We are excited to kick off a new year of wedding photography for our amazing couples here at Colors Of Life Photography. We are honored and grateful for all the couples we have had the privilege of working with in the past and we always take this responsibility seriously. We also understand how difficult it can be for newly engaged couples to find their wedding photographer. Unfortunately, the process can be a challenging one and not everyone is truthful and honest in their marketing to potential clients. We hope you will take the time to read this information and that it will be helpful to you.
We, at Colors Of Life, just keep coming across these all too often stories about couples who are heartbroken once the wedding day is over and their photographs are a technically poor disappointment or the couple never received them in the first place. Let’s go ahead and address the idea that this could be self-serving for us at Colors Of Life or could come across as being a sales pitch. Let us assure you 100% that is not the case. We are very concerned, as professional wedding photographers, about a growing trend of bogus web sites loaded with stolen images or real photography websites with “enhanced” photographs that are not truthful in their representation. There are countless wedding photography websites out there that are full of “staged” wedding shoots or photographers who simply have no training or understanding of how important your wedding day is.
We want to share with you what we know and how you can avoid making this mistake. Let us give a few examples first and we will share links at the end for your review:
South Carolina photographer loses wedding photographs
According to the local news reports in South Carolina in July of 2013 “A South Carolina wedding photographer’s worst nightmare was realized when her camera was stolen over the weekend.
The photographer, Kristin Jordan, told FOX Carolina that she always brings her camera inside with her after shooting a wedding, but this time she left them in the car”.
After a year, Atlanta Bride and Groom Never Receive Wedding Photographs
Atlanta news channel, Fox 5 reports “After a wedding it’s the wedding picture that really holds the special place after the event. Massa Hoff wanted the pictures to be right. After all she made the poor ‘fella’ wait long enough. “Well, it’s definitely the 5-year engagement,” she laughs. This Lawrenceville woman said ‘Yes’ to him and ‘Yes’ to the suggestion to use “2 Girls and a Camera Photography.” There seems to be a lot of photo shops with that same name, but this one is owned by Marcia Hooper who’d worked with the bride-to-be’s sister, she says, on many business projects. “The family knows her. You’ve seen her work. Someone you can trust. So I was, like, great I don’t have to stress. You hear all of the crazy horror stories and I didn’t want to be one of those,” says Ms. Hoff But nine months after her wedding, Massa Hoff has filed a civil suit against Ms. Hooper for “refusing to abide by the contract.” You see, the photographer actually showed up at the wedding….even several hours early….Ms. Hoff remembers, “To take photos of the groomsmen, the family, me in the dressing room with my mother lacing me.” But Massa Hoff says her photographer left early, then oddly, the videographer, who’d already gone, came back to take pictures during the reception. But the bride says she never worried because text messages after the wedding didn’t indicate there were any problems. A May 18th text read, “I’ve uploaded the pictures to the site….” But they weren’t there. Texted 10 days later, “I’m putting your package in the mail….”Still, nothing. Ms. Hoff says she never heard again from the woman she hired to take her wedding pictures. “My biggest fear is that she doesn’t have them,” she says crying. “I’m sorry.” What happened? Well, at this wedding “2 Girls and a Camera Photography” was a one-woman operation. The videographer tells the I-Team he was asked to come back and shoot stills because the wedding photographer’s camera broke mid-wedding. Massa Hoff says the sheriff’s department hasn’t been able to serve Marcia Hooper. So, she can’t get her day in court or her money back. And, until the bride can talk to Ms. Hooper with “2 Girls and a Camera Photography,” she’ll have to be satisfied with memories.”(Dana Fowle: How about give me a conversation? Would that help?) Yeah, that would help. That would help,” says a frustrated newlywed. The I-Team has tried to talk to Marcia Hooper, but she declined to comment. Massa Hoff plans to continue to pursue her civil suit and to cherish the handful of pictures she was able to buy the videographer.
The next area is a little more gray but it’s time we get this out
Let’s discuss the “staged”, “inspirational”, “styled” wedding shoots. Short and simply put…these are photographs that have been shot in a pre-planned wedding location often times involving wedding stylers who design elaborate sets, MUAs (make-up artist) and photographers who have a decent level of expertise in an environment that does not involve a lot of people or chaos. What’s the problem with this idea, you ask? Weddings are chock full of people, chaos, vendors coming and going, unexpected weather changes, unexpected lighting changes and most importantly, brides who simply do not have the budget to afford these elaborate staged spaces on their wedding day. As long as a potential wedding photographer has the rest of the story to go with these shoots, these can be a fabulous enhancement to your wedding day photographs. There is a place for these shoots in the industry. It should never serve as a replacement for actually shooting real weddings when marketing oneself as a professional wedding photographer. Basically, buyer be aware.
The last area we will mention is flat out theft and deception. Basically, this is a photographer who has stolen work off another photographer’s site and built his/her own site using stolen images. This can include down right theft or can be a little more vague by using stock images and photoshopping wedding couples into grand locations. For example, a couple has their photo taken at a small wedding venue but the photographer will then combine that photograph with a location photo (envision a castle on a hill in Italy ). Sure…couple A really likes this single image…The problem becomes for couple B who looks at this website thinking this photographer really shot those photographs when in fact they are simply fake. There is an entire website dedicated to addressing these cases so we will leave that to the good folks at PhotoStealers.
OK…now that we are talking about the proverbial elephant, where does a couple go from here? Let’s keep this concise and direct…
1) Meet your potential wedding photographer in person! You should get a warm feel and sense of this photographer having concern for your wedding day. You will not get a do-over. Feel free to ask for references for actual weddings they shot. Ask for phone numbers and email addresses and follow up with contacting those previous clients. Look for awards given by such wedding industry standards at The Knot, Best Of…or Rated By The Wire.
2) Ask your photographer what their education and training is? You would not go to a doctor’s office and choose them because you liked the way the waiting room was decorated. Apply this same idea to a photographer’s website. Ask questions…tough ones. Most often, when photographers have a degree in photography (and we are not just talking about taking a community class or two), they learn extensive problem solving skills in college. There is no doubt that a lot of photographers are able to learn how to photograph on their own. This is more about the what-ifs on wedding day. What if it pours rain? What if the officiant does not permit flash during the ceremony? What if the church coordinator does not allow photographers any closer to the couple than the last pew in the church? You get the point.
3) Ask to see multiple FULL WEDDINGS and weddings in all lighting scenarios. While your wedding may start during the day light, most of the time it transitions into the evening and night hours. Available light/natural light photographers often do not have the technical expertise nor the gear to handle the more advanced lighting challenges of a full wedding day. Things will look really nice early in the wedding day photographs but fall apart as the reception comes along if the photographer does not have the lighting knowledge to handle these scenarios. Is everything you see on their website shot in daylight? Are there people in the photographs besides a couple and the bridal party? Real weddings have real guest…lots of them. So should the photographs.
4) Make sure your photographer carries a solid insurance policy that not only replaces their gear if its damaged but also protects the couple if photographs are lost or damaged. Ask to see their declaration page and make sure its current. Call the insurance company to confirm.
5) Is there a second shooter that’s part of the package you are considering? This is extremely important for a couple of reasons. The most important reason is it provides back-up shots in case of a memory card malfunction, a blocked shot by a guest, etc. The second reason is it simply gives the couple more variety in the angles, shots and visual documentation of the day.
6) Ask to see wedding albums, products, prints and digital files. So you think “Oh we won’t need a wedding album, our budget does not allow for that”. Today…often times, couples want those books later for anniversaries, holiday gifts and home decor.
7) Ask a potential photographer what their disaster recovery/back-up plan is for your digital wedding files? A solid photographer will have your images backed up before you leave for your honeymoon the next day. These images need to be backed up in multiple locations and never on one computer. We, at Colors Of Life, will download to a downloader directly after the wedding and then we each double back up our files. Once the edits are complete they are stored in multiple locations. We also have a weatherproof portable hard drive that we grab and take with us during inclement weather such as tornado warnings, storms, ice storms, etc. We value the importance of these photographs for our couples.
8) Photojournalist, documentary…what’s all the hoopla about? Ask your photographer what their training in photojournalism is? Documentary…isn’t that the purpose of hiring your wedding photographer in the first place? These two words are thrown around on websites about as much as “I love M and Ms”, “I love long walks in the rain” and so on. Great…But is your photographer trained in the necessary skills to capture a real moment as it unfolds? One thing untrained photographers will use to capture a potential couple is connecting with them at a basic level by sharing what music artist they love, what kind of coffee they like and whether they like white chocolate or dark chocolate. We have an inherent belief that our couples are smarter than that. We value a certain level of being connected to our wedding couples but what we value more is that we are able to deliver a solid, well shot product to our couples.
9) About the details and decor…We love the beauty of a well decorated wedding event. It certainly makes our job a little easier and the photographs lovely. It is not the thing you will remember during your lifetime like Grandpa’s last kiss of the lovely bride… A father/daughters first look when Dad sees his beautiful daughter has grown into a lovely woman…The nervous look of anticipation on the grooms face awaiting his beautiful bride to come down the aisle…the wild and crazy aunt breaking it down on the dance floor at the reception… These are the things that you will want to remember through the years and share with your children and grandchildren through the generations. We take great pride in that being the focal point of our shooting style on wedding day and are all trained to capture those moments for our clients.
10 Ahhhh, the wedding bloggers…Please don’t get caught up with all the blogging hype from wedding blogs. Use these resources as inspiration only. One of the largest wedding blogs currently in the spotlight picks their galleries and “Best Of” based on the idea they like the color pink. Yes…thats right, the color pink. What if you don’t like the color pink? What if pink makes you queasy? The head blogger has no background in photography and it just baffles us how they determine what good photography is. We hear so many times from our brides they are worried they are not doing enough in terms of making decorations or using mason jars or using props. This can be for a variety of reasons but we are always pleasantly surprised when a bride shares with us that her venue will be somewhat “plain” in her describing her vision and then we get the most stunning photos from that wedding day. A good photography team will find the beauty in every wedding; not just the highly decorated ones.
11) Last, don’t be fooled by eye catching websites unless the photographer can show you examples in person of some prints, products, etc. of these same images. Hiring a web designer to glamorize a website does not translate into a solid wedding photographer with the skills necessary to capture the most important day in your life. Some of the most compelling, well known wedding photographers have average websites. They know their work stands for itself.
Here are a few links to a couple of things mentioned above. Our suggestion would be to do your research and be informed on one of your greatest wedding day investments you will make.