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Friday, March 5, 2010

My thoughts on Judge Joe Brown

If you're in touch with the photography community on Twitter or Flickr, chances are you've already watched this video. For those of you who haven't, I suggest watching at least part of it before reading on (and really, you don't need to watch all 10 minutes, I suggest starting around 3:30).

In brief, a bride is "suing" a budget wedding photographer for not delivering professional results. There are many things wrong with this case, but I'm going to start by saying I think they're being unfair to the photographer. Unless the photographer presented a portfolio that was far superior to the results that she delivered (which I doubt), there's no case here. The bride presumably saw the photographer's work before hiring her (and if she didn't, she's an idiot), so she should have known what to expect. Unless the photographer promised something that she didn't deliver, legally there's nothing to stand on here (which is probably why it was on JJB in the first place).

The main takeaway from this video is that with wedding photography (as with life), you get what you pay for. The bride wanted professional quality results, but wasn't willing to pay for them. $1300 (or whatever it was, don't remember exactly) might sound like a lot to you, but in the world of wedding photography that's almost the bottom bracket. What do you get for that price? Someone shooting your wedding with an entry level camera and their kit zooms, and prints from WalMart. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, that's just how it goes. And if the bride viewed this photographer's work and agreed to hire her, then obviously whatever she saw was good enough. That or the bride somehow thought things would improve for her wedding. The only thing I can think of to defend the bride here is that the photographer's portfolio probably contains ceremony photos from where she was allowed to use a flash, and so they aren't dark or blurry like the ones the bride got. In this respect, the photographer wasn't really prepared to shoot a ceremony without flash, and that should have been stated somewhere along the way. The fact that the photographer was angry that she wasn't allowed to use a flash clues you in that she isn't very experienced, as that has been the case with a lot of weddings I've been to. Again, this is reflected in her price point and the portfolio presented.

I take issue with JJB's attitude. He misses the point entirely, and uses this "case" to show off his (or his script writers') photographic knowledge. Pro series cameras and f/2.8 zooms would have probably helped with the low light photos, but again - you're hiring a budget photographer so don't expect professional gear. Having prints made at Walmart is not ideal, but again - you're hiring a budget photographer, so don't expect professional prints. Last I checked, 8x10's *are* enlargements. And, unless there was some severe cropping going on, the camera she was using would be perfectly adequate for printing up to 20x30. You wouldn't walk into a car dealer, buy a Toyota, and then sue the dealer because it's not a Porche. Attacking this photographer for not being a gear head at the top end of her market is worthless and irrelevant.

There are a lot of wedding photographers who complain that people like this are undercutting them and ruining the industry. My response to them is that if you're good at what you do, you should never even have to think twice about these people. Sure, you lose brides who are trying to save money or just don't have the budget to hire you, but they won't even be looking at you in the first place. And if you think you're better than a budget photographer but you're still competing on price, it's time to wake up and start charging what you're worth - you're only undercutting yourself and devaluing your own work.

To any future brides out there, remember this when you start shopping for a photographer. If you want professional quality work you have to hire a professional quality photographer, and they don't come cheap. What you're paying for is a photographer who will come prepared with the right equipment (and backup equipment in case something fails or breaks, which happens), the right knowledge and experience to use that equipment, the ability to make you and your wedding party/family comfortable and pose you for flattering and unique formals, the right processing software and knowhow to produce gorgeous images (trust me, that's a big part of it), and the right printing services to deliver outstanding prints and books. I'm not saying you have to blow your entire budget on a photographer or only hire the most expensive in your area, but be aware of what your money will get you and don't have unrealistic expectations. Always meet with your photographer and look through their work before signing a contract (and especially before signing a deposit check). Ask if you can see a whole wedding, not just a polished book or portfolio, so you have an idea of what you're really getting.

That's about it for my little rant here. What are your thoughts? Do you think JJB was right to rip into this photographer? Should the bride have won this case? Are photographers like this devaluing the industry? Please comment and share a bit.


[title of blog] on flickr

1 comment:

  1. Totally not watching (I can't stand tv like that) but your post summarizes the key points well enough.

    My only comment is that regardless of whether or not I have a real wedding, I've told Andy we're doing wedding/engagement photos, lol. That's the one aspect that actually matters to me, and I definitely will pay for what I want. :P