The increasing popularity of the reportage style of wedding photography, or wedding photo-journalism as it is sometimes called, has brought with it a new problem for couples shopping for a wedding photographer. The amateur.

Because so many amateur photographers think that all wedding photography entails is following the bride and groom around for a few hours clicking away, lots of them are doing it.

Now before you start thinking “here is another wedding photographer who’s watching his business go down the drain because of the “new breed” of photographers coming into the industry”, please, that really is not the case. My philosophy is “the more the merrier”. The more bad wedding photographers there are, the easier it is for the good ones to stand out from the crowd.

But from a brides point of view it is a potential nightmare. A listing in yellow pages is fairly cheap, a simple website does not cost the earth, and add the fact that a half decent digital slr can be bought for less than £500. It is relatively easy for an amateur photographer to pass themselves off as a pro. So put yourself in the shoes of the “wannabe”…..

You have a half decent camera and you took a few pictures at your mates wedding last month, so you could put a sample album together. The neighbours kid is a wiz with a computer and could no doubt build you a website in no time, all for the price of a couple of tickets to Saturday’s match. What is there to lose?

That studio on the local high street shows some lovely albums, but you have no idea where they get them from. And be honest, do you really want to be messing about with albums and frames? You like “taking” pictures, not framing them.

Here is an idea, just offer all the image files on cd with no copyright restrictions, then all you have to do is spend a few hours on a Saturday afternoon at a wedding doing what you love, taking pictures. No messing about with albums and frames, its easy.

A quick internet search will give you some ideas for your site, & you could also send for some wedding brochures from the local studio too.

So how much should you charge? Do you have any qualifications? Are you a member of any trade organisations? Have you won any competitions or awards? Can you show any testimonials from past clients? Do you have professional indemnity and/or public liability insurance? Do you have back-up equipment in case of a faulty camera?

Assuming the answer is no to some or all of the above, you wont be able to show couples that you are more reputable than the guy in the high street. So if you can’t be better you will have to be cheaper. So, find out what all the other photographers in your area are charging (which of course will include all the other amateurs that have already completed this process), & undercut them.

Now at this point you may be thinking “What’s the problem?”

1. They’ve been taking pictures for years, they’ll be ok

2. I can have all the files on CD and make my own prints which many professional photographers wont let me have

3. I don’t have to buy a package with an album that will end up in the bottom draw and never see the light of day again

4. The reportage photographs I have seen on a few other websites are no better than this

5. I can save money that I can put towards my honeymoon

6. All photographers are the same anyway, so the cheapest price is the best deal

OK, lets see what we have here…

1. They may have been taking photographs for years, and they probably have some lovely sunsets and pictures of the fox that comes in their garden late at night. But photographing a wedding is like no other photography job. There are many great commercial and press photographers that would never consider taking a wedding booking.

You only get one chance to get it right. There are lots of people about watching your every move. You need to be able to handle those people & get great expressions from them. You need to be in the right place at the right time, almost having a sixth sense as to what might happen next. Bright white dress next to a dark grey or black suit is tough for most automatic cameras to expose correctly, the full auto function is seldom close.

2. Yes you can have all your files on cd, but many professional wedding photographers will include this in their packages too, shop around. But is this cd really that important? How many prints will you make? How many prints do you make of your own photographs? How many would you make if the quality of photographs was not very good?

3. If you don’t want an album, don’t have one. Most wedding photographers will be happy to build you a package without an album if they don’t already offer this. Many couples are opting for a DVD slideshow or a large framed print as an alternative to an album.

4. So you have seen lots of websites trying to pass an amateur photographer off as a professional wedding photographer? I can well believe it, they are everywhere!

5. You certainly can save money initially by booking this type of photographer. But what would the cost be in the long term? How much are your wedding photographs worth? How much is it worth to insure that you get some? What would the emotional cost be of not having any wedding photographs?

6. It is impossible for any company in any industry to offer the best quality product or service and the lowest price. Let me prove this to you with a quick example.

An insurance companies costs come in three main areas, staff wages, the cost of claims, and the cost of running its offices. The company in this example has decided that cutting its premiums will increase sales. Everyone will go to them because they are so much cheaper than all the other insurance companies. To cut premiums they need to cut costs, deciding they could halve their call centre staffing costs by sacking half the staff.

But the result is not only lower premiums, it is also lower quality service to its customers because it takes at least twice as long to speak to someone when they call. This causes some of their customers to go elsewhere, choosing to pay a little more to get better service. Because the insurance company now has less money coming in, its costs have actually increased & they are back to square one.

If quality is not important to you, why pay anyone? Get “uncle Bob” to take some photographs. If quality is important to you, don’t shop by price alone or you will be disappointed. Remember, you only have one chance to choose the wrong photographer.

You could use food stores as a comparison. Netto, Asda, Sainsburys, Marks & Spencer. I doubt that anyone reading this shops at all of these stores on a regular basis. Netto try to be the cheapest supermarket there is. They have competition from Lidl, Kwik Save & Aldi to name but a few. M&S are pretty unique in the food market, having very little if any competition nationally, priding themselves on selling the best quality food there is. Yet over 83% of market share is divided between Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose, Somerfield & Sainsburys, with Tesco alone taking over 30%. What do these stores offer? Value for money. Do you buy the best? The cheapest? Of do you expect value for your money?

I’m sure you can draw the same type of comparisons for every product & service on the market, so why not wedding photography?