Wedding Photography Tips | 10 Mistakes Wedding Photographers Make

About a year ago I wrote a post titled 10 tips for an Indian wedding photographer which I though was a good introduction to the field of wedding photography in India. A week later I added a second post with a few more tips  on how to be a better wedding photographer and stand out in the crowd. I think it is about time for the last chapter in the trilogy.

wedding photography mistakes

What I want to look at now are a few mistakes I see among some of the young (and some not so young) wedding photographers that I meet and talk to. Many have come into the world of wedding photography with no prior schooling or professional training and have very little knowledge about the business side of things. Other might have a good sense of business but are missing out on some day-to-day things that could make their lives easier. Some of these tips are easy to follow, some are a must-do, and others are very difficult to incorporate into your workflow. In my humble opinion these are all important things to consider.

Wedding Photographer: Do You Make These Mistakes?

To make a long story short, here is a short list of mistakes that I hope you can avoid in the future.

1. Not having a legal contract for wedding photography services!

Photography is a lot of fun and can surely be a great job, but it would be wrong to assume that there are no legal matters to take care of. If you want to be a professional photographer you will need a number of legal documents at your disposal. As an example, let’s say you are asked to cover a wedding for you school buddy. He would be expecting you to hand over all of the images, have the sole rights to your images. What if you missed the ‘ring shot’? Can he now turn around and say he does not want to pay you? What if there where other photographers that were invited too and blocked your view? What if your friend now wishes to use your images to promote his/her business? Who owns the copyright to your images? Issues such as these could be easily addressed if you have formed a legally binding contract with the client, in this case, the wedding couple. Sample agreements for professional photographers are easily available online. To help you start out you can check out this contract for wedding photography services but there are more . A simple google search will give you surprising results.

2. Not limiting the hours of work or charging for extra time.

Having a proper agreement in place will also help you define the scope of work that is expected of you. What if the plan for the day was for a four hour event but due to various reasons the day became twice as long? What if the party goes on until the early hours of the morning but you’ve been working since 8am? Are you expected to stay for the same amount of money? Limiting the hours of work and specifically mentioning the deliverables will make your life a lot easier. If you are forced to stay longer you may now also bill the client for the extra time.

3. Not charging 100% in advance.

“We will pay the difference after we see the pictures”. Have you heard this before? Some of you might feel somewhat embarrassed or uncomfortable charging the full amount before the wedding but this is a very big mistake. What if you have completed the job and the client, with the good intentions to start with, now feels they spent too much money on the wedding and feel the need to re-negotiate? You might get the “You didn’t take enough pictures of uncle Bob” or “Your pictures are not as good as I expected”. What will you do then? Charging the full amount in advance puts your mind at ease and rids you from this head ache all together. When you come to the wedding you are free to be creative and it serves everybody’s best interests. Having an agreement in place can give the client all the assurances they need. If they still do not trust you it might be a good reason to reconsider the whole assignment.

aquatica4. Buy the ‘best’ camera that you do not need.  

I attended a wedding in Gujarat a few years ago and shared the floor with a local team who where there to shoot ‘just in case my pictures did’t turn out good enough’, or something like this. I had my Nikon D700’s which I was using at the time, but the guy from the other team had a D3s. This is obviously a great camera but he had a flash mounted in the shoe and was just walking around firing it at eye level whenever he saw fit. What I’m saying is that unless you really don’t know what to do with your money, stop thinking like an amateur. Buy the camera that best serves your needs and not the one that you think a “real pro” would use. Your work will be judged by the images you produce and not the size of your camera. If you still need an ego boost just bring this gadget with you to your next wedding. This will surely make you look like a pro, or an idiot.

5. Bring you ego to the job.

Which brings us to the whole issue of ego. Wedding photography is not about you and your amazing self. It is about two people getting married and you are the one chosen to document the most important day of their life. Photographers have egos. It’s a given. Leave your ego on the shelf at home and come with an open heart and open mind. I had the misfortune of working along side a famous photographers one. He was not so happy, to put it mildly, that the bride had requested him to let me work and not interfere with my work. He ended up coming in my way on purpose throughout the event. When it was all over I grabbed him for a talk and asked him why he did this when he specifically knew what the bride wanted. “I do not take orders from the bride, or anyone else” he said. “They hired ME and will listen to ME”. Do you think the bride was happy?

6. Agree to work with another (uncoordinated) team

So what do we do when we are requested/forced to work with another team? This happened a lot in Indian weddings. The bride might book you but the groom’s family have booked their own photographer. Both teams come with the intent to do their work the way they are used to and the same way you do not want to be disturbed, neither do they. If you are  starting out you might have to endure and work around it. It is then super important to make sure both teams are coordinated. try to explain the situation to the couple and split the responsibilities between the two teams. As far as I am concerned this is an absolute NO. My agreement (now, after the incident mentioned above) has a clause that says; “no other team or professional photographer will be allowed to shoot at the wedding”.  You cannot expect an Italian chef to make you the best pasta if you supply him with rotten tomatoes. Try to explain this to the couple and cover your back in the contract in case something happens that prevents you from doing your job or missing images.

7. Giving ALL the images you shot, including the unflattering ones

Let’s face it, not every photo is going to come out award winning. As a wedding photographer you will take hundreds, maybe thousands of images on a wedding day. From these, you will cull the very best, the ones that tell the story the way you say it,  the ones most flattering to the bride and have the most potential to make you proud. Once you do this, you will perfect them, edit them until they look they way you consider best. These edited photos will show the client the best possible collection, which is what they really want from a professional photographer. You know how difficult it could be to make a final selection from all the hundreds or thousands of images you shot. This is a hard job even with the latest culling softwares and post production ability. Your couple, most of them at least, do not have the same visual capacity of a professional photographer. They will not be able to see the gems hidden in the hay stack. There is nothing to be gained from wading through hundreds of unedited, sometimes dozens of the same pose with only very small differences. As a professional photographer you need to hand the client the very best shots, edited to the best possible standard. The photos that aren’t chosen to be edited are left behind for a reason. No matter how much the customer promises not to be upset with bad or unflattering images, they will be left with doubts about your ability as a photographer. And remember; unless you’ve educated them as to your process before the event, you can’t blame them for expecting it.

8. Giving the client your RAW images.

Why is giving clients RAW files such a big deal for wedding photographers anyway? I have been getting these requests from some couples but I obviously never share my RAW files. There are many good reasons why I don’t. The RAW are unprocessed camera files that still do not carry my signature post production style. They might sometime be under or over exposed, need cropping or massive post production work to produce the great image that I had in mind. I don’t think that sharing this unprocessed file is something that I wish to do. After all, it might make me look like a bad photographer who ‘couldn’t get it right’ in the camera and had to fix the image so much.
Another reason is that I also do not wish to have other edits to my images circulating the web and being presented like my own work. However, being aware of copyright and moral right you might want to know that the RAW file is what you might need if you ever want to be able to prove that the image is indeed yours. The truth of the matter is that what your bride wants are great looking, fully edited, beautiful shots. She does not need the RAW files and it is your job to explain it. And here is an idea how to tell clients they can’t have the RAW files without loosing them.

“Asking a photographer to hand over a memory card, USB, or DVD of raw images is akin to asking an author to present you with their book in manuscript format: unedited, unformatted, and including the paragraphs and chapters that didn’t make it.” Daniela Bowker

9. Not pay enough attention to post production

Which again, brings us to the next subject of post production. Being a wedding photographer does not end with coming to the event with a camera and taking pictures of the bride and groom. No matter if you are a wedding photographer in India or New York City; post production is an essential part of your work. Not like in photojournalism or documentary photography, we have a lot more creative freedom to play with presets and filters to enhance our wedding images. It is important to know that the pictures we take will eventually rebuild the memories of the couple from their own wedding and will shape them in the colours and feel seen in our images. This is a great responsibility. Just dumping the camera JPG or being satisfied with not colour correcting tungsten or fluorescent is just not good enough. Post production is where you can show your signature style. Master it!

10. Comparing our ‘behind the scenes’ to everyone else’s highlight reel.

One reason we struggle with insecurity is that we are constantly comparing our ‘behind the scenes’ to everyone else’s highlight reel. You see award winning images on the various contest results and feel that you are not as good as this guy or that girl. The truth is that most of what we all shoot is crap. The number of good images is insignificant to the number of just plain normal, if not simply mediocre images. The thing is that we only show the VERY BEST work we produce. If you saw my contact sheet you will feel a lot better. Trust me on that. Stop torturing yourself. Keep struggling to constantly improve your work and be inspired by what others do. Go out there to produce your next award winning image and show it to the world.

A few other mistake include:
  • Over promise and under deliver
  • Not giving enough attention to the family group shots

Now it’s your turn …

Here’s what to do next: Let me know in the comments what you thought of this post and if you found it helpful. If you are a wedding photographer please share your own tips and things you feel can be implemented into a productive workflow. Try to also give a reason why.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you in the comments!


Sephi Bergerson is an international wedding photographer based in India since 2002. He  conducts regular workshops for professional wedding photographers in India and  is available for seminars and lectures on Indian wedding photography and destination wedding photography worldwide. Please feel free to contact us for further information.

96 replies
  1. Noni Chawla says:

    Sephi, that is an excellent post. You have obviously given this issue a lot of thought. Everyone of your points is an excellent one. I hope many wedding photographers read this pay heed.

  2. Doktor Mouse says:

    Hi there!

    Thank you for the tips, I’m not a photographer but I was on receiving side – the bridesmaid.

    I have a question – is there anything we can do if a bride and her fam were left unhappy with the photos?
    Out of almost 400 images there were only 100 more or less decent ones and the bride was extremely upset that everything she asked a photographer NOT TO DO the photographer did. She was extremely unhappy and said the photos make her feel like crap which I wasn’t surprised about when I saw the photos myself and after I heard how much they paid for the crapy images.

    When brides family asked for a meeting to discuss the images and concern the photographer completely cut them off by saying ‘GO ONLINE AND EMAIL US BECAUSE WE DO NIT HAVE TIME TO MEET UP’.

    Is there anything can be done? Or a way to fix the pictures even though the poses and angle were badly messed up?

    Thank you in advance.

  3. jitesh says:

    Thanks for sharing these vital points Sephi, was actually quite relieved when i first saw Henri Cartier-Bresson’s contact sheets, realized that the decisive moment is but a myth…!

  4. Sree Vijay Raj says:

    I appreciate your time and intent in helping fellow professionals and amateurs photographers.
    And a small tip from my personal experience as a photographer try to be friendly crack few jokes if you can with the bride and groom’s family members and kids over there so that they would feel comfortable with you and it helps you a lot in few scenarios and yes with this you will get a good experience and feel way better and earn respect towards you and you will enjoy the joy of wedding not only as a photographer even as a family or friend to them.

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      Thanks for this comment Vijay. I agree, and as a matter of fact I do crack jokes with the couple and the guests all the time. However, some people are not the jokers as you know :) It is a good way to approach and break the ice, but it is only one way ;)

  5. madhu says:

    1. Not having a legal contract for wedding photography services!
    There are thousands of wedding photographers, who cares for the legal contract, first of all the wedding photographer doesnt even know whether he will be getting the assingment or not, maybe you might have a bad experience with not having a legal contract, if you have missed the ring shot, its your problem you have to get it, that is what you were paid for, and that is the reason you see more than one photographer in weddings..

    2. Not limiting the hours of work or charging for extra time.

    Here again , maybe you have a bad experience for staying long hours for any wedding,
    Yes it does happens, In 90% of weddings it happens, the fun is not limited to timings…
    Usually all indian wedding photographers with their respective local traditions know about the timings, its not the first time which is happening, The wedding photographers have earlier covered similar weddings hundreds of times, so they know whether its going to be late or extra time or not…

    3. Not charging 100% in advance

    Forget about 100% advance, even if you get 50%advance, its much better,
    again, you may experience for not getting your money from the clients, so that makes you speak about the 100% advance, unless you are not confident about the client paying you or you not about delivering the prodcut 100% the question of 100% arises, the mutual understanding or mistrust on each other will be a satisfactory 50% of 50-50 chances.. of losing or gaining for both.

    4. Buy the ‘best’ camera that you do not need.

    Again as i said earlier its your experience of feeling of not having a Bigger camera than your other team,
    only fools say camera or good equipment is not necessary for taking best pictures,
    definetely good equipment is very important, and if you teach that equipment is not necessary, then you are making fool, nothing else…

    5. Bring you ego to the job.

    Again you are pointing someone else ego not checking yours
    yes it does happens in wedding shoot, intentionally or unintenionally
    there will be lot of problems while shooting, but that shouldnot be an excuse
    you are a professional and you need to deal with it, it may happen at anywhere
    or any wedding or any point of time, you cannot teach everyone, what to do or what not to do
    it should be your priority to make the images, without disturbing others, if you dont disturb others he will not disturb you.

    6. Agree to work with another (uncoordinated) team

    yes, the other team might have felt the same way with you You cannot expect an Italian chef to make you the best pasta if you supply him with rotten tomatoes
    you cannot blame your inablility of not working with other team,
    look at the photojournalism, there are hundreds of photographers who shoot the same event still
    they get the best shots, you cannot dictate them not to cover and only you will take the pictures, it doesnt happen that way.. you need to learn how to cope the situation and reach an understanding to learn to work with teams, simply you cannot dictate that i cannot work, if someone else works, thats shows your inablility and lack of professionalism

    7. Giving ALL the images you shot, including the unflattering ones
    what is the problem if you give all the images, including the unflattering
    will it reveal the true photography, will it show your inability, why fear

    8. Giving the client your RAW images.

    Yes, everybody knows that including you out of the whole event in a wedding photography can take a maximum of few best shots, and that too after huge manipulation and arranged shots.
    so, its common that the photographer has a fear, that the client will know about his ability when he see the RAW images, no problem explain to the client the importance and the work flow he will understand, but as i and you know that the real fact, that if the client see the RAW files he will never hire again.

    9. Not pay enough attention to post production

    This is where the whole gamble is no matter how great you are or how experienced you are how fresh you are, or a very recent amateur photographer, The quality of all wedding photographers is almost same just a slight variation of 5 to 10%,
    Post production is what makes the difference, you hire the best photographer paying him laksh and a photographer who is well experienced but paid less, you will find no difference, the difference is in post production. so dont underestimate yourself, there is no difference in the work between you and the best of the best photographer, its all same except post production.

    10. Comparing our ‘behind the scenes’ to everyone else’s highlight reel.

    The moment you feel insecured you are gone,
    dont worry about even the best of the best wedding photographers including the one who had posted this article, the work is same…

    and finally

    Never promise for those awkward fun couple shoots, which are artifical and borrowed stuff from western photographers who doesnt have much to shoot so they just incorporated these couple shoots,
    try to capture every detail and event and moment as natural as possible, just enjoy your work… and the last one is to FIND A BEST PHOTO EDITOR, he will do everything….

  6. Ganesh says:

    read a couple of ur comments regarding the “not giving the RAW images” and the answers are not that satisfactory.

    If a director makes a film, the copyrights below to the production company (which pays for the film) and it is their right to own all the footage and not just what the director wants to present.

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      However Ganesh, you are not the director but the client. At the end of the day it is between you and your photographer. If you come to an understanding than that is what will happen.
      The movie industry is something else with different rules. All is anyway in the agreement between the production house and the director. However, please note that the director DOES retain the copyright on the work. This is how sometimes you can see a director’s cut that looks different than the studio cut (Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner and many more.) Thank God that the copyright of the photographer in the images is protected by law. If the agreement does not specifically say that you (client) retains the copyright than it belongs to the photographer.
      as to RAW files; like I said, this is a file format. Please read more about it to understand what ti means. If you are not a photographer who deals with RAW files you will not be able to use them anyway.

  7. sandy says:

    Hey SB,

    Nice article…and appreciate your efforts for coming up with such elaborate article…

    Consider these scenarios…


    You go to a restaurant and order a plate of manchuria. They generally serve around 20 pieces of it. But, would it be ok if you are charged for full plate and you are served only 3 pieces because the chef considers those 3 to be the best out of the 20 piece lot that he made for you and discards or keeps for himself the rest of them.

    According to my knowledge, if a photographer clicks around 1000 photos, clients don’t expect each one of them to be a master piece…We (or most of the clients) do have practical expectations…hardly 20-25% might turn out to be “first” best (of course after PP)…And they get into the hard copy album…But we might have “second” best lot which couldn’t make it to the album but we would like to see them from time to time because ‘uncle bob is there’, ‘friend sam is making awkward face’ etc etc…you might not like these, but who cares, we might like them…Leave it to us…

    You don’t like certain photos, its fine…don’t share those on your facebook pages, but you can’t stop us from having them…Its your duty to explain it to the client what he can expect practically and what you can deliver…

    Given a particular scenario, no two photographers can generate the same image, so definitely these are you IPR. NO DOUBT in it. BUT you are paid for it and you can ask the client not to share them without giving you due credits or not to use them for commercial purpose or not to share unedited pics etc etc. But denying them the right to have them or giving them the compressed versions isn’t acceptable…


    A close friend of mine had to wait for 8 months for his wedding soft copies which were promised to be given in 2-3 weeks after the wedding. The photographer didn’t even pick up his call for close to 3 months. And my sister’s friend wedding was in Feb 2014 and till date they haven’t yet seen a single picture of theirs. And one of them features in this “” and other one is also popular in hyderabad…

    Do you really think that client who hands you the responsibility to capture his life’s most memorable day, would risk loosing the memories of it. The event day passes like a flash to the bride and groom and its through you guys that they relive those moments for life. No one would want to risk that by giving you “cock and bull” stories.

    You might have seen/heard 100’s of clients who might find excuses to cut down the payments at the end, but we have also seen/heard of same number of photographers who back down on the promises made at the beginning. If you have problem with clients giving you reasons like heavy expenses incurred in marriage then remember the fact that even client’s have problem with photographers giving lame excuses in giving us the output in time, most of them say “we are struck up in lot of marriages,so are very busy and hence delay blah blah….”

    I would like to say only one thing, client should check his “aukaat” and photographers should not be GREEDY, client should jolt down his capacities and go with the one he can afford even in the worst case and photographers should only accept certain number of weddings wherein he can do justice…

    No sensible person who pays you with hard earned money will agree to this..Only those who hire big names just to show off or have too much kaala money might agree to this…and this is purely my opinion and nothing against those whom you might know & have paid you full in advance…:-)

    when hiring a photographer, I would out rightly reject anyone who says the above two. I know you don’t care, but remember even “we don’t care.” You have 100 more clients and we have equal number of other options…So, its a win-win/loose-loose situation for both…

    Legal Contract is really a good thing, wherein both the parties are bound to certain responsibilities…In bold letters it should say “PERSONAL SATISFACTION ISN’T GUARANTEED” but we will give our 100% and PROMISE TO DELIVER so and so, by so and so date…In this way both the parties can peacefully do their job…

    Articles would make lot more sense and be meaningful if its a balanced one and not inclined towards one party…

    Apart from the above mentioned, i enjoyed reading your article and let me mention that i regard you people with utmost respect and when i said “you” its the entire community in general…NOM..

    Thanks for reading….Keep smiling and keep clicking….

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      Dear Sandy, thank you for taking the time to write this long comment. Let me try to clarify my points.

      1. With regard to the first part of your comment about RAW files. I think you are mistaking the file format (RAW, TIFF, JPEG etc.) with images that do not make it to the first selection of the photographer. Images that you still wish to have. I don’t see it any other way than you. There are my selected images and there are the rest. Above that are the rejects. Those images that I will not show you whatever happens. I deliver my clients two batches; a first select and a second select. All the images in the 1st batch are post produced and colour corrected. The 2nd batch are camera files that as you say, the client would possibly want to have. This has nothing to do with the format of the file being RAW or any other format.
      2. Like you said, a contract should be in place. If you had a contract, which I assume you did not, than it would state the delivery date as well as agreed compensation in case the photographer fails to deliver on time. If you are unsure about who you hire you should run a background check with his previous clients. Always a good thing to do. If you are not convinced, don’t hire this photographer. Some people out there might not be the professionals they present themselves to be. Some might take too many wedding and can’t keep up. Others might simply be lazy, incapable or whatever. Never the less, there are high end professional in this field, like in any other profession. Those will have good answers to your toughest questions and will be happy to provide you with past clients references. You may choose to work with such a photographer or not. This is indeed up to you but this is not a power game. Hiring a person who agrees to your terms and conditions might indicate that this person needs you more than you need him. Is this what you want? If so please go ahead and book him. You might find out later it was a mistake or you will be lucky. Professionals with a proven track record and clients history work in a certain way. You either take it or you do not.
      No hard feelings of course :) Best, Sephi

      • Ganesh says:

        i think it should be more like producer asking for the whole footage of the movie (to which he has full rights btw), audience does not hire the director

        • Sephi Bergerson says:

          Does a publishing house have the full rights to all the manuscript of an author who’s book they publish? Let us not start with examples as the Intellectual Property (IP) and copyright law is very clear. The photographer has the right to his images unless otherwise is given in writing. This is the fact. The rest and only arguments on the validity of this law.

    • Raghav Candidtime says:

      how you feel if chef servers you overburnt, half baked and raw gobi pieces remaining in the kitchen as well!! will you like such platter? :P photography is art which photographer can speak via his work nobody has business to ask for raw unedited pics where its my art work and you are asking when its 50% ready!

  8. Arun Hegden says:

    Points 1,2,3,6,7 and 10 happened on my first wedding shoot.
    Points i would like to add are:
    1. Working alone in a wedding, happened to me twice in the beginning as this can be difficult when i mount a 70-200, few moments of wide angle came. Also a good experienced person alongside with us can boost our morale and confidence.
    2. Not carrying extra battery, and a memory cards. A very common beginners mistake.

  9. paras Gangh says:

    Makes so much sense. Specially the bit about a parallel team of photographers. They try their best to create a virtual bullet proof shield around the important folks. :)
    Thanks for sharing

  10. Abhimanyu Sharma says:

    Hi Sephi,
    Thank you for articulating so well what really goes on behind the scenes! :)
    Always a pleasure and privilege to hear your wisdom.
    PS: A point we keep hearing often from couples we have shot in the past is that they chose us because none of the other photographers made a genuine effort to connect with them. Maybe that’s also something every photographer should do. We believe getting really comfortable (while still remaining professional) does lead to really awesome images coming out. Also, it helps in explaining so many other points you want to impress upon the couple, a lot easier. Just a small thought :)

  11. Nilesh Khedkar says:

    Its really useful tips that every young and even I can say that professional wedding photographers in India should go through it. Usually there are so many reasons that wedding photographers cannot treated well in weddings but these tips really helpful in every manner, to gain some respect and to add more professionalism in work. Thanks a lot for all valuable tips.

  12. Charan says:

    Landed on this post from Facebook. Appreciate your time and intent in helping fellow professionals and amateurs as well.
    Though I am in agreement with most of your points I beg to disagree with some. I am just picking up on the analogies you have mentioned, for now.

    //6. Agree to work with another (uncoordinated) team
    //You cannot expect an Italian chef to make you the best pasta if you supply him with rotten tomatoes.

    Since you are specific on this as a learning from an Indian wedding setting, this analogy only leads to make me believe that you do not want to share the kitchen with another chef who has been giving the same kitchen to cook to the taste buds of another portion of clients, probably the same recipe even.

    // 8. Giving the client your RAW images.

    //Asking a photographer to hand over a memory card, USB, or DVD of raw images is akin to asking an author to present you with their book in manuscript format: unedited, unformatted, and including the paragraphs and chapters that didn’t make it.

    In that context I don’t agree that a photographer to be an author, but just a spectator of a story that unfolds, with great showcase & retelling skills. Because a photographer does little to nothing to create what happens in the setting whereas the author creates something out of thin air with just imagination as the tool.


    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      Oh WOW Charan! OK, this is from the heart so unedited and a bit harsh. I’m not sure if I should thank you for showing so little knowledge on the photographic process, or be pissed off with you? A Photographer cannot be recognised as an author? Lucky for the entire photography world what you think is only your personal opinion and has no importance. Photography, being a creative field, is considered a way of self expression and its creative aspects are protected by intellectual property laws (!). I’m sorry but I cannot get into a serious discussion over this.
      As for the chef analogy; it only means what I wrote, that if you want me to make you good food please supply the good ingredients and don’t send some other chef to fight with me over who’s using the stove right now, or in our case, who will have a better view of the mandap, which lights to use – his or mine, etc. Lets see you cook a decent Italian meal when another cook stands in your mother’s kitchen cooking Chinese.

  13. kiran says:

    My parents paid up 100% of what the photographer asked for the wedding. I (the bride) then spent 8 months chasing the photographer for the prints, had to put together the album layout by myself and also design the cover of the album. Was a horrible experience overall and left us feeling that maybe if we didnt pay 100% upfront, the photographer would have had some incentive to get the job done in decent time. And this was a photographer who was well regarded and recommended.

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      Hi Kiran, thanks for taking the time to comment. I hear your pain and I know how frustrating this must have been for you. I am even more sorry that the unprofessional practice by one wedding photographer tarnishes the reputation of the many. However, mind you that there are many good reasons why wedding photographers charge 100% in advance, and this is as a matter of fact the industry standard. Surely you will find photographers willing to work otherwise but the question is if you are looking for a hungry photographer or an established, reputed one to cover your wedding? I will write more about this very soon. Please follow up on the blog. I will also try to drop you a mail to let you know when this new post is up. Have a great day. Sephi

  14. Lalit says:

    I don’t believe that photographer can have any right what so ever on pictures she clicks in a wedding. Don’t forget that it’s there personal affair that you are documenting and being paid for.
    Photographer claiming ownership on wedding pics is plain dumb.

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      Dear Lalit, thank you for taking the time to comment. I see your point, but unfortunately what you believe or do not believe has nothing to do with the fact. There is a law that protects intellectual property which includes copyright and moral rights in photography. I know that this might not go with your views and I will be happy to explain this further. However, this might be a little long for the comments so I would like you to please allow me to do this in a separate post. I will drop you a quick mail to let you know when the post is up (about two weeks). Thanks again. Sephi

  15. Kundan says:

    Well Sephi, I really admire your intentions. My team has just finished the 1st wedding shoot and I could nod in yes with all your points above. Since I am so new that can’t suggest on any point but do wan to thank you!!

  16. Hicoder says:

    3. Not charging 100% in advance.
    Why? Why should I pay someone when I don’t know “IF” he is ever going to deliver. No sane person would pay his contractor 100% in advance “hoping for things to come out”. I certainly won’t do it for my carpenter, I won’t do it for my photographer. They are not a special breed of contractors.

    8. Giving the client your RAW images.
    I’ll demand at the very least uncompressed Tiffs. Most photographers don’t have the ethics to hand over uncompressed processed files

    Another mistakes photographers make: Come up with ridiculous ownership terms. Most consumers are naive first time consumers and don’t understand what rights they are specifically giving up.

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      Thank you for this comment Hicoder. I was actually looking forward to this side of the fence as well. I see where you are coming from and despite the fact that we might be in disagreement on the above, I do have answers to your points. However, it might be too long to answer here in the comments.
      The 100& advance is at the end of the day something you will have to agree, or not, with you photographer. I must tell you though, that no serious wedding photographer will agree to work without 100% advance. It is the industry standard and I do not invent this fact. Please allow me to elaborate on this in the next blog post. I will drop you a quick mail to let you know when it is published.
      In the mean time, about photographer VS carpenter, please have a look at this post I wrote some time back. It is short and to the point.

      • Hicoder says:

        Engagement rules are to be dictated by market forces alone.
        I will take my analogy one step further and say Auto Wallas of Chennai had absurd payment – terms, we know that story didn’t end well. So nothing is industry standard, and industry-standards, in the self-employed sector is wishful thinking (unless you are a doctor, or a CA where compliance is key). You are right to feel entitled though, and I will continue to disagree with you.

        You will have answers to all my point no doubt. As disagreeing with me is important for your justification to over-charge, charge without a level playing field, questionable ownership ethics etc. Lets agree to disagree.

      • Nishant Ratnakar says:

        Very well articulated points in this post, Sephi. And also interesting discussion in the comment threads that adds some customer perspective too. I hope to see some constructive discussion in regards to the latter perspective. I will follow up to read more comments. At the moment, it is interesting to see what some of the disagreements are. From analogies shared, it appears that many customers, non-photographers, see photographs more as mere utility than as intellectual property. And as a practicing photographer, I disagree with that analogy. I don’t think buying sugar at stores or auto fare in Chennai city is any analogy closer to contemporary wedding photography and photography in general. If the client wants to see photographs as utility, like an auto that will take him/her from point A to point B, then he/she would know that any given auto can be replaced by another identical auto and his/her service would be met. But, would client think it is the same with respect to wedding photography, and photography in general? Irrespective of portfolio, past work, style of photography, does the client believe that photographers could replace each other, and he/she can deliver something called as “standardized” imagery for a wedding? There is nothing standardized in wedding photography that can be replicated with accuracy across all weddings. Photography is a craft and is driven by photographer’s individual perspective. Perspectives differ and that’s where differentiation and pricing factors play a vital role. If one wants a service of a photographer who is charging 1 lakh per day at his terms and conditions, then you can’t expect him to change his pricing and T&C to match another photographer charging 10k per day and who cares a damn about his intellectual property. To present a counter analogy…. Why spend hundreds of dollars for a NYT best seller novel whose fine-print mentions that you can’t duplicate it in anyform? One could instead pick a cheap primary school book of prose instead.. after all by the earlier presented analogy a book is a book irrespective of what it is and should give the same reading experience to all, isn’t it? how skewed is this idea…. But, yes contracts should offer some protection to both the photographer and the consumer rather than it being completely one sided. A point one bride mentioned was when a reputed photographer didn’t give her the promised deliverable for 8 months. She had do most of the work in realizing her wedding day book. I agree that her photographer acted unprofessionally, and would like to know if there was any written contract in her case. And if there was a contract, did it mention a delivery date? Maybe prospective clients reading Sephi’s post should take a leaf out of this discussion, and negotiate with their photographers to include a timeline for delivery of images in their contract.

          • Hicoder says:

            I am sorry but you missed my point about the autowallas: The analogy there was about the irrationality of demands that photographers make which is akin to what auto-drivers did for decades.

            I don’t see photographers as pure vendors but I don’t raise them to the standard of pure artists and I wouldn’t give them more benefits then I would give a programmer ( a paid artists in his own right), who cannot stake claim of his work after delivery and charges a premium for it.

          • Sephi Bergerson says:

            Dear Hicoder,
            You are right about one thing. Not everyone with a camera is a photographer. The same way that not everyone with a sewing machine creates haute couture, and having a pen does not make you an award winning novelist.
            Photography is a language, with grammar and a vocabulary.
            It is the use of the language and the artist’s imagination combined that creates the magic.
            As for the claim of ownership that upsets you so much. You might have met camera owners who take below average pictures and calling that art seems too much. The fact of the matter is that
            photography – good or bad – as an art form and the right of the photographer to be recognised as the author, is protected by international IP law, as well as the Indian copyright act. It is not a matter of opinion but a fact. Even a terrible writer has the right to be recognised as the author of his crappy book. You may want to buy it or not, but it is still his book. You might be the subject of this biography but the person who wrote the book is the author. You may insist that to you photography is not art but this would only make for one person’s opinion. Surely some people with cameras will be happy to sell their services to you under your terms and conditions. However, ask yourself if this is what you are looking for? Might be better to just buy a camera and do the job yourself. Who knows, you might be an artist after all.

          • Hicoder says:

            Also, it would be hugely useful as a blogpost if can see examples of a fair written contract terms with explanations.

            Something actually useful from the end-users perspective as they try to figure out if their Friendly Wedding photographer is trying to rip them off or not.

  17. TUSHAR MEHRA says:

    Thank you so much for this Article i been felling bad about how i didn’t gave my 100% just because i had a small quarrel with groom. I could have kept my temper down which could have saved at least bride’s most important day.
    Resulting my payment got stuck with the client as we didn’t charged 100% in advance.

    • Lalit says:

      This is a good example why customer should not pay 100% before the event. More often than not, photographers don’t do there job properly if they are paid fully.

      • Sephi Bergerson says:

        Thanks again. I have mentioned this in my reply to Hicoder as well. This is something that you will have to decide on. I will elaborate in the next post as well.

  18. Niraj says:

    A well written, delightful, article to read.

    It’s not often you’ll find a photographer willing to admit that not every shot is “perfect”.
    I would even go as far as saying, the 10 mistakes you’ve highlighted are barely a glimpse into the intricacy and delicate operation of becoming a business owner supplying photographic services.

    However, one of the mistakes you clearly identified and would definitely make the top 5 list of any profession is “Ego” – Leave the ego at home, and let yourself stretch around the world to keep your clients thankful! They don’t call it the “happiest day of your life” for no reason, so why should anyone ruin that!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts Sephi, and I hope to bump into you one day!

  19. Harshada says:

    Hi Sephi,

    This guidance is really helpful, specially for a photographer like me who has entered in the field of wedding photography lately. Thank you for sharing this.

  20. Rohan says:

    Thanks for sharing all those important details Sephi. I just wanted to know, how you deal with signing of contracts in case couples don’t reside in the same city from where you operate. Thanks!

  21. Saju says:

    Sephi ! It was wonderful, it covered not the tip of the iceberg, instead the 80% below the water too.
    Wonderful and detailed write up, being from India, most of the issues you covered are true and have been witness to it….during my shoots.
    Apart from the camera men, there are also the family members with the cellphones and pocket camera all pointing it right in front of your lens.. Believe me , i have shot pics between the legs of another family member who came and stood right in the middle of the stage to get a better glimpse of the ceremony

  22. Gaurav Marwaha says:

    Brilliant words of wisdom for someone like me, who has just started out on this adventurous pilgrimage. :) Trying to absorb everything as much as possible. Would like to contribute my share of the creative imagery that I can, within professional & ethical work environment. And the pointers will surely go a long way in ensuring that to a great extent. Thanks Sephi Sir ! :)

  23. Sam says:

    Nice article. Being a photography enthusiast and a recent bride .. I can add few more to this from a customer perspective! This is too biased in not considering experience of a bride/groom.

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      Dear Sam, I would absolutely love to read your additional ideas from a bride’s perspective. I think this would be beneficial to everyone. Please take the time to write. Thanks

  24. Noah Dyvadheenam says:

    Great post, Sephi! And I agree with all the points you put down. Well articulated! I am new to this genre, but thankfully, I made sure not to make these mistakes so far. Thanks to some of the wedding photographer friends I have.
    I just have one more point that I thought you could’ve touched upon – Agreeing upon what you deliver to the client. The number of shots per day that you deliver and the kind of shots that you will be mostly shooting. Some clients may end up expecting you to shoot almost all the guests or a lot of shots on stage posing with the bride and groom (quite common in India). It’s always better to state clearly the kind of shots that you will be mostly shooting as part of your style. And agreeing upon final number of shots and album, if any, will make it easier to deliver what was promised. I often deliver more than what was promised, and it keeps my clients happy :)

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      Good point Noah. However, I believe the deliverables are something that is a part of the agreement. Mine mentioned that I do not promise to take any particular shot. Some photographers mention that the client is aware of the style of the photographer etc. I do not mention the stage in the agreement but I do say it to the client on the call/skype/email. It seems to me that it makes no sense to hire an expensive photographer and expect him to shoot the stage. My clients see eye to eye on this. But yes, whatever comes to mind should come in the agreement.

      • Noah Dyvadheenam says:

        I agree. I do the same. I put it in the agreement and also go over it once on phone. And you are right, all my clients do understand what to expect from me and my style, but I do know of some photographer friends who faced these problems :)

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      This is a good question and must also be mentioned in the agreement. Please note that 100% advance is the industry standard for wedding photography worldwide. The wedding photography service agreement should in general mention an estimated time of delivery. My agreement mentioned 60 days but I usually do not take this long. In case of a delay, a compensation must be mentioned. All this said, I encourage you to check the background of your photographer and possibly talk with previous couples who’ve worked with him/her. This is always a good thing to do. I hope this helps.

      • umeshrw says:

        I make it a point give a delivery date to client, take a 70 percent advance and 30 percent to be paid up at the time of delivery of the soft copies. And I promise my clients that if I get delayed, they do not need to pay me the remaining 30 percent. That tells my clients something about my trustworthiness and it also keeps me very punctual.

  25. Priyam Datta says:

    Very well put Sephi…. Thanks a ton for listing these down! Like all your articles, even this is surely gonna help a lot of photographers as well as the couples.. I had one dilemma that I have been facing recently. Stating the number of hours and timings for shoots and mentioning the charges for the extra hours have somehow made a few brides upset. What they had to say was that one cannot be so rigid with the timings at an Indian Wedding as things always gets delayed. What to do for such situations? I do agree that things always get delayed at indian weddings and that kinda leaves me confused…

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      Hi Priyam, I find that a 10 hour day is usually enough to ver any long day of an Indian wedding. I only count the hours of work and not the hours between the events. This is one of the reasons why I insist on staying at the same hotel so that I do not waste time traveling back and forth to my hotel. In the event of extra time I will charge 10% of the 10hr day per hour. However, it is not every time that I actually send the couple a bill for this. I will if it really became a long extra time but more than anything I only like to keep my hours reasonable and not be at the mercy of some aunt with too much expectations. I also reserve the right to say when I had enough pictures and decide to retire for the day. This is especially important with Indian weddings that can go on and on. There must be a limit on how much work is expected of you. If you explain it nicely every client can understand this. If they don’t, well… maybe they should not be a client…

  26. Kapil Rajdeep says:

    Hi sephi
    I m wedding photographer.
    How can I convince new costumer
    for their wedding ceremony coverage.
    Give some tips for demo presentation for new customers.

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      Dear Kapil, this is off subject but I’ll answer quickly. In the beginning you will probably need to shoot a few weddings for free or close to nothing so that you have something to show. Reputation takes time to build so the beginning might not be so simple. Tagging along an experienced photographer and being a second shooter can also build your experience. At the end of the day, your website will be your presentation. Start in the beginning and build it up. I hope this help. Good luck.

  27. Samir Beg says:

    I’m not a professional photographer, but I enjoy capturing moments when I can.
    Your article is very informative and while aiming towards “Wedding Photography”, seems quite useful in other dimensions of Photography too.
    I’m sure both professionals and non, will benefit from your expertise and experience.
    As always, insights from you are looked forward to.

  28. Rameshwar Gopu says:

    Well listed Sephi! :)
    I feel that the not giving enough attention to group shots (atleast close & important family members) is a much bigger mistake. Some photographers are way too zoned out in their “candid style”. Sigh!

  29. Beena says:

    Hi Sephi, whilst I agree with the points in your blog post I think Fernando has made a good point. We shoot a lot of destination weddings and I don’t think it’s a question of whether drinking water is available but how quickly you can get to it so you don’t miss any moments. I agree with Fernando, you should always carry some in your bag. I don’t think drinking water in a hot day compares to eating your favourite food :)

  30. Mayur Channagere says:

    Beautifully articulated and every point is so valid. I have faced quite a few of these issues.
    these points are relevant even to the bride or the groom, for they have to understand these points before hiring a wedding photographer.
    Thanks for sharing these .

  31. Girish Joshi says:

    Nice pointers. Well written Sephi

    Contracts and hours are probably very important points.

    I’ve seen photographers calling clients by the wrong name. Once is still fine not three to four times!

  32. Anupam Maurya says:

    This is a great list and what I always believed in. Unfortunately not all photographers are on same page which results into unreasonable demands and pressure on other photographers.

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      we can only try our best in bringing information to photographers and trying to establish professionalism across the board. I hope this post makes some difference and helps young photographers recognise their mistakes. cheers

  33. MP Singh says:

    Hi Sephi
    Love your work and loved this article.I myself left my job in one of the Fortune 100 companies in Silicon Valley and now shoot weddings full time. Your article resonates with me well, I started very late but worked hard to catch up really fast. And your points you make are applicable universal ; I am based in San Jose, California and all those apply to the weddings I shoot here. I wish I knew all these when I started. But we all have to go through this learning curve. But now all these are part of my contract or workflow.
    I really appreciate your honesty on point #10, beating ourselves down.

    Keep up the great work.

  34. Love Dope Studios says:

    regarding point no 4 that you mentioned. I have come across a photographer from baroda who was using PHASE ONE camera in a wedding. People are jokers..

    • Sephi Bergerson says:

      oh well, I don’t know about this one. It can be very hot in India as you might know. Besides, water is something you can get anywhere. This is like saying you should always carry your favourite food as you might not get it at this particular wedding ;) Have you ever been to a wedding where you didn’t get enough water to drink?

      • Rim says:

        I think what he means is that you may not always get mineral water bottles in every wedding…Sometimes, (I’m taking about weddings in India) you find Bisleri tanks and you are supposed to a take disposable glass from a nearby stack — which may not always look like a very hygienic option.

        • Sephi Bergerson says:

          OK. To each his/her own. ThinkTank make a dedicated water bottle holder for photographers just for this purpose. Look it up. cheers

      • Fernando says:

        In my experience, powerade or gatorade during the wedding helps a lot in terms of the loss of water trough the day. Also if you go to bed well hidrated it helps to prevent headaches the next morning and muscle ache.

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