I’ve missed out on three weddings this Spring because, after somewhat lengthy discussions with all three sets of clients, they each decided to have their uncle/brother/good friend photograph their wedding for free.
I admit, I was pretty bummed. The first time it happened, I was a little crushed – “Why didn’t they want ME?” The second time, I was kindof pissed off – “WTF?!? Again? Seriously?!?” Finally, the third time it happened (and this was all in the span of about 2 weeks), I was relieved – “C’est la vie, obviously we weren’t a good fit for eachother. Time for another episode of Justified.”
Now, there are several possible explanations for these events. Perhaps they all realized, partway through our correspondences, that they really just didn’t like my work all that much. Fair enough. But then I imagine they would have commissioned another professional, not a friend. Perhaps, after careful consideration, they realized that their wedding budget was getting out of control, and that photography was where they could cut corners. OK, and in that case, probably not the kind of clients I’m terribly excited to work with. Maybe I just didn’t do a good enough job selling myself/my work. Very possible, and in all scenarios, I imagine I have to bear at least partial responsibility for not booking the wedding. I admit I have a hard time with “Always. Be. Closing.” But this is a business after all….
Regardless, all I really wanted to do was call up each couple and plead with them, “Please, whatever you do, do not have your friend photograph your wedding. I don’t really care if you don’t want to hire me, please consider other professional photographers – I have a list of great people I can refer – this is too important to leave in the hands of someone who has no idea what they’re doing.” I want to tell them that even if their co-worker owns a brand new Nikon D800, or just got their hands on a Canon 5D Mark III, it doesn’t mean they will do a good job shooting their wedding day.
But mostly I just want to tell them this: “I think that you first contacted me because you value professional, creative photography, and that you wanted great images to document your wedding day. I appreciate how wedding budgets can get out of control really quickly, but consider this – what’s the one element of your wedding that will last forever? The photography. (OK fine, the video and maybe the dress, the rings, yadda yadda but you get the idea). If you need to budget, budget on the catering. Budget on the party favours. Budget on the DJ. Budget on the place settings, the chairs, the flowers. Budget on the bride’s shoes (you barely see them most of the time). Things you don’t want to compromise on? Probably the venue. Definitely good booze (seriously, nothing gets a party started like Patron, don’t skimp on the sauce). And most certainly the photography. It will remain with you forever. When you’re grey and wrinkly, it will be the photographs that bring you back to that special day, so long ago.
So everyone out there, if your friends are getting married, do them a favor and make sure they get a professional photographer for their wedding day. They’ll thank you for it. And so will I.