The saying goes “you get what you pay for”, “if a deal sounds too good to be true, it is”, “Pick 2: fast, cheap, good, You can have fast and cheap but it won’t be good, You can have good and fast but it won’t be cheap”
All of these sayings are true in their own ways, and the time old lessons do not stop there. Today we are going to talk a little bit about when a deal is too good to be true, and a few things to look out for that I have been seeing as trends when it comes to wedding photography.
I would first like to say that some other photographers might find that they have a problem with this post, or my honesty in it, but it is what it is. I feel that it is important to be honest with a potential couple that is looking to book me, and I would rather have that any day then to use any of these ‘booking tactics’ that we might discuss below. I want to bring quality to each and every one of my couples. That does come at a higher price, but what you get will save you in the end.
I learned a lesson in this when I bought my house about a year and a half ago. The house needed new paint work so I went out to search for a painter. After getting bids from a few different places, I failed to take my own advice and I booked the deal that “seemed too good to be true”. Guess what? It was. With what I “saved” I actually ended up spending more in all of their mistakes. The job took twice as long as intended, cost me extra money in buying new paint because of a wrong paint swatch, they didn’t finish part of the job, and they even hooked up the connection for my fridge (a side job) to the hot water line instead of the cold. What a nightmare.
And that was just painting my house….. Imagine that being your wedding day!
The truth is we get calls and emails at least once or twice every few weeks of past brides who did not hire us for their wedding. They instead when with the ‘budget’ option and now they are contacting me to see if I can “fix” their wedding photos. Many of them are near to tears telling me their story about how their wedding photos are under exposed, blurry, missed shots, or some other very unprofessional thing the “photographer” did at their wedding. The worse stories come when they tell me it is a month before their wedding and their wedding photographer canceled their booking because they decided they couldn’t do it or got a better offer. Are you kidding? We hear stories about equipment failures, photographers deleting images, or believe it or not, “photographers” disappearing after the wedding never delivering on any of their photos.
They almost all tell me the same thing. “We should have known better”. Well the truth is, to an extent that is true, but this is also your first wedding. I hold more responsibility on the people calling themselves professionals to actually act like professionals. It is our job in part to educate you on what to expect for your wedding based on our experience and expertise, not just to tell you whatever you want to hear in order to get you to book with them as quick as possible.
So here are a few more of the “big ones” out there that are definitely misconceptions as well as some are straight out gimmicks used to try to get you to book with them and ignore their short comings as a photographer.
SECOND PHOTOGRAPHERS “INCLUDED”
To be honest this is a newer trend over the past 1-2 years and it is one that personally really burns my buttons. If a photographers lists that they “include” a second photographer(s), ask them a quick simple question. “Who is your second photographer”? They should be able to answer this question for you, or at least give you their process of how they hire a second. The truth is, that many of the people including this second photographer, do not have that photographer on staff at the time that you hire them. They can wait as close to your wedding as a few weeks to finally book who will be your second photographer. This will many times be a student, or someone that is learning, or whomever they can find for $200-300 to cover the day. What quality is this bringing to your wedding? Why would you want the guys coverage of getting ready to be handed off to someone that is not at the skill level of the main photographer that you hired? There are literally groups on facebook dedicated to photographers posting to try and find last minute second photographers for their weddings. What other service based product are you ok buying before you know what you are actually buying?
Many companies are not telling their potential customers that this is what they are getting with their second photographer. It has just become another “check off box” for potential clients to say, this photographer includes one, and this one does not. Well the truth of the matter is, many photographers do not use second photographers for many good reasons. One of those reasons being that if you are a photojournalist style photographer, you may choose to tell one complete story through your eyes versus through multiple people. For most weddings a second photographer is not really needed if you hire a photographer that is skilled at what they do.
We do offer second photographers as an add on option with our packages, and then we hire a full time working photographer with a similar skill set to photograph with me well before your wedding date. I will still photograph the entire day as well, including both ladies and gents getting ready coverage. I feel it is important that you are hiring me, you should get me. 98% of my weddings do not choose to use a second photographer and it has never been an issue.
Other things to ask when they “include” a second is: can we see some of their work, will we get to meet them prior to booking or the wedding, is this person on staff with you, how do you select your second photographer, will you still photograph all of the parts of the day yourself, will you be the one photographing our wedding?
Remember also, when something is included in a package, their is a cost to that. If you start adding up all of the costs that are included even with rough pricing knowledge, you will quickly see that they must be skimping in other areas, like talent, experience, equipment, insurance, and much more.
“But they are giving us everything and the kitchen sink, and your package doesn’t include as much”?
You have to ask yourself what is more important; quality or quantity. You might find a photographer out there willing to give you all day coverage, 2 photographers, 4 albums, digital files, prints, and more for $2,000. Take a look and examine that list and you will quickly see after expenses, that photographers is working to clear about $200 from photographing your wedding. What level of quality will you receive for this?
Would you rather have 4 albums and files of images that make you cry when you look at them because of how bad they are? Would you rather have 1 album of images that make you cry when you look at them because they take your breath away?
This is another area where there hasn’t been a lot of truth out there lately in the photography world. The digital files for your wedding are the most valuable in terms of cost benefit to you that can be offered on a wedding. I could go on for pages about this topic. But ask yourself one simple question when you see this included with all packages and offerings, “Why are they giving me something so valuable at no extra cost?”. If you went into a restaurant and ordered your meal, and after you ordered the chef came out and handed you a card that said “Since you purchased one meal you can now have that meal for the rest of your life for free as well as any of your friends”, you would think he had just done some illegal drugs in the back right? Then why is it so accepted or expected today from your wedding photographer? Again this comes down to quality versus quantity. Which would you prefer?
The misconception is that the files should be cheaper as their is no hard expense to the files as they are just digital. Digital means free right? Well…. no. Let’s examine this and their value. Let’s aim on the low side for our scenario and say that there are 800 finished images from your wedding and a typical 4×6 print might cost $14.50 (which is a low average). That means if you assume one 4×6 minimum of each image that is an inherent value of the files of $11,600. Wow! Add to that albums, wall portraits, prints to friends and family. Now I don’t know many photographers that are going to charge that for an add on for their digital negatives, but it is to say, do not be surprised or discount the worth of a photographer because they do charge a little extra for these files. The example above will show you how much of a bargain it really is even with the extra fee.
Now of course we all like to get things for free or for not paying anything more for them. I would LOVE an all access pass to the movies just for the cost of buying one movie ticket, but I am not holding my breath. You have to ask yourself, at what cost am I receiving this great thing? Is it worth it for lower quality photography, lower customer service, albums that aren’t meant to last, etc.
Many of the photographers that follow this practice will find that they either have to do 60 weddings a year to stay in business, or they simply don’t last more then 2-3 years. Which photographer do you want? The weekend warrior or the one that is here for the next 20 years? Do you want a photographer that takes the time to take limited bookings to make sure you are well taken care of, or one that has to book so many to keep in business that you just become a number?
We provide negatives for sale as an add on with any booking, or they are included in two of our 4 package options. Many couples wait until after their wedding, even years later, to purchase their negatives. When you purchase them with me after your wedding and after completing your wedding album, you will see that you will receive a pretty significant discount in the price of the negatives as a reward for investing in your wedding album.
Again this is a lengthy topic, but I will just leave it to those broad strokes of the topic. If something looks too good to be true, it is.
“But you are only working 12 hours on the wedding day, why is it so expensive”?
There are a lot of things that go into price. It’s not just about comparing what comes in this package versus what comes in this package. For each 12 hour wedding that we might photograph there could be upwards of 60-100 hours of editing, album design, meetings and other preparations that go along with it. There are a lot of intangible items as well. Here are a few questions to ask either the photographer or yourself when making your decision.
– What type of equipment do you use?
– Do you have back up equipment?
– Is your backup camera the same quality as your main camera?
– Do you carry professional insurance?
– How long does it take for me to receive or see the images and album?
– Do you do your own retouching and editing work to finish your images?
– Is retouching and editing included? Do you fully edit the images or just to a “proofing stage”
– Can I see your wedding albums to judge their quality? Do you use photographic print process for your albums or press print.
– Can I see some of the work of the second photographer? Is your second photographer on staff or do you just find whomever for the day?
– How many weddings a year do you book?
Photography is the only part of the day that you will have forever, and you definitely get the quality in which you invest in.
Quote from a recent Bride & Groom:
Jimmy & Erin – 06/02/2011 The Scranton Hilton, Scranton, PA:
“Let’s get serious. If you’re planning a wedding and Jeff Dietz is available, hire him. Do not hesitate, think it over, meet with other photographers, compare pricing packages, or discuss it with loved ones. Doing so would just be wasting your time, and Jeff will have signed with another, luckier, more decisive couple. And you will instead spend the next 50 years looking at the wedding pictures your Cousin Gertrude took with her iPhone. Photography is not some hobby for Jeff Dietz. It’s his profession, his passion, his life, and his love.”