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Wedding Photographer Woes

So, I'm getting hitched, yada yada yada. There has been a huge photographer drama. my good friend let me rattle on about this for a bit. I think our conversation sums up my thoughts on the situation rather nicely. Here are some, excerpts. I expanded where I thought appropriate:

D: you are being educated about wedding photographers right now though
D: Did you find someone?
Me: : laughs:
D: I take that as a no, you can't agree on terms?
Me: Formally no. It's a very long story.
Me: The Photographer in question is one of T's grammar school friends. I think they reconnected on facebook about a year or so ago.
D: Ah
D: I've done my share of weddings myself
D: it's stressful
Me: So, they worked out a price--which is relatively cost effective--and I said send a contract, which they did. Apparently both T and the Photographer friend got seriously upset as I suggested alternate contract terms.

T is being wish-washy about the whole thing. She just wants two things. Her friend to come to the wedding and have fun and take pictures and give us the pictures. I'm fine with that. And she wants a professional photographer to create picture perfect pictures. I'm fine with that too.

Unfortunately, I don't believe that it can't be both ways.

If we want to invite her friend to the wedding and tell her to take pictures, awesome great. We'll tell everyone to bring cameras and pay no one for the privilege. Most of the guests will probably be taking pictures or video anyway.

But, if we want to hire a professional photographer, that's fine and dandy too. But, once money is changing hands, *I* need to treat it like a professional relationship; not as a "handshake deal" with a friend. By professional relationship, I mean getting a contract, defining roles of each party, defining the deliverable. I do this type of stuff every day. DotComIt has some serious troubles in our early years by not having a comprehensive contract.

The Photographer sent over a contract based on discussions with T and her had. I read through the contract and had one major sticking point. Payment was due in full a week before the ceremony. That means we'd be shelling all this cash before they do any work. As a business owner myself, I have serious issues with that, and had no problems saying it.

I know the photographers puts in time and I have no problems putting down a deposit. There is also a deliverable in the contract: Digital Copies of all the pictures they took on a CD [or DVD, I forget which]. That comes 4 weeks after the wedding. Why should we pay in full 5 weeks before the deliverable, and one week before they do any work at all?

If we pay in full a week before the wedding; what is their incentive to even show up?

I offered options, one of which was a 3 tiered payment plan (30/30/30) or even (50/30/20).

This conversation apparently upset both T and the photographer friend.

After much discussion, the photographer friend left 3 options on the table:

  • Do it there way
  • Pay "full price" (92% more), and get my preferred contract terms
  • they don't come and it destroys the friendship forever

Quite frankly, anyone who puts number 3 on the table is not someone I want to do business with and is not someone I want at my wedding. What type of friend would say that to another?

I may have made things worse--as I sometimes inadvertently do. At some point early in the negotiation--before the poop was flying--T said to me "We may lose our photographer" and I said "Well, then we lose our photographer!" From my perspective, it is a business relationship and nothing I was asking for was unusual.

T is now worried that no matter what happens, that if this photographer is there, I'll be ornery in all the pictures; thereby ruining them all. I never thought of myself as one to hold a grudge until then. It sounds exactly like something I'd do. I wouldn't intentionally ruin pictures, but I'm just incapable of hiding my mood / feeling. Shame on the photographer who can't capture that on film. I believe I may be permanently tainted against that photographer.

I get the impression that the photographer's husband is giving her flack about the low cost she promised to do the photos for. And my requests just added stress to the process--although I don't understand why. Wouldn't a professional photographer deal with these types of negotiation all the time?

I was presented with various arguments that were completely unrelated to the root of my problem. Here are some of them and why I don't care:

  • They'll have to pay for gas: I'll admit it's going to be a trip down from Boston area. But, transportation costs are just part of doing business. They'd have to pay for gas regardless of how much we are paying them.
  • They'll have to take time of work: What work? I thought we were hiring professional photographers to come to photograph our wedding. They will be working our 'wedding' not the wedding of someone else. This is work!
  • They have to rent a camera and other equipment: A photographer doesn't have a camera? Oh, I understand it is a special camera just for this event. But, even so that is the expense of the person I'm hiring and should not be used as an excuse to charge me more.
  • They Deserve More Money: I'm not sure how to quantify this issue. The amount being paid out has come up multiple times in conversations w/ T. But, I don't understand why. It is not something I ever once tried to negotiate, or even complained about. The original number was also proposed by the photographer, not by us. I do have cash flow considerations as I'm trying to start a new business selling ya'll Flex Components, So, yes money outflow is a consideration. But, I never once tried to negotiate the cost. That was never a sticking point with me.

I have spoken to some people who hire photographers for their time; and any prints / pictures they want to buy are covered at a later date. In that case, I can rationalize paying in full on the day or week of the wedding. We have that type of arrangement with the caterer. But, that is not the case with the photographer agreement, which has a clearly defined deliverable 4 weeks after the ceremony.

Here is the finish up of my conversation w/ Dee:

Me: This has been a bone of contention for the past few days. :-) Did my words get heated when it came up?
D: HA, yes very much on fire

Comments (Comment Moderation is enabled. Your comment will not appear until approved.)
Andrew Westberg's Gravatar Just to help you put it in perspective. I think I've looked at my wedding photos once or twice in the past 9 years of marriage. I still have yet to watch the videographer's video from the wedding.
# Posted By Andrew Westberg | 6/12/09 2:52 PM
Joshua Curtiss's Gravatar Run. Absolutely, run. Your friend can be your photographer, but if they're acting unprofessional before the job, they'll more likely act unprofessional ON the job.

And a friend who is not professional may try to force things on you that wouldn't happen in a purely professional transaction between business partners.

You can't rewind and do the day over if your photographer wacks out on you, but you can pick a photographer who is agreeable and reliable to increase your chances that your big day will be sufficiently captured.

For your fiance: A good photographer doesn't "enjoy" the wedding or reception; s/he is too busy being a photographer. Your friend will either be responsible and give you good pictures, or be irresponsible and have fun.

End of rant. Sorry. I hope all goes well.
# Posted By Joshua Curtiss | 6/12/09 3:23 PM
Jeffry Houser's Gravatar Andrew,
That does give it some perspective. I'd love to have a video, too, but I don't envision actually watching it.

( Should I also say congratulations on 9 years? )

Joshua,

At some point, early on, I think I argued that friends should not come to the wedding w/ responsibilities. But, that was a battle I lost. I won a lot of battles, so that one I didn't push on.
# Posted By Jeffry Houser | 6/12/09 4:19 PM
Jen's Gravatar OK so here's my thoughts, FWIW...

Business + Friendship + Emotions = ???

If you are paying them money... *any* money... then it's a business transaction. If you aren't comfortable mixing the two then DON'T. A wedding is a (hopefully) once in a lifetime deal.

I agree that your options are:

1. Hire a local photographer, invite the friend to be a guest and enjoy themselves. Or

2. Don't hire a photographer at all, set up a website where friends can share their photos... and invite the friend to be a guest and enjoy themselves.

Here's my personal experiences...

Wedding #1 - big, formal wedding with professional photographer. Paid in advance. Got the photos after our 3rd anniversary.

Wedding #2 - Small, intimate ceremony with family. Gave my camera to my father-in-law for the day and my sis brought her camera. Got the photos that day, and they were much better. Yes, we missed things. No, they weren't perfect. But in the end the photos captured "us" because they know us well.

Hope that helps. Good luck and whatever you decide... have FUN!! and enjoy your day.

p.s. It is *your* day (and by that I mean yours and T's). Anyone who doesn't understand that and want to bend over backwards to make it GREAT? They shouldn't be involved, period. And if a "friend" is trying to profit from that and raising a stink about doing you a favor? I would seriously evaluate the value of that relationship. "No thank you" should be a VERY acceptable response to any offer without retribution.
# Posted By Jen | 6/12/09 6:16 PM
Dan Wilson's Gravatar Congrats on your upcoming wedding!

As one who just went through a wedding myself (our first), I can sympathize with what's going on. We actually opted for 2 photographers (neither of which we had an existing relationship with). One photographer came with our package and the other photographer was found though a local Fickr pool. We chose 2 because we wanted to capture the wedding in different styles. One of the photographers was a classical wedding photographer, the other was more artistic, taking off-angle shots, using different lenses and different lighting for artistic effect. We were very pleased with the quality of each and found them easy to work work.

In your case, you have this existing relationship to contend with. Were this a normal business transaction, I'd be right on your side. After all, negotiating terms, setting forth a contract to govern how you guys will do business, negotiating rates, are all normal and customary business functions. These are normal business practices and are just part of the process.

Since you have this strange relationship on your (future)wife's side, things get a little sticky. Not having much content apart from your post, I'd say the photographer sounds immature and unprofessional and there isn't much to gain on your side from working with them, save preserving the relationship. It sounds like T wants to preserve the relationship at the cost of suboptimal terms and conditions. I don't know the total value of the transaction, nor the history, but just having gone through a wedding myself I can vouch for how easy it is for one to lose perspective and fall into irrationality, micro-focusing and other behaviours. In such cases, it is up to the strong one to support the weak one and overlook such things. Only you can weigh the cost of this battle.

Good luck, whichever path you choose, and much blessings on you and T.

Dan Wilson
# Posted By Dan Wilson | 6/15/09 4:56 PM
Jeffry Houser's Gravatar Dan,

Brilliant idea to go through the local Flickr pool.

From my perspective, and I'm sure it came across in my writing, I'd also agree the photographer friend sounds immature and unprofessional. I think things just went south because there was too much emotion involved.

We're kind of in Limbo until we decide the next approach.

Thanks for the best wishes. Congrats on your own recent wedding. I think planning a wedding has become insanely difficult because if the couple can get through the planning w/o killing each other, there is a good chance they'll make it.
# Posted By Jeffry Houser | 6/15/09 5:09 PM
David's Gravatar It would appear that T is acting on emotion - the mixture of a re-connected friend and the opportunity to give them some "business". There is no rational way out of this conundrum, except for you to be the "bad guy" and make an decision that doesn't want to be made. Fire the existing photographer and hire another, a professional.

Of course, you've left things a little late and will be limited in your choices and options. You will piss off T's friend, and most likely T, in the process. The best case scenario is that T and her friend remain in contact and the friend holds a grudge against you forever. The photographer you hire had better do a great job or you will be hearing the fact that T's friend "could have done a better job" for, pretty much, the rest of your life.

However, this is YOUR (plural) wedding, and all others (i.e., T's amateur photography buff friend) needs should take a back seat to this one day in your life.

Either way, you're screwed. Good luck, let us know how it works out.
# Posted By David | 6/18/09 12:47 PM
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