How to spot scam wedding photographers
It saddens me that I’m even writing this. However, ever since I have been business I see at least one post a month (sometimes more) from couples on wedding social media sites that have been let down by their wedding ‘photographer’. Scamming couples planning for their big day has become so prevalent there are even Facebook groups that are dedicated to stopping these criminals such as Scottish Wedding Scammers and Wedding Scammers Don’t Let Them Win. Both good places to start if not sure about a supplier but be warned, reading about people’s wedding plans being shattered doesn’t make for pleasant viewing.
A wedding is such a memorable and important moment for brides, grooms, their families, friends and relatives. The organisation of such an event requires elaborate planning and preparation, as well as interviewing, hiring and coordinating several suppliers to make it a success. The most common complaint from scam victims, according to the reports in the media, is for vendors who look like legitimate businesses and service providers but either, never deliver the service or do not deliver it in a way that is consistent with expectations. While the latter could be subjective and due to multiple reasons, the former is a pure form of scam.
Today I will be sharing some ideas that, with a bit of homework, might help you spot a scammer.
Every photographer has a pretty unique photography style which not only defines him or her as an artist but which also differentiates them from other photographers. You should be able to see consistency in the work of a photographer either in person or on their website. Try to browse through the photographs of at least three to five weddings by a certain photographer to truly get a grasp of their style. Make sure they’re all similar. If you see inconsistency, then it may be cause for concern that the images themselves have been taken by other photographers and placed on a website to simply populate it.
While many businesses do not have websites alarm bells might trigger if you only see a photographer’s work solely through Facebook.
Photography is a visual art, and photographs are meant to be shared and displayed. A legitimate business is expected to have an online presence, especially one marketing photography services. Being unable to visit the website of the business you are considering is a red flag. (note they may not be a scammer but could be a newly-started, and not-yet-established business – if in doubt ask).
If you are able to locate and visit the website; look for contact info. Legitimate businesses want people to find them online and contact them in order to establish a professional relationship with them. While you browse through the website, pay attention to broken URL links or incomplete web pages. It could be a sign of website design made up on the fly, or one where not much attention was paid to detail. Any business owner who cares about the user experience and its own online presence would maintain and keep its website functional and updated.
Again, make sure it is all consistent with everything else you see the photographer display on other media sites and that all the details match up.
3. Business Details
While as a sole trader you are not necessarily required to be listed under Companies House, if the company claims to be a Limited company, go onto the Companies House website and check them out.
Again, while not mandatory, most professional photographers will belong to a governing body, mine, for example, is the SWPP (Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers). This information is clearly stated on my website, please feel free to contact them to find out more about me. Again, they will list the given address of my business; make sure all these details match up to who the photographer claims to be.
The second biggest element in this section I believe, would be business insurance. I for one am insured through Aaduki Multimedia Insurance for Photographers. Believe it or not, some wedding venues ask suppliers such as myself to show insurance details before they allowing you on the premises. It is always a good idea to ask to see your photographers fall back plans and insurance certificates.
On the day, I will have my camera which has two memory card slots backing up photographs straight away. If there is an issue with my first camera, I have a second camera ready and waiting. Once home, the images are placed onto separate hard drives so again everything is backed up. Everything is then, sent to the cloud to be backed up again in case my house gets set on fire, floods, etc (you get the picture!)… I would rather prevent any issues than create them, or destroy your day.
First of all, make sure you are offered one! A contract should be in place to protect you both. It should also provide a recorded note of what you have both agreed to. Please always read contracts/terms and conditions fully, and query anything you’re not sure about.
5. Location Location Location
Most wedding photographers work with local clients and shoot on locations close to their homes. For example, I’m based in Central Scotland and if all you could see in my portfolio were white sandy beaches from Florida or the Bahamas and no local landscape or venues. You would have to ask the question: “why have no local couples ever hired this photographer?”
You should at least expect to see some local landmarks or venues in your area if you are looking to hire a local wedding photographer. There might be legitimate reasons as to why there are no portfolio images from your area. So, when in doubt, ask questions. Legitimate business owners would not see a problem in providing you with a reasonable explanation.
6. Venue Information
If the wedding photographer you are looking at has photographed at as many weddings as claimed on their website. He or she should not have a problem naming a few of the most recent venues he or she worked on. Most photographers spend between 4 – 10 hours on location, so would be difficult to forget it. You could even go ask your chosen venue (if it is one the photographer has been to) for an impartial opinion.
Having done your homework
Most scammers are looking for a quick “hit and run” before they are detected and shut down by authorities. They don’t usually spend years laying down their scam. In many cases, they are often sloppy and can be easily spotted if you know what to look for.
Finally, please, please, please take out wedding insurance! Considering how much we all pay for one day this is a simple and cheap way to protect yourself. Use comparison websites to find the best deal for you with policies starting from as little as £20. Then even if you have done all your homework and have been let down for whatever reason, you will at least have something to help you through this time as you change plans and work around the situation. For example, think of all the dress shops that have gone bankrupt recently.
As my gran always used to say if it feels too good to be true than it probably is. Let’s be honest most of us are good people and just want to do the best we can. It’s a shame the 0.0001% of people wreck it for others. Never ever feel pushed into a decision and always ask questions. All legitimate businesses will be more than happy to answer your queries.
Jenny @ JB Moments Photography