In just a moment I'm going to share the REAL experience of a couple I worked with to save their wedding photos after the discounted photographer they hired for their wedding delivered disastrous results.
As a wedding photographer in an expensive industry, I understand how costs can pile up and I completely understand how couples feel overwhelmed by the expense. This is one of the reasons that I encourage couples to make decisions based on what really matters most to them, and toss out what doesn't.
Photography isn't usually a place to make cuts for a very specific reason and maybe you've seen some folks poke fun at the subject with this meme on social media.
But it's really not very funny when you don't realize the risks until it happens to you.
So what's the worst that can happen if you hire a "cheap" photographer? Just some average photos?
More like poor wedding experience, added stress, missed moments and totally wasted money on un-usuable images. I've even heard horror stories of photographers not showing up or not even delivering the photos.
Meet Lauren & Shannon,
They planned their beautiful wedding for a gorgeous fall day on Peaks Island, Maine, a location they thought would photograph beautifully. They carefully picked out their wedding attire, rented houses for family and for getting ready, picked out pretty decor, planned a delicious meal and hired a DJ for guests to dance the night away. But costs were adding up and they were looking for ways to save.
By the time I met them, their wedding was over and they had been delivered their wedding photos but were absolutely devastated. They were praying someone could help salvage any of them. Sadly most of the images were over-exposed, blurry and just unsalvageable. Their photographer had also told them she had shot the photos in RAW which would have made correcting some of the images easier but she didn't actually understand what 'RAW' meant and didn't shoot them in camera raw.
Here's a look at some of the images they received:
1. Did you initially plan on hiring an experienced wedding photographer? Why didn't you?
We were hoping to have a lower cost wedding and were open to going with a photographer who didn’t specialize in wedding photos. My sister recommended a friend who she felt was going to be able to capture the day, because she had done good work for her in the past. Her friend gave us a price that was below other photographers, so we went with it.
Later in our planning process, we realized how expensive weddings were and how difficult it was to cut costs. We wondered if it made sense to save just a couple thousand dollars by going with a less experienced photographer, but we didn’t feel like we could let my sister and her friend down, so we stayed the course. In the end, we definitely regretted not prioritizing the photos in our budget and putting family opinions before our own vision.
I also feel awful for not realizing what a specialized trade wedding photography is and investing in it. We were trying to be thrifty when we booked our venues but ultimately the wedding was so expensive that we should have just splurged 😭
2. What didn't go as you hoped on both your wedding day and with the images you received?
This is so hard to answer, because there were so many things that went wrong on the wedding day and with the overall results. First, our photographer was my sister’s friend which led to my sister becoming overly involved in the photography process. There were so many more photos of my sister and my family than anyone else at the wedding, because that’s who our photographer followed around. My wife’s family and our friends were excluded from so many moments, and it was heartbreaking. For example, our photographer didn’t take more than 10 shots at dinner because she was socializing with my sister! She also spent the reception following around the one person she knew, so we didn’t get the candids of friends and family we hoped for. The missing guest photos and disproportionate photos of each side of the wedding was the saddest part.
In addition, our photographer missed a lot of important shots and angles. We received no direction or help herding our families. When we received the photos, they were edited awfully and orange. I wondered if my venue was actually Mars! The photos were sent on our honeymoon and really impacted our reflections of the wedding.
3. What help did your photographer provide you with leading up to the wedding day (Timeline planning, formal photos planning, etc. )
Our photographer was very disorganized. The closer the wedding came, the more fearful we grew, but by the time this was apparent, it felt too late. Examples….The photographer booked her flight to Portland, OR instead of Portland, Maine….and realized this two days before the wedding…while we were already on Peak’s Island! Also, she didn’t think about how she’d get off the island for an early flight, so she spent some of the reception figuring out her travel plans. It’s frustrating having to tell your own photographer about a water taxi when the ferry schedule and water taxi info is on the wedding website!
Also, we sent her tons of example portfolios before the wedding. She said she was absolutely confident she could give us that in response to those emails. When we were in the process of asking her to revise her edits, it was apparent that she hadn’t even opened the links.
4. What would you tell another couple on the fence about hiring a wedding photographer?
I would tell that couple to invest in the photographer. When you start planning a wedding, spending an extra $1-2k sounds like a lot of money, but really you’ll probably spend that on table settings, a DJ, or other things to improve the guest experience. The wedding photos are a gift you can cherish forever and there are other things that can be done to save money. Good photos will elevate a simple wedding. Sloppy photos will make the most exquisite wedding look bad. I would beg this couple to learn from our mistake.
Why is photography such a significant investment?
Call me biased but one area I do not recommend cutting your budget in is photography. Photography is a large wedding day expense for many reasons not limited to:
Tens of thousands in equipment that requires maintenance, repair, insurance and replacement
Thousands in yearly educational costs
Costs of running a business including but not limited to insurance, taxes, website work, marketing, many many software programs, hiring assistants, lodging and travel expenses.
Years of experience and expertise capturing important moments in challenging conditions.
Your photos aren't just a one day, show up and click for a few hours. There are countless hours in meetings, research, site visits, questionnaires, and then weeks of editing. Often wedding photographers have over 100 hours of work into each event.
Your photographer brings a unique artistic eye, vision or approach that can not be duplicated.
Discounted photographers are likely working below the minimum wage and If someone is willing to work for LESS than minimum wage, you should be very suspicious of the results you'll get back for your investment.
The value in a quality photographer is really quite simple:
Your photos are the only tangible and lasting item from your wedding day.
Timeless, quality images will mean everything to you for generations.
A good photographer will offer you a stress-free experience and helpful you avoid common pitfalls and mistakes
How much does wedding photography cost in Maine?
The average cost of a professional wedding photographer in Maine is around $3,000 and $6000. It is about 16% of the total average cost of a Maine wedding. Luxury wedding photographers charge $10,000 or more. Anything less than $2,000 for a full wedding day is a discounted photographer.
Even professionals make mistakes, but a good one will be continuously working to improve the quality of their work and the experience for their client and capture incredibly special moments that would otherwise be missed.
Sadly I can't go back in time and take better images for Shannon and Lauren but thankfully I was able salvage some of them with a combination of hand re-editing, cropping and AI- technology to sharpen and remove blur.
As I told Shannon and Lauren, no one can ruin the absolute joy and magic of their wedding day. That is something that will live on in their hearts and memories forever but hopefully I was able to give them a little bit of their moments back with re-touching.
Take a look a full wedding I shot and edited here:
As a Maine Wedding Photographer specializing in weddings of under 150, intimate weddings, elopements, minamonies, and micro-weddings across the State of Maine, I'm here to document your wedding day in an unobtrusive, heartfelt way to maximize your ability to say present while capturing authentic, natural moments. Get in touch to discuss your plans!