Below is an exchange (email) between Linda and myself about her daughters wedding images. Linda had originally contacted me to shoot her daughters wedding but because I no longer shoot weddings, I referred a couple of other photographers I know to do the work.
Apparently Linda did not heed my advice and went the cheaper route, hiring a photographer she knew nothing about and hadn’t even researched that photographers previous work.
Linda: I really need your help. We ended up going with the cheaper photographer for Iris’s wedding and I’ll just tell you now, I should have listened to you. I should have hired one that you suggested. The pictures came out terrible. We really need your help. Can you fix them for us? I am sending you 3 of them to see if you can work with them.
Me: I am really sorry you had such a bad experience. Why didn’t you go with anyone on the list of photographers I sent you?
Linda: Well, we were going to spend the extra money but decided to go the cheaper route and used a friend of the family because her prices were just so low and we were told she was really good.
Me: Did you look at her work before you hired her?
Linda: No because my cousin said she was really good and we were just running out of time and we were running low on our budget. And gosh, we just didn’t think they could turn out so bad.
Me: I looked at the images you sent and I can only fix one of them. The other two are just so out of focus there isn’t much I can do with those. How many are like this?
Linda: ALL OF THEM!
Me: Oh my.
Linda: Isn’t there anything you can do?
Me: I can try. I am sending you a link to a site you can created a free account and upload the images to. Once they are uploaded, send me the login information with the password and I can download them and see what I can do. How many will there be?
Linda: Hundreds. I think there are over 300 on the disc.
Me: Did you receive printing rights and/or permission to alter the images?
Linda: Printing rights? We just got them on a disc in the mail.
Me: Was there a “permission slip” of any kind with them or maybe a word document on the disc?
Linda: No. Nothing is on the disc but the pictures.
Me: Ok. Here’s what you need to do. Contact the photographer and ask her to send you a print release. If all of these images are marked with her name like the ones you sent to me, you won’t be able to order prints anywhere without a release. Better yet, ask her if you can get copies of the original, full size images, without her copyright stamp on them, and a release to alter and print them. Contact me when you can get the release and the originals.
Linda: Will do. I’ll be in touch.
TWO DAYS LATER
Linda: You won’t believe this. I contacted the girl who took the pictures and she said the pictures on the disc ARE the originals and all she did to them was apply her name to them.
Me: She doesn’t have the images as they came out of the camera?
Linda: Apparently not. She says she doesn’t have room on her computer to keep every single picture she takes and she deletes them after she burns the disc for her customers.
Me: So were you able to get her to send you a print release?
Linda: She said she would but that would cost me another $300
Me: Can I ask what she charged you to shoot the wedding?
Me: Ok. Well, if you want to be able to do anything more than share them online, you need that release.
Linda: Do you think you can do anything with any of the rest of the pictures?
Me: Upload them to that link I sent you and I will look them over and let you know.
ONE WEEK LATER
Linda: Ok, all of the pictures are uploaded. Please tell me the truth about if you can fix them or not.
LATER THAT DAY:
Me: I had a look through the images you sent and I could probably correct about 10 of them. The rest are so very out of focus and blurry that there isn’t much that can be done to correct them.
Linda: Only 10? WOW! Can you tell me how much you would charge to fix those 10?
Me: Between $100 and $150
Linda: REALLY? That much? I thought it would be much less than that! So I have to pay her $300 more to get that release and then pay you $100-$150 to fix them.
Linda: Well, if that’s all you can do I guess I really don’t have a choice do I? Iris is so upset and has cried and cried about these pictures. We already spent more than we planned to on the wedding which came out to be over $6000 and now another $450 to get 10 pictures out of the whole day. And then I guess we will have to spend more to have them printed. I just can’t believe this.
Me: That’s why I recommended the photographers to you that I did. They do beautiful work and there was no question about the quality or pricing up front. I know one of them personally and follow the other’s work regularly. I could have guaranteed you would have been pleased with any one of them.
Linda: So $100-$150 is the LOWEST you will go to fix those 10 images?
Me: Yes, Linda. That is the lowest I will go.
Linda: Are all of you photographers in cahoots with each other?
Linda: Nevermind. I will let you know what we decide. I just can’t believe I am going to end up spending almost a thousand dollars to get ten lousy pictures of the whole day. My daughter is just sick over it. I’m sick over it. My husband is about to kill me over it. I’ll be in touch.
Me: I’ll look forward to hearing from you.
Linda: I am sure you will. It is just highway robbery what you photographer charge for a few pictures. You must make a bundle of cash for doing almost nothing.
Linda: Well, all you have to do is show up and take pictures and then charge people like us a months wages for pictures.
Me: Well Linda, as you have found out the hard way, it’s not quite that simple. There are hours of prep time before a wedding shoot, travel time to and from the event, and gasoline isn’t free. Then there are the hours spent actually shoot the wedding, not to mention the countless hours we commit to learn to shoot correctly, hours and hours of editing time, and the cost of equipment and software to perform all the work.
I’m not sure how you come to think it is as simple as just showing up to “take a few pictures”, but you are sadly misinformed.
I will be happy to edit your images but that will take several hours considering the images I will be given to correct and I don’t work for free. My time is my commodity and just as valuable as the time you spend working at your job. I assure you that I am not getting rich as a photographer.
I have already spent several hours back and forth in conversation with you as well as working with one of the images you originally sent to me, all at no cost.
Linda: Whatever. I might as well of just thrown a thousand dollars out into the river for what I am getting for my money spent.
Me: Actually, you have only spent $500 so far. You can cut your losses and stop there if you like. If you want images to print from your daughter’s special day, you will need to pay your photographer for the release we discussed. You can print what you have and be happy with it, or you can pay the extra few dollars to have me, or any photographer or editor, to get better images out of what you have to work with. The choice is yours.
I never heard from Linda again, but her daughter did contact me and sent images one of her family members had taken. They were better quality than the images taken by the “designated photographer” and I was able to produce several high quality prints from them.
Iris was very satisfied with the end results, apologized for her mother’s behavior, and all is well. Iris had no problem with the prices I charged her for my work.
This is just an example of “you get what you pay for”. If you intend to spend thousands of dollars on any special event, you should make sure to figure into your budget, the fees of a quality photographer, to insure satisfaction.
For weddings, there are no retakes or do overs. If you want to insure that you get high quality images of your special day, it’s a good idea to pay for the better photographer than to have to struggle with the bad results of a poor one.
As a rule, I stopped shooting weddings several years ago because people constantly wanted to haggle over pricing, and the price of my time is not open for debate.
I DO recommend quality photographers to those who contact me to shoot weddings and I am very confident about the ability of those photographers. If I weren’t, I wouldn’t suggest them at all. Their quality is fantastic, their pricing is fair, and they are great people to work with. They have far more patience for the tedium of weddings than I.