When booking any vendor for an event, you will inevitably come to the point where you have to decide on how much time you need that vendor. this is very true for weddings and all the vendors you need: caterer, band, dj, the ceremony venue, the reception venue, limo service, and my favorite topic, the wedding photographer. recently I’ve been finding myself looking at Craigslist ads for posts people put up for “wedding photography”. I haven’t come to the point where I use craigslist as a medium for finding wedding gigs, but I can see how it could be useful to attract more work.
the thing I’m finding a lot of are really scary posts by people who are getting married (yay!) who are writing horrible CL posts for wedding photographers. Take this one, for example:
I need a last minute photographer to cover a 1 hour wedding ceremony in Maryland tomorrow from 10:15-11:15.
Partners have asked for a finalized CD of edited photos. Willing to pay $125 for services.
Please respond to this ad if you are available tomorrow at this time and the pricing will work for you.
It should be noted this was posted in the Washington DC Craigslist and the venue location appears to be the Lake Shore of Maryland. This is just north of Annapolis, about an hour from DC.
So the obvious problem is you’re looking for a wedding photographer who likely has to travel about an hour each way for a one hour gig. on top of that you’re looking to pay $125, although the ~$40 per hour fee looks reasonable, there are other things the photographer (assuming this is a wedding photographer taking this gig seriously) will have to do after the fact like processing the photos and delivering them (or mailing them). This can amount to about 2-3 hours of processing for the ceremony, dramatically dropping the rate to $25 an hour, very much so on the low end for wedding photography. let’s keep this in mind as we look at other issues with this post.
One day advance notice. there could be many reasons why the couple is looking for a photographer at the very last minute: original wedding photographer got sick, the couple decided at the last minute they do want pictures of their wedding after all, etc. the most likely scenario I can imagine is that the couple originally had a friend shoot their wedding, but that person bailed at the last minute leaving the couple to resort to CL – this also explains why this is written in the third person (“partners….”). without proper prep, the photographer is walking into a potentially difficult situation where you don’t know who the key players are, you don’t know the couple’s personality and what they’re looking for, you can’t focus on the VIPs in the crowd, and you have no idea what the venue is like because you probably can’t scout the location beforehand. nothing is more irritating than walking into a potentially horrible wedding situation blind.
it also really amuses me when people define what they want as their final product – “finalized CD of edited photos” is very, very vague. the couple could get screwed by an unscrupulous photographer by getting edited images on a CD that are full of watermarks, low resolution/low dpi, and basically unprintable, unusable photos that would still meet the requirements in the post. this line alone could give the couple a huge headache and opens them up for getting shafted and nickel-and-dimed out of a lot more money.
there are a few ways I would have improved this post:
– offer more money. yes, this is the comment likely to get the most criticism, but you’ve got to offer more money for a professional to travel to your wedding, especially since time is working against you. unfortunately, basic economics of supply/demand/price are not your friend and you have to offer a bit more to make it worth someone’s time, maybe around $400-500 and they’ll stick around for 2-3 hours so you can get some prep and ceremony photos as well as some nice formal shots. unfortunately, $25 an hour is not an attractive sell for someone who has to be on their feet and completely focused to get you a quality product.
– don’t define what the final product is unless you know what you’re asking for. if you have the money right, you’ll get responses and can negotiate the final product and make sure it is what you expect.
– give more details of the gig. is there a 10 minute ceremony and you’re expecting formals of the couple and the 20-person bridal party? well that might take a bit of time. is it an hour ceremony and that’s the only coverage you want? is the venue in a church? city hall? any of this can help the potential photographer decide how to approach this gig.
I am not in the wedding business to screw over couples, and because this is not a full-time career that I’m making a living out of, I am definitely one of the people other professional photographers dislike because I have the ability to undercut their fees at the risk of the couple not getting the “full professional treatment”. I understand that, but also, the people who want the full professional treatment are not my market. There are good photographers that are not full-time professionals, who can provide a good product for your wedding day – the hardest part is finding the right photographer. so if you’re in the market, do your research, talk to your photography friends, or email me if you have questions (even if you don’t want to hire me).