Fast forward to now and the smartphone has given everyone a camera, good cameras are very affordable and free computer software has meant that amateurs can often "fix" poor pictures after taking them. Facebook allows anyone to have a (sort of) website, declare themselves a wedding photographer and share their work with the whole world. Many of these "keen amateurs" are offering to photograph a wedding for 20% of what people like me charge. The digital age and social media has filled the world with (often bad) wedding pictures and that has made wedding photography less special and far less valued than it used to be. Social media's "share everything now" culture has led to some of my clients encouraging guests to post their shaky cameraphone pictures onto Facebook before the Vicar has cleared his throat. This changing landscape meant that many photographers operating a "pay after wedding" system were often not being being paid by couples who had seen so many friend's pictures of their wedding that much of the excitement had gone by the time they returned from honeymoon and the large photographer's bill was too much to bear. This led to photographers asking to be treated like all the other wedding vendors by being paid in full before the wedding date. No couple ever demanded to eat the wedding cake before they paid for it, did they?
The spread of wedding photography has inevitably attracted
some bad people and we've all read horror stories of "photographers" (actually con men with cameras) who take money and never turn up on the day or deliver pictures late or not deliver them at all. Some couples are genuinely wary about paying upfront to avoid this happening and at other times couples pay upfront and are the victims of terrible service and also end up with terrible pictures. There are many ways that couples can protect themselves against the rogues and shamateurs; look at the photographers' website, social media pages, blogs etc to get a feel for them and their work. If you have doubts that the pictures online were actually taken by a particular photographer then use a website called "Tin Eye" and upload an image to see if came from somewhere else. Google's Reverse Image Search does the same thing. Online reviews can be useful but beware; good ones are easy to fake and there are times when unscrupulous couples have written bad reviews about photographers to cover their own bad behaviour.
If you like what you see online then arrange a meeting to get a better idea of their approach and personality, the latter is very important because you'll be spending a great deal of time with them and it needs to be a pleasant experience. Be sure of what you want and ensure that the photographer is able to deliver it. Some couples want a fairy-tale and stardust shoot which they won't get from a photographer who specialises in the reportage style. The photographer should be a good listener and also ask plenty of questions and make suggestions because there will be things that you've overlooked. It's a good idea to ask plenty of "what if" questions because a decent photographer will have a plan if a dog runs away with the bride's wedding band. Always demand a contract and make sure that it covers everything including;
Hours Worked Expectations
Estimated number of pictures to be taken
Price (including extras for more books etc)
Terms of Payment
Copyright and Image Usage Terms
Failure To Comply Policy
Cancellation and Refund Policy
Bear in mind that the photographer owns the copyright on pictures taken by them so you will need to talk about your use of the pictures on social media.
There will always be couples who want a cheap and (hopefully) cheerful wedding shoot, and for them, Facebook Frank and his dodgy Samsung will be enough. If they want more, then careful research should help couples choose the right photographer and can pay upfront with no qualms.
To help a couple who were "struggling to pay for their wedding" I offered a small deposit and pay later deal. My kindness led to months of lies, evasion, deceit and eventually I lost hundreds of pounds as the bride was frankly uninterested in her wedding pictures.
No good deed goes unpunished, as they say...