Looking for a wedding photographer?

When Thomas Hawk had a less than satisfactory experience with a family photographer he blogged about it and the resulting discussion is interesting because there are comments from customers and photographers. The problem is that photographs own the copyright of any images they take. They don’t have to give the customer digital files because part of the revenue stream photographers depend on is making prints. The reasoning goes that the customer can make as many prints as they want if they had the files.

If you think portrait photography is over-priced, consider for a moment the investment the photographer has made in equipment, time, insurance, salaries and other expenses. They have to make a living too. Chris Garrett provides his own views on the matter with some good advice:

  1. Discuss beforehand your requirements (both Photographer and client)
  2. Provide the option of work-for-hire rather than traditional portrait shoot.

My own experiences with a photographer were much more positive. We hired Mike English to shoot our wedding after making enquiries of many other photographers. Mike is based in Cork and works from home so he can keep his costs down, a bonus when you’re paying for an expensive wedding. From the moment we met him he was pleasant and patient, answering our questions and showing us prints of past weddings. Most importantly, he’s very good at what he does. We have great memories and photos of the day and he gave us the digital files so I can work on the photos in my own time and compile a wedding album myself. Oh, and his son shot the video and did a great job, without a huge halogen lamp beaming down on the dance floor. I still cringe when I see my speech however!


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15 Comments

  1. ABM Reply

    Interesting. Thanks for the link. I’ve recent run into questions of who owns what and how to charge for sessions. It never occured to me that there should be any issue with giving the digital files to the customer if they asked; I just assumed that the photographer would still haev them and be able to do what they wanted. Plus, how many people would then take those digital files and sell them to all their friends? Let alone do so without naming the photographer? Seems unlikely to me but I’m less paranoid than some.

    http://angrybunnyman.livejournal.com

  2. Donncha Reply

    I think it’s very likely. Some people could even boast that they took the photos themselves. It happens often enough on the Internet that photos are used without attribution. I found someone using my “We Love WordPress” photo yesterday who should have known better. Not one mention of where he got it. :(

    On the other hand, I would tend to be generous rather than not but I don’t depend on photography for a living and the only photos I’ve taken are for friends and relatives where good will means I can’t charge a reasonable fee. People have an expectation that “Donncha will have his camera”. Perhaps that aught to change.

    Oh, if you would like to purchase prints of some of my photos, go to my Deviant Art page. I’ve uploaded a number of images there, not one sale yet, but I haven’t pushed it too much. More money in advertising!

    http://inphotos.org/

  3. ABM Reply

    HoOw did you find that your picture was theived? Seems nigh impossible to randmly come across them.

    http://angrybunnyman.livejournal.com

  4. Donncha Reply

    It’s being used by a blog on wordpress.com and the author of the blog posted a message in one of the tags I’m subscribed to. Up popped my image when I viewed it in Bloglines! It’s annoying but there’s very little one can do about it. It’s for that reason that I’ll rarely upload any full-size images. At least you can’t print more than a 6×4 with an image whose longest side is 700 pixels!

    http://inphotos.org/

  5. Matty Reply

    Donncha, it wasn’t me. I’m sticking to the old crow. (An idea I nicked from someone!)

    http://sadoldtosser.wordpress.com

  6. Wedding Photojournalist Reply

    Good to see some level headed thinking out there! You can also think about the priceless moments I may or may not capture. Without the profit motive, I’ll be much less likely to capture the full nuances of your wedding. Cause let’s be honest, wedding photography is not hard – its only hard to do well, and with attention to detail. I respect your right to your family photos – but you have to respect my right to earn from my ability to create your desire to own them. So without that Yin and Yang, neither of us will get what we want! You won’t get good pictures, and I won’t make a living.

    http://neilcowley.com/b2/

  7. Bob Dale Reply

    Hope this article from our wedding photogrpahy site helps.

    5 Mistakes Brides Make When Choosing A Wedding Photographer
    You’re getting married! The date is set, the rings have been picked out and now you begin laying the groundwork for the wedding of your dreams. During the coming months, you’ll be faced with more choices than you ever imagined possible. From wedding dress and flowers to photography and food, you will plan a myriad of details.
    After the big day, the dress will be carefully packed away, the flowers will wilt, and the food will be gone. Your wedding photographs, however, will live on as a testament to the love and joy of the day.
    “A quality wedding album is an investment,” says Sue Dale, co-owner of Dale Studios in Eden Prairie. “Photography is the only wedding expense that will continue to give the bride and groom a return on their investment.” Wedding photography is an investment the couple will appreciate with each passing year, as the memories of their special day are preserved and shared with family and friends.
    A couple might budget $20,000 for their wedding. Even if the photographer’s services are $2,000, that’s only 10 percent of the total cost. Yet the value of that 10 percent will multiply itself many times over in the coming years. In her 20 years as a professional photographer, Sue has photographed more than 500 weddings.
    Sue offers the following mistakes bridal couples often make in choosing a wedding photographer:
    Mistake #1: Not asking for testimonials
    Nowadays it’s not very hard to say you are a wedding photographer. Just get a camera, photograph a friend’s wedding, print some samples off at a one hour lab and charge less than everyone else. In the last 20 years, I’ve seen many new photographers come and go. Dropping prices in consumer digital cameras have made everyone with a halfway decent camera think they can be a “professional photographer.” You want a photographer that has made hundreds of brides happy. There’s a lot more to good portraits than pressing a button on an expensive camera. You would like to know how other bridal couples did or did not enjoy working with this photographer.
    Mistake #2: Photographer not having an assistant on the day of the wedding
    Photographing a wedding is a lot of work for one person. The assistant helps arrange people, watch for details like necklaces and cuffs, works with the bride’s wedding dress and keep the day flowing smoothly. All of this means you get better photographs AND a better experience on the wedding day.
    Mistake #3: Deciding only by price
    Don’t shop for price; shop for value. Remember: You get what you pay for. Value comes in the confidence you have in the photographer and their work. Besides good photography, consider several other factors, including the studio décor (are they stuck in the 80’s?), the photographer’s camera and equipment (will they have backup equipment with them?), their image, and how they conduct business. The photographer’s personality also is very important. Everyone is pretty stressed on the day of the wedding and you want someone who will help put you at ease and help you look your best. Great value has many facets.
    Mistake #4: Not determining if the photographer has a VISION about your wedding photographs
    Look at the photographer’s wedding albums. Do the wedding couples look like they had a good time? Are the photographs sharp? Are the colors vibrant? Do you want your wedding album to look like this one? Are the photographs “OK” or are they “great”? Did the photographer capture the detail of the wedding gown? Do these photos look like everyone else’s?
    Mistake #5: Not having a planning session before the wedding
    Do you want the photographer to show up at your wedding and ask you a thousand questions? Wouldn’t it be great if a few weeks before the wedding you could sit down and discuss things like how you’re going to handle divorced parents or Grandpa in a wheelchair? If your photographer has a planning meeting with you, you know they are really interested in YOUR ideas about your wedding photos.
    Planning a wedding is a tremendous undertaking, and you’ll want a beautiful photographic story that shows just how special your day is. While the day will come and go, the memories will live on in your wedding album for years to come. “The food, the flowers, the dress will be gone after a day,” says Sue. “The photographs, on the other hand, will increase in value as time goes on. They will provide you with years of wonderful memories.”
    Please visit us at http://www.dalestudios.com.

    http://www.dalestudios.com

  8. Planning A Cheap Wedding Reply

    I guess that’s the trouble with the Internet, a Google image search will reveal thousands of pictures that seamingly anyone could rename and call their own…

    http://www.planningacheap_wedding._com

  9. Paulo Photography & Video Reply

    I am a photographer in Fort Lauderdale, FL. I donn’t know about the other states, but here our market is very competitive. And don’t forget that there are couples that have their buget for $50.000++++ and some other that are realy on the budget.
    I have basic packages that try to acomodate couples on the buget, and also packages to acomodate more expensives weddings.
    About the “digital files”. I personaly charge the couple for that as any other service. If the couple want their pictures in a CD/DVD, I will include it in their package for the right price.

    http://www.paulopics.com

  10. Wedding Hair Reply

    I’ve had friends who’ve experienced both sides of this. Personally, our photographer died just a few weeks after our wedding, so we were unable to order prints for anyone – we only had the ones in our own album.
    Friends have had varying experiences with tryiing to save the cost of a professional photographer – some have been lucky and loved the photos, but there have also been some who have regretted it and been very disappointed with the results.
    It takes a professional photographer to take photos of important events – and, as with any professional, they should be suitably remunerated for their professionalism !

  11. Destin Beach Photographer Reply

    Destin Beach Weddings are beautiful when a professional Photographer shoots the Beach Portraits

  12. Wedding Car Hire Reply

    I like the idea of getting the “digital files” something I never got or was offered for my wedding

    http://www.limosforless.ie

  13. Wanda McNees Reply

    I am currently going through a very frustrating time with a photographer hired to take my daughter’s wedding. The wedding was Sept. 8, 2008-over 8 months ago. He still has not given us one single photo. He was paid to date $2,479.00. He has lied about ordering the wedding photo album. One time to buy more time he told us the album has come in with a page out of sequence and had been returned. After the time passed that the album should have been back, we started checking again. To make a long sad story short this had all been a lie. The album has not been ordered to date. He avoids all of our phone calls and is almost impossible to catch at home.

    We are wanting him to refund our money and to give us the memory cards, negatives, or at the very least discs of the wedding. He said that I would have to sue to get them. What do you do with such a dishones, untrustworthy individual? You certainly would not give him any more money to do a mother’s album.

    I have given him a dead line now. If he neglects it, I am filing a complaint with our local Justice Court System in hopes of getting some justice.

    This Photographer used to be one of the best, but has certainly become one of the worst.

    His name is Christopher S____ of Christopher of Christopher’s Photography in S_____ , Mississippi.

    Thanks for listening to a frustrated client.
    (Note, edited to remove the name of the photographer, sorry)

    http://none

  14. Atunbi Reply

    Being a wedding photographer myself, my opinions might be a bit biased. I however offer all my clients digital files as standard. This is just so that I stay competitive in a very saturated market. Since the introduction of digital cameras, wedding photographers have since their income steadily decline, and its not quite so easy to make money off digital negatives.

    I sympatise with anybody that has had a bad experience with other photographers.

  15. Jen Reply

    When my son and his (now) wife got married, they hired a friend of a friend of the family who wanted to increase his professional photography portfolio. So, he did the whole days photographs for free, and then sent them to the happy couple digitally.

    He was very professional and the quality of the photos is excellent. Now my son and his wife can choose which photographs they want printed, upload some onto Facebook, and send them via email to relatives overseas!

    http://www.specialmomentshome.com

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