Re: Consumer Watch: Bride’s Wedding Pictures Turns into Nightmare

A bride had received poor photographs and service from her professional photographer. Had she followed these tips, she wouldn’t be calling the TV station to resolve her problem.

Many people saw the news piece last night on Channel 9 entitled
“Consumer Watch: Bride’s Wedding Pictures Turns into Nightmare.”

For the benefit of those who did not see the piece; the professional photographer did a very poor job photographing the wedding. Many, many images were out of focus or blurry. The photographer was also delinquent in delivery of the images and has yet to fulfill the contract for prints. The station was unable to reach the photographer.

My sympathies go out to the bride. I know this is difficult and heart wrenching. However, this would not have happened if the bride had selected Certified Professional Photographer, or a Master photographer.

Certified Professional Photographers must pass a comprehensive exam on photographic knowledge and submit a portfolio of works to a panel for approval. Less than 3% of the professional photographers in America will qualify. Much like the Good Housekeeping seal or the Underwriters Laboratory seal, the Certified Professional Photographer credential is a stamp of confidence from the Professional Photographers of America that consumers can count on. Purchasers of professional photography can have confidence in Certified Professional Photographer knowing they have the knowledge and skill to produce quality photographs.

The Master of Photography designation takes a minimum of four years to earn and it takes most recipients at least eight years. The Master of Photography is earned through a combination of excellence in print competition and lectures to fellow professional photographers. Masters of Photography are revered by their peers in the professional photography industry for their knowledge and skill.

No photographer is perfect. No equipment is infallible. Even the best photographers will have a rare occasion when they are unable to deliver the finished product. That is why the Professional Photographers of America automatically enrolls its wedding and portrait photographers in the Malpractice/Indemnity Trust program. This program gives member photographers resources to correct or refund situations where they were unable to deliver the finished product. If the bride in the story had selected a photographer that was a member of the Professional Photographers of America, then she would not have needed to resort to calling a TV station to mediate her issues.

The lesson to be learned? Always select a Certified and/or a Master Photographer to be your professional photographer. Ask the photographers you are interviewing if they are members of the Professional Photographers of America. The consumer can put their faith in these credentials knowing that those who hold them are the very best.

To find a certified professional photographer:
To find a Master of Photography or a PPA member photographer:

——— follow up

The photographer in the news story did make good on the photographs and the arrangement. Channel 9’s follow up can be found here.

Video “Photography”

I happen to be looking at a website of a videographer who was suggesting that the still images taken from his video could substitute for hiring a professional wedding photographer.  It is to laugh!  That would be the equivalent of using a 3 mega-pixel camera.  My wife’s camera has better resolution than that!

Now, there is a lot more to photography than the megapixel size of your camera.  There is exposure, focus, compostion and lighting.  I’ve seen very few videographers who understand and apply all four of those fundamentals.  Granted, the videographer does have the advantage of not having to ‘time’ when he takes the photograph.  However, the lack of resolution and lack of light control, composition and posing would make this scenario no better than what your friends are taking with their point-and-shoot cameras.

More ramblings on the state of the wedding photography industry

From time to time I will visit other photographer’s websites. It amazes me how “casual” wedding photography has become. I saw a sample album on site that contained no nice photos of the bride and her mother (she appears in the candids as the bride is getting dressed), the groom’s parents are absent from all the photos (maybe they didn’t come to the wedding) and there are no images of the families that traveled to this event. Sure, there are lots of photographs of the wedding party having fun and it looked like everybody had a good time; but there are key people that I’m sure were important to the bride and groom who are absent from the photographs.

Another photographer claimed to have “World Class Photography”. Dig a little deeper and you will not find any awards from their peers or the professional organizations. In fact, you won’t even find memberships in the professional organizations.

Possessing a scalpel does not make one a surgeon. Possessing a nice digital camera does not make one a professional photographer. A true professional photographer controls exposure, focus, composition and lighting to produce consistent and repeatable results.

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MP3s and JPGs

Digital technology has changed every industry it has touched. The question that is often being asked is, “where is professional photography headed?” I think we can garner some clues from the music industry. Digital music has changed the way we experience music. From the first MP3 players to the IPod, we now take our music everywhere, listen to less radio, buy fewer CDs and buy our music by the slice from numerous web sites. I am already seeing that this same technology is changing how we experience our photographs. We carry them on our phones, use them as backgrounds on our computer and email them to friends and relatives.

Traditionally professional photographers are reluctant to release their income generating files (used to be negatives). After all , there is money to be made selling prints and some photo operations (can you say Wal Mart?) rely totally on the sale of prints. If that mass outfit gave you the file, for that whopping $1.50 sitting fee, and you went and made your own prints they would go out of business very quickly. Releasing files is touchy subject among professionals.

So my question is, how important is it to you to have your digital files? Let me know. And if you want your files, tell me how you wish to use them in the comment section.

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The State of the Industry – Part 1

Catch me in a candid moment, and I will rant and rave about the direction that the professional photography industry is headed. Occasionally I will find others making similar comments. From the June 2007 issue of Rangefinder:

‘Digital can make you a sloppy photographer,’ warns Sterling [Hoffman]. ‘ is easy to take a lot of images hoping that one of them will be good. The option of “FISP-ing” the image (fixing it in Photoshop) is leading to a generation of photographers who do not pay appropriate attention to white balance, exposure, expressions and extraneous things that should have been removed.‘” – Page 50, Avoiding Digital Disease by Mark Zucker.

“‘That means photography is changing at its most basic level. It means that every photographer is now looked at as a Photoshop person. Meanwhile, successful photographers have worked extremely hard to train themselves to see light, to understand exposure, to work with camera perspective and lenses, and so on – and that just doesn’t happen in Photoshop‘” – Page 131, Joseph Meehan: Embracing the Future with a Mindful eye on the Past by Michelle Perkins.

There is more to photography than picking up a camera and firing off a few hundred – or thousand – exposures. Photography is the art and science of capturing an image in a camera. Not the art and science of correcting your mistakes later.

Not all photographers are created equal

“So who’s photographing your wedding in Dallas?”, I casually asked an acquaintance of mine. “Oh, my roommate. He’s got a nice camera.” I cringed on the inside. A nice camera does not qualify one to be a photographer any more than a volt meter qualifies me to be an electrician. A good photographer can make you look great, a bad photographer, well… The following is a great example. Copied from the February issue Professional Photography Magazine, the article is about one couple that went to three different professional photographers for their engagement portrait. Though the article focused on the experience, I will focus on the quality of the photographs. (BTW: I did not take either image, so I have nothing vested in this.)

Let’s start with the left one. Pose: The way she is positioned in front of him, she looks larger. The way she is leaning on her forward leg (the one closest to the camera), she looks heavier. Her leading arm is smashed against her body causing to forearm squish out and it looks wider than her face. Clothing: At least they have solid colors; but she is brighter and therefor perceived [again] as larger. Light: The light is totally wrong. The hot spot coming in on her forehead makes it look like she has a receding hair line, the splash of light on her forearm increases – once again – its perceived size. Light should sculpt a face, not show off areas you don’t want emphasis. Focus: background is too sharp and the couple does not separate from it sufficiently.

Compare this to the image on the right. Pose: Nicely done. Even though she is in front, you can see him on both sides of her so he looks larger than her. Clothing: Nice choice. I always tell my couples to match your clothing – now you see why. The long sleeves helped too. Light: Perfect. This is what a properly lit face looks like. Notice how much slimmer her face looks on the right than the left. Focus: Nicely blurred background. The emphasis is on the couple.

Not all photographers – even professional ones – are created equal.

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Rapidly Declining

The quality of wedding photography – on the whole – is rapidly declining. It saddens me to see this.

The problem is, a lot of people with decent digital cameras decide they can photograph weddings. Most of these newcomers have no knowledge of what actually makes a good photograph. They take their flash and stick it on their camera in TTL mode, put the camera in Program and take hundreds or thousands of photographs. “It looks right on the back of the camera, so it must be right. Anyways, I can fix it Photoshop.” Both of those statements are inaccurate.

Every photograph rests on four foundational pillars: 1)Focus (including depth-of-field), 2)Exposure (including color balance), 3)Composition (including lens selection) and 4)Lighting. The better the foundation, the better the photograph. A camera with an on camera flash in program mode IS NOT capable of getting creating a quality photograph. It is – quite simply – bad photography.

The magazines that cater to professional photographers are not helping matters. They publish images that lack the fundamental basics of good photographs. Professional photographers have not helped themselves either. Many are just lazy and use poor techniques when it comes to photographing weddings. Prices of good digital cameras continue to decline encouraging more people to move into the business.

Take all those ingredients and stir them up and what do you get? It’s not pretty and it smells bad. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.