Looks like I’m not posting in time to help the original poster, but I hope my reply might help others in the same boat. Short answer: Be very cautious and get a contract of some sort. I am interested in knowing whether Hermoine (original poster) was happy with the results, and if not, what she has done about it, if anything.
Long answer: My husband and I agreed that we wanted nice photos of our wedding more than lots of other frills, but because of our small budget, even though we omitted a lot of expenditures (flowers, DJ, etc.), we still didn’t have a lot to spend on the photographer. He knew someone from his time in college who had earned a photography degree and is now in grad school for art but out of state. She does a lot of artsy shots in her personal time, and she has shot a handful of weddings before. After looking at samples on her blog, I thought her worked looked good enough, and I thought it might be neat to have some more artsy shots, too.
Because she doesn’t make a living on wedding photography, her rate was on the lower end of average. We ended up agreeing to pay her a $500 deposit/travel money for her to drive (her choice) from Kansas to Kentucky, $1100 on the day of, and we put her up in the hotel where all activities took place for $350. We did not sign a formal contract, though we did skype and email a couple of times before the wedding to discuss what kind of photos we wanted.
She took photos at the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding (at the hotel), some “wedding party getting ready” shots 1-2 hours before the noon wedding and the actual wedding (both of which also took place at the hotel), some quick group photos on site at the hotel between the ceremony and reception, and the reception (also at the hotel), which lasted until 3:30pm.
We did not receive our photos until a month after the wedding. Maybe that’s average–or even short–but we only received 172 shots that had been color corrected (though many of the outdoor group shots that she took in the glaring sun look washed out), but some of them still had red eye, and a couple were cropped a little off center (or taken off center and not cropped to correct for it). She also did not send us any photos from the rehearsal dinner. We noticed by the file naming convention that she took over 600 photos. When we wrote back to ask her if we might have the rest, she replied:
“Typically no professional photographer will do that (I don’t know any that do). From a professional stand point the images I send you are a representation of my work. My business and professional reputation are based on the images people see, which is why I provide you with the best images from all of the ones that I took. It is like a scientist publishing an experiment half done in a way.”
She did say she would send us some from the rehearsal dinner, though at this point I only expect a handful, and who knows how long it will take her. At first I wasn’t surprised and just sighed to myself, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like we overpaid her for mediocre quality, and in the absence of quality, quantity would make me feel a little better.
I don’t know if she took her job less seriously because she knew my husband personally, or if it’s just the fact that she’s not a professional wedding photographer, but I feel like we got less-than-professional results. At the very least, I feel unhappy and like we got much less than we paid for, and that should count for something. I’m debating whether to contact her to express my unhappiness and ask again for the remaining photos, even if she does nothing else to them, and perhaps promising not to post them anywhere but keep them for my own personal perusal. I feel like there are chunks of the day missing, and there are many of the 85 attendees who don’t appear in any of the photos.
My only real solace lies in the fact that we also shelled out $700 for a photobooth from a professional company (to serve as party favors, guest book, and entertainment instead of a DJ), and those photos turned out great and were a lot of fun. I enjoy looking at those photos WAY more than I enjoy looking at hers–and we we paid her twice as much for 3/4ths as many photos!
If nothing else, I have learned that we should have signed some sort of contract stating that we expected to get ALL of the photos taken that day. Beware amateur and beginning photographers. Do your research and spell out the terms clearly!