's becoming a serious plague. Outsourcing a job to someone for much less money WITH experience and education in the field is one thing, but for my job to be outsourced to someone with ZERO experience and education, only because they bought an entry-level $400 DSLR with kit lens at Best Buy, and just happen to be a guest at the wedding is simply insulting.
Everyone wants something for free or super cheap, I get it - but you wouldn't budget $4K and expect to get a Lamborghini would you? You wouldn't fore go an amazing dinner experience at that new 5 star restaurant with a real chef because your friend who wears a chef hat & has some expensive pots & pans invited you over for a "real chef's gourmet dinner?" Would you go to the hospital and accept the intern's diagnosis over the doctor's because it's cheaper or free? How about for your court case - hey let's grab that guy over there with the nice suit and leather briefcase to handle our case, he looks like a lawyer! If something is fishy with my fisheye lens, I'm certainly not going to take it to just anyone - I take it to the Nikon lens repair specialist and I shell out the money.
Even commercials on tv point out the simple fact that you shouldn't trust just anyone to fix your car, do your taxes, or even hug your mom. So why are you giving the VIP PRO JOB of wedding photographer to non-pro, no experience Uncle Bob again? Because he simply offered and had the money to buy a nice camera? Because you spent all your budget on the flowers and you had to have those Manolos? Or maybe because you simply believe that anyone that owns a camera is just *zapped* with talent and skill the moment they hang that DSLR around their neck (with the flash up)? Or do you actually think it's the camera that has all the talent?
I insert my point here....
And the great quote by Peter Adams:
Just because you own an Aston-Martin doesn't make you James Bond, it just means you had the money to buy James Bond's car. Good for you. Owning a "nice camera" does not make anyone a photographer either.
We all already know the adage "YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR." What if you don't even pay for it? FREE is a wonderful thing when it's a PRODUCT freebie like bogo at the shoe store or coffee house or restaurant. It's not so great when it's a professional service provided by an absolute non-professional. One of the reasons it's not great is because you can't depend on it to be professional, so when the job is done (however bad) you can't complain because you didn't pay for it. (Feel free to google "amateur wedding photography horror story" and you'll find these two gems: Avoid the Top 10 Pit Falls of Wedding Photography and Amateur vs. Professional: Is it Really A Question?)
Another thing that happened in #1:
The couple has just cheapened their most important day, risked their memories, and possibly a friendship, by saying "I do" to no experience, only because they didn't budget for one of THE most important components of their wedding: The Professional Wedding Photographer. But they sure did budget for all the 1-Day shelf life things such as the food, the drinks, the DJ/Band, the flowers and the pretty decorations and the venue.
So, it is absolutely guaranteed that the kind friend or family member, or even the Fauxtographer they enlisted to save money will absolutely NOT know how to lead or observe this very important day, let alone know how to communicate with the couple, pose them, know important moments to capture, operate their (most likely novice-level) camera, compose images OR edit them. They certainly will not be insured - yeah, did you think about that one? All venues require that ALL the vendors be insured. What if Uncle Bob or your fauxtog bumps into a column in the church, or breaks the DJ table, or someone gets injured because this non-pro has no clue how to move around unobtrusively to get another head-cut-off shot of the back of the father of the bride? Hmmm..... makes you really think. Guess who pays? If you're reading this alongside shopping for a good deal on wedding photography - YOU will pay if you go with Uncle Bob, that friend or that fauxtog.
A fellow wedding photographer, Jeff Coe, at Jeff Coe Photography adds his take on his blog:
"Uncle John may have a great camera but there is no guarantee that he will deliver on your
wedding day. Your friend is talented, but can she actually get the shots without disrupting every stage of the wedding? Well-meaning amateur photographers may be full or optimism, but it takes skill and experience to consistently come up with the best wedding photographs.
Good wedding photographers get great shots because they understand posing and lighting. They also work as unobtrusively as possible, and keep the horde of amateur photographers at bay.
Your wedding day is too important to leave in the hands of amateurs: Blurry headless photos are not the treasured mementos that you want. Don’t put your memories at risk just to save a few bucks!"
Jeff's full blog here
Now here's what happened with #2:
I lost the job thanks to overzealous family members who thought they would take some of the burden off their loved ones by "buying the photographer." They ended up choosing the photographer based on what they liked, not what the couple liked. Thoughtful, yes. But now the couple is forced to work with a photographer they don't even know. Thanks for the present mom & dad, but we actually loved this other photographer's work, and we've already been speaking with her, we like her. Actually planned on hiring her. Wish you would have let us choose who we liked, then you could pay for it!
Photographer Kris Sundberg of Burnt Exposure shares her experience as a parental wedding hire on Wedding LDs.com:
"My worst wedding ever was in 90 [degree] heat and the Bride’s parents booked me as a gift for the bride and groom. They couldn’t care less who I was and made me feel like a burden on their big day. I was just happy to be done."
Bless all your loving, thoughtful family and their big kind hearts - for buying your photographers and being your fauxtographers - but PLEASE, stop and seriously think about whether they're really helping make your wedding day better or worse. It really is important to get to know the photographer on a personal level, see if you all click. Anyone can post great images on a blog or website these days and you think that's what you'll get - I can't tell you the many times I've heard stories of couples who booked a "wedding photography company" and got 1 or 2 shooters at their wedding whose work they really haven't seen and whose names they don't even know, but assumed they were getting the photogs that produced the work displayed on the company site, only to be extremely disappointed or even angry at the end result they saw. So imagine if you had absolutely no voice in choosing who captures your most special day! Don't let it happen.
Here's another reason why YOU need to choose your photographer VERY carefully:
Even Judge Joe Brown knows the difference between PRO and FAUX....
As a professional, if you're happy with my work then that's very validating. As an artist, I can't bear to see someone denied beauty so I of course want you to have beautiful photos. And as a Human, I want you to cherish your memories for a lifetime by getting the professional you deserve on your wedding day.
Bottom line: It's your wedding day, plan ahead, budget for and hire a professional. If you do this, you won't have to worry about your wedding photography at all, because the pro you chose knows what they're doing - you can just enjoy your day and trust your professional. My advice to you: At least put half as much effort into researching the right photographer as you put in picking out the venue, flowers, caterer or your dress. Do they have testimonials, happy clients, are they educated (online courses, youtube tutorials & 1 semester at CC is not education), do they offer legit contracts, are they insured, what professional equipment do they use, is photography their sole income, are they a tax-paying business - and most of all, do you love and trust their work? Meet with your choices!
Visualize the balance here: value needs to be put on what will last after the day is done ----> you guessed it, your memories and your story. Pros like me, with years of education and shooting experience, passion for what we do and a genuine concern for our clients' happiness want you to have the memories you deserve. Take the time and choose your photographer with care and be thrilled with your wedding photos for life.
Thanks for reading! You're now a much more educated potential client :-)