Saturday, 21 April 2012

Wedding Photography Standards: A Call to Action for the Professional Photography Bodies

After seeing another "Wedding Photography Horror Story" in the news again this week, i can see a huge PR and public education opportunity for the so called Professional Bodies of the photography world.

The story i read via the Daily Mail's website has been printed elsewhere and even featured on the BBC News! As i see it, the adverse publicity and the very sad tales of woe we read and hear about all the time offer the so called "Professional Bodies" the perfect PR opportunity to help educate the public, other wedding suppliers, venues and of course the photographers themselves. If the MPA, BIPP etc really had the best interests of the profession and their memberships at heart, they would be constantly shouting the message about why you should use a genuine profession over an untrained or inexperienced "Saturday Cowboy" who is just out there to make a few quid ono a weekend.

Now i know it is a real minefield out there for couples selecting their photographer for the biggest day in their lives and i also appreciate that times are tough for us all, but in my very honest opinion the biggest problem is the messages being given off by photographers themselves. A bit of digging has revealed what i guessed to be the very sad truth within the ranks of the wedding photography world.

These days, it seems desperation has set in amongst wedding photographers and not this is no only aimed at the newer ones either. I have seen countless adverts and websites where basically, in the mad scramble to book any wedding in what is a vastly over saturated profession, folks are charging extremely unrealistically low prices and giving away everything including the kitchen sink.

I have been asking myself why this is and wondering why they are happy to operate at a real world loss.

I think i answered my first question by saying "it seems desperation has set in". For many it is a sad fact that they are desperate to generate any income regardless of what it is doing to their business in the short, medium and long term.

The answer to the second question is slightly more contentious. There are a number of reasons as to why the giveaway prices may be offered. This could mean they are working illegally by not declaring earnings for income tax, NI etc, probably working uninsured and or may be working without adequate back ups, equipment etc. However if they don't meet these criteria for being able to offer crazily low prices they are in fact probably on the short steep road to going under.

The story in the Daily Mail is unfortunate and sad for the couple BUT with the correct education from the professional photography world, they would have realised that if you pay peanuts you tend to get monkeys. I appreciate that £750 is a lot of money in the normal world to anyone but if a photographer is charging a properly priced rate, based on paying taxes, having insurance, having the right training and kit and then actually making a profit, then this figure is totally unrealistic unless they have another major income stream to support them.

Right back to the original purpose of this post; a CALL TO ACTION for the professional organisations; going by past experience over a 16 year career, my feeling is that they won't seize the opportunity to promote true professions to the public yet again. I find this very frustrating and this is one of the reasons why i sadly and reluctantly resigned my last membership of one of these bodies in March.

Maybe if they pooled their resources and worked together rather than worrying about their own little political games against each other, they might actually be able to offer a real benefit to photographers and the public alike.

10 comments:

  1. I totally agree with you Peter, who is going to do what though?

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  2. I'm with you Peter, I don't know a serious professional who is not. I also resigned my membership of the BIPP in March, after over 30 years of loyal membership. They are weak because there are too many. Off the top of my head, BIPP, MPA, SWPP, Guild of Photographers, NPS not to mention those that don't admit wedding photographers, AoP, NUJ etc. They will never have any teeth until they stand as one... even then?

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  3. Very true and unfortunately this is one down fall to digital. Lots of my Photograper friends have left the BIPP this year because of Thier lack of support to the Pro's. Even staff photographers are becoming less and less.

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  4. i quite agree with your comments unfortunatly the digital world has made so many people go into the profession with out any training whatsoever. i myself have now retired from the pro scene. but still get calls from people saying iv got a decent camera how much do i wont to make them a wedding photographer. i usualy state £50 per hr and at least 50weeks of 2hr sessions, they go away then mumbeling thats too much. we were lucky realy in being brought up in the film era wear we HAD to get it right first time

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  5. Can we really do anything about the market being flooded by photographers without a government that will make it a licenced profession? At the end of the day is it not a matter of choice for the customer? Be honest, have you ever paid cash for a job to be done at some point (be it to a builder, mechanic or photographer). I would suggest most people have and I can never see that practice ending especially in these difficult times. The market dictates! It is therefore down to all professionals to convince the public of our value, and the government of the need for a licence. The latter can only be achieved if we group together and I guess that means joining an association that listens to its members rather than swelling its bank account and pursuading it to do something. If we stand alone we can only moan!

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  6. A pro - really!21 April 2012 09:20

    The whole problem started about 6 or 7 years ago when the SWPP was formed - anybody - and I mean ANYBODY could become a "member" and use the term "member of the SWPP" which, to the general uneducated public sounds exactly the same as "a qualified member of the MPA" - now those in the know realise that the 2 statements are poles apart but the poor old public have no idea who is who and what represents "professional photography"
    IMO - the SWPP has totally ruined this industry and the established Associations have been caught napping - its beyond repair!
    I often thought about letting my cat apply for membership of the SWPP to see if he would be accepted - and if he had a valid credit card he probably would have been!!!!

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  7. Agreed but the article is giving us as professional photographers and bad name, and yet again our industry is being dragged into the gutter by such stories in the national press. In my opinion its a great opportunity for the likes of the MPA and BIPP to educate the press and get this education out into the public arena for next to no effort.

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  8. Great article Peter, hopefully these organisations will advice Press and Media on this matter. They should feel duty bound to do so for the public and there members. Also name and shame online sources of misinformation, I'd go as far as to create a directory of misinformation sources for couples. If they do I may see the value of joining one of them, if and when they support the industry literally. My memberships fees would have to mean something. I could not support a quango styled organisation with only it's own interests at heart to the detriment of public and profession alike. Membership should mean more than "if you can fog a pain of glass your in". Please keep publishing and educating couples before it's too late for them, the pitfalls of following publications of misinformation means there wedding memories are all in there head and not in pictures.

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  9. Pleased to see that the MPA has called for photographers to educate couples about the pitfalls and perils of selecting the wrong photographer on their Facebook page today.

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  10. I think the wedding industry as a whole has a lot to answer for - how often do we see wedding magazines advising brides to spend quite a low proportion of their budget on wedding photography? The couple in the article paid £750 for two photographers for the whole day - when their budget was £14,000 ! As for comments about the SWPP, I don't agree. I've seen plenty of 'qualified' professionals who say they have LRPS, LMPA etc. and their work is truly dreadful. Having just had a quick peak at the MPA website, some of the images on their are fairly poor (IMHO) and dare I say it the whole thing looks a little old fashioned?

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