We’re coming up on Valentine’s Day, which a wedding photographer friend of mine euphemistically calls Pop The Question Day. No matter how you look at it, there will be a lot of rings in a lot of champagne glasses by the middle of the month.
The Valentine’s Day rush will inevitably kick off the wedding booking season, which promises to be a good one in 2012. Wedding photographers I know are already seeing healthy bookings for the season, with one reporting 15 deposits in already.
As brides pull out their checkbooks and the real stampede starts to book venues, arrange catering, find a DJ and book a photographer, this is a good time to review the basics of shopping for a wedding photographer and to be aware of the most common untruths that can slip through unnoticed in the rush.
Sometimes it’s not a deliberate lie. Wedding photographers have a natural tendency to answer every question with yes, yes, yes. That sometimes leads to misunderstandings with brides thinking they’re getting service that isn’t in the contract.
The “Now Or Never” Lie
If a wedding photographer tries to tell you that you have to book today or the slot won’t be available tomorrow, leave. Anyone trying to bully you into signing a contract is a major red flag.
The best photographers will book early but that doesn’t mean you need to be in a rush. There are many great photographers out there and cancellations happen. In fact, be suspicious of any photographer who tries to use fear of availability as a pressure tactic to get you to sign a contract without giving you a chance to sleep on it. The best photographers will show you their calendar, show you the dates they have open, remind you that bookings are only finalized when they get the deposit and let you leave with the contract to read at your leisure.
The very best wedding photographers will also have a shelf of books you can sit down and page through at your convenience.
The “Sure, I’ve Shot That Venue Before” Lie
Some photographers will say they’ve shot a venue knowing they can figure it out. If they really have shot that venue before, then they’ll be able to show you a wedding album shot there.
If they haven’t shot a venue before, an honest photographer will just admit it and the really good ones will swing by on their own time beforehand and take some background shots to make sure they have the proper lighting gear on the big day.
The “Preferred Vendor” Lie
This is a big one and usually comes from a caterer or venue operator, but sometimes a photographer will trot out a list of local venues and caterers that claim them as a preferred vendor. Those endorsements are almost always paid.
Carters and venue operators rarely get to the see final pictures anyway, so why would you take their word in the first place?
The “Top Rated Wedding Photographer” Lie
Some wedding photographers will trot out some really impressive ratings and endorsements from groups with names that sound really impressive. Anyone can manufacture endorsements and there are companies specializing in what’s called “online reputation management” that can boost vendor ratings in online forums and rating sites.
The best wedding photographers have a blog and post a few pictures from every wedding they shoot so you can see consistent quality from one wedding to the next. Pick out your favorites and ask for the bride’s contact information as a reference check.
The “My Assistants Are As Good As I Am” Lie
Really? Then why aren’t your assistant photographers running their own successful wedding photography business? The real pros are members of a professional association or a guild and when they need help, that’s where they go.
This is a topic to approach with some caution. After all, if the photographer you really want is sick or ends up under a bus, you want someone there, right? Many photographers do have hand-picked teams doing most of the work while the top person goes from wedding to wedding inspecting the shots and maybe adding a few of their own. That’s okay as long as they explain that all up front and you agree to it.
Sometimes there are really good reasons for a person not to be available and you want to be a little flexible. What you do want in writing is some reasonable assurance that the photographer you want isn’t merely handing the paper off to someone else while they’re out playing golf.