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Advice for Couples: Budget Photographers

I once received a rather frantic email…

“My fiance and I met with you for our wedding at [place] on [date]. In the end, we decided to go with another photographer mostly due to budget reasons; however, due to unfortunate circumstances, our current photographer recently cancelled on us and we are now looking for a photographer again. We absolutely still love your photo collection and are wondering if you happen to still be available on our date and what packages/pricing you offer now. Even if you are not available, if you know of any photographers with similar styles who may still be available, please let us know.”

I hated having to tell them that I already booked another wedding for their date, which is less than 6 months away. Now they are scrambling for another photographer, and because of the popularity of their date, they are unlikely to find someone that will meet their needs as well as I could have. It’s a real shame, and I understand budgets, but if you choose someone just because they are cheap, that is exactly the kind of photographer you’re going to get.

Horror stories abound out there around the internet, with similar tragic scenarios. A couple prioritizes their budget and makes their decision solely based on money, then they get stuck in a terrible situation either because the photographer isn’t a reliable professional or found a higher paying job and cancels on the couple. Both of those are utterly unacceptable, obviously, but when you place an emphasis on cost over quality, you get exactly what you pay for.

Sometimes people ask me about why wedding photography service is so expensive. I even wrote an article on that particular subject.  One of the reasons my prices are what they are is because I am a full-time, reliable, professional wedding photographer.  Part of that title for me is not just about being good at photography, it’s about being dependable and being an excellent customer service provider.  I have photographed weddings with migraine headaches (the couple never even knew), I have photographed 14 hour shoots and then turned around the next day and have been fresh and energized for the next couple.  As a professional, you do whatever you have to do in order to provide the best possible service, to do so with smiles and laughter, and to do so no matter what.

I have been asked several times to photograph weddings for much higher prices, on days which I have already booked with another couple, and I send the new inquirer on to other photographers because I have already made a commitment to the first couple.  There was only one situation where I accidentally double booked a date, and in that case I did not just send that couple away.  I sent them another professional photographer who I work with frequently, and I did so at my own expense.  I also added some free things to their existing package, and performed all of their post-processing myself.

To all of you who are planning your weddings and who are meeting with photographers, please keep the following things in mind when making your decision:

  1. Is this an established professional with a high quality rating in their reviews?  If people have written reviews that send up warning flags about their reliability, don’t say “Well, that won’t happen to me.”  It could.
  2. After you meet with the photographer, is this someone you feel cares about you and your needs, and not just your money?  Do they share your enthusiasm for your wedding day?
  3. Do you feel the photographs, combined with the photographer’s business policies, are worth what they are charging?  That includes not charging enough, because photographers who are charging a lot less than others are probably doing so for a reason.  If a photographer is charging too little, I recommend you question their commitment to your wedding if something better comes along later, and question their self-worth.  New photographers frequently charge too little because they don’t feel they deserve to charge more yet.  That should tell you something about their level of experience.
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