Last couple days have been very hard for me as a wedding photographer. A massive wedding photography company shut down out of nowhere, on the day when they were still taking deposits and payments from their clients and went into liquidation leaving hundreds of couples without photographer/videographer and with money out of their pocket. This has obviously made a lot of people very aware about booking their photographer, the general feeling right now is - trust no one. So I wanted to write a quick post, tell you what to look for and maybe help you to spot things that don't add up and maybe save you some heartbreak.
1. Photographers who don't present themselves with their portfolio
I am part of few wedding groups on facebook, in fact this is the second biggest source of my business - apart from word of mouth and at least couple times a day I see brides ( or grooms ) posting about looking for a photographer. Usually a lot of photographers comment and offer their services. I am fairly confident that if you are a professional wedding photographer and proud of your work - you would leave a link to your either facebook page, instagram or website. Our work should talk for itself, our photos should sell our services. But now and then you will see someone who comment something along the line of 'Hi hunni, I am a photographer, I only charge £300 for the whole day, with a photobook, two photographers, an unicorn, Voldemort, a Care bear and ice cream van.. I've sent you a message'
If you are one of the people who do this and you actually are not a scammer, sorry not sorry, but get behind your work and put it out there for everyone to see. However chances are that something is dodgy and I would run for the hills.
2. No website
With the likes of squarespace, wix, wordpress and various other platforms where you can design your very own portfolio, there is no excuse for not having a website - unless of course you are not really a photographer and don't have a portfolio to show.
3. Deals too good to be true
As I mentioned before in the point 1, sometimes I see people offering their soul for couple pounds. Just think about this - if you see a photographer duo who travels the whole UK free of travel charge and are based in Devon and will cover Scotland, give you a photo book, canvas and spend 10 hours with you all for £350 ( this is an actual example I have seen ) how is this even possible to work? Even the cheapest photo book from high street printing company ( photobox, snapfish etc etc ) would cost at least £20, same for the canvas.. that is £310 left, now let's say that Devon is 500 miles from Scotland, so in my super economical car this journey would set you back £150 and you are left with £160. If they spend 10 hours with you, even if they don't really edit your photos properly and just put a filter over all of them, but with all the transferring from memory cards to computer, taking out all the bad shots ( duplicates, people blinking etc etc ) let's say that would take further 5 hours, this works as £6.40 an hour - or if we counted the 20 hours commute in, £3.50 an hour... Do you really trust someone to take your wedding photos that you are likely not going to be able to recreate ever again, while getting paid less than an apprentice in warehouse?
Also the trend with very cheap photographers is - if they get someone paying more, they will drop you like it's hot.
4. No contract
You should get your contract before you make any payment at all. Imagine you pay your deposit, then receive your contract and find out that your photographer doesn't actually bring his camera unless you feed him swan eggs for breakfast, or doesn't work unless he's dressed as a tooth fairy. Know what you're signing for before you part with your money.
5. Inconsistent work
You don't need to be a photographer to see if someone's pictures don't really look the same. One photo is super sunny and bright, second one very moody and grainy, the next one is super wide with very bright colours, the next one is black and white with light coming from behind etc etc etc.. and there's not more than couple photos from each wedding.. If I see portfolio like this I usually do a reverse image search ( I am very nosey and I very much love to call people out if who steal hard working photographer's work ) - if you don't know how to do this, I strongly suggest to have a look here: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/1325808?hl=en and get on it! Also if you actually catch someone who is doing this - don't be afraid to contact the actual photographer .. every single one of us would be so grateful to hear about it if someone is taking our work and pretending it's theirs.
6. No reviews
I am very rubbish at asking people for reviews, but I still have some on my facebook and website .. Truth is everyone can ask their friends to write a fake review and give the 5*, but if there's no reviews at all, or all of them seem sort of vague .. I would be asking for names of previous clients who I can speak with to find out for myself about their experience.
BONUS 7th point
I am actually guilty of doing this myself, so I didn't want to add this as a proper point, but I felt like I should mention this.
It is: photographers offering massive discount but asking for full balance months or even years in advance.
Couple months ago my dog got really sick and almost died. The fact I was only fostering him meant I had no dog insurance, but unfortunately the rescue refused to take care of his vet bills and their only solution was to put him down. This obviously wasn't an option for me, but the fact that he needed to stay at the vets and all his new medications meant I needed couple thousands there and then. So I offered people the chance to grab a big discount as long as everything was paid ASAP. I was very clear at why am I doing this and I had the vet bills to proof the situation.
However couple times I saw people offering whole day wedding photography for £500 instead of £2000 as long as the whole balance is paid on the day, with no explanation, I would be questioning why is this happening and why would they need all the money upfront. If they are in serious financial difficulty, is there any chance that their company might not exist by the time your wedding comes around?
I really hope this is something that might help all of you lovely people with choosing the right photographer for you. Don't let people pressure you into booking. Don't book people without contracts, reviews, websites, portfolios etc. If something doesn't feel right, google it, question it. Learn how to do a reverse image search... and please share this with your friends. If this blog helps one person not to get their money stolen.. It would make me feel all very warm inside :)