How to make sure you are getting a professional wedding photographer in Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Horror’s abound! Don’t end up with a wedding disaster – protect yourself and stick with a pro
When I first got into the wedding industry so many years ago I was amazed at all the opportunity that lay before me; there seemed to be plenty of work for everyone. It wasn’t until I had been around for a few years that I realized there are con-artists in the wedding industry as well, here are some ways you can protect yourself.
Meet & Greet
I’m always amazed when I am exchanging emails with a client and they want to send me money before we have even had a phone conversation. A professional photographer will want to get to know you before they agree to photograph your wedding. If you are in touch with a wedding photographer and they are asking for a deposit before they even agree to meet you should turn and run.
Let me explain from my perspective. When I am contacted by a bride or groom about their future wedding there is a lot I need to know before I can even consider if I will shoot their wedding.
Here are a few questions I ask myself:
- Is this wedding going to fit my photography style?
- Do I ‘connect’ with this couple?
- Do I enjoy shooting at the venue the couple have selected?
I need to know this information before I would commit to photographing a wedding. A professional photographer will not blindly accept any wedding. An inexperienced photographer who is new to the industry will be more likely to take on work that is beyond the scope of their own skills. They may not even know they are doing this – this is one of the problems of the industry and unfortunately the public doesn’t hear about it until it’s made it’s way into the local civil court system.
A professional wedding photographer wants to know that the couple will ‘fit’ their style. We shoot a lot of adventuresome weddings, our clients typically love the outdoors and are not afraid to walk along a sandy beach wearing their wedding dress. Not every bride is comfortable with the idea of getting messy on their wedding day and that is 110% ok. There are many wedding photographers who like to keep things more traditional and would never even ask a bride to walk in long grass, much less go somewhere they may get dirty. This is why I see a meet and greet as such an important part of the initial consultation. We need to know we are going to work well together. It’s as important for my business as it is for your wedding photos. When I am confident we will work well together I am confident I’ll be able to hit home runs with your wedding photos.
If I meet a couple who just doesn’t seem to be in line with my type of wedding photography I have no problem kindly telling them they would be much better off with another wedding photographer. It’s just a part of the business, any professional photographer knows this and will have no problem explaining to an inquiring couple.
Deep dive into their portfolio
Don’t just rely on the flashy instagram photos, ask for a full gallery
When I started out in wedding photography I didn’t know a thing about it. All I had to go on was what everyone else was doing. That’s right, I just checked out what the best wedding photographers in my region were doing and I figured out the best way I could emulate them. This would expose me to a multitude of competition – some amazing, most pretty good, and some downright terrible. I would browse the competitions websites and see what layout their website was, what kind of vibe it gave. It didn’t take me long to find a website that just didn’t seem right.
The website was terrible, the photos were awesome.
It didn’t add up; I knew enough about wedding photography and web design to know that if you can take a really great wedding photo chances are you spent many years learning the business, which also means (for the vast majority of wedding photographers) learning web design. So here I was at a very poorly designed website that was full of some very beautiful pictures. I did a simple reverse image search (if you are using Google Chrome you can just right click on an image and select ‘search Google for image’)
This lead me to a wedding photographer based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I emailed her and sent her a link to the website and told her someone was stealing her images – she wrote back and told me it wasn’t the first time. The lesson is: do a little homework!
To get the best wedding photographer, you must become a photographer (or at least a critic)
Before you run away screaming, “I’m not here to learn about the focal plane and it’s relationship with the aperture!” Don’t worry, you don’t have to. It would be a great if you spent some time trying to understand light. Just take some time and look at some of your favorite wedding photographers. Here are some things you can do to make sure you are finding the best wedding photographer.
- Notice the light and shadow throughout the image and the relationship or contrast they have with each other.
- Where is the source of the light? Is it coming from a flash off the camera?
Once you are able to look at a photograph and feel comfortable you should be able to see fairly quickly if a photographer actually knows what they are doing. You don’t have to paint like Van Gough to be able to understand why ‘Starry Night’ is such a piece of art.
Check References & Reviews
Online reviews offer a glimpse into a companies history
This is something most of us do automatically anyways, but it’s always good to discuss. Online reviews such as google or Facebook offer us a unique opportunity to put a name and a face to a testimonial. Of course there are some pitfalls with online reviews – it’s not uncommon (or difficult) for an unscrupulous company to pay for fake reviews.
Take your time and read the individual reviews
This is by far the simplest, cheapest and most effective way to know you are dealing with a legitimate wedding photographer. The world of shady and fake reviews is fueled by non-native English speakers who in general are not very good English writers. Anyone with a basic comprehension of the English language would be able to spot a fake review a mile away – you just have to be looking for it.
Follow up with some past clients and ask!
Our past clients are thrilled to talk about their experience with us. It’s part of the reason we do what we do – I haven’t met a professional wedding photographer who wasn’t also a professional people pleaser. Happy clients looooove to talk about their wedding photos. On the flip side, unhappy clients also love to talk about their negative experience. With Facebook and google reviews it’s never been easier to reach out to a stranger and ask them about their experiences with a business. It’s really worth doing – either you get the validation you were hoping for and you can move forward confidently; or you get an earful about how poor the business was and you can run for the hills!
Contracts Are For Everybody
A contract is for protecting both parties – not one party exclusively
There is a lot going on when you are planning a wedding – besides it being the happiest moment in your life it can also be the most stressful. You are going to be dealing with many separate individual vendors (think cake, rentals, music, venue, photo & video, etc.) Philly has a population of over 1.5 million people, that’s a lot of vendors! Any professional business person will protect themselves by operating with a contract for services but not all contracts are created equal.
Make sure a contract or ‘agreement’ is a part of the initial consultation process
There are wedding photographers operating today who don’t even use contracts or agreements. Crazy I know. I am not one of them and I suggest if you meet one that you do a 180 degree turn and run away. You shouldn’t have to bring up the idea of a contract either, but if you are about to hand over cash without discussing one maybe it’s time you pump the brakes. A contract does not a good photographer make but a good photographer would never operate without some form of legal protection should things go amiss.
Don’t hire a lawyer yet
On the other side of the spectrum if you are sent a contract that looks more like a mortgage document then you may need to ask for clarification. You shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by the legalese – you should feel comfortable that your investment is protected and that you will still have a wedding photographer if the primary photographer is ill or in an accident. Of course if you have done your homework by reading online reviews and speaking with past clients of your prospective photographer you will no doubt be put at ease when you get to the contract phase.
Philly is big and full of great wedding photographers
Follow these tips and you can relax knowing you are going to end up with beautiful wedding photos to last a lifetime.
Planning a wedding is an exciting time but it can also be a stressful daunting time. The best weddings I’ve had the pleasure to photograph have always been the ones where the bride and groom have total faith in their vendors. These people have done their homework and are now ready to enjoy their wedding day and the love of each other and their guests. They are able to really be active participants in their own wedding day. The photos shine because everyone is happy and free of stress.
Meet your photographers – I want to meet you
When I show up to photograph your wedding I am with you all day long. My earliest wedding started at 6am and the latest one went sometime into the morning.. I have a special relationship with all of my clients; I spend all day in direct contact with them. Can you imagine what this would be like if you didn’t get along? It’s important to feel that connection, for both photographer and couple.
Check their work, it will save you in the end
A professional wedding photographer in Philadelphia Pennsylvania who has been around and is established will have a clear demonstration of beautiful, professional photography. When I browse my friends work over at Moonloop Weddings it feels like a treat on my eyes, it would take even the most untrained eye only seconds to see how beautiful these wedding photos are. You should seek a similar feeling of joy when you look for your wedding photographer.
Online reviews tell us a lot
They don’t tell us everything, remember we talked about how easily they can be faked? Still, they are well worth looking into when you are trying to determine the best wedding photographer for your big day. I usually spend a few minutes doing a quick scan of the five star reviews to make sure they all look legit and are all well written. If so then I’m happy to move on.
Contracts aren’t just about the fine print.
They are there to protect both of us, but not to overwhelm. They should be clearly written and as brief as possible. Succinct.
Early in my career I shot weddings just for the money
There, I admit it, I did it for the money. I was trying to establish myself as an up and coming photographer in my region and I just wanted to work my tail off. I didn’t care about they bride or groom – as long as they had the cash to pay I would show up and do my best. It was only after one season I started to realize it didn’t matter how good of a photographer I was, if I kept ending up shooting weddings where the bride and groom are stressed out and unable to enjoy themselves it’s going to really hurt my portfolio. This is why I always insist on meeting clients before accepting their wedding. I also learned a lot about being a wedding photographer. And I’m happy to share that information with you.