It’s with regret that I’m even writing this. However, over the last few years I have received several enquiries from couples who have been let down by their “Photographer”. Even worse than this was that a certain name kept on coming up again and again. Thankfully, this person seemingly has been dealt with by trading standards and I hadn’t heard of them for a little while, until the other day. Her name popped up again on a forum and I won’t lie, it drove me mad!
While I can’t find anything about this person and I will not be naming them in this post I thought I would write something in aid of keeping you away from a scammer.
A wedding is such a memorable and important moment for brides, grooms, their families, friends and relatives. The organisation of such event requires elaborate planning and preparation, as well interviewing, hiring and coordinating several vendors to make it a success. The most common complaint from scam victims, according to the reports in the media, are for vendors who look like legitimate businesses and service providers but either, never deliver the service, or do not deliver it in a way that is consistent with expectations. While the latter could be subjective and due to multiple reasons, the former is a pure form of scam.
Below are just some ideas I have on how and where to spot things to be wary of.
(This is going to be wordy, so I’ve also included some photos!)
Consistency is king:
Every photographer has a unique photography style which not only defines him or her as an artist but which also differentiates them from other photographers. Now, over time, style does change, my own style has changed over the years and I’m sure it will continue to do so, as this is a healthy sign of growth. However, this will most likely be a gentle change that you can see as time and skill sets develop.
This conveniently brings me onto my next point. You should be able to see consistency in the work a photographer either in person or on their website. I, for example currently have 19 weddings blogged on my website spanning over a few years. As well as wedding blogs and photographs, I have also posted couple portraits, bridal portraits and other blogs. Each blog includes a range of images which span the entire day of the event in question. Please feel free to take the time to browse through all of them and see the growth and development of my photography skills for yourselves.
Try to browse through the photographs of three to five weddings by a certain photographer to truly get a grasp of their style. Make sure they’re all similar. If you see inconsistency, then it may be cause for concern that the images themselves have been taken by other photographers and placed on a website to simply populate it.
Consistency in writing is also key. I was recently browsing a photographer’s website whereby the tense used changed in every other sentence. It also referred to several contractual obligations undertaken by the client, which I must say, felt a bit weird…
Talking about websites:
While many businesses do not have websites, and we certainly have been photographing weddings for longer than websites have been around, it is rather worrying to see a photographer’s work solely through Facebook.
Photography is a visual art, and photographs are meant to be shared and displayed. A legitimate business is expected to have online presence, especially one marketing photography services. Being unable to visit the website of the business you are considering is a big red flag. (not necessarily that they are a scam, but It could be a sign of newly-started, and not-yet established business.)
If you are able to locate and visit the website; look for contact info. Legitimate businesses want people to find them online and contact them in order to establish a professional relationship with them. While you browse through the website, pay attention to broken URL links or incomplete web pages. It could be a sign of website design made on the fly, or one where not much attention was paid to detail. Any business owner who cares about the user experience and its own online presence, would maintain and keep its website functional and updated.
Again, make sure it is all consistent with everything else you see the photographer display on other media and that all the details match up.
While as a sole trader you are not necessarily required to be listed under Companies House, If the company claims to be a Limited company, go onto the Companies House website and check them out.
Again, while not crucial, most photographers will belong to a governing body, mine for example, is the SWPP (Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers). This information is clearly stated on my website, please feel free to contact them to find out more about me. Again, they will list the given address of my business; make sure all these details match up to who the photographer claims to be.
The second biggest element in this section I believe, would be business insurance. I for one am insured through Hiscox Business Insurance for Photographers. Believe it or not, some wedding venues ask vendors such as myself to show insurance details before they allowing you on the premises. It is always a good idea to ask to see your photographers fall back plans and insurance certificates. Again, making sure all relevant details stay consistent. All my couples or potential clients are more than welcome to ask to see my own.
On the day, I will have my camera which has two memory card slots backing up photographs straight away. If there is an issue with my first camera (God forbid), I have a second camera ready and waiting. I also carry a portable hard drive for any weddings which are held further afield which backs up all my images just in case a bag goes missing at the airport. When home, the images are placed onto two separate hard drives so again everything is backed up. Everything is then, (yet again) sent to the cloud to be backed up in case my house gets set on fire… I would rather prevent any issues than create them, or destroy your day.
Oh, boy isn’t this fun?!
I recently came across the published terms and conditions of a photographer who stated that it was, “the PHOTOGRAPHER’s sole discretion to terminate this Agreement at any time without cause”.
Now, while you could probably argue your case in court if this happened, the fact you may have agreed to this term is a little bit worrying. Please always read contracts/terms and conditions fully, and query anything you’re not sure about. Please also check that they contain a fourteen day cool off period.
Ok now the nitty gritty kinda stuff is done with let’s move on to some basic points which are worth considering.
Most wedding photographers work with local clients and shoot on locations close to their homes. For example, I’m based in Cumbria and if all you can see in my portfolio are white sand beaches from Florida or the Bahamas and no local landscape or venues, you would have to ask the question: “why have no local clients ever hired this photographer?”
You should at least expect to see some local landmarks or venues in your area if you are looking to hire a local wedding photographer. There might be reasons as to why there are no portfolio images from your area, which brings us to the point below. So, when in doubt, ask questions. Legitimate business owners would not see a problem in providing you with a reasonable explanation.
Weddings involve large groups of family members, relatives and friends and require large venues to accommodate them. These are usually churches, country clubs, events and community centres, resorts, private residences, historic landmarks, etc.
If the wedding photographer you are looking at has photographed at as many weddings as claimed on their website, he or she should not have a problem naming a few of the most recent venues he or she worked on. Most photographers spend between 4 – 10 hours on location, so would be difficult to forget it. You could even go ask your chosen venue (if it is one the photographer has been to) for an impartial opinion.
Most scammers are looking for a quick “hit and run” before they are detected and shut down by authorities, they don’t usually spend years laying down their scam. In many cases, they are often sloppy and can be easily recognised if one is educated on what to look for, and how to detect them.
But that’s enough about that, let’s move on to my final point.
Please purchase wedding insurance. considering how much we all pay for one day this is a simple and cheap way to protect yourself. For example, Debenhams offers wedding insurance starting at just over £60, which will cover you for over £10,000.
If you have gone through all of this but are still let down for whatever reason, then you will at least have something to help you through this time as you change plans and work around the situation.
In general, just have your wits about you and you will be fine. Let’s be honest most of us are good people and just want to do the best we can. It’s a shame the 0.0001% of people wreck it for others. Also, never feel pushed into a decision and always ask any questions you feel are appropriate. All legitimate businesses will be more than happy to answer your queries.
Thank you for reading, I hope it helps!