Open letter to wedding photographers about their websites

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Dear wedding photographers,

I think you're swell but, as a whole, your websites suck.

First of all, turn the freaking music off.

Seriously.

I'm probably looking at your site at work and it's hard to find the off button and I probably don't like the music you picked nor do I care since I didn't come to you for music.

Don't do it — you're going to get a potential client in trouble!

Secondly, it should not take 100 years for your site or gallery to load. The best way to ensure this is to NOT USE FLASH! And while we're on the subject of the gallery, how to move from one picture to another should be obvious to my grandmother and I should be able to peruse the thumbnails.

I should also be able to use the keyboard or the scroller on my mouse to move through the pictures (which is another reason NOT TO USE FLASH!)

Also, I'm pretty sure 75% of you all have the exact same Flash site re-branded. Stop it. Want something inexpensive? Try WordPress with a custom template design. [Editor's note: or even just a good pre-made theme.] And do NOT have your gallery or site pop-up! EVER!

Thirdly, don't have your blog header take up the entire screen. I get confused and think there are no posts or something. And if you don't have a blog with most of your current wedding previews, make one.

Fourthly, tell me how much you cost. I don't care if you do “custom” packages, tell me how much your typical package is and what it includes.

Fifth, I'm probably going to post the photos on facebook. If you have a problem with this, the best way to handle it is to give me lo-res versions of all pictures with your watermark. Then everyone is happy.

Lastly, tell me WHERE YOU LIVE. I totally get that you want to travel and stuff but I'm not looking to pay for that so make it really obvious where you live and shoot weddings generally. Don't make me look up your area code on google. Instead how about say “Chicago Wedding Photographer” instead of just “Wedding Photographer.”

Seriously I love you guys, but weddings are stressful and photography is expensive, so make it a bit easier on us! True I'm already married and had an awesome photographer (with a great website!) but since I have three good friends getting married next year, I now have to look at all the sites again… and it's annoying. It is also true that I develop web sites for a living and am probably more critical than most… but really, I'm trying to help!

Sincerely,
Becca

Comments on Open letter to wedding photographers about their websites

  1. Wedding photogs, you KNOW I love you. Seriously. Mad love.

    But Becca speaks the truth. :/

    That said, OBBs: you know we’re not about bashing anyone here. So please keep your comments constructive. Photographers are our friends, and we want to help them make their websites better — not bitch about them.

  2. Absolutely! You have nailed it perfectly. I use flash on my site and have a minimal header on my blog. HOWEVER, my site is very easy to use and navigate.

    I list my prices, location etc. I don’t use music. I’ve done market research in my area. Approximately 1/10 of the wedding photographers do not list their prices. I feel that this is meant to deceive / trick brides into meeting with them (inevitably leading to high pressure sales).

    • *Ahem* I can tell you that my colleagues and I do not keep prices off our sites to deceive or trick. It’s merely a way of getting brides to CONTACT us. Most of us want a little information from the brides to see what they might need from us and then we send the list. I usually send the prices within 2 hours of contact and sometimes faster! Again, it’s not a bait and switch thing but just a way of making contact. Thanks!

      • And I’d be willing to guess that you might actually be losing clients by not posting any prices. When I was looking for a wedding photographer, I automatically dismissed anyone who couldn’t bother to give me at least a general idea of pricing. Brides are busy people who don’t have time/patience to contact 20 photographers and wait a couple hours for a reply.
        Show them your work, and show them your prices. Let them decide if they want to contact to you.

        • You know, when I was looking for a photographer, of the ones I could find that worked in the Toronto area, only ONE gave me prices, and their prices scared me. So I was forced to email photographers. I found out quickly it was actually a good idea. Some of the ones I liked were just WAY out of my league price-wise, but the really telling part was how they communicated with me, or didn’t. some never answered my emails, some were very dismissive, and some, well the one I originally chose, was really nice!

          As much as a pain as it might seem to contact photographers, you really can quickly get a feel for whether or not they are someone you want to talk to further.

          The photographers I’ve asked as to why they don’t have prices on their website said the same thing, that they wanted contact, but also because their prices can vary depending on what the client wants/needs.

          My photographer doesn’t have prices on her website, but I’m getting pretty darn amazing value for my money in terms of her time and commitment. So it’s really worth it to email. Personally, I cut and paste my email for the most part, and just personalized how I’d found them/what I liked about their work, it didn’t take long at all. It took much more time figuring out if the photographers I was looking at were actually in/around Toronto or in like Seattle. I really wish more photographers would be really blatent about *where* they are!

        • Same with me. I don’t want to take the time to email someone only to find out that they’re wayyyy outside my price range. Then I’ve wasted everyone’s time.

        • I will not contact a photographer that doesn’t give at least general pricing information up front. This is very true.

      • Okay, I understand where you’re coming from with that, but here’s the thing… Whenever I see anything (from services to shoes) without a price tag attached, I assume it is because it’s amazingly expensive and I move on. I’m willing to bet that many other people think the same way.

        • This is absolutely my outlook…and for the few people/places that I’ve been willing to email even without posted prices…I’ve found it holds true!

        • Yes, completely agree! When I see the prices, I know that these are not the set in stone prices, but they do give me an idea of whether or not the photog is even in the world of what I can consider.

        • I completely agree with what you have said. I need to see the prices of things before i make contact. Im not going to take the time to write emails and wait around when the next website i see might have the prices on there and its easier to navigate and see what is on offer.

        • After contacting two who didn’t have prices and finding out they were way too expensive, I think the same thing. After that, if there was no prices anywhere, I didn’t bother-no point in getting my heart broken.

          • I’m another one who feels the same way. If I don’t see a price I move on assuming it’s too expensive. I don’t want to waste everyone’s time discussing plans only to realise I can’t afford it.

            It doesn’t have to be an exact price. The best approach might be to say “My prices start at X” with X being the minimum you’d consider for a job.

            Alternatively give a few example packages across the range of your services with a note that each couple gets different things and is charged different prices.

        • I completely agree. I’m very frugal so if prices are not listed, I assume the product is too expensive. Also, I’m a soft touch so I feel bad if I contact someone and they’re not what I need and then I need to send them a break-up letter. I’m getting married so I never have to break-up again!

      • I likewise pass over any vendor (photographers included) who does not post prices online. I don’t want to waste my time e-mailing or calling someone who ends up being out of my budget. I’m happy with a price range (and then I’ll contact for specifics), but if it doesn’t have any hints about price range then I’ll keep looking elsewhere.

      • I totally agree with the no price/no buying thing. I like to know what I’m getting up front- most ladies can’t afford a wedding coordinator you know…

      • Same here. Every single photographer that didn’t list prices got passed by without exception.

        Yes, every photog does custom packages, but even having a price range of your bargain basement vs. all-inclusive packages gives a starting point.

      • Personally I didn’t bother contacting any photographers that don’t at least give a minimum price on their website. I’m sure I’m not the only person who skips over photographers that give zero clue as to their pricing.

      • I wrote something very long, but I think it came off a little too ranty. So I’ll just summarize and agree with everyone else. When I was getting married, the photographers I got were out of my budget, but their work was amazing enough that I considered them worth negotiating with so I contacted them anyway. But I didn’t contact anyone whose prices weren’t easily available to me with out contacting them. Because I don’t LIKE contacting people, so I’m not going to do it until I know that I’m fully prepared and completely thought out and will only have to do it the ONE time.

        • “I’m not going to do it until I know that I’m fully prepared and completely thought out and will only have to do it the ONE time.”

          The problem is, you might not be ‘fully prepared’ until AFTER you talk to them. A good photographer will be honest with you… you might think you need 9 hours, and they might see the schedule of your day and tell you that you really only need 7… or that you really need 11.
          You might think you need X minutes for your formal shots at the altar, or Y minutes for your bridal party at a park – and you might be WAY WAY WAY off. (I’ve had people think it takes 5 minutes… and I’ve had others think it takes 3 hours…) the photographer can help you get a more accurate timeframe based on what you want and help you plan your day better.
          Photographers don’t want you to ‘shop’ them online using faulty information — if you think you need 11 hours, you might think someone is our of your budget… but if after learning the needs and style of that particular photographer, you might really only need 9 to get what is important to you and 9 hours with photographer JoeSchmoe might be within your budget.

          • This is true, but if my photography budget is $1000 and your 5 hour starting coverage is $3000, it doesn’t really matter if I’m wrong about my timeline 😉

      • I was LESS likely to contact a vendor if they didn’t have their prices listed. Not worth the effort.

      • It’s a point of contention, to be sure. You are doing your clients a courtesy by allowing them to at least self-select but probably doing yourself a disservice by laying it all out there. That’s why I see a lot of people agree that “starting at…” is a good idea. Your clients know if you’re in the $1k, $5k, or $10k bracket, and you go from there.

  3. Sorry about the flash. I think that even my blog is flash. In my defense, my site loads pretty quickly though and I think I know which sites you are talking about. Let’s just say that they are not as “fast” as they say they are! ;o) The pricing issue is tough though. It’s because we want to hear from brides. Personally, I took my prices down for the first time in 11 years because I wanted to hear from brides that needed help and also wanted to be able to see how I could work with them. If I only put the prices up and they never contacted me, some lovely people would have missed out on getting a good offer from me that they could afford.
    I already put about 100 watermarked images up on Facebook for my clients. What’s upsetting is when they crop out the watermark. Thanks!

    • One of the biggest problems with flash these days is that iphones can’t deal with it … which means you’re missing a slice of your market!

      • And slowly, the site designers are trying to deal with this. I find it amusing that we are being blamed for the phones not having flash site capability. Which came first? :O)

        • Oh, absolutely — but you gotta adapt to market shifts. And the iphone is a market game-changer for web designers.

        • Yes, Flash came first, but therein lies the problem. It’s old technology that is an absolute resource hog.

      • So true! I was recently helping MY best friend find a photographer and she’d text me their web addresses and too many times would I get that sad “?” icon.

      • You really shop for your wedding photographer using the 3″ screen on a iPhone? (I’m not trying to be confrontational… it’s just that I have completely ignored the mobile phone market because even though I’m a tech geek in my 20’s, I’d NEVER consider shopping for a multi-thousand dollar photographer for my wedding via a mobile phone… do I need to reconsider my stance?)

        • It wasn’t a photographer for ME or my wedding, it was my friend asking my professional opinion on a photographer for HER. I can get a feel pretty fast for whether or not I like a photographer on ANY size screen as 1. Studying wedding photos is part of my job for OBB and 2. I’m also a photographer. But I can’t give a yay or nay opinion if I can’t see their websites. So I’m only going to vote on the ones that I could access.

          It’s pretty common practice to check emails on the go from your phone and then click through the links in the emails on your phone.

          • Very interesting — the “emails from friends while on the go” is a great example of when it might actually matter. I’ve always kept my blog phone-friendly, but my main site (which hasn’t been updated in 2 years… grrr…) I’ve never really thought people might be looking at on their phones. Time to make a alternate HTML version, I guess.
            Thank you for the insight.

        • These days I know people who do ALL of their web browsing on their iPhone. I think they’re crazy, but I’m starting to fear I may be slipping into the minority of not having a smartphone D:

          • Don’t worry, there’s plenty of us out there still.

            My brother uses his iPhone a lot because he’s a guitar teacher who spends most of his day travelling. My mum uses one because she’s put so much junk (animated wall paper ect.) on her computer it’s not worth using unless you have an hour to spare.

            Me, I spend almost all day in front of a computer and can’t remember the last time I had just one tab or just one program running so an iPhone would be a waste of money.

    • This is what I don’t understand.

      “I already put about 100 watermarked images up on Facebook for my clients.”

      Yes you took them for the client, but in all honesty, if I can’t put the pictures up on my own Facebook, Flickr etc then I would move on from that photographer. And if they’re cropping out the watermark then you could make it opaque and stick it right in the middle of the picture.

      I just don’t get the entire “I took these photos, they’re MINE” concept (not saying you said that, just commenting about it from experience in finding a photographer) some photographers have. Yes, they took the photos, but *I* paid you to take them for me. I’m not going to pay a photographer for photos that isn’t going to give me full rights to them. It’s our special day, not the photographers.

      • You make an excellent point (and here is where I get all librarian copyright law), technically the photographers own the rights to the photos of YOUR wedding and you do not. Unless you come to a written agreement with the photographer otherwise. That is how copyright law works. So if you want the rights to post your photos online or Photoshop them, then you need to get it in writing with your photographer. I also suggest reading the article on Offbeat Bride by fellow awesome librarian, Molly. http://offbeatbride.com/2010/03/wedding-photo-copyright

      • I agree with this 100%. One of my “musts” for my photographer was one who would give me the rights to all of my photos. That honestly eliminated almost every local photographer in my price range, luckily I did find one who we ended up going with.

        One of the more annoying policies I came across in my search was the photographer who would release the rights to “a limited number” of the photos for $50 per photo (That’s just for the rights, you don’t even get a print included with that)! I understand the law, but I can’t say I really agree with it!

      • Giving you personal right is one thing. FULL rights is another. As photographers, we make our living off our work. Giving you FULL rights means giving you the right to the copyright of the image and therefore enabling you to sell it commercially to advertisers and on stock photo sites, etc. This is where most photographers won’t go, because it is their work, and their copyright.

        Usually this is expressed in the photographer’s contract. I expect my clients to want to blog/FB their work (it’s good publicity!) and I even expect them to want to make their own prints (though not having control of the quality of the prints representing my work is kind of icky sometimes) but, if a client were selling my work and profiting off it, we would have a problem.

        • So I read the other comments, and I think I understand now.

          Photographers have the copyright to the photos, that’s fine. I just came across five or six photographers that wouldn’t give me reproduction rights to print my own photos, or allow me to post them on my facebook/flickr/blog etc. And that irritated the crap out of me.

          Now that I understand what you’re saying I have a better idea of the whole copyrighting the photos by the photographer concept.

  4. OMG yes! The price thing is particularly annoying. Wasting your time and mine because I can’t tell from your website that you are like 2K out of my price range is not cool.

  5. So probably not all of us are going to bow to the request of posting all of our pricing without contacting us first. Is it an acceptable compromise to post price ranges?

    • I think so. I need an idea of pricing to know if I should contact a photographer. It would be a total waste of both our time if packages start at say $3500 when my entire wedding budget is less than that. 🙂

    • I think that’s all people want.

      I don’t want you to share all your secrets or be perfectly consistent or not cut me a break! 🙂
      I just want to know if you’re 4k out of my price range (real experience).

      That kind of gap is really not going to get ‘worked out’.

    • A HUGE reason why we booked the photographers we did for our wedding was because their website gave a starting price for full-day coverage (and they listed what that would include) and then added that if clients were getting married on a weekday, in the off season, or were willing to compromise on cobbling together a la carte options, they were really willing to help come up with a price point that would work for everyone. We ended up going for one of their mid-range packages with some substitutions, but it just made my heart glad to see that they were our kind of people in terms of values.

    • I think that’s all most people want.

      I think most people understand that photography is a very variable service and the price can depend on a lot of things, they just want to know if it’s even worth thinking about it before going in.

    • Or just put packages up and then say that custom packages are available and/or all prices are negotiable. Most packages have tons of stuff I knew I didn’t want, but of course I had no idea how much each component cost. So I went in knowing I could negotiate, while the photographer still had the power to determine when and how to drop the price.

    • The caterer we picked just had a few sample contracts up (with names/details removed but prices all there) up — that was enough for us to know we weren’t wasting anyone’s time in contacting them.

  6. Honestly, I won’t even contact a photographer if there are no prices on their site. I need some sort of idea of their prices to even consider it. Sure, I know almost everyone does custom price packages, but still. It’s uber important for someone with a really tight budget.

  7. My photogs website is awesome, awesome, awesome — a big part of why I went with him. First impressions mean a lot.

  8. I agree about the music. I’m usually running hulu while I research (the only way I can sit and waste an hour watching hulu is if I do something productive while watching. In fact, it is playing right now. go Hell’s Kitchen!) The music coming on is very annoying to me. If I can’t find the button right away I just close out the window and never return. Also, I don’t like contacting people about prices, so if they aren’t on the website, I usually use that as a tool to narrow it all down. Any excuse to say “no” to a vendor in order to narrow it down is employed.

    • thank you. not mention who wants to listen to re-mixed enya while watching chef ramsey explode on those ppl? it’s too contradictory…my head might explode!

  9. OMG. This. I went through so many photography websites. The worst ones were ones that had a terrible layout, flash, sappy music and no price references.

    I ended up contacting and meeting with only one photographer that didn’t have her prices posted…but that’s because her work was PHENOMINAL! Other places that didn’t have prices, but still had nice photos…I didn’t bother with.

    You don’t need to list your exact prices, but basic packages, and price ranges would be SO helpful. Then I’m not wasting everyone’s time by contacting dozens of photographers, only to find out they’re thousands out of my price range.

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