Dear Wedding Magazines

Dear Wedding Magazines,

Whenever I put my tired foot into the wedding business almost two years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be writing such an article. The wedding industry has changed so much in the past few years that it's almost too much to keep up with. With these changes come a ton of ideas from photographers and non-photographers alike.

I get it. You want to publish something that is going to do well with the "younger" crowd, specifically the newly engaged. You want your brides to be in the know when it comes to choosing wedding vendors, specifically photographers.

Well I'm here to tell you to stop spreading information that is not only untrue, but also potentially detrimental to young, successful business owners such as myself.

In the past few months I have heard of photographers getting unrealistic and incredibly laughable requests from potential clients, including but not limited to this list below.

Here's what I mean.

  1. Photos cannot be backed up to a cloud in real time. I get it! You want to prey on your target market's fears by scaring them into thinking that photographers losing photos is way more common than it actually is. Magazines, you've come up with the idea that photographers have to back up their photos to a cloud in real time... whatever that means. First of all, this is the most unreliable method of backing up photos for a ton of reasons. This assumes that either the photographer or venue will have access to a reliable wifi connection throughout the day (which is, INCREDIBLY RARE, and most venues won't even give out their wifi... even if they have it). This ALSO assumes that every camera that is out there nowadays has wifi capabilities. My camera doesn't have wifi capabilities, and it doesn't need it! Now, lets assume the photographer has a camera with wifi capabilities, the venue has given out their wifi password to the fiber-optic internet, and there is somehow a way for the photographer to send those photos to a cloud in real time (which I've literally never heard of in my life until last year). This is STILL super unreliable because data is going through the air to a "cloud" instead of a piece of hardware, i.e. a memory card. Information will slow down, get lost in the way, and not every photo might make it to said cloud. This is utter nonsense and insanity for a photographer to back up their photos this way. The only way a photographer could lose all their images would be by someone stealing the memory card from them, the card corrupting itself, or the photographer deleting all the images accidentally halfway through the ceremony. The chances of this happening to an experienced, seasoned photographer is VERY slim to none. I'm not here to tell you that that never happens, however the chances of it happening to you are so low that you don't even have to worry about it. Regular photographers back up their photos to pieces of hardware AFTER the event such as memory cards, external hard drives, dual card slots (such as SD or CF cards in the same camera), NOT a cloud.
  2. Stop encouraging brides to pay for the rights to a photographer's photo. The photographer will always have rights to their own photos as long as a contract is signed when you book them. This means that if you get in front of my camera for any reason, be it a wedding or boudoir, I still have rights to those photos and can do whatever I want to them and with them. I can publish them in a magazine. I can edit them again just for fun. I can sell them, distribute them, or print them. Of course, I would never publish a photo without the client's permission, but when they sign my personal contract, they are signing not only a model release but also a promise that they will not alter my images in any way without my written consent (I do not prohibit my clients from publishing their own photos, but in my contract it personally says that they must give me credit). Every photographer does it differently, and that's okay! However if you have booked a photographer for their style and the way they do business, do not ask them to change it.
  3. Stop encouraging brides to edit a photographer's work, or ask for the RAW files. Yes, this is a thing I have seen. I've seen my own work edited, I've seen filters been put on my own work, I've seen it cropped, brightened, etc. and I have seen way worse from friends and colleagues. Photographers DO NOT give out their unedited work for ANY reason. If someone wants to ask me for a RAW file, I will happily oblige by sending them a $2,000 bill per RAW image as well as a contract they must sign for the rights to the image. Seem ridiculous? You wouldn't ask an artist for an unfinished canvas, you wouldn't go to Starbucks and ask for an espresso to only add milk, sugar, and water because it's "cheaper" (although I know some of you probably do that), and you also wouldn't call up the producer of the Avengers to request an edit be made to Infinity War because you didn't like the way Thanos's face looked in the trailer. Everyone in this situation would shake their head no, laugh at you, and walk away. Not only is it offensive to photographers to ask for RAW files (was there something in my editing you didn't like? You booked me full well knowing my style), its also ILLEGAL and against copyright laws after you sign that contract. Don't do it.
  4. An experienced wedding photographer will not move on their quoted price for you. I can't believe I'm having to say this one. STOP TELLING BRIDES TO ASK PHOTOGRAPHERS FOR DISCOUNTS OR CHANGE THEIR PRICE! My prices are my prices for a reason! I calculated my cost of doing business, decided on how much to make, compared market equivalents, etc. to get the price I have. If you don't like my prices, you can gladly find someone else. Just the other day I saw one of my friends get an inquiry for wedding photography (they were quoted $2,000), and then the bride responded quickly with "We love your work and want to book you right now for $1,200! Are you able to do that?" HECK NO THEY AREN'T! You don't just walk into Walmart and ask the manager to give you a discount because you're ready to buy some broccoli but don't like the fact that it's more expensive than it was at Aldi. I take HOURS planning my shot list, schedule, charging my batteries, doing research about the venue, not to mention at least 8 hours of shooting the day of, and then easily another 10 hours minimum during editing my photos. Prices are the way they are for a reason! Stop telling brides to negotiate a price with their photographer. We won't do it!
  5. Finally, do not under any circumstances encourage a bride to lie to a photographer when booking their event. I've seen some wedding and non-wedding articles alike encourage brides to find a wedding photographer for "half the price" by conveniently leaving out the little detail that it's not an engagement party, or a big event - that it's a wedding. I've heard horror stories where photographers will show up to said event, only to realize that they had been hired for a wedding without their knowledge! Some had shot the event, but then sent them the rest of their bill to be fair, some even left the event since the bride violated contract, and some were so surprised their photos suffered because of the shock. Weddings are so much different than regular event photography, parties, or what have you. Weddings are a high stress day, and part of what you're paying for is everything you don't see behind the scenes - buying batteries, up-keeping equipment, calibrating lenses, consultations, and the sort. Outside of shooting and editing, I can take up to 5 hours of my time preparing for a wedding, phone calls, consults, etc. It's not something to be taken lightly. To reiterate what was said before, prices are the way they are for a reason. Stop encouraging brides to lie to photographer's about the most important day of their life.

Wedding magazines, I'm sure you've helped countless young people on their quest to find and book the right wedding vendors, but unless you know how a photography business is run, please leave your insane ideas to yourself. Or better yet, hire REAL photographers to write the articles for you!

McKenzie Stephens