Curious about Bella Pictures.

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by clermontphoto, Oct 1, 2007.

  1. I see ads for Bella Pictures all over the internet. Anyone here work for
  2. I used to. You can email me about it if you have more specific questions. I'd rather not post my opinions (positive or negative) for everyone to see.
  3. I have also shot a few weddings for them in the past and also would prefer that you contact me direct for opinions. If you have access to the Digital Wedding Forum, there have been a couple of strings in the last few months dealing with Bella's business practices.
  4. Dear Cheryl,
    I will be more than happy to share my experience with Bella as well off line
  5. Three people in a row declining to comment online about their experiences with Bella Pictures is very interesting...
  6. In this area there are more and more unhappy people who contracted with them thinking they were getting a "famous photojournalist" and got not much instead.


  7. There are a bazillion reviews of them on the Knot. And they aren't very good. :(
  8. Since a lot of you are afraid of posting your experiences with Bella I can only assume it's mostly negative. Lawyers aren't going to hassle you if you post positive comments or your reputations won't be tarnished if such posts are under your name. By the way, it's only libel if it isn't true!

    Any way, I would say they're an okay company to work for (from what I've heard) if you aren't interested in doing your own marketing or if you have dates on your calendar to fill. The problem is you lose that personal contact with the couple because some times you may just be given an address for the wedding ceremony and reception site.

    I like to discuss details with my clients. Where they'd like me to stand during the ceremony...what shots are most important to them...and in general just getting to know them better so they are more comfortable with me when I'm aiming a lens at them. In may be psychological but I think it shows in my photos.

    Plus, when you're working directly for a client (no middle man) I tend to work harder. Your mileage may vary but perhaps it's because my butt/name is on the line but that's the truth.
  9. isn't bella a franchise?

    so from what I gather you work for them for breadcrumbs but in return only have to shoot? no marketing, no client contact pre-wed, no post?

    Wouldn't this be a great place for newbies to get their feet wet? [on another thread in this forum someone said you don't get paid AT ALL for your first couple of gigs, though :-(]
  10. "isn't bella a franchise?" Nope ... it's a single large wedding photography company that subs out the work to available photographers.
  11. Susanne,

    Bella really doesn't look for "newbies". They want photographers with experience either as photojournalists or wedding photographers. You do have to have a portfolio of work and I know of a couple of photographers in my area who tried to sign on but were refused for lack of experience and/or talent. They pay approximately $300 for "uncertified" second shooters. You usually end up shooting 3 or 4 weddings as a second shooter before they "certify" you but then you will only on average get about $375.00 per wedding unless you are very good. They claim to pay as much as $900, but I haven't heard of anyone actually doing that well.

    David Sparks comments would, I think, be appropriate except for the fact that you are expected to contact the bride in advance of the wedding and discuss details. His other observations are correct. When you meet and sign up your own clients they are predisposed to like you and trust you and you, them, otherwise they wouldn't be signing the contract. With Bella, you might disappoint them or vice versa. That is one of the inherent weaknesses with their business model. Another problem is that you are just a name, a voice, or an email address to Bella. They really don't know you and that leads to its own problems. They put a great emphasis on quantity of pictures and you'd better be shooting 1,200 to 1,400 pix a wedding. In the past, they usually just uploaded everything you shot to the web for the bride to look at without even sorting out the bad and the ugly. I think they might be trying to correct that, but I'm not sure. There is no retouching without extra charges. I've never seen an album completed by them so I can't testify to the quality of that work.

    They are not nearly as photographer friendly as they claim to be and you will learn little from them if you do shoot for them. They use YOU, not the other way around. There have been a couple of strings on the Digital Wedding Forum concerning certain Bella business practices that, while legal, were less than honorable or ethical and outraged many photographers. Bella claims to have mended their ways, but who knows? Bella used to advertise on the DWF for photographers, but my understanding is that the DWF is no longer accepting Bella's ads. I am not sure of that, however.

    In short, Bella might be useful to fill in the odd date you might have open or an alternative to doing your own marketing and advertising. On the other hand, you give up control of your pictures and the vision you might have of the wedding and how it should be portrayed in an album. You also risk your reputation if a bride happens to dislike you for any reason and disses you on some web site. You have to decide whether the negatives outweigh the positives and whether it's worth $375.00.
  12. wow, considering what marv and others have to say, it's intriguing that bella is still in business. but after all:

    - brides book them (bella's slick marketing appears to help. their website says "the most awarded photojournalists in the wedding industry" :) and the images they tout hardly seem unretouched...)

    - photogs work for them (better $375 than starve?)
  13. Thank you all for your input. It is not believable that an award winning photojournalist would cover a wedding for the fee of $375.00. Heck, I wouldn't even consider it, knowing how much work and responsibility you take on. Plus, you are using your own equipement to boot. Bella could not even rent the equipement for that price they pay you to shoot the wedding.

    I would hate to be the person working in their complaint department.
  14. Cheryl,

    Does Paul know you're asking about Bella Pictures?

    Jim Marby
  15. you get up to $325(second camera) $500(1st camera) per wedding if you are confirmed
    photog. You have to take their mandatory unpaid tutorials beforehand, which could be as
    far away as 100+ miles away. .no compensation for training or time. My girlfriend tried to
    convince me that this is a decent day rate,too. Well, she also has never shot a large
    wedding. So, no, I don't feel that is a fair rate. If you were starting out in wedding
    photography it may not be a bad idea, better than flipping burgers in the summer, I
    guess. I had them remove me from their database after I sent a formal grievance. they
    repeatedly kept bring up some dude who shot Tom cruises wedding to add to their
    credibility. I know work is scarce but let hope that guy got a check for more than $375.
  16. It should be noted that Bella Pictures is really an at-will company where you take as many events as you want whether it's 2/wk, 2/yr, or never again. For people desiring a long-term business building situation, it may not be the best but for full-time newspaper photographers that want to pick-up some money for an extra day's work, it's a pretty good fit.

    Personally, I would liken it to someone working at Kinko's to pick-up graphic design skills or the olive garden while they're in culinary school. There are certain people that will work at Kinko's forever because they just don't have it in them to successfully market themselves or manage their own business and are just too comfortable letting a steady schedule and consistent pay check arrive.

    I'm sure some people would hate the assignment process (especially if they've never done real news work before) while others don't like being told what to do but it's a great place for people to gain experience in a world where we're all expecting to have the best toys (equipment that doesn't come cheap as you all know).

    I still shoot about 10% of my income for Bella to fill-in gaps where I need an "easy" job for a weekend because it's honestly not a 10 hour wedding, it's a 40+ hour commitment creating albums and follow-up with couples, etc. A Bella assignment boils down to: view an available job and respond, if you're selected contact the bride a few weeks before the event, show-up and put your best foot forward following a few specific guidelines, copy the files and send them in, retain a back-up for a few months, receive the check very fast. It's not my preferred way to work since I like the interaction and building process of planning a wedding but it's a more reliable paycheck then even some fortune 500 companies I work for (commercial shooting).

    The day rates tossed around are a small sampling of reality. There are photographers making dramatically more but they've worked consistently for a while and produce tack-sharp consistency out of the camera every time. I can't speak for $900 photographers but I can say that people who have shot many events make dramatically more then $300 or $375.

    Thanks to the chief of photography I've gotten some of the best mentoring the industry has available but he's also caused some starry-eyed sales people to build false expectations (I've sat in on the sales process before). Because of the motivation of the higher-ups I won a PDN top knot in 2007.

    Long story short, we all know what we're willing to do -- right? I know my limits and know what I'm getting out of Bella Pictures and they know what they're getting out of me. If at any time I decide I don't make enough money, I stop responding to their assignment offers. In the meantime, I've built some GREAT connections and gotten a world of experience along the way. Despite some weird sales situations, it's worked to my favor (I've had some patience just as with any previous job).

    My 2 cents.

    Attached is a photo taken on a bella assignment.
  17. What's Bella like now? I had a phonecall from them and they wanted to see my portfolio. I gave them a link to one of my hidden galleries and they liked it but want to see more.
  18. Unfortunately I hired Bella Pictures to do the photos for my wedding. I even booked plenty early - almost 2 years in advance! The photog assigned to me didn't call me until 4 days before the wedding, after repeated requests by me to the company to get Marisa Leigh to call me! She fianlly called, as I said, 4 days before the wedding but by that time I was entertaining guests from out of town, running last minute errands and never got a chance to connect with her. Finally the day before my wedding she bailed - and my only notification was an email received the night before my wedding. It was a fluke that I happened to check my email before I left for the wedding. According to one of my vendors that's not the first time that happened. I was sent a replacement photog, Alan Zasi, who was very nice and worked very hard for me - went above and beyond our 'agreed' upon time frame - so he gets an 'A' for effort. However the photos I received back didn't include a number of the guests, some of the table decorations, and the posed pics weren't exactly 'insprired'. If I had it to do over again, I'd prefer to work with a photog one on one in advance so that I can be comfortable that they will get the pics I want.
    I'd say pass on Bella Pictures - find someone you can work with who you trust.

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