Wedding Photos - When it all goes wrong! -
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Wedding Photos – When it all goes wrong!

Wedding Photos – When it all goes wrong!

Photographs NOT BY

I’m publishing this post with the permission of the bride and groom concerned, and was actively encouraged to do so by them.
I thought long and hard before I wrote this very long post, but decided to go ahead with the express idea of educating anyone who’s getting married, and specifically to warn them about the inherent pitfalls of choosing a wedding photographer based on price alone.

A little bit of background information.
I first met our bride and groom a couple of years ago. The bride kindly modelled some beautiful sari’s for me with her sister-in-law. In fact I photographed her sister-in-law’s wedding in September 2012. It turned out to be a beautiful autumn wedding, set in local castle, it’s a day I shall remember for a very long time indeed.

When it came to this wedding though, money was fairly tight, and brides being brides, photography was a bit of an after thought, and as it turned out their budget wouldn’t stretch to my fees.

So they made some phone calls, and eventually found another photographer in the local area that was willing to photograph the wedding well below the rate I’d quoted.
Great news, Yes?

Anyway I didn’t hear from them again until several months after their wedding, when late in 2013 I received a text message from the bride, asking if I’d be willing to take a look at their wedding photographs. They were far from happy with the images they’d received from their photographer, and wondered if I could somehow recover them.

I explained to them that they would have to have full ownership of the material and if they didn’t own copyright then it would be illegal of me to edit them.
They explained that their photographer had washed her hands of the photographs, and had passed on copyright to them. I also insisted that the copyright transfer had to be in writing if I was to proceed.
Anyway, eventually all legalities taken care of, we agreed a price and they sent me their photographs.
Retouching/reworking another photographers work is not a job I’d normally take on, but I liked the couple and to be quite honest felt quite sorry for them, and wanted to help.

I’ve seen some poor photography in my time, and admit that I’ve taken my fair share of duff shots, but I was totally unprepared for what was about to load into my hard drive.

Every conceivable mistake or fault that a photographer can make, was apparent in some form or other in over 70% of the 848 images that I uploaded. I am not exaggerating, when I say, I wasn’t even sure if I could recover the majority of the formal group shots, never mind bringing them to a standard worth printing in an album – I was pretty shocked at the standard of the images. I was also very angry with the photographer.

I’m going to show you a small example of what greeted me, I’m sure if you’re a photographer then you’d be as dismayed as I was.
If you’re getting married – then this is what can happen to your photographs if you choose your photographer unwisely. Really never book a photographer just because they are cheap. Having to get your photographs ‘fixed’, is time-consuming and, and is nearly as costly as paying a professional to do the job properly in the first place.
So I’ll ask you now to prepare yourself for a visual feast of photographic failure.


Not all wedding gowns are white.

Not all brides wear white, I’ve seen red, lilac and once even photographed a bride who was dressed totally in black. But I’ve never ever seen a muddy brown dress before.
It’s O.K though white balance is pretty easy to fix as long as you have the RAW file, but wouldn’t it be better to get it right in camera to begin with. It’s just laziness not to, in my opinion. This image took a temperature shift of 1350K to correct it, and all photographs of the dress were equally as poor, or worse.
Imagine handing over photographs to a bride. with her dress looking like this though.
I shudder at the thought.
This particular photographer thought it was O.K to do so.

An example of Incorrect white balance shown on a picture of a wedding dress. White Balance – A simple fix, but why get it so wrong in the first place.

Get the hell out of my shot.
Working with an assistant or even a second shooter at a wedding can be a great help, but good communication between the primary photographer and the hired help is so important. Knowing camera positions and camera angles are minimum subjects that should be broached before the ceremony even begins.
Getting into shot as this guy did in nearly every frame of the bride descending the staircase  just doesn’t cut it. The rule of 6P’s must be adhered to when photographing a wedding. ‘Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance’.
In his defence though, in a couple of the frames, he tried laying down on the stairs to hide from the camera. What a muppet!
Luckily, I’m a dab hand with Photoshop’s ‘Clone Tool’, and he was airbrushed into non-existence. Let’s not talk about the exposure here – I’ll move on to that in a moment.

Get the hell out of my shot you muppet! Get the hell out of my shot you muppet!

Who turned the lights out?
There’s nothing wrong with shooting into a bright background, done properly it give a beautiful ethereal effect to photographs. Using a bright sky as a background, can have a slimming effect and using the sun as a hair light can really help to separate your subject from the background and add a little punch to your photographs.
But this isn’t how it’s done.
Take an exposure for the sky, and maybe underexposing it a stop or two, will add saturation and drama, but then bring up the exposure on your subject with an off camera flash or two and you’ll have an image that really hits the spot.
This isn’t what happened here, and the bride and groom ended up with under exposed images, that were extremely difficult to recover in Photoshop. As I lifted the exposure, the shadows were full of really terrible digital noise, which was even more noticeable in the bridesmaids red sari’s.
Alone this would have been bad enough, but this faux photographer, took this crescent-shaped group shot, with a 17 – 40mm f4 lens set to 22mm at f5.0.
It was out of focus, lacked depth of field, the vertical pillars were distorted and the poor guys on the ends of the group, looked like they’d eaten all the pies.
A shocking example of how not to photograph group shots, and how not to use a camera.
A total of 42 images were photographed in exactly the same way.
Not one of the formal group shots, were properly exposed. There’s no excuse for this shoddy work.
I was suitably disgusted.

All the formal group shots were underexposed, shot at the wrong focal length, with poor focusing and not 'fill' light. Shockingly poor photography! All the formal group shots were underexposed, shot at the wrong focal length, with poor focusing technique and no ‘fill’ light used. Shockingly poor photography!

If you guys breathe in – I think I’ll be able to fit you into my photograph.
If you were to look at the ‘Metadata’ in my Lightroom Catalogues, then quite a high percentage of my photographs are shot with my camera in ‘Portrait Orientation’, mainly because I shoot a lot of head shots for actors and business folk.
For the life of me, I can’t find a single image of a group shot, containing five people with my camera turned through 90 degrees. Common sense tells me that it just doesn’t work.
The fool that took this set of group shots knew better it seems. Or maybe not!
What the hell was going through her mind?
I won’t even mention the poor exposure, the nutmeg hand poses. This blog is way too long as it is. Or is it?

Watch where you kick that ball! Watch where you kick that ball!

Expression is everything – Sometimes!
Trust me they are a lovely couple, full of fun, but this shot doesn’t do justice to the grooms sense of humour at all.
Personally I would have deleted this shot as soon as it entered my catalogue. It just looks a touch too much on the exotic side for my licking.
Seriously though, yes, it’s fun, but not really appropriate for inclusion in a wedding album, and for that reason alone I would have dumped it.
Besides the under exposure, the grooms dangling arm and the brides head position behind the grooms, I certainly wouldn’t have delivered it to the couple.
It’s a demonstration of the photographers inability to create and capture a truly fun or romantic moment between the couple.
There are a whole set of images just like this, with no effort made to pose the couple properly, with scant regard to exposure or the use of  fill light. Even the placing of the bride and groom with the drain positioned behind them, demonstrates a total disregard for the surrounding environment.
Very poor skills, and that’s ignoring the grooms protruding appendage.

Does my tongue look fat in this? Does my tongue look fat in this?

Who the hell let Rolf Harris in here?
Grabbing group shots over someones shoulder is not the job of a professional photographer.
This should always be left to your mates with their iPhones or your uncle with his newly purchased DSLR.
Seriously, a professional photographer would never ever take a shot like this, and never with a crazy laser light show going on. It’s rubbish!
Let me explain why – Nah! I won’t even bother if you can’t see it for yourself, then you’d probably be better off taking your seeing-eye dog for a walk.

Rolf whipped out his paint brush to proceeded to add a dab of colour to the proceedings. Rolf whipped out his paint brush and proceeded to add a dab more colour to the proceedings.

The Bermuda Triangle?
I think this is an apt title to the next photograph, although the non-photographers who may read this may find it a little bit ‘teckie’.
All photographic exposures consist of three elements, which can be balanced to give not only a properly exposed photograph, but as importantly an artistic interpretation to the scene.
The composition isn’t great with the young lady positioned dead centre of frame and the sleeve of another guest cutting off the right side of the image.
But the main point I want to make here is why the hell shoot at such a slow shutter speed?
Again I was rather bemused until I looked at the metadata. It was shot with a focal length of 235mm, with a shutter speed of 1/60 sec @ f5.6 and at ISO 5000.
The small image here doesn’t really show the camera blur in this image very well, but it’s there – trust me.
So why shoot at f5.6? Opening the aperture two stops to f2.8 would have allowed a shutter speed of 1/250 of a second, which would have exceeded the focal length and obeyed the shutter speed – focal length reciprocal rule.
I’ll tell you why she didn’t open up her aperture – because she used a cheap variable aperture lens with a minimum f-stop of 4.5
That’s the problem when you pay faux photographers to shoot your wedding.
They probably don’t own high quality equipment to do the job properly.
My cheapest lens cost three times more than this lens, and would have allowed me to use the correct shutter speed. Instead the bride and groom were presented with this poorly exposed, badly composed, blurry photograph taken with incorrect white balance.
Another set of images that just aren’t up to professional standards.
If you’ve come this far – I salute you – You’re a true martyr to the art of photography.

Too much champagne can make your photos fizzy! Too much champagne can make your photos fizzy!

The bridesmaid paid a fortune for her hairdresser.
That doesn’t mean you photograph the back of her head when she’s making a speech. Nor anyone else for that matter.
Only the grooms father was captured facing the camera in this set of photographs, it’s just another example of laziness on behalf of the photographer and poor planning.
You must move, it’s no good standing in a fixed position in the hope of catching a well composed shot on the off-chance that the speaker will turn towards the lens.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if the photographer had captured a shot of the bride and grooms faces in the background as they are being addressed, but this wasn’t the case.
Yet another set of poorly composed and badly planned photographs that help spread the special type of misery only an untrained, unprepared and ill-equipped photographer can achieve.
Shame on you faux tog!

Do you like my bun? Do you like my bun?

I’ll finish with a BANG!
Perhaps I should re-phrase that to ‘More of a whimper’.

The bride and groom had paid for a beautiful and very expensive firework display to entertain their family and friends at their wedding party.
When their photographs were delivered they were presented with a pitiful selection of photos of the fireworks, that should have captured an extravaganza of light and atmosphere.
Instead they got eight images, six of which were totally out of focus.
Good job they didn’t have a bonfire – I know who I’d have put on the top!

Bang - Fizz - Blur! Bang – Fizz – Blur!

I know it’s a very long post, and it could have been a lot longer if I’d shown more of the catastrophic photographs (I use the term loosely), that this faux photographer presented to the couple.
But I hope the message behind my words drive home to those considering hiring a cheap photographer for their wedding day. You’ve got be careful.

There are some very talented amateur photographers out there, and there are others who call themselves professionals, who don’t even know how to use a camera properly.
Don’t let qualifications fool you either, especially if they are from a college or university.
The photographer who took these images holds a Diploma in photography and is studying photography at degree level.
To me this is a shocking indictment of the standard of teaching in our colleges and universities, but that’s a subject for another, and hopefully shorter blog.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post – Again, I’m sorry it’s so long.

N.B. If you are looking for a wedding photographer always ask to see their work first hand, (not just images on a website).
Make sure it’s presented in print and that they can produce a full sample wedding album which was photographed by them acting as the primary photographer (not as a second shooter).
If they are professionals they will be insured – Ask to see their insurance certificate.
Ask for references from couples who’s wedding they’ve photographed.
IMHO Qualifications from universities and colleges just don’t cut it.
If they are purporting to be qualified then they should be registered with a photographic society such as the SWPP, MPA, Guild of Photographers RPS etc.
This way you can be sure that their skill has been independently assessed and that their photography has reached professionally laid down standards.
Good luck with your wedding planning – Just remember don’t make photography an afterthought.
It’s heartbreaking if it all goes wrong.


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