What’s the price of perfection??

Maybe it’s the economy, maybe it’s a trend, but we are getting more and more phone calls that go something like this:

“Hello, my name is __________, I’m getting married next month. I need a photographer. I have 10 bridesmaids and about 300 guests…. I don’t really want a big album, but what packages do you have with a small album, some prints and a CD of my images for under $750?”

I’ve talked to my fair share of brides – but these kinds of calls just floor me. I’m sitting on the other end of the phone just mentally spit drooling and finally my mouth begins to work again. All that comes out is, “Excuse me?”

My kind and well meaning phone bride repeats herself, never catching on to the fact that I don’t need a repeat – it’s that I’m just stuck there in disbelief.

These calls point out several things that trouble me. First of all, the time frame. Just a month away? And you need a photographer now? Hmmmm….. (Either she’s lost her original photographer for some reason, or photography isn’t very high on her list of things that are important. Secondly is the party and guest size. 10 bridesmaids means at least 20 or so in her wedding party plus 300 guests. Hmmm…. hold that though while we go to the 3rd point; the price.

A bunch of goodies, big album or not, for $750 or less, with a guest list and bridal party that size PLUS being on short notice – just sounds really problematic. Not a great fit for a company of our size, scale and scope. So I don’t come across as sounding snooty, please let me explain myself.

I NEVER want to do a bad job. Ever. Especially where a wedding is concerned. They’re fun, exciting, romantic…. and quite a challenge. They are one of the toughest photography jobs you can do. They require precision, timing, a ton of planning, backup equipment and personnel and honestly, as beautiful as they are, they can be a real nail biter. In short, this job, especially for a larger wedding, is not for the faint of heart.

Having said that, the bride above has no idea (and why should she? She’s not a photographer) what she’s asking for. Think of the group photo. Take 20 people, add in the parents, grandparents, brothers and sister and pretty soon, you have a photo with 50 people in it. Are you really going to get 50 folks, exposed properly, with no distortion, evenly lit and all eyes open with a single camera with a body flash? No. It takes the extra equipment and crew to make a shot like that work. Not to mention the vast array of wanted candids, formals, dancing, cake, bouquet, garter…. Ultimately, in the end, her expectations and budget aren’t aligned. The sadder truth is that she will find someone to roll out the door at that price under these conditions and the photos will be taken.

….and what’s wrong with that? (Hopefully) Absolutely nothing.

When we started out several years ago – we did many small weddings for that amount or less. But we also did it while letting our brides know that this was our first year or two shooting weddings and that we were still “cutting our teeth”. In other words, we were scared to death, still learning our way, knowing that we had to do an EXCELLENT job (after all, it IS a wedding) and that we were still a little clumsy and moved a little slower than we should. Bottom line though is that our brides, their expectations and understandings were exactly in line with our price and ability. No unsatisfied clients and we never got even a whimper of a complaint.

Today we are huge – and we do some very impressive high budget weddings and corporate events (you’ve seen our client list) but we are also very realistic and humbled by all of this and our success. So is it that Fotowerks is just too high and mighty to “stoop” to a low budget wedding? No, it’s not that. It’s just that we have built our business around a bride that has a certain level of quality and expertise in mind and these are the people who generally hire us. These brides plan very far out in advance of their big day. They have planners who work with us so we have our group (sometimes 5-6 photographers) in their places at the exact right time. These brides show up at our staff production meetings so they are involved with our planning so they are up to date with all of our preparation. They are planning a spectacle, want it documented properly and so they budget accordingly.

Does that mean that if you spend less than $5000-$10000 your photos are going to stink?? No… of course not!! It’s just that you have to be realistic about what you want and what you’re asking for. For instance, let’s say you just spent $40,000 on a 300 guest, sit down affair with all the trimmings… are you really looking for a less than $1000 photographer to capture your lifetime memories? If so, fine – but you really need to think about this. All I can tell you is that in our early days, we let a few really big weddings go because we simply felt that we weren’t ready and equipped to handle something that size. As always, the idea of disappointing a client is just awful to us.

Are there photo companies out there that can do a great job for $1000  or less? Sure! I’ve seen some of their work and it’s gorgeous! But don’t try and kill them with a huge wedding, unless you are willing to pay a great deal more and allow them some wiggle room in their services and capabilities. That’s just he fair and right thing to do. But trust me, take a huge last minute job to them for the low price and you’ll hurt them and be sorely disappointed.

As for us, you can bring a large job to us and if you want to discuss the terms a bit – I’m fine with that. As long as you don’t ask me to cut a corner or quality.