Survey Question #18: Does my photographer really need to be insured?

If you asked me 10 years ago, does a photographer need to carry liability insurance, I would have probably looked at you crazy. Why? At that time, I knew of nobody that had been injured or killed while taking a photograph. I would have told another photographer, "Just cover your gear and you're good!" Today with photographers taking photographs on more and more railroad tracks (usually illegal), private property, and other places; placing clients in danger, I have done a total about face on this subject. 

One of the first weddings I've ever shot, I ended up booking, because the other photographers did not carry liability insurance. The venue required only $100,000 at the time, and I was covered for that. I didn't think anything of it though, until after the fact when I found out why I had won the booking, and started seeing more and more venues require liability coverage. These days, usually between $1 Million and $5 Million at some of the premium venues.  

Simply put, EVERY vendor you work with should be insured for the unforeseen. In most cases, the insurance is pretty affordable, and there are companies who specialize in photography studios and businesses. This is a legitimate question to ask your photographer, and the answer should always be, "YES!"

If you find a vendor who DOESN'T carry basic business liability insurance, be very concerned. This could be a signal that he doesn't have the other requisites in running a legitimate business in his state or city. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. 



PHOTOGRAPHERS: When Did We Become So Lazy?

PHOTOGRAPHERS: When Did We Become So Lazy?

Right now we have the most access to information and knowledge than ever before. If I want to know about the inverse square law, I can look at my phone and say "Ok Google, explain inverse square law to me" and BOOM, thousands of links come up. If I want to know about guide numbers, BOOM, Google strikes again and tells me. Not only can I know more, it costs LESS to even start in the game, because we have the best technology available than ever before, with an extremely low barrier to entry. 


The Survey Questions: #20. When will the photos be ready?

This is the first of a series of questions that I want to answer for brides, grooms, and all interested. This blog deals with the age old question regarding when will the pictures be delivered. 

Almost a hundred years ago, the "instant" camera was invented. It would take almost 50 years before instant film and cameras would be popular with the mainstream and accessible. With the advent of digital photography and cameras on our phones, the push to get images faster and faster grows stronger. I know many of us wish we had the photos even BEFORE they are taken, but that whole space-time thing.... 

Depending on the nature of the photography AND photographer, images can be ready moments after the event, or months. There is no right or wrong answer, but only that of expressed expectations. Keep in mind, your photographer wants to put his or her best images out there, and deliver to you the very best. 

When editing and retouching is involved, a good rule of thumb is 30-90 days. Do some photographers deliver in 24-96 hours, yes, but not all are created equal, and when dealing with single person studios, that photographer not only has to photograph sessions, but meet with new clients, deliver photos to current clients, edit images, and still run the other aspects of the business. 

I have a 60 day clause in my contracts, but depending on time of year, my goal is within 30 days for most jobs, and often within 10 days for proofs. When albums are ordered, or other large prints, I ask for 90-180 days. The goal is always to underpromise and overdeliver. 

Sometimes we hear horror stories of clients waiting years to get photos or albums. We'll hear of how they spent thousands on their wedding, but what is often not told, is that they still OWE thousands on that wedding photography. I'll address the importance of a reasonable payment schedule in another post. 

In summary, make sure you ask your wedding photographer clearly when the photos will be ready. Have a reasonable turnover date in mind. Do not be afraid to place incentives and penalties in the contract as well. This may end up being a win win for both parties. Also, if the photographer has any deadlines, such as proofing or premier dates, be sure to keep them. This will allow the process to run smoother. Stay tuned for #19 where we discuss the pay schedule. 


DISCLAIMER: These questions come from several online surveys that are given to brides and grooms on websites such as The Knot, Wedding Wire, Wedding and Wedding Flowers, Martha Stewart Wedding and others. This series are an attempt to assist the customer with general answers to help his search and experience


My Response to the Awesome Dane Sanders' "The Elephant in the Room"

While Dane Sanders   makes some Great Points, I feel the premise slightly flawed and near sighted. The post is a little TOO simplistic. I wish the post allowed for dialog, but I will post it here, and hopefully other Photographers may chime in and help me to better understand. 

There is very little that has changed in being an artist that is commissioned for their work. 1. Continually strive to provide great and consistent work. 2. Continuously improve communication skills. 

I go further...

 I disagree with the premise... especially when alluding that a photographer only uses ONE skillset, when a photographer is more than a button pusher. Today's modern photographer has to know physics, marketing, accounting, logistics, personnel management, statistics, economics, and many other skills, so to be reduced to only one, I feel is to already skew the conversation.

When it comes to  the boxing analogy... what has made boxing wane in popularity, similar to professional photography, is not JUST the competition of MMA (which needs at least another 20 years to prove legitimacy or fad), but the fact that the level of competition in boxing is almost null. When we had the greats, we had MANY fighters that could win the title. Even when Tyson reigned, there was always the next number one contender. Now, if its not the "Money Team," no one really cares. 

Think of the years where Shamrock, Gracie, and Silva RULED MMA/UFC. The lack of competition, threatened the very existence of the sport. Now MMA, has many contenders, which keeps things interesting. 


Photography is the same. In almost any community, you have a certain level of photographer. I am willing to wager that if you looked on a list of the top 25 photographers in the world from 5 years ago in the wedding industry, and looked at one today, that you would probably find 10 or more that are still on that list. Is that a bad thing? No, not in and of itself, but with so many possible "contenders" not having enough steam to climb the hills, then across the industry it DOES seem like a dying profession. Who ARE the next Leibovitz, Sanders, Jarvis, Grimes, Kelby, Heisler and McNally?

I remember growing up wanting to be like Tyson, Ali, Foreman, Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Macho Man, Jordan, Bird, Magic, etc... TODAY, we have Bryant, James, Durant, Duncan. Tomorrow, we'll have another crop. In MOST sports, what drives greatness IS competition. We are only as good as our competition.  If and WHEN boxing's competition rises to the levels of the 50's, 60's 80's and 90's once again, then MMA will begin to go the route of Olympic Wrestling. 


 Competition to the top is what keeps ANY industry moving, but photography, especially in the digital age has been in a race to the bottom. We are so focused on making the money, and impressing other photographers, instead of making better photos and impressing our clients and viewers. 

With photography today, there is A LOT of talent, but very little competition. 

I don't have all the answers, and I am a student in this ever changing industry, but if there is anything I do know, the great ones are always great at the fundamentals. You look at great basketball teams, whether Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Duke, Indiana, Michigan, Carolina and others... Fundamentals... DRIBBLE, PASS, SHOOT. No where in there is the dunk, alley-oop, sportcenter top 10 highlight.

So as an industry to focus on better execution of exposure, composition, and delivering a visual message, consistently, to our clients, WE MUST come back to the fundamentals. 


ps. The irony of the elephant with the chain around the ankle is the story of the mental conditioning of the beast over time. The elephant can break that chain in a snap, but the slightest resistance, holds it back. Much the same with many creatives. We are afraid of competition and resistance. But from resistance. we grow. 

pps. Thanks Dane for bringing up the discussion!