I thought I’d share with you my views (and lesson learned) on hiring a ‘popular’ photographer.
So at five months into my pregnancy (when my belly was still not so big), I flew to the states for my husband’s company party and to visit my lovely family. Because I only get see them once a year, I thought it’d be a great idea to hire a photographer and do a semi maternity/family/baby shower shoot for a small gathering with few friends and family at our house.
In the past for my wedding in both Korea and America, I hired the photographers I absolutely loved that had the style and color I was looking for- at a reasonable cost. While I admired the high-profile photographers that show up in magazines and blogs all over, I couldn’t fathom spending $6,000~9,000 or more for wedding photography. I thought the up and coming photographers, with at least few years of experience to have a substantial amount of portfolio that I can look through, would please us just fine in what we wanted from our photographer.
and they did. both my korean and wedding photographers were wonderful. Korea and America had different wedding styles and colors of their own, but it represented “us” and they really went out of their way to provide us with the most memorable pictures by capturing every moment. We can’t recommend them enough.
However, my justification in hiring a high-end popular photographer this time was that this would be just a few hours thing, like an engagement shoot, and it wouldn’t be as expensive as a wedding shoot (or so i thought). The price ended up being super high (in my standards) at USD $1800 for one hour ($1500 for ONE hour + $300 in travel costs from Santa Barbara to Orange County- three hrs by car). I told my husband it’d all be worth it since she’d create the most amazing pictures ever.
a big mistake. let me explain why.
*Please note this is just an opinion from an ordinary blogger, as I only see praises and high-star ratings for all the photographers such as Jose Villa, Jen Huang and Caroline Tran. I love soft colors in America photography so these were the “high-end” photographers I became a fan of, and we ended up going with Jen Huang Photography.
1. We’re not models.
Her per hour rate was nearly as much (or 2/3rds) as what I had spent for my wedding photography for the WHOLE DAY, from makeup to after party. But I told myself it’d all be worth it bc we would come out beautiful and it’d be something that’ll last us a lifetime.
When I received my photos- I had around 100 pictures to choose from, with half being prop shots. This translated to around 2~4 shots for each scene. We were stunned. This type of photography ONLY WORKS if you are the type that comes out good in every picture. If you and your date look like models, then please ignore this post as you’ll not run into this problem bc you’ll come out good anyway. However, for an average joe couple like ourselves who NEEDS many many shots to finally find one that we both come out good in, you will be disappointed. From the 100 shots we received, we only ‘kind of’ liked… maybe 5 shots. 5 shots, at $1800. That’s $360 per picture. We didn’t know what to think.. sorry we don’t come out good every time, but we paid a substantial amount for your service and therefore we expected you to be able to find the angle and shot that would flatter us.
At our engagement and wedding shoots in both Korea and the US, the photographer took 600~1000 shots for engagement that we can choose from, most shot beautifully, and an average of 3000~5000 for our wedding shoot. From there, you are BOUND to find at least 100 that you like, which are the ones we posted and got high praises from all our family and friends. I understand Jen uses film photos, which she may not want to snap away as each film costs money, but we really thought we’d have more shots to choose from as she charges premium price for her service. Or shoot every picture like a champion so that we love every one of them. I also expected her to go back and forth and fixing my hair and pose as other photographers had, but there wasn’t much guidance.
2. Service, or the lack of.
I understand that as a photographer, you want to be respected of your time and not let clients take advantage of you. But from the perspective of clients, we want someone that can be flexible and understanding, as things can’t work out exactly the way you plan it during special occasions as there are many things going on. We were very lucky to have met previous photographers who went over the time they stated time to get in the last shots at unexpected times. they were super easy-going and seemed so excited to be there and share the experience with us. However, our “expensive” photographer’s attitude was more of, ‘okay, my time is really valuable and i’m doing you a big favor by going over 15 minutes.’ Though we were very apologetic when i was held back for five minutes as my decorations were not done yet and my dad had trouble finding jeans to match, and though she probably saw me running around and trying to change into different outfits as soon as possible, she didn’t try to appease myself or my family or make this enjoyable and comfortable experience. What was suppose to be a fun hour became super stressful. One time, she actually said “oh actually, we only have 15 minutes left so maybe we should just do this shot with that clothing.”
This is not a bad thing- for those who don’t mind getting exactly what they paid for. But even for myself, I’m the type that under promise and over deliver in my job, as I understand you gain ppl’s trust when you really go out of your way. She did go over around 15 minutes than the promised time, but it was more of her ‘i’m doing you a favor’ attitude that just caught me off. If at least the pictures turned out beautiful, if only her prices were way lower… if if and more if’s. but for its price, and for the quality of pictures i got, she was NOT worth it.
I miss the fun Iris and Light (US) engagement shoot we shot from 2~8pm that turned out absolutely beautiful, at half her cost. I miss the 6 hour Korean engagement shoot (donggam atriumlee) that even photoshopped our features.
Jen actually lost few of the pictures we took and forgot to take detailed shots of the props I wanted, but there were no apologies, just a mere “it was due to light that I decided not to take it” (i’m too professional to admit to my faults and let the client know on the day of) or “we probably shot with an iphone then bc it can’t just disappear” (I possibly couldn’t have made that mistake).
In any event, a total loss of $$ and much frustration for five pretty shots. Please note, the pictures posted- I had someone in Korea photoshop for me. They aren’t the originals, which were much worse.
*another note, the flower crown, bouquet, cupcakes, cakes, sugar pops were all made that day to prepare for this shoot.
lesson learned, go with your guts and hire a more down-to-earth, easygoing photographer that will accommodate YOU, not the other way around.
Final shot I like (yes, it’s photoshopped):