Storybook Wedding Photographer M. Couturier

Booking at the Last Minute

It seems as if I and many of my photographer friends have recently received a pronounced increase in last minute inquiries of availability.  The past 3 weeks or so we have had an average of five people per week calling to see if we were available to photograph their wedding that would take place sometime in the next 7-30 days.  Over the years we’d all get two or three calls like this per year, but 5 or more in one week is very odd.

Unfortunately we’ve had to disappoint all of these callers.  For many years our average booking was made between 1-1/2 to 2 years out from the wedding date.  In the past two years it has slipped down to about 9 months on average, with some even at 6 months, but still quite a few at the 1.5-2 year mark.  It is very unlikely that we (or our friends) are going to be available within 30 days of the wedding.  It is possible, but quite rare.

I’m just curious what has caused this rash of last minute calls.  Did Oprah do a show on weddings recently and suggest doing this?  Or a nationally distributed bridal magazine?  Maybe it’s an internet dare or hoax, I don’t know.

Some advise to avoid being disappointed though…

If you have your eye on a photography studio that you like and are in hopes of them photographing your wedding, I would contact them as soon as you can to see if they are available for your date.  That availability can last as long as it takes for them to get the next phone call.  Only a serious commitment (contract and retainer in hand) is going to lock in that date with your name on it.  Business is business.  We all get tons of people calling us every week asking us to pencil them in only to never hear from them again, so the standard procedure for photography studios is to not hold dates without written commitments, first-come-first-served, etc.  Promises don’t help make the payroll or light bill.

I’m not sure who started this fad of calling at the last minute or what the benefit is supposed to be, but if you want to be sure of who you are getting, I wouldn’t risk rolling the dice on something as important as your wedding photos.

When the Price is Right…but everything else isn’t!

I received a call from a MoB yesterday.  She was concerned about the person that she had hired to photograph her daughter's wedding and had some questions.  Apparently she had hired a photographer on the cheap and was now having issues after the wedding.  This is not the first such phone call that I've had about this and it seems to be increasing in frequency lately.

She wanted to know why it was taking so long to receive the photos from her photographer and what the 'standard' delivery time was.  I explained to her that there really is no standard, it's different for each photographer depending on their methods of post-production and work flow.  It could be any number of reasons, there may be many images to cull through to narrow it down to the very best, some photographers then like to enhance every photograph while others show un-retouched images.  Some may have their proofs produced by a professional lab and some may take them to the corner drugstore.  The combination of reasons are infinite.  She said that her fear was that something had happened to the photos or that they didn't turn out.  I suggested that she contact the person who took the photos and take it up with them.

She also stated that they had received the photos taken for the engagement session a few weeks before the wedding and were not too happy with those, but decided to go ahead with the photographer for the wedding because "the price was right".  What can I say?  Or rather what can I say that will get people to actually think about this before leaping into a good price and the rest be damned?  All of my photographer friends have had similar conversations with distraught brides and grooms and their parents, it is not a unique thing these days.  Unfortunately, in those extreme situations where something did go wrong, not much can be done after the fact.

The only advice that I can offer is that experience and consistency are the two most vital things to consider before hiring a photographer.  Photography is a visual product, you should do most of your research about that when looking at photographers and make price the last consideration.  An art collector does not fall in love with a certain Picasso painting and instead buy another Picasso painting that he doesn't care for just because it's cheaper.  I do not mean to just pay whatever anyone asks right off the bat, or that the highest price is always the best, but look at a few photographers and narrow it down by style and quality of work first, then, if you must, begin narrowing within those final selections based on price.  My photographer friends and I get tons of emails each week that state simply, "send prices".  Those people are not seriously interested in what type of photos they will end up with.

The cheapest price is not always the best either, especially in photography.  Red flags work both ways.  Unfortunately, many people's realization of what professional photography actually may cost has been clouded what with the cost of a photo print being 26¢ at Wal-Mart and the availability of $500 digital cameras.  These cheap consumer prices give the false perception that excellent quality wedding photography is cheap as well, but that's a misnomer that I could write an entirely separate article on.

Sadly, most people do not highly value photography any longer in this age of everyone and their cousin has a digital camera, even built into their cell phones.  Unfortunately, many people these days consider themselves to be photographers and today's perception is that anyone can take a good photo.  While many people are able to get a handful of really good photos out of hundreds or even thousands taken, only an experienced professional will be able to consistently create quality images throughout the day and night, and under pressures and time constraints that you have no idea even exist unless you have photographed a wedding before.

A friend told me at lunch today about a conversation he had with a lady who said that she didn't want to "pay too much".  He asked her what she meant and she didn't really know, she just wanted a good deal.  There is also the situation of paying not enough, such as the upset lady who had called me.

There is much more that I could say about this subject, and many stories that you just would not believe, but let me simply leave you with this thought -

It is better to have paid a little more than you would have liked, than to have paid a little less than you wish you had.

Repeat that to yourself several times and I think you will change the way you look at searching for a photographer to capture your one-chance-to-get-it-right, once in a lifetime wedding.

Storybook Wedding Photographer M. Couturier