Dirty Little Secrets: Lies Photographers Tell You

Wedding photography is an incredible lucrative, yet totally unregulated industry. While our education is quite affordable in comparison to other careers that make the same amount of money, education and business procedure is not regulated in any way. One educator will tell you how to do something, and another educator will tell you it’s wrong. They both fight that they are right and the other is wrong.

For example, while at ClickCon, one of my educators told me not to shoot the outdoor photos for the Vintage eclectic on film because the right way to do it was to shoot it in digital. Another one of my teachers told me to always go with my gut, and since film is so on brand for the business, I should definitely do it in film. She said every time she ignored her gut she regretted it. I agree, as the same has happened to me, especially when an educator has told me that I absolutely have to do it his or her way. Educators can be very pushy, opinionated, and rude towards us as students. Especially if we don’t agree with their thoughts on how things should be done. I talked about how this can escalate to bullying in my first installment Dirty Little Secrets: Verbal abuse does not make you a better photographer.

Because our education isn’t regulated, anyone can call themselves an educator. Anyone at all. Joe Shmo can start a Facebook page, Instagram, or website and say they’re qualified to teach when in fact they are not. I have walked out of several classes at WPPI because the instructor had no idea what he or she was talking about.

There are a lot of dangers that come with training with the wrong instructor. I know photographers who purchased annual mentoring packages from “instructors.” These instructors pound their ideals into their students’ heads. They give terrible advice and bully their students. Students can suffer psychological damage from the constant insults. Their confidence can be ground down so low that they question themselves constantly. Worse than that, they spend a year learning from some photographer who isn’t qualified, then when their business is failing, all that time had been wasted. They have to start all over, finding a way to properly build and run a business after being led astray.

In addition, instructors will tell you to lie to your clients. I’ve had instructors tell me to say things like, “When you turn in your album selections late, the album company charges me an extra $300, so I have to charge you an extra $300.” That’s not a thing. Another popular one is “If you don’t buy anything from me tonight, we’re going to delete all of your photos from our hard drives. NO photographer ever deletes images from their hard drive. If a photographer says that to you, they’re lying. It is a hard sell technique that I don’t like or appreciate. In addition, it’s very important to me to be transparent, honest, and authentic in my business and with my clients, so I would never lie to a client. If I screw up, if I do something wrong, I tell the client I did it. Then I work as quickly as possible to fix that.

There’s another sketchy situation that happens, but is never talked about. I heard a story from a bride one time that was familiar. She hired a photographer for her wedding that she absolutely loved. A few weeks after signing the contract, her photographer contacted her to say, in the mother of the bride’s words, “that she had double booked that day, and she didn’t pick us.” So basically, the photographer got an inquiry for another wedding she wanted to shoot more, so she lied and said oops, sorry, I already had someone booked for that day before I booked you. Maybe it was the location (destination?), the venue (somewhere she’d been wanting to work), the details, or the couple (modelesque attractive?). So she dumped her first bride. She said she needed to cancel on them. I explained exactly why she did that, and they were appalled, but not surprised, as they felt like something was off.

So what do you do if a photographer tells you any of these lies? Do the same thing you should do any time someone lies to you. Call them out on it. “I know you don’t delete photos from your hard drive. Don’t lie to me.” Then be sure to include the lies in your final review once you’ve received all your photos and the job is completely over. Don’t post a bad review until EVERYTHING is in your possession. Some photographers have been known to retaliate.

Another huge lie a lot of “wedding photographers” tell isn’t in words, but in photographs. Have you ever come across a wedding photographer’s GORGEOUS web site with flawless photos, and every single client looks like a model? Is every reception shot missing guests? Are there any bridal party of family photos on the site? What I’m warning you about is “styled shoots.” A large percentage of wedding photographer web sites out there are full of commercial photos of models taken under perfect circumstances. That’s not wedding photography. Wedding photography is down and dirty, and changes on a dime. I won’t get into this now, because soon I’ll be publishing a Dirty Little Secrets all about styled shoots, so stay tuned. It’s very valuable information if you’re planning a wedding.

When searching for photographers, read ALL their reviews. I explain how to unearth hidden Yelp reviews in my blog about how to choose a wedding photographer. When you have your consultations, ask questions and watch their faces while they answer. If you have a gut feeling that something is sketchy, listen to your gut. If you feel safe, secure, and like they are being transparent, you’ve found yourself a winner.


Legal Disclaimer: This is a personal blog series.  It should in no way be taken as fact, and is simply a collection of opinion editorials.  The thoughts contained in this blog are all my own, unless otherwise cited within the contents of the blog, and are not being made herein with ill intent and/or motive.  The information contained in this blog is for entertainment purposes only, and should not be construed as legal, medical or other professional advice.

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