Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Horrible Wedding Photography: Why You'll Regret Hiring the Cheaper Photographer



Look, I get it, I'm a wedding Photographer....it's expensive to plan a wedding & Photography can be an easy thing to be tempted to save money on as you watch the expenses pile up especially when the average wedding photographer costs $2700 for the day. (I have a blog post I wrote that has a lot of tips for saving money, click here to read it.) But lets look at it this way: you just spent how much on that wedding dress & your hair & makeup to look good? 

The average wedding dress is about $800 & hair & makeup around $70.  Second, & you already know this but "after the wedding cake is gone & the decor is in the trash & divided up among the guests like a free yard sale....after all that you have what left to remember it all? Yes you already know. Yep. That's all you'll have (& your long beautiful marriage of course) & I'm sure you hope to end up with pictures worth looking at, that did your beautiful wedding justice. Go ask any of your married friends what they wish they would have done differently. You'll definitely get some great tips & things to think about. One of the things I hear the most though is the Photography & this is often not just to me but friends telling me their friends are not happy about the pictures they just got back. So here's a nice long article to scare you into making the right decision & burn the craigslist photographers ad:

Top Reasons You'll Regret hiring the Craigslist PhotographerUncle Bob or your Friend, to take your Wedding Pictures. This is an actual list compiled of common complaints I hear:

1. All of your pictures are under or over exposed because they don't understand their camera or forget to change the settings when they go from taking picture inside to outside etc. If their camera is set to auto....Yikes! Houston you have a problem. They have a fancy camera & no idea how to use it.  


2. All of the indoor pictures are super yellow or maybe they are all super blue & you didn't have a smurf themed wedding so what's up with that? Well let me tell you. Do they even know what Degrees Kelvin is? How to custom White Balance? Color Bracketing? DO they even know how to White balance? These are all very important. It's one of the second worse things IMO to mess up because no matter how good you edit they will never look quiet right.

3. All your pictures were shot looking up your nose or that chin or arm you hate. Unflattering angles are an amateurs best friend.  It takes a lot of practice to understand angels & how to shoot to flatter your subjects. So attention curvier girl's or girls that are conscious about something...so all woman I guess....your going to want someone who understands posing & will know the flattering angles to make sure you look your best. Now I don't want to create unrealistic expectation either. We can't change how you look either only photograph in the most flattering way. But there will be times during the day where you can't be posed like the ceremony or first dance or candid shot moments so it's up to you to remember to stand up straight & be aware of the camera to get the best shot. 

4. They did weird editing techniques & every picture has a super dark vignette, you have jaundice or is in a tacky photo collage. The picture to the right is priceless. Most people who don't know what they are doing have lackluster pictures so to make them look better somehow. My favorite is pictures where people are barely even visible anymore, there faces literally look like mashed potatoes because they made the faces so creamy & blurry trying to soften their skin.

5. What? You had a 70's themed wedding? Oh...you didn't....Eooowww. Well all your pictures are pixelated like they were designed from an avatar game anyways! You get your prints (if they were included) but they are pixelated because the photographer shot them too small in camera or over edited the JPEG! Booooo because you'll be stuck with a lot of 4x6 prints & nothing larger. 

6. There was an apocalypse or something apparently in just the photographer neighborhood because  they dropped off the face of the earth & you never got your pictures back. This is the most common thing I hear from Bride's sadly. What typically happens is they over booked themselves because they got greedy & thought they could handle 5 weddings a month or the more unfortunate scenario....your pictures look terrible & they are having a heck of a time trying to make them look any sort of ok to give them to you. If you hired an amateur the pictures probably need a lot of work & they don't know how to proficiently work on editing images yet so it's going to take muuuccchhh longer & your spring wedding might be a Christmas gift. 

Average time to get your pictures back is 4-6 weeks. Im usually 6-8 because Im really picky with my images & I usually edit a few more then most. So make sure you talk to them about how long it will take & that you have realistic expectations. I've had bride's wanting images 2 weeks after the wedding. 

*Another scary thought if that most beginning photographers don't back up their images. What happens if you need a copy later on of your disc because of a tragedy & they don't have them anymore?

7. There's things in the pictures that shouldn't be like a random person walking by or a Groucho & his garbage can in the back of all your posed pictures. There's some pretty entertaining examples of this if you just google it. 

8. They bail on you last minute because something came up. They don't have a professional business so they don't have a reputation to worry about ruining. Also WORSE CASE SCENARIO a pro will have contacts in the industry they can set you up with (although most pros will be there anyways come hell or high water).

9. They show up with inadequate equipment for the job (a camera that wont shoot RAW or doesn't have a high enough ISO setting to support low light in a church etc). Some churches don't allow for flash so if they have cheapy cameras and no lower aperture lenses...good luck. You are going to have a ton of pictures that look like the late night fuzzy TV screen when everything's off air. Yikes!

10. They cropped them to a 4x6 format and now you cant print anything larger than that. Something I learned along the way (thank you Aubrey for wanting to print larger pictures : ) But yes, there's different crop ratios. An 8x10 is not the same ratio as a 4x6. Technically you should be making an 8x12 from a 4x6 so where the 8x10 came from nobody knows. Probably the same jerk that put uneven numbers of buns in the pack compared to the number of hot dogs. 

11. So what happens when the pictures ARE awful? You cant be mad because they told you they were new to Photography, or your friend was doing you a favor, or its your Uncle who thinks his pictures are amazing and it would hurt his feelings. 

So how to avoid hiring the horrible Photographer you say? Well the BIGGEST mistake Brides make is not asking questions. Make sure to ask:

What Photo Editing Software do You Use?
If they use Picasa/Photoscape or rather, anything other than Photoshop or Lightroom....they probably dont know what they are doing. Photoshop and Lightroom are costly but professional tools that are important for you to end up with a professional image without degrading the picture quality. I really can't think of a single professional photographer that doesn't own these programs. I use Photoshop or Lightroom for every wedding or any image I take for anything for that matter. Its an essential tool for color correcting, adding creative color effects, adjusting lighting and sharpening etc with degrading the image.

Up to what size will I be able to print the images? Do you print or do I? Where do you print?
If they don't know anything about their camera setting they could be shooting a small JPEG on accident, which means your never going to be able to make large prints from your pictures. They other thing to know is where they print your pictures at. Do they print at Walmart or do they use a professional service? Walmart, Costco etc are not acceptable for anything other than your everyday pictures. A professional will have a pro printing service they go through. This makes all the difference in color accuracy, image durability & the clarity of the pictures you just paid for.

What Camera gear do they use?
While you can certainly take a good picture with any camera, certain aspects of your day will just not be the same if they don't have adequate equipment. If you've ever seen an image that looks like it was taken by a military night vision camera ie: theres tons of grain all over (fuzziness), this is caused in low-light situations & gets worse or better depending on your equipment. Its one of the main reasons I own a $3500 camera. So if they own a Rebel XSI,  XTI, T1i & kits lenses that have higher apertures such as 3.5 or 4 they probably are not going to get the best images. Cheaper cameras also have smaller sensors and more issues with focusing. Large sensor cameras, or full format, captures pictures like nothing else can. I really cant put the difference into words but its pretty major. 

They don't have you sign a contract.
If the photographer doesn't have you sign a contract, they just started taking pictures. Someone who has done several weddings or is a professional will have you sign a contract. Period.

How many weddings have they shot?
If they have only shot a couple weddings be careful. It doesn't mean they can't but make sure you are happy with other work they have shot & they have the proper gear to shoot a wedding (shooting babies & families is very different from what you need to shoot a wedding). Second to that, Weddings are fast paced & there's lots of things through out the day that can be easily missed, important things you cant do over...such as the first kiss. Someone who is less experienced can have a problem keeping up where as an experienced professional will foresee & be ready for the key events. 

What do you consider your photography style to be? 
Traditional, photo journalistic etc. Make sure you aren't expecting natural light candids & their style is to shoot everything with flash & posed. Some photographer's shoot very vibrant & like contrast where other shoot very soft colors & lower contrast. Look at style of images you like & find someone who can shoot that.

Can I see samples of unedited wedding images you took?
This will tell you a lot about their skill level. Most photographers can put a band aid on bad pictures and make them presentable but a true professional will have good results straight of the camera. If your only getting a few edited & the rest just go on the disc you want to make sure they wont be handing you a bunch of horrible pictures.

Do you have an example of an entire wedding you shot?
This is great to see because the typical album they show you or what you see in their online portfolio is going to be the absolute best images they've taken and can give unrealistic expectations. You want to see how a whole wedding looks and make sure they are consistent.

Do you use a second shooter & what experience do they have?
A lot of times people choose to go with a certain Photographer based on the fact they get a second Photographer with the package. But make sure that the second person you are paying to have at your wedding is worth the expense & is a professional with experience.

What is their personality like & does it mesh well with yours?
I always say wedding photographers do it all. We are the photographer, counselor, organizer, makeup toucher-uper & so much more. We end up doing it all most weddings & consequently we spend a lot of time beside you so if you don't like your photographer as a person or your personalities aren't in sync it's not going to go well. You don't want to hire someone talkative & outgoing if your a quiet person or want someone who is more behind the scenes.

How many edited pictures do I get? Do I get all of the images or just the edited?
This varies alot and typically an expensive and experienced Photographer will not give you any pictures beyond what they edit. Its definitely something that varies between Photographers but you want to make sure you have a clear understanding so you aren't expecting 1000 images and get 40.

At the end of the day: 

Photography is a long road, there's a ton of things to learn & you'll never be done because there's always advances in technology or new techniques emerge & everyone makes mistakes 
because we are human. The bottom line is knowing the skill level of the person you are hiring and having realistic expectations based on their skill level. 

Even pro's make mistakes. The guys that charge $10,000 a wedding, they forget things. I forget things. The difference is a whole day of mistakes versus a few pictures. The difference is calling yourself a professional versus being honest about what results your capable of achieving. The difference is saying you can do something you can't. Another big thing that sets a Pro apart from a beginner is their ability to fix their mistakes. There's a ton of resources and tools available especially if they were shooting in RAW during your wedding. You can fix a incorrectly white balanced image or an underexposed one. The difference? Knowing how. 

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Here's a link with some additional questions to ask & a downloadable PDF to take with you to the consultation

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