Question (edited version):
Hello Stephen, hope you are doing well. Firstly let me say, I am a huge fan of your work. It's so beautiful and fresh.
Secondly, I am emailing you in regards to one of your posts about scams. Recently, I was looking through different photographers' sites with my friend, who is getting married, and stumbled upon a somewhat shady-looking (ie. unprofessional-looking site).
I found the following red-flag rising facts:
- None of the photographers/owners are professionals. I found out that they have only done a handful of weddings and therefore, are charging people $300 dollars per hour essentially for practice.
- Neither have any solid credentials in photography. On their photography site, they don't disclose this and don't inform anyone that they've just started and have done only a few weddings. Also, they don't put any professional credentials in photography. They just said, in an email, they've done workshops.
Thank you very much for your email and your very kind comments about my work.
I can’t advise you on whether to report a website, or a photographer, as that has to be a decision that you make yourself. What I will say, though, is that the wedding photography market probably has the largest percentage of non-professional (and often very inexperienced) photographers working in it, than any other sector of the photographic profession.
This is due to a number of factors including:
a) Low start-up costs
Wedding photographers don’t need to have a studio, or a lot of expensive camera and lighting equipment. They just need a reasonable camera (and many underestimate this, and buy what they think is a good camera, but actually it’s not nearly good enough in terms of the reproduction quality of the image) and a flash gun – and again, many beginning photographers don’t even know what fill-in flash is, or why they might need a flash gun – and how to use it properly.
b) Previous Experience
If I want to get a job as a magazine photographer, or a commercial photographer for a large company or a press photographer for a newspaper, or a travel photographer for a guide book – all of those potential employers will ask to see examples of my previous work. If I don’t have the work to show, I probably won’t get the job.
Also, some particular work, like press photography, will (sometimes) require me to hold membership of an appropriate organisation – like The National Union of Journalists (UK & Ireland) or the Association of Photographers. This is because many employers won’t consider a photographer without those credentials.
Wedding photography doesn’t work like that, though.
All you have to do is find someone who is getting married and convince them that you are the best wedding photographer in town. A few shots from the wedding you took of a friend, when you attended as a guest, might be enough to convince them – as a lot of people wouldn’t appreciate the skills involved to separate a snap shot from a great photograph.
They might also be swayed by the cost element, so if you’re less expensive (and by that I DO mean “cheap”) you might get the job.
c) Regulation Against Sham Wedding Photographers
It doesn’t exist. Anyone can set up as a wedding photographer – and the market is flooded with part-timers trying to supplement their income by working on weddings at the weekends. There are certainly more part timers than full-timers out there. Some are actually quite good at what they do – and some that I have seen are criminally bad.
Also, I've found that on forums where wedding photographers show their work to each other, they are often supporting each other from a base of misinformation. By that, I mean that some wedding photographers are not as experienced or skilled as they should be and examples of poor work - or at least "mediocre" work is being complimented and praised instead of being criticized.
The result of that, is that the standards never get any higher - and those photographers keep on producing the same low standard work as before.
d) Should you report a wedding photographer?
Well, maybe after the event (admittedly a bit late), because people are entitled to set themselves up in business as a photographer, if they want to do so – even (unfortunately) if they are incompetent!
Before the event, you should ask to see a lot of their work, in person, not on a website – and also ask for the names and phone numbers of the last 3 (or more) couples whose wedding they photographed.
Because, the decision to book them is yours.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for – and experience always counts. And the old Latin phrase “Caveat Emptor” – Let the Buyer Beware – still holds as true today as when it was first coined.