How to avoid the Photographer from Hell and other Wedding Photo Disasters

18 October 2018

In this article, I will write about how to get professional wedding photos.

During Autumn/Fall I always tend to get quite a few enquiries from very disappointed couples who have had their wedding photos recently delivered. As I have mentioned in one of my previous post I am not only a photo retoucher, but also a photographer (check out my website), and it still never fails to surprise me – the amount of so called “professional photographers”. Plying their trade, charging ridiculous fees and having the audacity to send complete junk to their clients..

Here is an email I received in September from an unhappy client:

Hi  Chris, 

I am interested In getting my wedding photos retouched. I have been married for almost 3 years and I rarely ever show people my photos as there are a large number that I feel could look better (Example bad angles, my arm is in weird position  or I have obvious bags under my eyes etc) and even a few photos where I feel we missed out on getting completely.. I  also feel the photos would look a bit nicer with a filter over them or change in lighting for some. 

I have for a while now been seriously thinking about getting them re-touched but  have never gotten around to doing it. My photographer had a “candid” style of shooting so didn’t do any posed or styled photographs which is what I preferred but at the same time I feel a little bit of direction from him, could have been given so some shots could of turned  our better. 

There are also a few photos where I feel the background could have been nicer so are you able to change the background in a few of the photos if I send a copy of the background I preferred? 

I see you offer this service and I feel there would be at least 30-50 photos that I would like fixed.

As you can read from the email, there seems to have been absolutely no communication between the photographer and the client, even more importantly no interest in hearing what type of photos would be best suited for their wedding. Worst of all no attention to composition at all! It was probably the most difficult set of retouches I have had all year, from sharpening out of focus people to cutting out and placing the wedding party onto better looking backgrounds. Basically a “rescue retouch” batch of photographs.

This unfortunately does not only occur in wedding photography, I have had to do some disaster repairs to stock photography as well as studio fashion shoots that have gone completely pear shaped!

For this reason I will dedicate this blog post on tips to avoid this massive disappointment:

Check out your prospective photographer thoroughly. Nowadays the only thing some unscrupulous photographers do to get started is buy a semi decent digital camera, get a website template customised and worst off, go to a stock photo library like Shutterstock and purchase some great looking photos that they pass of as their portfolio.

So how do you evaluate their real skill level? Quite easy actually; when booking the photographer, I would always suggest you meet them to get a feel for them. Most professional wedding photography these days is quite pricey, so you have every right to spend a good couple of hours discussing your particular needs with the photographer. Some of the best photographs usually happen when there is a good communication between the subject and the photographer – meeting and talking with them, will give you a good idea of how you interact with him/her.

Ask to see their recent photos, ask what style they like working in: formal portrait style or capture the moment etc. Does this meet with your requirements? Do you know what you are looking for in your photos?

Before I do a wedding photo shoot, I always ask my clients to send me at least 10 photos that catches their eye, and to tell me why they like the photo. I also ask them to find photos with a particular tone/mood that they like (black & white, sepia, warm tones even standard unedited digital images), so that I clearly understand what style they would like the final image to be processed into.

Ask the photographer if they know how to process a photo, do they have any retouching skills? What happens on your big day if a bridesmaid has an outbreak of acne? Removing some spots from a face is quite an easy process if you know how to. Remember most professional photos have been retouched. That does not mean you have to do any drastic changes, maybe remove a stain from a shirt, an unwanted piece of junk in the corner is enough to transform the photo.

Recently I retouched a series of wedding photos, and I noticed all the photographer had done was use a simple desaturate filter to get some black and white images. That might be exactly what you want with your photos, but remember there are many ways to treat a photo to get stunning results. Here is an example of an original digital photo and a standard black and white conversion:

And here are a few of so many alternatives to adding a bit of mood or tone to an image:

I would even go as far as to ask the photographer to shoot a few sample shots of you and your partner. These results would give you a good idea of what you can expect from your wedding photos – it is a lot easier to cancel before the day, than to spend the rest of you married days annoyed at your wedding photographer!

Understand your physical limits, if you are overweight, have a skin condition or a certain posture/pose that in your mind which is not flattering, discuss this with your photographer. Make sure they know what you are hoping from the final photos. A good photographer can use this information and work on the composition during the shoot, if needed do some adjustments in the post processing.

Before the wedding, ask your photographer if they are prepared to give you the full set of the originals. This is like having the negatives in the old days. Explain that these will be for your archives, and as a backup if you lose or damage the final photos. This would also make it easier to retouch them if you hate the final photos. I have seen some truly appalling final photos, which unfortunately were the only versions the photographer had kept.

Lastly ask what format you will get the final photos delivered to you. There is a huge difference between what a screen/monitor shows and what is needed for a decent size wedding photo to be printed. Screen resolution is usually 72 DPI (pixels per inch), for printing you need 300 DPI. If you print photos that were meant for your computer, they will appear quite blurry or grainy, especially at larger print sizes.

I hope this will help you get the wedding photos you are after, remember if you have not yet had your big day, get in touch with me, who knows I might just surprise you with the results.

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