The following arrived in my e-mail inbox last week unbidden by me, I cannot vouch for its provenance and names have been changed to protect the innocent (or guilty as the case may be). The original message was also quite long, so it has been edited for brevity and it certainly seems like one of those pieces of Internet folklore that gets passed around.
To Whom It May Concern:
I am apology for this interruption. I would like to share my true but sad story with you. It’s all about my wedding photographer. I hope all other brides will not go through the same experience as I did...
We had our wedding reception last year and hired “STUDIO X” as our wedding photography company. I picked a very experienced photographer and everything went well. But then 3 weeks before my wedding, Studio X said my photographer get busy on my day and they’ll send another photographer to me. I have no choice and I did not have much time to search again, so I accepted their offer. I can’t believe it was our nightmare to start! My photographer was horrible and very unprofessional. He lost our photos. When we received our wedding photos a month after our wedding from Studio X, we found that a good portion of our photos was missing and the little that they had given us was amateurish and horrific.. This made us very upset. We contacted the company on numerous occasions and they refuse to assist us or take any responsible actions. We have yet to receive any of the photos back, an apology, compensation or any type of assistance…
…Nothing can replace memories of our wedding day and Studio X have definitely robbed us of that. This horrible experience has caused much unnecessary stress, pain and sorrow as a newlywed couple.
Recently, I met a friend from Bride.com and thank you for her support. She said she ALMOST picked Studio X on her wedding. However, her vendors told her the horror stories about Studio X. One of them is that they lost pictures. She said, Studio X offer their service all over the country and make their name “popular”. They do poor work and unprofessional because they hire a bunch of people and don’t bother to really check who these people are. So, they always use excuses to change your original photographer to someone who don’t know anything about pictures. They ruined your wedding. I am definitely one of the victims.
That is my true story. Please tell my true story to your clients. I don’t want any innocent bride will have my experience again…
Now this is not to say that every experience with a big studio is going to end in a nightmare. Business, even those that only show up for one day in your life, don't grow and thrive if all they leave is a trail of tears (unless they're producing highly addictive chemicals, or guns). Still working with a big company can be a big risk if you're hoping to work with a particular person, since they're just a part of a machine.
Experiences like this are also why doing your research and looking at referrals is such and important part of the planning process. This of course hurts newer photographers who haven't built up a network of referrals and positive feedback online (which is where I stand at the moment).
You can do a lot to minimize your risk:
- Meet With Your Photographer: This isn't just about selling you a package, it's an interview process. With the right questions you can tell if a photographer is right for you (and I'll talk about those questions next week). A meeting also lets you know if you are comfortable with your photographer, since good chemistry makes for great photos.
- Ask to see more: Portfolios often feature the best of the best, ask if you can see samples from multiple weddings. Ideally a photographer (with some advanced notice) can lead you to a whole wedding that can give you a better idea of your day's coverage.
- Do an Engagement Session: While many photographers offer these as part of a package, it's usually possible to schedule an engagement by itself. This gives you a chance to see how a photographer works with only a minimal outlay (peanuts compared to what your wedding will cost) and you can see how the results turn out well in advance of your wedding.
Armed with these tips it's a lot easier to avoid some of the bad experiences of dealing with creative professionals. Not that I'm biased or anything.