Why hire a professional?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by alex_dc, Oct 31, 2007.

  1. I work out of a relatively small market (and rarely post, but lurk here often),
    and often see "wedding photographers" advertising online on Craigslist, small
    business sites, newspapers, etc., who clearly have little wedding photography
    (or any photography) experience at all. They may have bought a bigfolio website,
    and a dslr, but their work is very amateur (and quite terrible too).
    While I don't see these people as competition, I honestly worry that
    unsuspecting/uneducated/under-funded couples will end up with what basically
    amounts to on-camera flash crap for their wedding photos.
    I was thinking of making up a list of important reasons to hire a professional
    wedding photographer, or perhaps more importantly, an explanation of why hiring
    a professional may not be cheap, but is worth it. I feel there isn't much
    education out there for the average bridal consumer.
    As most of us know from experience, and reading the first-timer posts on this
    forum, so many people think that photography is about equipment, not time-tested
    experience.
    So...what I'm getting at is what would be on your list of reasons to hire a
    professional/questions to ask your potential wedding photographer.
    I'll start, 1.)How many weddings has your photographer photographed as the head
    hired shooter?
     
  2. Hasn't this been done 1000 times before? Yes, there are numerous reasons to hire a professional, but there are probably ten times more reasons why some people can't.

    If you don't see them as competition, why worry about it? There is no reason anyone should be unsuspecting or udeducated in this information age. UNDERFUNDED is another story.

    If photographers are so concerned about couples not getting quality images, why don't they lower their prices? Why not have packages to meet every budget based on number of images or time? Simple, photographers value their work and time too much. Other people place a higher value on the venue, the music, the rings, whatever. It's the same premise as people choosing the VFW over the Ritz Carlton. Everyone wants to have the best, but some just can't afford, or don't care to spend, as much as others.

    Why worry about it? If you're not worried, why do you have to ask strangers on the Internet reasons to justify your prices?

    I've looked at your website and you do very nice work. If people look at that and look at the Craigslist guy, they will see the difference and will choose based on what they can afford. There's nothing wrong with that. People buy goods and services based on their budgets and perceived value every day.


    Next topic.
     
  3. http://www.wedfog.com/
     
  4. Alex,

    As someone that is starting out into the photography biz I can tell you that it very expensive to break in. I have been making pictures for 13 years and have taken photography classes. But having just gradated college and being poor it is very hard to get nice fancy equipment. I have not shot a wedding but would like to. I know that despite the fact that I use an on camera flash I can get excellent pics. All I have to say is that you only get to be a pro by taking pics and trying. Just because some one is not a pro does not mean that they cant take amazing photos at a wedding.

    Nick
     
  5. "1.)How many weddings has your photographer photographed as the head hired shooter?"

    With the way you word that question, there had to be a time when you were the first starting out and would have had to answer "none" to that very same question, even if you had assisted other pros for years.
     
  6. I will make up a statistic: 91% of all weddings take place without the assistance of a professional, semi-professional or even pseudo-professional photographer. Amazing, but true, and these marriages are actually legal in most states. No doubt many of them end in misery and divorce, but I suspect that is due to factors other than the lack of a good wedding album.

    Fortunately for those photographers who are pros, a lot of people get married every year (many of them for the second or third time), so that 9% of marriages that do hire a photographer still constitutes a fair number of paying gigs.

    Now I'm not really sure what you're getting at, because you don't usually get a chance to try to sell the prospective couple on the benefits of hiring a pro. If the couple, for whatever reason, doesn't want a real pro, they don't go shopping for one, and unless you're thinking of doing cold-calling based on the publication of wedding announcements, well, you're never going to talk to those folks.

    So your marketing has to be as good as you can make it in every way: good web site, good brochures, perhaps doing the bridal convention thing, rapid response to inquiries, etc. But ultimately, you'll want a good portfolio and a growing number of happy clients to spread your rep by word of mouth and perhaps to put the idea of hiring a pro into a few heads that might not otherwise have thought of it on their own.

    It's a tough job, marketing your services in the performance of a task that many people think their cousin Larry does really well, and he's free. Lucky for brain surgeons that brain surgery sounds difficult. Lucky for plumbers and electricians that what they do is nasty or dangerous and looks difficult, too. But everybody with an XTi thinks they're Ansel Adams or Diane Arbus or could be if they just tried a LITTLE harder. On the plus side, photography's still an easier sell than poetry.

    I don't like the "how many weddings have you shot?" question, in fact, I doubt that it's really all that important to a lot of prospective clients. NO doubt, I say this in part because I myself have not shot many weddings. ;-)

    But seriously, I am quite certain that success in this business is like success in any business, the result of a number of factors. All the wedding photographers with 500 notches on their battery grips were once first-timers. But I dare say that most of those who've stayed in the business long enough to shoot 500 weddings (or 50, or 100) probably did a pretty good job their first time out, because it's not ALL about experience, it's also about technical skill, talent, personality, drive, and to some extent, even about equipment! I've seen the work of some very experienced, very successful photographers and been unimpressed -- and I've been knocked over by the work of a few first-timers.

    Aristotle in his great treatise on rhetoric begins by defining rhetoric as primarily the art of finding the available means of persuasion; actually making the case comes second. What this means is, you sell what you've got. I'm inexperienced as a wedding photographer, so I'm selling (a) my skills as a photographer as evidenced in my portfolio, (b) my experience in photography of somewhat similar events like graduations, etc, (c) my computer skills insofar as they are pertinent to this business, and (d) my winning personality. When I have more experience, I'll mention that, too.
     
  7. Most of us drive. Not many of us are professional drivers. Among professional drivers
    there are the first time cab drivers, and there are Grand Prix drivers. One costs $40., the
    other costs $ 4,000,000. Most of us could drive a cab in the town where we live. Most of
    us would be dead in the first 20 minutes of a Grand Prix.

    I see the pool of photographers that do weddings in the same sort of simple manner:


    Those that are just starting out that have an eye for it, and those that don't. Natural
    selection will elevate the one with an eye, and suppress the one that doesn't.

    In the meantime, clients without the means to hire a professional wedding photographer
    at least get something, maybe not every single time, but most of the time. When it's from
    the shooter with a talent for it, it's a bargain. When it isn't, there is some disappointment
    and whining ... and maybe, just maybe, that lesson the client learned is passed on word-
    of-mouth to others who will avoid making the same mistake and hire an experienced
    wedding shooter.

    Then there are the professionals with a marginal eye. Most certainly good enough, but
    often not as good as a beginner with a real talent for this work. The difference is
    consistency ... which is born from experience and craftsmanship. They are like a NYC
    Chauffeur that really knows the city. IMO, this pool is by far the biggest professional
    selection clients have to choose from. The risk is low for clients.

    Finally, there are the "talents" in name and/or deed who get the big bucks and deliver the
    big buck experience. Not only are they consistent, they can do it at 200 MPH all day and
    night, wedding after wedding. They are the Grand Prix drivers.
     
  8. If you browse through the blogs of some of the more established photogs, they:

    1) display stunning images

    2) commend the work of other photogs.

    my lesson: show your best images and be positive.

    badmouthing your colleagues and trying to "educate" your customer are amateurish, imho. I have to work on this myself!!!
     
  9. If the couple can't see the difference between your photos and a cheap "On Camera Flash Crap" photographer then I doubt making a list of reasons why they should hire you is really going to matter.

    They either want you or they don't. I just had a bride email and ask what kind of Camera I use and would it be the same one from my last wedding. Strange question but the more I thought about it she just wanted to make sure she was getting the same style and look as she had seen on my web site.

    Don't worry if someone is on Craigslist or is cheaper if you make a big deal about those guys they will just bad mouth you and cost you potential clients!
     
  10. Instead of creating a list of text reasons why not give them the real deal and let them decide.

    Create a list of links to professional photographers in the price range that is of interest to you or those in your area.

    then

    Create a list of links to those who are advertising anywhere else for incredibly "cheap" prices.

    then

    Allow the brides to visit some of the links: nothing like a visual to provide "Why".
     
  11. So many time I see and read comments about taking the weddimng pictures. That's great
    and it is important. Perhaps I can present a couple of other ingredients that can add to
    the wedding photos.

    Once they are captured, as has been discussed with the pros & cons, how about the
    process stage. With film and a pro lab they do some of that. But with digitial there is a lot
    that can be done with the images at this stage. How well versed and creative is the
    photographer or staff with this stage? This can include the design and layout of the
    wedding album or creting a DVD to mention two. This is not a feature as to how well this
    stuff is used to bail out what was done during the 1st stage.

    Then there is the printing stage. I've got several large (30"x40") framed prints for clients
    to view. How about the array of printing options available today?

    At any rate, some things to think about.
     
  12. "While I don't see these people as competition....."

    Then why did you post this, you obviously do see these people as competition, not so? Don't worry about the services they will provide to unsuspecting bridal couples. Actually it is best for the business in general if loads of amateurs come on board and screw up loads of weddings, then pro's will regain the apparent respect they "deserve".
     
  13. Not everyone has a big wallet to spend on their wedding. Many couples pay for their own weddings so they are forced to seek out what they can afford. If they could afford a pro and pay $3000+ for all the bells and whistles they would not be bargain hunting. If they are smart, then they are careful when they seek out an inexpensive photographer to ensure that they still maintain some level of quality. If the photographer ends up shooting "on-camera flash crap" then the bad is on the couple for not doing proper research.

    On the flipside, I've heard about people forking over thousands just to get screwed over with poor customer service and below-average quality.

    Just do your thing and don't worry about everybody else. If you are as good as you say you are, customers will go to you without hesitation.
     
  14. If you follow the forum here and similar ones elsewhere, the "lists" come and go periodically. There is an aspect to educating the customer not just "selling" the customer. Since most couples do get married formally once and second/third marriages tend to be less formal, they don't usually get a chance to "learn from their mistakes." So educating the customer isn't necessarily a bad idea.

    I'd suggest that one point you want to make might be to hire a good photographer (although a good businessperson is important too, to avoid the pitfalls that come from poor business practices like contract confusion, late deliveries, etc.) and that that is done by comparing the products that the photographer has produced and not simply the prices. The other is that while "it's the photogrpaher, not the camera," certain kinds of work does require a certain level or type of gear, especially when it comes to lighting as well as the skill to use it well, and that the shooter should make you confident that they have not just one set of gear but have sufficent back-up gear to overcome unexpeted equip,ment problems.

    There are people just starting out or weekenders with a great deal of talent who may not be charging "market" prices in your area, just as there are hacks who charge too much - and charging anything may be too much for some of these folks. So there isn't necessarily a direct correlation between the prices and the products. That's what the potential customer is going to want to evaluate and giving them suggestions as to how they can do that is not out of line.
     
  15. Honestly, it would be nice to educate each B+G, but I think it is a waste of time.

    In my experience... in every case, the Craigslist bride/groom I photographed were advertising there because they can't afford to hire a photographer or photography is not a priority.

    They came from a variety of economic backgrounds, from older executive types with alot of graphic design expertise, to simple young couples.

    That said... I have yet to have a bad experience with a Craigslist bride. All were beautiful and special people!

    They were great for to get experience, build a portfolio, make a few dollars to buy a lens or flash.

    Before I took one job, I had a few dozen weddings under my belt as a second shooter.

    Not begrudging them their reasons, but for the reasons stated above, these are not exactly the client you want for your business in the long run.

    If you're portfolio is solid, you wasting your time at that level.
     

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