Its nearly 1am where I live but I had just heard over the grapevine which is “A Current Affair” about a dodgy wedding photographer who did not deliver on several brides’ photos and did a runner.
I watched the whole episode with somewhat mild interest, coz I hear of these stories all the time. BUT the thing that really got my hackles up was the response from AIPP (Australian Institute of Professional Photographers) – the local “institute” that is supposed to regulate professionals in the industry – on their Facebook page.
For the whole story check out the ACA episode that sparked it all off:
Now, some of you may be shocked at what you just watched. After all it is your wedding day and one of the most important days of your lives. The guy even had the gall to wink at the camera at the end of it. It may just be slick editing to get you on the side of the brides but the fact remains clear, this guy ran off with their money and no photos to show for it.
The truth is, the wedding photography industry is rife with these sorts of practices. I’ve been photographing for just over 3 years. Not long by industry standards, but I’ve already heard more than my share of stories by couples about their friends or family being cheated by similar people. Just keep that fact in mind for now and stay with me.
Soon after, the AIPP posted an update on their Facebook page:
The way they said it really irked me. I’m not an “AIPP Accredited Professional Photographer”, not because I don’t want to but because I can’t afford it right now. However the attitude from a so-called professional body over this incident has just shown the true face of the people behind such a body, that anyone who isn’t registered with them is “some shady cheap guy with a camera”. I can say that is not true of me. And my couples can attest to that. I can be totally honest here, all my past couples have been very happy with my level of service, bar one. Yes I did have one who wasn’t entirely happy, and it was purely due to a misunderstanding on my part, and I have done everything in my power to turn that around. I can confidently say no one has come away from us unhappy that we didn’t fulfill our contractual obligations.
Now, back to the issue of the AIPP, if you want to read the entire thread, including all the very angry responses from other professionals, go here: http://www.facebook.com/AIPPOfficial/posts/10150661448093687
If not, let me summarize the whole debacle for you:
1. Derek Smith was a dodgy photographer, but as the FB thread also revealed he was an Accredited Photographer with the AIPP.
Lesson 1: Not every professional who is registered with the AIPP is legit. In essence, it does not guarantee you will not have problems with your wedding photography.
2. Derek Smith did not have backups to prevent the loss of his data, if what he claims is true.
Lesson 2: ALWAYS check with your photographer regarding his backup routine. The photos should be stored on more than one drive, and in more than one location. I have a drive dedicated to all the shoots I do, and it gets backed up hourly to a second drive on my computer so if one get corrupted, the other will still ensure the photos are not lost. I also have a third drive that gets backed up weekly and this one is taken to another location so if my house is burned down or burgled, you will still have your photos. Also, make sure your photographer is insured – for his equipment as well as public liability. So, if the worst really happens and your photos are lost, at least you will be compensated financially. I’m with AIS and have been for the last 2 years. It gives me, as well as all my clients, peace of mind.
3. Apparently, reading the Facebook threads some other AIPP members had warned the board about Derek and his dodgy business practices and their cries were ignored.
Lesson 3: Having the AIPP logo on a professional photographer’s website does not mean anything unfortunately. Best practice if you’re looking for a reliable professional photographer is by word of mouth. If your best friend was very happy with their wedding photos, chances are, you will be too. Chat with your friends and family, find out who they went with and how they felt about their service. They will be more than happy to help you out.
4. Derek Smith was not a cheap photographer. He charged upwards of $3000 for his services. It doesn’t mean he isn’t dodgy.
Lesson 4: Don’t shop on price, whether you’re aiming expensive or cheap. A cheap photographer doesn’t mean he/she isn’t good, any more than an expensive photographer doesn’t mean they are really good. I know of amazing talented photographers who struggle to make a living, as well as really expensive photographers whose work is pretty mediocre. Some photographers are just really good salespeople. Don’t be pressured into paying for something you’re not sure of. Again, shop by the look of a photographer’s photos, as well as past service with others in your social network.
5. I’m adding this one in even though it’s stated above. A photographer’s portfolio does not guarantee their quality of work.
Lesson 5: Don’t just shop for a photographer based on their portfolio. The portfolio is a collection of the photographer’s best work over years of shooting. It is NOT an accurate representation of their current quality of work. This is precisely why I’ve stuck to a blog layout for my website so couples who come to browse my photos can see the work I do currently and give an accurate assessment. Yes it might not look “professional” enough. But disregard the flashy websites and focus on the content, the photos, because that is what you’ll be buying. If you see a photographer’s website and all they have is a portfolio page, ask to see their current work before parting with your hard-earned savings. Also, most photographers now have a facebook business page. Check it out. It’s an open book for you to get an idea for the photographer and how he/she interacts with their clients. Lots of positive activity on their FB page? You know you’ve got a winner. Barely any noise heard? You might wanna dig deeper or go somewhere else.
So, those are my top 5 tips on what to look out for when choosing a wedding photographer. I know the episode on ACA might have turned some of you off to hiring a wedding photographer. Reading the long post by the AIPP may be confusing you even more right now. You might even be thinking of getting “Uncle Bob” since he can be trusted. You can go right ahead if your uncle can produce the same quality of photos.
If not, I encourage you to keep looking and shop around, but do so smartly.
Now it’s time for me to go to bed, coz I have to work at my other job so I can afford to pay for my membership to the AIPP next year