6 wedding photographer red flags, and #2 might surprise you

Your wedding day is one of the most significant moments of your life, and capturing those precious memories requires the expertise of a skilled photographer. However when hiring a professional wedding photographer, with the plethora of options available (we’ve all seen the hundreds of comments on a photographer referral Facebook post), it’s crucial to navigate through the sea of photographers and identify potential red flags that could turn your dream day into a nightmare. Here are six critical red flags to watch out for when searching for your perfect wedding or elopement photographer:

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1. The top wedding photographer red flag: No Contract

Imagine this: you’ve found a photographer whose portfolio leaves you breathless. You’ve discussed your vision, and everything seems to align perfectly. But wait – where’s the contract? A lack of a formal contract is a glaring red flag that should not be ignored.

A contract serves as a legal agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of the photographer-client relationship. It provides clarity and sets expectations on services rendered, payment schedules, cancellation policies, and copyright agreements. Without a contract in place, you’re essentially leaving yourself vulnerable to potential disputes or misunderstandings. And honestly, so is the photographer.

Where it’s your responsibility: read the contract through completely and understand where your rights are.

A professional photographer understands the importance of transparency and will always offer a comprehensive contract to protect both parties’ interests. Don’t let the absence of a contract jeopardize your special day. I wouldn’t even consider going with a photographer who doesn’t already have a contract, because the contract they’re likely finding last-minute won’t be as thorough as a contract that has come from an attorney and customized for photography – and that takes time to complete.

2. Super Low Price: The Deceptive Bargain

In a world where wedding expenses can quickly spiral out of control, it’s tempting to opt for a photographer offering rock-bottom prices. After all, who wouldn’t want to save a few bucks? However, when it comes to wedding photography, the frequently-used adage “you get what you pay for” couldn’t be more accurate.

A surprisingly low price tag should set off alarm bells rather than wedding bells. In most cases, excessively cheap photographers often cut corners in quality, experience, or professionalism. If they’re charging $2,000 for a full day, they have to work twice as hard to make the same income as someone who charges $4,000. Photographers who have 15-30 weddings or elopements per year can devote more time to each client compared to someone who brags they do 50 weddings per year. That’s one wedding per week! They also may lack the necessary skills, use subpar equipment because they can’t afford proper equipment, or even resort to unethical practices.

Something else to consider: there’s a higher likelihood that someone with very low prices does not have a solid contract in place.

As a client, I know most people want products/services that are 1. good 2. fast 3. cheap. The reality with any business, is that you can only have two of those at the same time, especially if a photographer is pricing themselves as a proper business.

3. Not Having Proper Backups/Equipment

Picture this: your wedding day is unfolding flawlessly, and your photographer is capturing every magical moment with precision. Suddenly, disaster strikes – a camera malfunctions, a memory card gets corrupted, or worse, the photographer realizes they’ve forgotten a crucial piece of equipment.

The absence of proper backups or equipment is a red flag that can turn your wedding day bliss into a nightmare scenario. A professional photographer understands the importance of preparedness and always has contingency plans in place. They invest in high-quality equipment and carry backups for essential gear to mitigate any potential risks.

Before committing to a photographer, inquire about their backup strategies and equipment inventory. Ensure that they have redundancy measures in place to handle unforeseen emergencies seamlessly.

Some backup strategies that most professional photographers use:

  • A dual slot camera (this means that when a photo is taken, it goes onto 2 SD cards so if one corrupts, you still have the other).
  • Cloud or RAID storage.
  • 2 cameras on their person during the wedding or elopement.
  • A clear description of protocol if, for some reason, all backups fail (i.e. what refund may be due to you).

4. Inconsistent or Poor Quality Portfolio / they won’t show you full galleries

Your photographer’s portfolio is their visual resume – a showcase of their talent, style, and expertise. Before entrusting them with capturing your special day, it’s essential to thoroughly evaluate their body of work. Be wary of photographers whose portfolios exhibit inconsistent quality or lackluster images.

Photographers show their highlights on social media, so it’s crucial to look at more than one full gallery to get the complete perspective of their style.

Additionally, watch out for photographers who rely heavily on post-processing techniques to mask subpar photography. While editing can enhance images, it should never be used as a crutch to compensate for poor photography skills.

5. Poor Communication

While you shouldn’t expect every response to be within hours of your initial message, if they are consistently taking more than a week to get back to you, that’s a sign of lack of professionalism and also a potential reflection on things like your image turnaround time.

Coming from a photographer, I see a lot of other photographers with response times of 48-72 hours for initial inquiries. Then there are some photographers who respond within hours. A typical initial response and its speediness can correlate to how predictable and reliable their communication will be overall.

6. No Reviews

Everyone starts somewhere, but a business that’s been around for more than a year or two should have multiple reviews, and positive ones at that. It’s not unusual to have one or two errant negative reviews, and those are likely from clients that reeled against the workflow and process of their photographer BUT those should be few and far between.

Choosing the right wedding or elopement photographer is a decision that should not be taken lightly. By being vigilant and recognizing these top six red flags – no contract, super low price, lack of proper backups/equipment, inconsistent portfolio, poor communication and no reviews – you can avoid potential pitfalls and ensure that your special day is beautifully captured and you feel at ease during the entire process. Trust your instincts, do your research, and don’t be afraid to tell someone you’re going in a different direction if you’re getting bad vibes.