Things I Wished Clients Knew Before Hiring a Wedding Photographer

When a potential client s looking for a Wedding Photographer, there are so many things going on at once. First, they try friends and Google. Both might even give some decent information to work from. Then they delve into the world of online blogs, like The Knot, Wedding Wire and all the slew of others. Then, they normally get a bit overwhelmed… at least that’s what they tell me.

Why do they get overwhelmed? There’s no shortage of wedding photographers in the world today, and in our area… wow, there’s literally about 3,000 wedding photographers. When prices range from a few hundred dollars to over ten thousand dollars, and everyone claims to have won awards, they’re all published, they all shoot in exotic locales… how can you choose? I feel for our clients, I really do. There’s a lot of information out there and a lot of misinformation too.

So what’s all this about anyway, why am I writing this? Derica and I both always say, “I wish we could just explain this..”, or “How are they falling for that?”, and so… I decided to have a little heart to heart with anyone willing to give up ten minutes of their busy life and read this.

Things I wish clients knew… it’s a long list, but I’ll keep it to the main points. I could go on and on about various things, and this could go sour really quickly, so instead, I’m going to focus on more positive aspects and information, sound good?

I wish they would really look at a photographer’s work before clicking a button on Wedding Wire to ask for more information. We all like leads, but if the client knows nothing about you, and you are a real business, it’s our responsibility to respond to that inquiry. I write out each response personally, trying all I can to connect with that client. We realize clients don’t know what to say, and so price comes up. It’s okay. Price is important, and we know that. We don’t keep them secret, and we’re not expensive, so we try to give that information as it’s asked for. You see… we get these inquiries all day and all night, and we do our best to respond in a timely manner. You might think we should see dozens of potential clients flooding our inbox every day, right? Well, no. We get our share of inquiries, but so few are really potential clients it’s disheartening. Most, as in about 90% didn’t write any information other than, “Send me information, my date is XXX”. That’s not a lot to go on. We have over a hundred images on display on Wedding Wire, and full galleries on our website in addition to a full Wedding Portfolio. We also have links to articles about scheduling, details such as pricing, and lots more information both on Wedding Wire and our website. So when someone sends a generic inquiry, we have to assume they haven’t bothered to look. Though we’re not expensive… even spending a thousand dollars on something you’ve not given 10 seconds of research into seems a bit ridiculous to me. But, we are professionals, and so we stop what we’re doing, and spend the few minutes to write back to that client in the hopes it was just an oversight, or a million other reasons. Then, we follow up the next day, and usually once more a couple days later. It’s not a lot of time, but… it’s time, and it adds up. Sadly, about 1 in 5 ever write back. Yep, that’s a truth in Wedding Photography. There are simply so many that even a good one can get lost in the shuffle. So, I wish potential clients would inquire if they really have an interest in our company, otherwise it’s wasted time, for them and us.

I wish I could tell them that we’re honest, hard working people who really only want to do a good job and create memories for them. Sappy? Maybe. Totally true? Absofreakinglutely. In my opinion, you don’t become a Wedding Photographer to get rich. In fact, Photographer was just rated one of the Ten Worst Jobs in America. Things like dealing with difficult clients, low wages, high stress and high rate of burnout were cited as reasons. I became a Wedding Photographer a very, very long time ago, and I’ve watched the industry change. I’ve tried hard to stick to my own morals and code of ethics over the years, and sadly, not everyone else is using the same rulebook. There are a lot of people out there charging money for Wedding Photography by playing on hopes and dreams, and worse… fears. They use these tactics to gain your business but fall short on delivery in various ways. Whether it’s a bait and switch for products or even your photographer, delivering sub par images, a lack of professionalism, or… worst case, skipping town with your money or never delivering products….the list goes on and on. There’s also a huge amount of people that don’t care about doing a good job, they just want the money. They’re not intentionally doing the client wrong, they just do enough to not get sued. In other words, they don’t do it because they want to, they do it to get paid. While we want to make a living as much as the next guy or gal, we do it in ways that let us get a good night’s sleep afterward. We don’t lie, we don’t promise and not deliver. We do what we say we will. The simple things. I can completely understand the mistrust that comes with searching for a wedding photographer based on society today, and all the stories people hear and see on the news. It’s a jungle out there, and for every solid, reliable business, there are 20 that aren’t. The trick is weeding out the crap, and getting to the good stuff.

I wish I could tell potential clients that we’re not out to hurt them, quite the opposite. That inherent mistrust makes building a relationship difficult and in some cases, impossible. Recently, I had a conversation with a potential couple and questions arose on editing. I wasn’t completely sure what they were asking for, or, in better words, what exactly they wanted. The question asked was, “How is your editing?”. I explained what we do, and how we make each image look it’s best, to which they responded, “So you just change color and contrast?”, which is not what I said at all. I know people don’t understand the finer points of photo editing, sorry, even those that think they do… really don’t. I said, “I tend to shoot my images correctly enough they don’t need much editing, but I do add some creative touches and corrections when needed, and some images need more than others. If you’re asking if I slap a preset on every image and make my work blend into the abyss of wedding photographers out there, then… no.”. They had no idea what I was talking about. The consultation call ended, and I walked away knowing for certain they would not be hiring me. Why? They asked about things they don’t understand and didn’t understand my response, but… because I didn’t tell them I will spend hours and hours Photoshopping each and every image they decided I wasn’t any good. They actually said, “I’m trying to determine your level of expertise at editing.”. Ahh, now we’re getting somewhere! He (it was the groom) then said he hadn’t looked at any of my work. Well… that’s less than helpful, because to me, our work reflects our expertise at creating Wedding Images, so if you haven’t looked at it, nothing I say will prove how good I am. And so, the client walked away, and will probably hire someone who will tell them how much Photoshop work they will do to each image. What they don’t realize is this simple truth: Good Photography needs much less post work to be good, and bad photography won’t ever be good no matter how much post processing or Photoshopping is done to it. They didn’t understand, but we couldn’t connect since they inherently mistrusted and misread everything I told them.

I wish clients had realistic ideas about what to expect when hiring a photographer. Don’t get me wrong, I would say 99% of our clients are wonderful and a true joy to have worked with, and I want more just like them. It’s the people who demand discounts, even when we are very competitively priced, expect us to work for free and have no idea they’re being rude. For some reason, photography should be free to some people and Photoshop editing takes no time at all. I said no complaining… I said no complaining. Let’s talk about money for a moment. According to a few different websites that track such things, the average client in my area spends about $2200 for Wedding Photography. Now, that’s an average, not a mean. What does that… mean? It means that most people aren’t spending that, it’s just the average of all that was spent among the weddings that reported numbers. First, we’re just a little below that for our average wedding, but not by much. Does that mean we’re average wedding photographers? Nah, it means we’re realistic and actually want to work, instead of only grabbing at those few wedding couples willing to spend more money than they should for wedding photography.

Wait… what did I just say? That’s right. I don’t think you should spend a ridiculous amount of money for a Wedding Photographer. I hear stories of those that spent $10,000 for a photographer only to be disappointed. Well… I’m not surprised! It’s just not the kind of thing that should be that costly. I’d say the average is about right. Spend a lot less and you likely aren’t getting good quality, but… spending more doesn’t guarantee you quality either. You see… there’s a long standing idea that a higher price tag means a better photographer. Not at all. It actually means in most cases a better business person, a lucky business person, a huge investment in marketing, or… they simply made up the price to sound like an authority in the industry. Crazy right? It’s true. I belong to several supposed “professional” photography groups and forums. I saw this recently, “Hey, I’m a new photographer, never actually done a wedding yet, but my prices start at $3,000, how can I book more weddings? I only have 2 for the next year.”. Now… if I were a client, this would terrify me. They have a beautiful website, all the licenses, insurance, etc, and even a gallery of images on their website. Yet… by their own admission have never shot a wedding, and are charging about 30% above the average price. Thankfully, they’re having trouble booking, but I feel for the two they did book. This leads back to the mistrust I spoke of earlier, and again… I understand. That’s why I wish I could explain it and not sound like just another photographer hocking their wares to unsuspecting clients.

I wish clients would communicate instead or relying on reviews. Those review sites aren’t out to help clients, trust me. They’re lining their pockets with money from all the vendors who can’t get enough exposure because there are too many and so resort to paying the very site that propagates the ideas that help undervalue their services. Oh, and about those reviews… essentially, if you signed a contract at any time with a company, you can literally write anything you want and it can never be removed. You can lie and all they can do is write back a response. While most people are good natured and won’t intentionally hurt a company, not everyone is that way. Also… it’s all too easy to literally pay clients for a 5 star review with a bribe of prints or other services. These things muddy those waters so much it’s a cesspool to wade through these days. We don’t bribe for reviews, but we do mention that we accept them. Ours grow organically, rather than being forced. Also, communication, it’s the key to good photography. Your Wedding Photographer is a unique vendor for your wedding since everything they are doing is a reflection of your day and you. If you don’t get along, or don’t see eye to eye, you will be disappointed. It might not be their fault though. If there was no communication how can the Photographer know what you want? Of course, the photographer, being a professional, should be making the effort to get to know you and understand what you want, but sometimes, the client unintentionally makes that more difficult. Again… the aforementioned mistrust.

Lastly, I wish clients could see through all the BS, and get rid of all the silly things that make life complicated for no good reason. Your Wedding is a happy day, and when the planning of it becomes a chore, and just a looming huge payment, the happiness is drowned out by all the difficulty and expense. I wish clients would have the wedding they want, rather than the wedding they think everyone wants them to have. At the end of the day… all that matters is that a couple got married, and they had a great photographer there to capture it… of course! 🙂