Why You Should Choose Your Photographer Carefully


A Fable of Woe – One Woman’s Misadventures in Wedding Photography


01 Dec 2011

When I started this blog, I wrote a post titled “Getting What You Pay For”, in which I gave reasons as to why you should spend your money on a professional wedding photographer, rather than on a part-timer you found through Kijiji or a friend of second cousin Tom.

More recently, I wrote two posts, “Losing Your Memory 101″ and “Losing Your Memory 102″, in which I explained the value of having a photographer put together a professional wedding album for you instead of getting a disc of images.

Now, I’d like to tell you a story about a woman who we’ll call “Shirley” and her husband, who we’ll call “Carl”. Now, Shirley, bless her, fell victim to not just the part-timer, but she also fell victim to the good ol’ CD. Shirley hired a photographer who advertised her services in a somewhat professional manner and who had taken numerous wedding bookings, but was inexpensive. As part of the package, Shirley would receive a CD of the images from her wedding day. Contract signed, photographer booked, all is well in Shirley’s wedding-planning world.

Wedding day comes, photographer arrives, does the job, goes home, Shirley eagerly awaits news that the disc is ready. And…. nothing.

Fast forward two years, multiple phone calls, many tears, feelings of frustration that then turned to rage that then turned to despair and eventually to lost hope. Still nothing.

Another few months go by and the discs FINALLY appear. Awesome. Put the discs in the computer and… nothing. One is scratched; one won’t read. Shirley puts the discs away, buries her feelings, accepts defeat and moves on with her life.

Enter the brother and sister-in-law, who get the discs, get one to read on their home computer, get the other resurfaced (thank you GameTek!), and… discover that the resurfaced disc isn’t even Shirley’s wedding?! Un-be-lievable.

At this point, numerous extended family members hear about the story and are now questioning the morals of that photographer (as they should be). Yet, out of all this frustration comes some good news: Shirley’s brother and sister-in-law were able to get the other disc to read on their home computer and are able to confirm that the disc DOES contain Shirley’s photos.

This is where I come in. Bro and SiL bring me the disc and ask me about what can be done. We decide to start by narrowing down the field of play so that we have some idea of how many usable photos are actually hidden amongst the detritus. I take the disc, go through all 1355 photos (the ‘spray and pray’ approach to wedding photography was DEFINITELY at work here) in order to delete the blurs, blinks, talking shots, awkward poses (and BOY were there a few winners – the bride STILL laughs about the poses she had to do!) and any other photos with unsightly facial expressions. 1355 down to about 450 without any difficulty. Cool. I then start looking at the quality of the photos – there’s noise, bad framing and poor use of flash galore. Not to mention the fact that I’m not dealing with full-sized images and I don’t have the RAW files. Dozens more images go into the computer’s recycling bin. I’m left with the photos that are on the ‘have to include’ list, in their various incarnations (because, what the photographer did do well in some cases, was take more than one shot of the same pose), plus a few dozen of the bride and groom in various poses. All but 10 images were straight out of the camera with absolutely no editing whatsoever. 1345 unedited photos… What is a busy, newly married, professional couple supposed to do with that? Are they supposed to magically find time to edit photos and create something out of this kind of chaos?

As I delete over a thousand photos, I can’t help but wonder what the photographer was thinking when she decided that it was a wise business move to put all of these photos on a disc. Not only do some of the shots make the bride, groom and their families look awful and/or uncomfortable, some of these shots suggest true incompetence on the part of the photographer. But then, I suppose the two year+ delay in getting the discs out would have already proven that…

I bury my anger with this unknown woman and start making suggestions as to how to move forward. Bro and SiL decide that, since Shirley is now pregnant and won’t have time to print photos and do an album herself, they will be the most awesome people ever and will rally the family to give her a completed wedding album for Christmas. SO so cool! And so we set to work choosing photos that would show off Shirley’s beautiful wedding day look, as well as some shots of her with her groom, and their families. Because the resolution of some images was so poor, we end up having to make some pictures rather small, but figured it’s better to have them small than not have them at all.

The absolutely gorgeous AlbumEpoca book is now in the final stages of proofing before heading off to production; Bro and SiL have been issued with instructions to have a camera at the ready to catch the reaction; and I’m left eagerly awaiting photos so that I can see what Shirley thinks of our little project.

Like any fable, this one has a moral to the story: A low price does NOT guarantee good value. If you go hunting for a bargain, you might find that the only thing you end up shooting is yourself – in the foot.

Photography is an art form; in order for photographers to be recognised as artists, we rely on clients being willing to pay for our art and putting a value on it.



The Aftermath – Shirley’s ‘Before and Afters’


Shirley received her gift amidst much wonder, excitement, and yes, tears. Mission accomplished! So for my first post of the new year, I’m giving you a little sample of some of the editing work done to a handful of the original 1355 images.

The main reason I’m posting these images isn’t to lambast this particular photographer, but to show the sort of work that professionals can do in order to make your photos better. It’s this sort of editing work (along with technical prowess that allows them to take great photos in the first place) that is the reason you should hire a pro.

It’s also important to note that a lot of the editing done here wouldn’t be of any use to a client whose only interest was buying a disc of images. In this project, I could crop the images in whatever way was needed to bring out the best in the image because I knew that they were going to be used in a (spectacular) digital album. Had it not been for that fact, there would have been very little I could have done for this couple because many of the images didn’t stay in the standard print ratios.

Food for thought for those readers who are desperate for a disc: what do you want to prioritise – saving money by printing them yourself or spending the money it takes to get truly stunning results (that can’t necessarily be accomplished through individual prints)?

On with the show…

This one made me chuckle when I saw it. Look at the lights – one is on, one is off. A photographic oversight, for sure, but I suppose it could happen to anyone… At any rate, the error meant that the image needed to be cropped pretty tight to the bed frame. You’ll notice that my editing skills don’t stretch as far as eliminating the reflection of the light off the headboard, but I think that the cropping was an improvement.

I think the photographer had a really nice idea with this shot and, with a little colour editing to liven things up and some cropping to get rid of distractions, this turned into quite a nice image.

This photo should show a special moment between a father and his only daughter. Instead, this blurry, crooked, badly coloured photo made you want to skip past it because it was so disappointing. There isn’t much that I can do to fully rescue the blurriness, but with some straightening, sharpening and colour correction, the photo went from being unusable to a highlight of the ceremony page in the album.

It’s possibly the most important shot of the ceremony and it’s…. blurry and crooked. And the only shot. So, while there’s nothing we can do about the minister’s head adding height to Carl’s noggin, some sharpening followed by a bit of selective softening helps to exaggerate the blur and make it look more intentional than accidental.

White balance saves lives! Yes, this was a November wedding, but that’s no reason for the ushers to look like they’ve got hypothermia. Again, a poor choice in white balance that wasn’t difficult to correct and it resulted in a healthier-looking groomsman.

It didn’t take much to get this picture from being ‘okay’ to ‘ooh’. A little tinkering with the colours and… voila.

I enjoyed the idea behind this shot, but the execution was clearly difficult. To give credit where it’s due, the photographer had mashed herself up against a tree to get as close to a good angle as she could, but we don’t really need to have the trunk in the foreground or that metal post in the background. There are some nice colours and it looks like a tender moment, so I brightened things up a little and added some softening. This picture was originally a candidate for a front cover that required a long narrow shot, but ended up being used as an image that ran down the edge of one page. Striking.

Oh boy. Where do you start on this one – with the fact that it’s crooked? how about with the door frame? or maybe with the sign? I’m not going to bother talking about the pose. Anyway, the distractions were easily cloned out and some softening was applied to make this a gentle looking – if slightly awkwardly posed – shot of father and daughter.

This family photo was the cause of great concern. The colours are awful because of poor choice in white balance settings; the stroller in the background was a random distraction; the image was blurred slightly; and it was the only usable shot of this family group so it HAD to be fixed. Again, colour corrections were done and we ended up with an improved image that got used twice – once as a full family shot and again after cropping as a shot of the bride, groom and parents.

I give kudos to the photographer for taking this shot. Yes, the bridge isn’t fully painted and that’s a little annoying, but there are several other redeeming features about it that made the photo a perfect shot to use as the final 10″x20″ double-page spread in the album. The trees behind Shirley and Carl were naturally paler than in other parts of the photo, which helped to exaggerate a soft spotlighting filter; the greenery from the willow on the right made for an interesting foreground border on one side. After some richness was added, some softening applied and the photo was cropped, this was a real crowd pleaser.

I haven’t done this post to brag about my skills; I’m not proclaiming myself to be some editing wunderkind. In fact, there is a TON of stuff I don’t know how to do and I learn lots of new things every time I open Photoshop. However, my main priority is to take photos and make them look just like you, only better. Not plastic, not completely flawless, not overly edited, just… beautiful.

This post was done to show you what can happen when you get a photographer who gives out discs of unedited photos and leaves you to do the rest. Do you have the time to pare down a full day’s shooting and then edit the results? Probably not.


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