Can We Please Stop Booking Cheap Photographers and Moaning About Them ‘Ruining’ Our Weddings?

Deep breath.

This week, yet another news story about an amateur photographer ‘ruining’ a couple’s wedding photos hit the headlines. “Poor couple!” the comments read, “What a terrible woman this photographer is!” “She deserved to get sued!” The comment threads (including on the photographer’s business social media accounts, which have all now been deactivated) read like the modern day equivalent to the Salem witch hunts. They might as well have been chanting “BURN THE PHOTOGRAPHER!”

Now I’m not saying the photographer was wrongfully called out here. In this particular instance the photos that we made public were, for all intents and purposes, utterly terrible. There are also always two sides to any story so I’m not even going to get into the claims that she was 45 minutes late, only took 15 photos of the reception and spent more time in the photo booth than doing anything else. That’s really all superfluous to the point I want to make.

However, what is important is that when these types of stories come out, the recurring theme always seems to be that the couple hired a cheap, brand new or (as in this case) student photographer yet still expected their photographs to be of the same quality that a seasoned professional charging ten times more might deliver. There appears to be a complete lack of value placed on what a professional wedding photographer actually does. And believe me, its way more than having a fancy camera, lighting equipment and retouching software installed on their computer.

Here’s the other thing that perplexes me about these stories: when it comes to other aspects of the wedding where a couple might want to save money, they always also seem to understand that cutting corners involves some element of risk. I’ve spoken to countless brides who’ve ordered dresses online from China for example, but they always preface by saying “I knew it was a gamble, but I thought it was worth it to save so much money”, or “The quality wasn’t as good as ones on sale in bridal boutiques, but we didn’t have the budget to spend any more so I was fine with it”.

So why, when it comes to the photographs, which are one of the only things you’ll have left after the wedding, do so many couples spend way less than average but are completely blind to the risks of doing so?

I understand that professional wedding photographers are expensive. I would never, ever want to tell you that you HAD to spend more than you were able (or wanted) to on your pictures. If you’re not to fussed about having them, you think they’re just overpriced Instagram fodder, or you’d just rather have pictures taken by your friends then AWESOME, you own that! It’s your wedding and you have the right to spend, or not spend, your money on whatever you damn well please.

But please, can we all stop being horrified when the photos delivered by someone that charges £125 to shoot a wedding turn out to be terrible?

Further reading:
Should I book a professional wedding photographer or get a friend to shoot it for free?
The price of wedding photography; how much should I expect to spend?
8 ways to get affordable but amazing wedding photographs
Want great wedding photographs? Follow these simple tips

90 comments

  1. I have photographed 500+ weddings so would class myself as experienced.
    When i started in the early 80’s i spent £2000 on medium format equipment, which was the best camera for the job at that time. Amateurs would not pay that amount for the camera, and as a result you images were far superior to “guests” images. If these so called photographers could not look at any of the images they had taken until they were processed(like us pro’s in the 80’s) I don’t think they would have the confidence,We had the expertise to expose the film and pose the pictures correctly, and we only took about 60 pictures the whole wedding!!

  2. Great wedding photography is also about people skills and organisation. After years in the business I still went to seminars and always came back with a little more I learned.
    I have been brought images taken by “a friend” and asked if I can sort them out as they are crap. I won’t tell you my answer.

  3. I’m going to bookmark this blog and send it to every bride that tells me that our services are too expensive. You get what you pay for…

  4. It should be obvious that you get what you pay for, but I think the pricing for good photography can feel steep to some people. It is an odd business, as it is (on the high end) a luxury business that revolves around having relatively few clients per year and just putting a lot of work into each client to make sure they are supremely satisfied with both the service and the images. The issue is that when you do it right photos really look effortless. That said I don’t think that people should break the bank on their photographer. Having the best should not be your priority if it’s going to really affect financially.

  5. David Jones

    Honestly most women complained about their photographer regardless of how much they pay I have friends that paid 3,000 and their wives complained and I also have friends that paid 8,000 and there wives still complained.. This is the most important day of your life granted, however i dont think people invest in cheap photography because they dont want they exclusive 8-10k photographer. Its like do you think the people driving in a honda civic wouldn’t prefer to drive the ferrari, ofcourse they would. Women guilt their husbands to spending way to much money on an event that lasts 5 hours. And photographers charge you way more money just because they can, taking the same poses/combinateions for a sweet sixteen is half the price. There are amazing photographers out there who take spectacular wedding photos for under $1,000 i know because i searched forever and found one. Make your decision based on their portfolio and what you can afford. dont shy away from an amazing photographer just because she is less expensive.

  6. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had couples come to me & say they want to book a great photographer because they know a bride & groom that had a bad experience hiring someone cheap & inexperienced.
    As you say, not a good idea to overspend, but to budget for the best photographer you can afford…in my opinion (but then I would say this as I’m a photographer myself) even if that’s at the expense of the cake or car you’ll have for the day rather than for life

  7. THANK YOU for saying what so many of us photographers have been saying for a long time. While there are wedding photographers all across the board to hit every budget, brides just need to remember that if they do choose the “cheaper” option they themselves have no one else to blame if something goes wrong.

  8. Stop booking cheap anything and then complaining about it.
    You get exactly what you pay for. Be it your godmothers flowers, your friends free dj skills, or your sisters day of planning.

    Hire professionals and stop mixing in the crap.

  9. Like every one else I read the headline and jumped to the conclusions that everyone else did – cheap photographer etc etc. However after reading the photographers very personal and public response on FB I felt awful for believing everything I read. The pictures she shared were great for a £500 photographer but of course the paper didn’t show those ones? 45 mins late – yet she captured the bride getting ready and her arrival at the church?

    But I completely agree with the point Kat is making – when doing your research you cannot expect to go for the cheapest price and get the most expensive product – life doesn’t work that way x

  10. Lynn

    I experienced this as the photographer around 15 years ago. Back before digital and people were still using film. I was a student and photography wasn’t my major, it was a hobby. But a friend of friend was getting married and asked if I would take pictures for her wedding. I hesitated accepting the job because, I wasn’t a professional and this was a memory she was supposed to have for the rest of her life. She insisted that it wasn’t that important to her and that she just wanted someone there to take pictures on the day. I charged $150 for the job. $100 of that went towards film and processing. I used two cameras so that when I ran out of film on one I could just switch to the other. Well something was wrong with one of the cameras and the pictures taken with it had a black bar on the bottom of it. The bride was livid and wanted her money back. I apologized and said this was why I didn’t want to do the job in the first place because something could go wrong. I also said I didn’t have her money since most of it paid for film and processing and as a student that $50 was long gone. I never advertised as a photographer or even offered my services, I was basically badgered into taking the job then accused of ruining someone’s wedding.

  11. The money we spent on our wonderful photographers (McKinley Rodgers) was worth every penny. They were so lovely on the day and created the most beautiful images – even though I spent my wedding day with food poisoning (argh!) they did such a skilled job of making me look healthy and happy – I wouldn’t have changed them for the world. Best thing we spent money on! X

  12. Yes,i can’t agree with this more! And the same about our gowns.The cheap thing you are happy when you see the price and pay for it but unhappy when you see the real things in hand.

  13. Andy

    Whilst we’re on the subject, wedding magazines, blogs & venues are also culpable. They publicise, recommend & persuade couples to hire sub-standard photographers purely because those photographers either pay a commission to be recommended or they’re advertising clients. Couples are ‘duped’ as often by these (often rather expensive) one-hit-wonders & part with sometimes substantial amounts of cash based on nothing more than their 5 minutes of fame online. Some of the work that’s routinely churned out by many so-called ‘pros’ is nothing short of embarrassing.

    I personally think it’s worse when someone charging a great deal, falls way short of expectation.

  14. Absolutely!

    You choose to spend only £500 on a student photographer to document your wedding and frankly you should have no expectations whatsoever.

    That said, if one is charging for one’s services one should act prfessioally regardless of the amount invoved

  15. Really interesting article. I have read people saying “it doesn’t matter that the photographer cost £500… she charged so the pictures should have been professional.”. But no they shouldn’t. You get what you pay for. The fact the girl was cheap means you are getting someone who can’t charge the going rate… for a reason. A lesson to potential brides and people who think they are “professional” photographers. And before I get a million responses saying that this is not the case and that there are great photographers out there charging £500… yes there may well be, but for every great £500 photographer out there, there are 999 absolutely awful ones who should be saying they are a photographer let alone a professional photographer.

  16. I agree. Anyone who hires a jackleg needs to accept their share of the responsibility for that risky decision and realize you get what you pay for. Hard lesson.

  17. alex

    If you read the all story, there are 2 versions of this story. She sent more then 250 photos to the clients and not 15, and much of the photos the press is showning on that wedding are in fact photos taken by FRIENDS of the bride at the wedding and not the photograph (thus, the poor quality).
    Seems to me some journalist made a total invention to gain notoriety. Trash tabloids. nothing more.
    You should read the real version of the story as explained by the photograph and not this weird married couple… They had their nice wedding photos…300 of theme… what are they after ? fame ? money from press magazines ? Maybe.

  18. The issue is that there is NO barrier of entry into professional photography. Like other readers have said – I spent thousands of thousands of dollars on “pro” equipment back in the day that is now replaced by cameras 10x as good and 1/4 of the price. Add to that the sheer amount of average/poor images we see on a daily basis thanks to the phones, and peoples ability to judge a great photo has declined rapidly. It’s very sad. And whats worse is that there are some talented shooters out there who want to work for cheap, thus driving down the rates for the entire industry. What I’ve seen is that those photographers, who once worked for cheap, now want to get paid more but they cant because they shot themselves in the foot. We, as an industry, have shot ourselves in the foot.

  19. Wedding pro

    So right. It’s your wedding, your money, your consequences. It’s too often we see champagne dreams on a beer budget. If you don’t have a lot of money, do some diligent research on your vendors. Ask questions, look at reviews, look at past work. It’s great to find people who are newer in the industry who are truly dedicated to provide great service and who will work for less to build their experience. However, hiring inexperienced vendors does not guarantee all will go flawlessly. The true pros that charge professional rates are the ones that bring that to the table. You can’t compare the two. Order a burger from McDonald’s and it will feed you. It may be sloppily thrown together, may be missing the lettuce because someone new is training on the line. But it’s a $4 burger. So you know what to expect. Eat it. Now if you order a $18 burger from a steakhouse, it better be cooked and presented perfectly, accompanied by great service. If there’s an issue you have a legitimate complaint. Same goes with wedding vendors. We are not all the same exact burger and experience.

  20. Claire

    It’s not just the photos, it’s the experience on the day. My Uncle is doing our photos as our wedding gift, and he’s not a professional photographer (Shock horror! You’ll regret that, most important day of your life, don’t cry when it all goes horrifically wrong etc etc). However, he did the same for my brother a few years ago, and it was so lovely having him do the photos. He’s been the photographer at loads of weddings of friends and family, not because he’s the best photographer in the world (he’s certainly not terrible though) but because he’s amazing at putting large groups of people at ease (he’s a policeman by day) and he’s fun! There’s no uncomfortable smiles or fakery, because everyone knows him and he’s a laugh. That’s worth more to me than a few arty shots of my shoes or someone who knows their way round Photoshop.

  21. Stephanie McKenna

    Package price is not always indicative of quality work. There are some photographers that charge way too much, in my opinion, for photographs that are not technically great. They charge for their artistic “talents.” I know that I will be underpaid for 2016, but I’m taking the hit so I can have a well-rounded portfolio with a constant flow of weddings throughout the year, so that for 2017 and beyond my pricing structure is grounded. I know “newbies” can have awful work, but on the same note so can the “pros.”

  22. Such a brilliant and important article – every bride and groom need to read this!! Not to show them that they should hire a professional wedding photographer (because I totally understand that not everyone can afford one) but just so that they are aware what the possible consequences of getting your friend or someone “who is just starting out” to shoot your wedding are!! Would love to use this as a guest blog post on my blog 🙂 xx

  23. I can say the title is straight to the point! Having read the post, I am not sure I agree with everything you have said. Cheap does not always mean bad standard. However, in reality it probably does. You have many brilliant photographers trying to break into the market and in order to achieve this they undercut many of the professional ones. Would it be correct to say we all had to start somewhere? The answer is yes. In balance not everyone can spend £2000 on a wedding photographer as you have brides and grooms who might only have this budget for the entire wedding. To conclude I think the market is open to variety of different price points and it’s down to the bride and groom to make the choice which is most suited to them. On the flip side you are correct to say if you go for a cheap photographer then risk is much higher. For this reason you should not be too surprised if the images don’t turn out the way you had wished for.

  24. Wow, I could not agree more! Just last week I was approached at a wedding by a couple with a sob story about how they had been let down by their photographer. I was horrified so asked “who did you book?” They replied “Can’t remember his name but it was a deal on Groupon” My sympathy instantly vanished. Great post as ever

  25. So true and well written Kat. I’m always amazed when I get enquiries and discuss all the lovely things they want from their wedding – vintage bus, gorgeous church and country house, vintage dress – and then say they can’t believe how much photographers cost, budget of £500!!!

  26. Firstly, the Daily Mail loves a story about a nasty photographer ruining a bride’s big day, so a pinch of salt is required when reading such stories. “You get what you pay for” is an absolutely false statement in the area of photography as it assumes that a higher price equals better quality, service etc. Does anyone really think that a high key family portrait taken by Venture Portraits and costing £750 is necessarily better than one taken by another photographer in his studio that costs £400? Venture photographers are employed because of their affability and selling skills, not their skill with a camera. Some wedding photographers are expensive because they are good businessmen and are able to make the maximum amount per wedding. Others charge a lot because of high overheads but that does not mean that their work and service are better than someone who can thrive by charging less. As was said earlier, there are some brides/grooms who will always find fault regardless of what they paid for their photography; some people are just complainers and there’s always a tabloid waiting to publish their pain. It is wrong to assert that a relatively cheap wedding shoot will leave a bride disappointed whereas she’ll be overjoyed if she spent £2000 more. Due diligence, research and clarity about expectations is the key to couples being happy with their wedding photography.

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