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I woke up this morning to a news story in my inbox about a local photographer who has not kept her promises to her brides. Let me start by saying I HATE these stories. I think they give all of us a bad name.
Here is my disclaimer, I don’t know this photographer personally. I am pretty sure I have met her at wedding show or two and the photos she had on display were beautiful, but other then that I have not really known her in the same photography circles I travel in.
The story basically said that the contract states that brides will get online proof in 30 days of images and a DVD of images within 4-6 weeks. After 12 weeks the bride had gotten nothing and couldn’t get ahold of the photographer. (Phone saying inbox full, emails unanswered, etc)
From dealing with photographers, and other vendors like makeup artists, here are some tips.
Check Wedding Wire. That is the most popular website only for brides to leave reviews. If a vendor has only 1-2 reviews and is supposed to have been in business and photographed 100s of weddings and only has that many reviews on Wedding Wire, something isn’t adding up.
Don’t get me wrong, not all brides will leave a review. Some just don’t have time. The photographer in question had one review. I have 15. And that isn’t even a fraction of the weddings I photographed. But based on 15 reviews, a bride gets a more unbiased review then a company with just one or two reviews.
BTW, if you are a bride (mine or otherwise) leave a review on that site for vendors. Not only will the vendors be grateful, but you are helping out other brides in their decision making process. Plus, I think Wedding Wire gives you a gift for reviewing several vendors.
Second, the blog. If your photographer/vendor has his/her blog link prominently displayed on their website then they should be updating it frequently. AT LEAST once a month. If the photographer posted only 3-4 times in a year, be wary. Yes, while they could just be really busy, unless they have a commercial address and are dealing with day to day clients like a florist does, then their blog should be fresh.
Why? These are my perceptions of companies that don’t have up to date blogs… 1-They don’t take their business duties seriously. And keeping up with the blog and keeping it updated is part of their duties. If they don’t have time they need to either hire someone to do it for them or get rid of it (bad idea).
2-On the other end of the spectrum, instead of being busy, I see creative vendors as having no work if they aren’t posting. They have nothing new to show. On my blog, I don’t always post all sessions. One reason is time, the second is that some clients just don’t want their images shown for whatever reason. But I still update frequently and any vendor you are choosing should have updated in the last 30 days.
The third issue I see with many wedding vendors that sucks brides in. The “celebrity” photographer, makeup artist, etc. If a vendor tells you they have worked with celebrities, do two things, 1-ask for the pictures. 2-ask in what context they worked with the celebrities.
I have seen SEVERAL wedding vendors right here in Jacksonville who say they have worked with big name celebrities, but if you search their site you see no evidence of that. If they have put makeup on a celebrity, the celebrity isn’t likely to care if they get a cell phone photo together. OR, the makeup artist was likely doing the makeup for a TV spot or print spot. Can we say video or tear sheet from a magazine? If they don’t have any proof, but advertise the fact they work with celebrities–RUN the other way. What else might they be lying about?
I have photographed all kinds of celebrities: Dick Cheney, Blink 182, Collective Soul, Green Day, Aaron Neville, and others. That does NOT make me a celebrity photographer.
I have met a lot of celebrities just in general and gotten autographs or chatted–Keanu Reeves (a photo of me showed up in US magazine as I was meeting him), Lyle Lovett, Lisa Loeb, tons of football players, etc.
I have also been hired by newspapers and magazines to photograph celebrities–Blink 182, Mighty Mighty Boss tones, Reel Big Fish, Green Day, and others.
When a photographer says they are a celebrity photographer, they should either be photographing celebrities for a living (like a red carpet photographer, who does only that type of work) or have been hired DIRECTLY from the celebrity. If you meet a celebrity on the street or on a movie set and take a photo, as I did with Laura Dern and Clint Eastwood, that does NOT make you a celebrity photographer, that makes you a fan.
A third thing, while not always an indicator, does your wedding vendor have an office? A physical address? Should something go wrong, you’re going to need an address to file a lawsuit and somewhere to go to to demand answers.
(Don’t get me wrong, I have at times gone without an office and just met clients at Starbucks or something, but I prefer an office and am pleased to be in one again. Open house party on Feb. 27th 2-5pm for those interested!)
And a vendor who is in an office has a lease, which means they are likely going to be there for a couple more months at least which will provide you some security.
And while this is not always an indicator, ask your other vendors if they’ve heard of a specific vendor. The longer any vendor is in business the more likely they are to know of the fellow wedding vendors and have worked with them. Not always, but likely!
Another thing, PHOTO CREDIT. I get weird about “photographers” who don’t have their name on their photos they use online (except their own website) like on Facebook, or even their blogs. Why? Because photo stealing runs rampant on the web. There are people in every city who will steal other photographers’ photos and claim it as their own saying they are a photographer. All good photographers will try to protect their images from such illegal use.
Plus, I want your friends to know where you got those cool engagement photos done at.
I have a weird thing about makeup artists and hair stylists (and other vendors) that have photos on their Facebook page or on their website without a photographer’s watermark. Why? Because that makes me think they just stole that image from somewhere on the web or out of a magazine. If a makeup artist has a photo up without a local photographer’s info are they telling me they can or want to do that look? Or that they HAVE done it?
Sadly, I have seen makeup artists here in town who have used photos from major companies in their ads. And the truth is, they didn’t do the makeup for that photo. So be wary! (Ask your photographer for recommendations, any photographer that has been around long enough KNOWS which makeup artists and hair stylists go on location and/or are trustworthy.)
I’m sure I could go on and on. But please, the point is, if something doesn’t seem right about the vendor you’re working with, RUN!
A quick summary:
MAKE SURE your vendor has reviews on Wedding Wire. (I have some on the Knot, but Wedding Wire is more popular for reviews.) If they have been around for 5 years and only have 1-2 or no reviews on Wedding Wire at all–RUN. The truth is they are either lying to you or have deleted their profile to cover up the bad reviews.
MAKE SURE that they can back up any claims they have on their website. If they say they have worked with celebrities, they better have the visual proof to back it up!
MAKE SURE your hair and makeup artists have DONE the looks in their portfolio that you admire so much, and not just HOPE to pull off that look one day.
MAKE SURE that your vendors provide contracts.
If all else fails (or I’ve scared you completely), hire a wedding planner when you FIRST start planning a wedding, BEFORE you book your vendors. Wedding planners are there on a wedding day and have worked with the vendors and know which ones are pains to work with and which ones come highly recommended. If you book without seeing who they recommend then you are missing out on one of the reasons to hire a wedding a planner in the first place–their expertise!
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Diane emailed me before Thanksgiving about getting engagement photos done. She lives in Va. but her family is down here and she had seen my photos and wanted to do the session when she came down, even though her wedding is in Va.
She really liked the rustic feel of the fort in St. Augustine, so we did her engagement session there. Diane and Tom were so cute and such a great couple.
They met while working together and were friends for three years before Tom finally asked her out.
While most guys propose on Christmas or Thanksgiving, Tom decided to propose on HIS 30th birthday.
“It was very informal, but it was a perfect fit in our relationship (things have a tendency to never go quite as we plan!), ” Diane said.
Diane says the key to their relationship is that they were friends before they got together. So there was no “honeymoon” phase to their relationship.
“Since we were friends first we already had pretty open and honest communication, so that just carried over into our relationship,” Diane said. “We’ve faced a lot of major life-changing decisions since we’ve been together, and I don’t think we would have been able to make it through those together without having that support and openness.”
Thank you to all my brides for leaving reviews and making me one of the top photographers on Wedding Wire for the third year in a row!
I was recently asked to photograph Sam, who turned 3 not to long ago. Of course, right after the photo shoot, a scheme went into the works to get Sam’s grandma–Barbara–a photo bag and cosmetic’s bag.
We did a quick mini photo shoot at the St. George Inn in St. Augustine. Which is THE place to be when staying in St. Augustine. Not only is the location fantastic and the rooms nice and comfortable but it is run by a family, not a big corporation, which I just love.
These are just my favorite images in various color tonalities. Sam had such pretty eyes, it was hard not to focus on them!
After Barbara got her bags as a gift from her sister, I got this email:
I should have taken photos of her bags, they were so cute! I personally care a photo purse with my husband’s photo on one side and a pic of me and my best friends on the other. And I just got a new one in with my little girl on it! It is def. a conversation starter.
Thank you to everyone who made this possible!
I’m so flattered by all of the best of’s I have won this last year. THANK YOU AGAIN!