Photography for Cleveland and Northeast Ohio by photographer Tom Szabo

Wedding Photography For The Bride/Groom; Part 5 – Wedding Photography Copyrights

This is one of the most misunderstood topics – “copyright”. As soon as the creator of an image pulls the trigger, they are the owner of the image. Not YOU! It doesn’t matter if you’ve hired a professional, weekend shoot and burner, student or volunteer. All created images are protected under federal copyright laws. Violation of copyright laws puts you at risk legally.

You have to negotiate the rights to the photographer’s images. Those rights should be spelled out to you in writing. Read them in detail. The more rights you want, the more you will pay. If the photographer delivers a CD of camera images make sure you have the right to copy or print the images and get the rights spelled out in writing. Even the local discount warehouse does not want to wind up in court for printing an image that doesn’t belong to you. Back to your friend with the big expensive looking camera and a big lens, make sure they understand what usage rights you expect.

I’ve only touched the surface on wedding photography. I could go on and on. But this should get you started. Congratulations on your engagement and have a wonderful wedding and life. Feel free to email me with questions.

Tom Szabo, “Phot-art-ographer”
A Thomas Image


August 18, 2010 Posted by | Wedding | Leave a comment

Wedding Photography For The Bride/Groom; Part 4 – Wedding Photography Contracts

A bride called my office needing a photographer on short notice. We talked about the wedding details, I quoted a price, then sent the contract to the bride. The fiancé being an attorney decided he’d flex his legal muscles and nit-pick the contract. I agreed to some wording changes, but drew the line at one particular clause. Flexing his vast legal expertise pushed for the removal of the clause or we could not strike a deal. I said OK, no deal. Oh to be a fly on the wall when he told his fiancé he blew off the photographer, 2 weeks before the wedding.

EXPECT your photographer to provide a contract outlining; services, deliverable, dates, times, location(s), extra print prices, photographer name, usage rights and fees. Don’t be afraid of the word “contract”. The contract should also protect you. My earlier attorney example doesn’t mean you can’t negotiate. Just realize how far you’re willing to go. If the photographer won’t provide a written contract, run, don’t walk, run the other direction. You have the right to know all this information and what your rights are in case there is a delivery or service problem.

If you’ve decided to have your friend with the big expensive looking camera and a big lens shoot your wedding, then give your friend a list including shots you expect, arrival time, departure time and description of the deliverable. Make it clear what you expect. If your friend doesn’t have backup equipment, then get a back up photographer! You can’t smile for the photographer is you’re worried to death about equipment failure!

One more thing, what happens if you lose the CD after delivery? What will it take to replace those images? Most professional photographers have procedures in place to duplicate and back up all image files. Should you lose your CD (fire, flood, the dog ate them or you just plain misplaced them), can you get a duplicate CD from the photographer and what will it cost?

In the next post let’s talk about Wedding Photography Copyrights.

Tom Szabo, “Phot-art-ographer”
A Thomas Image

August 18, 2010 Posted by | Wedding | Leave a comment

Wedding Photography For The Bride/Groom; Part 3 – Wedding Photography Budgets

My studio A Thomas Image is in northeast Ohio. So here are some thoughts on budgets. Disclaimer: The prices you experience may vary from the ranges listed below.

A professional photographer and assistant(s) can range from $1500 and way up for the entire day. Your wedding party size and clothing may impact the need for an assistant. Assistants are generally photographers also. So an assistant will cost extra.
Shoot and Burners range from $500 to $2000 per day. When you’re done you have a disk of images and you have to manage everything. Make sure you understand the copyright terms and who’s responsible when the print comes out lousy.
All others including students and amateurs alike, $200 to $500 per day.
When the photographer is FREE – run the other direction. For the most part, something is likely to go wrong. Or make sure you understand why the service is FREE. If you go this route, read the post on Contracts.

Remember what I said about your comfort reflecting in the final product. Do you want to worry about losing the photographer, just because a camera battery died? Make sure the photographer has back up equipment for everything, camera, flash, lenses, batteries and tripod. Altogether you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars in “stuff”. A professional will have all the backup equipment AND importantly will know how to use the equipment.

Let’s continue the discussion on FEES. Don’t think the fee you’re paying just covers photography services on the day of your wedding (unless you get a CD at the end of the day). Professional photographers will spend time with you before the wedding, spend time with you the day of the wedding, spend hours preparing your proofs, spend hours editing images for printing or burning to CD and preparing the deliverable. You pay for all this time. That’s why we’re expensive! We pay for the most up to date equipment, pay for an office, pay our mortgage, eat and maybe take a vacation. Just like you! We love what we do, but photographers like YOU, want to make a living.

In the next post let’s talk about Wedding Photography Contracts.

Tom Szabo, “Phot-art-ographer”
A Thomas Image

August 18, 2010 Posted by | Wedding | Leave a comment

Wedding Photography For The Bride/Groom; Part 2 – Wedding Photographer Selection Criteria

Just because your friend hired someone doesn’t mean that’s the right photographer for you. Photographers have different styles and Personalities. The more creative the images, the more comfortable you want to be with your photographer. If you’re uncomfortable with your photographer, it will show in your images. Then you’ll be very disappointed in the results.

Any photographer should be able to show you samples of their work. Meet with them to view their work and talk to them. Please, don’t, don’t, don’t, and I’ll repeat don’t hire someone without meeting them. You can’t gain comfort with someone via texting or email. Whatever your price bracket, sit down with the photographer and get to know them. If you’re only paying $200 a day of service, don’t expect the photographer to spend a lot of time with you before the wedding. Does meeting and talking with the photographer take time? Yes, but you’ll be glad you invested the time.

Pro photographers will have a lot of equipment, they know how to use it and they understand lighting. Understanding light is very, very, very, very important. Get my drift here?? Just because your friend has what you think is a Big Fancy Expensive camera and a Big Fancy Expensive lens doesn’t mean they understand how to use the camera or understand light.

In the next post let’s talk about Wedding Photography Budgets.

Tom Szabo, “Phot-art-ographer”
A Thomas Image

August 18, 2010 Posted by | Wedding | Leave a comment

Wedding Photography For The Bride/Groom (A 5-Part Series)

I’ve heard way too many newly married couples complain because they went “cheap” on the photography. Often brides consult wedding planning sites and ask the question: What should a photographer cost? After the wedding photography “horror stories” and all the questions about cost, I thought I’d try to give some insights into this thing called wedding photography. To make this an easy read, I’ve broken the discussion into a series of posts, 5 parts all together:
Part 1 – Wedding Planning Sites
Part 2 – Wedding Photographer Selection Criteria
Part 3 – Wedding Photography Budgets
Part 4 – Wedding Photography Contracts
Part 5 – Wedding Photography Copyrights

This way you can read the portions that interest you.

Wedding Photography For The Bride/Groom; Part 1 – Wedding Planning Sites

Type “wedding planning web sites” into Google and you’ll get over 600,000 hits. That’s a lot! Remember this: sites exist for one reason, to make money. So, somewhere, someone pays money. Either you the bride or the vendor using the site will pay something. In some cases you can get contact information for a vendor or you can broadcast your wedding details to a group of vendors and request a quote. If you’re using a wedding planning site and access to a “boat-load” of vendors is free, than the vendors are paying the fee.

Many photographers don’t publish a price list on sites like these. Why? There are too many variables. When you work with these sites, give a realistic estimate of your budget. If you want a $200 photographer, say so. Yes, we pay to get your lead from sites like these. Ever heard the saying; “There’s no such thing as a Free Lunch!” Yeah you thought everything is free on wedding planning sites. Photographer wedding fees go towards paying for information from these sites. So you end up paying one way or another. Don’t expect a photographer/business person to pay for a $200 opportunity, let alone try to “out-bid” 4 other low-ballers. We’re not interested.

If you are using a wedding planning site to research pricing, go ahead and start with your low-end budget number. Sit back and see what happens. When most likely, no one responds, up the number and wait again. Remember what I said earlier about paying for a $200.00 opportunity!

In the next post we’ll discuss Wedding Photographer Selection Criteria.

Tom Szabo, “Phot-art-ographer”
A Thomas Image

August 18, 2010 Posted by | Wedding | , , | Leave a comment

Coffee Table Photography

Here it is!  Whether you want to show off your portraits, high school senior, wedding or showcase your business to customers, a Coffee Table Photography Book is the way to do just that!  The book is 10X10 with 20 panels of color or black and white images.   Page design may include a single image or a cluster of images.  The design options are limitless.

Contact A Thomas Image for details and costs.  Gift certificates are available for the gift that won’t be duplicated!

August 6, 2010 Posted by | Commercial, Portrait, Wedding | Leave a comment

Deliverable – What’s A Deliverable?

Deliverable – What’s A Deliverable?

The phone rings, after I answer and identify myself, the magic question comes; how much do you charge to photograph a wedding?  Wow, that’s like asking; how much does a car cost?  Do you want a Hyundai or a BMW?  In order to answer the bride or groom, some details are needed.  Often I ask:  What do you want as a deliverable?  That’s when the discussion comes to a halt.  I can tell by the prospect’s voice they don’t understand the meaning of “deliverable”.

So let’s try to explain.  Wedding photography consists of 2 parts; the service of photographing a wedding, then delivering some finished product to the bride or groom.  I’ll refer to the final product delivered to the newly married couple as a “deliverable”.  So what do you want?  The deliverable can be in the form of: a CD (with or without a license to purchase your own prints at a local photofinishing lab), album with prints, proof book, individual prints, thank you cards, or a coffee table book.  In fact you can order any one item or a combination of them.

One variable that impacts the “cost” is the type of deliverable.  Let me go into greater detail.  Photographers can fall into two broad categories.  They both provide photography wedding coverage.  Most will offer a range of service based on the amount of time the photographer is needed.  Now, here’s where the two begin to separate.  It has to deal with the “deliverable”.  The first type – “Traditional” generally start by providing proofs for view.  Proofs may be in the form of prints or image files on a digital medium.  You then purchase prints, wedding albums or other “hard copy” images.

The second type is often referred to as “shoot and burn”.  After the wedding photography is completed, the photographer delivers a CD with full camera files.  See my post:

Some “traditional” photographers look down on the “shoot and burn” photographers.  It’s just how people are.

Remember, photographers own the rights to all images they create.  You need to purchase a release from the photographer to copy or print the image files.  I know, you’re going to say but it’s my picture – I can do what I want with it.  NO, read my post about copyrights:

If the CD includes such a release, then you may take your CD to a photo finisher to print the files you want.  The details of your rights will be spelled out in the release you purchased from the photographer.  Let me suggest you read it before signing your contract!

Why do you care which type of “deliverable” you purchase?  Let’s say you purchased a CD of files, now you must sort through the hundreds and hundreds of files, select the files to print or distribute and source a vendor to provide printing services.  If you don’t like the final print results, then you have to go back to the lab and argue your case.  The lab now has an easy “out” by claiming they printed the file you gave them and the file is poor.  So you go back to the photographer, claiming the file is of poor quality.  The photographer may claim his file is acceptable, but your lab is not providing quality print services.  Now what do you do?  Who do you believe?  Or do you even care?  If not, simply accept the poor print quality. 

Often when purchasing prints from your photographer, there is time built into the cost of wedding photography services to provide touch up or enhancing, counseling time with the bride and groom to make print selections, design time for albums or coffee table books and the photographer wants you to have the best final product they can offer.

So how do you know which way to go?  Well, you have to do your research and make a decision.  If you really are on a tight budget, talk with the photographer.  Explain your budget restrictions.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are many very effective ways to hold down your wedding cost.  But, remember – you get what you pay for!  That statement may refer to quality of service or the amount of service you can expect.  You may or may not get much post wedding support if you’ve hired a “budget” photographer.   Be a good consumer.  Ask questions and make an informed decision.  Be ready to tell the photographer what you expect as a “deliverable” and best of luck!

March 30, 2010 Posted by | Wedding | Leave a comment

You Got The Photographer Baffled On This One!

When I talk with customers and other business owners, I can generally follow the logic behind their budget and how products or services are priced.  I often draw an analogy to the automobile market.  Cars all perform the same task; they get you from point A to point B.  But they have a huge range of selling price.  That’s because different people have different budgets and will spend varying levels of money to purchase a car.

A Thomas Image is signed up to get alerts from brides looking for photography services.  In many of these alerts the bride can list her budget.  I can understand that some brides will have expensive taste (especially if Mommy and Daddy have lots of money to spend on them) and some brides want to put their money into a house rather than a fancy wedding.  I applaud people who think ahead like that.

Here’s my dilemma.  I see more and more brides trying to put a wedding together for a total budget of $500.00 to $2000.00.  That’s their TOTAL budget for a hall, decorations, food beverage, entertainment and photography.  We’re not talking about a small wedding for 15 to 20 people either.  The figures appear to include wedding photography.  Am I missing something here?

How can anyone hire a professional anything, expect them to have top notch equipment, a back up of everything, spend time with the couple to prepare for the wedding, shoot the wedding, come back into the studio to spend 8 to 30 hours to sort and prepare images to view and do all that for a measly hundred bucks.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect wedding couples to pay my entire mortgage for the month.  But at least let me clear some money to put towards the mortgage or buy some food.

If things are that tight, maybe couples should simply continue to date, get an education and start a career in hopes of someday being able to afford to get married and afford to run a household.  Are couples that out of touch with reality, to not have a handle what things cost?  Does everyone think they are entitled to whatever they want and should be able to get it for FREE or near nothing?

I’m willing to help people keep costs under control.  As a business owner I have to do the same thing – keep my costs under control and work within my budget.  What am I missing here?  Can someone tell me?  This photographer is truly baffled.

February 2, 2010 Posted by | Wedding | Leave a comment

Wedding Photographer Tips

Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life.  Here are some basic things to consider about wedding photography:

  • Your photographer will be with you all day long documenting a very personal time between you and your new spouse.  Make sure both of you are very comfortable with your photographer and willing to show your personal side.  Meet the photographer in advance.
  • Consider an engagement announcement photo session with the photographer to learn about him or her.
  • Make sure your photographer has back up equipment if something goes wrong.  If you’re going to have a friend or relative take snapshots for you, than have a back up to the friend or relative, if something goes wrong.
  • Determine your budget.  If you haven’t set a dollar limit and you want a photographer, then prepare to set monies aside for the level of service you want.
  • Find out about what special products or services are available through your photographer  Ask about albums, print stock and special photography effects.  Ask if  “save the date” and “thank you” cards are off-the-shelf or can you have them custom designed using images from your wedding day.
  • It’s easier to gather around or pass around a wedding album than try to converge around a computer screen to view images on a disk.
  • Ask your photographer about unique locations for photography in your area.
  • All the “horror stories” I’ve heard about photographers and customer service issues tell me one thing – Get It In Writing.  Make sure you get a contract from your photographer.  If your photographer does not want to offer one to you – listen carefully, Run, don’t walk, Run the other direction!  You want to know exactly what you are getting and what it will cost you.  That word “cost” does not only refer to money!  If your friend or relative is photographing your wedding, meet with them in advance and make an outline of the things expected on both sides.  Don’t rely on “I thought you said?”

January 29, 2010 Posted by | Wedding | Leave a comment

Copyrights, CD’S and Discount Printing – OH MY!

I’m always amazed at photographers that supply images on CD and don’t offer prints.  I assume if they’re somewhat like me, they offer wedding photography services to make money.  So why would a photographer in business to make money, leave money behind?  So you’re asking where did they leave money behind? 

 When the photographer turns over a CD so the Bride/Groom can make their own prints – the photographer gives up the income to be made from providing prints.  If the photographer wanted to make money shooting the wedding, why not make more money selling prints?  Is making money a sin or illegal?

 Let’s turn this around.  So you the Bride or Groom are getting married.  Granted, most engaged couples are “looking to keep costs to a minimum” – understandable.  I’m sure your boss at work is “looking to keep costs to a minimum”.  Give your boss a break, cut your hours and hey why not go a step further and cut your pay scale?  After all, your boss is “looking to keep costs to a minimum”.  Your work will still be the same quality for less money – right?  Why not allow your boss to make more money at your expense – you probably don’t need or want the money.

Now there may just be a real reason to turn over the printing process to the Bride/Groom.  Here are my thoughts:

  1. The photographer only wants to make his daily rate, get out and not have more contact with the newly married couple.  Kind of leads you to ask – Why?
  2. The photographer doesn’t want to be bothered fixing his/her exposure or photography mistakes.  Let the discount lab take the blame for shoddy prints.
  3. Turn over the CD and run.  This way you the Bride/Groom won’t be able to deal with bad images.  Besides the Bride/Groom got a cut rate on the photographer.
  4. It takes time to sort through hundreds and hundreds of image files, eliminate the “not-so-good” ones.  After all, if the photographer dropped their rate to get the job to start – why put more time into a low paying job?

 I know, at this point your thinking I’m pretty slanted on this.  A lot of photographers are very fussy about the work they produce.  When the product is delivered to the customer it carries their name.  A pro wants their name to mean quality.  That often means selecting suppliers like print labs that will support their quality demands. 

It takes time to sort through images, prepare the proofs, demonstrate special effects, prepare digital files for printing, pick up the final prints, handle any vendor problems, prepare the order for delivery and handle any and all customer service issues (read my post – You’ve got a CD with 1000 images, Now what?”).  That’s what it takes to be a pro and you the customer pay for that service.  Why because you deserve it – don’t you?

 I don’t mean to infer that budgets aren’t important.  If your wedding budget is small, than most photographers will work with the client to put a package together that meets your needs.  That might mean, shortening the day, cutting down the print sizes, reduce the number of prints or eliminate the wedding album.  There are ways to meet a budget and still get a quality product.  Remember, you get what you pay for.  There’s a difference between cheap and low cost.

 Those are my comments – what are yours?

August 7, 2009 Posted by | Wedding | 2 Comments