The Flaky Photographer

Lincoln Nebraska Wedding Photogrpahy

Pam and Brian, 2009
Denver, Colorado
A shot from the early years of Studio Orange

When I started in the wedding photography industry 10 years ago, stories of photographers who canceled or otherwise flaked out on a clients were rare. They were the hushed whispers of legend. Campfire tales. I have a friend who heard from a friend kind of stuff. Always second hand, or third.

The mere thought of a photographer backing out of a contract was, frankly, inconceivable.

Today? Such a thing is not only commonplace, but I personally have been contacted just this year alone by a number of couples in a panic because their “professional” photographer has canceled on them. Either by giving notice, or dropping off the face of the Earth.

Why is this a thing? One word…


Wedding photography looks like such an easy and fun career. I get the appeal.  Some days it feels like I know more people calling themselves wedding photographers than not. And unfortunately, a lot of people jumping into this industry wind up in way over their heads.

This problem is most prevalent at the lower price end of wedding photography, where it hurts the people with the tightest budgets.

Now, before I go any further, I want to stress that the point of this blog post is not to bag on lower cost photographers. A lot of the people in the lower tier pricing are merely inexperienced, and their pricing reflects that. I get it. I was there when I started out, too. And there are plenty of wedding photographers early in their careers who take this job seriously, work with contracts, and wouldn’t dream of cancelling on a client.

But they tend to be mingled with those who view their agreements with couples as optional. As something to uphold if it’s convenient, to walk away from when it’s not. Those struggling to be taken seriously are trying to shove their way through a crowd of those treating wedding photography more like a lucrative hobby than a serious business endeavor.

I’m sure that most, if not all, of the people who cancel on their clients had the best intentions when they entered into their agreements. But best intentions don’t really count for much when two months before a wedding a panicked couple has to scramble to find a replacement photographer and none are available.

The thing is, there’s a side to wedding photography that isn’t so readily apparent. This business isn’t always conducive to a normal social life. We are generally working on the very days our friends and families have off from regular work hours. In the 10 years I’ve been doing this, I’ve missed birthday parties, family reunions, the weddings of my own friends.

While some types of photo sessions, like engagement or portrait shoots, can be flexible if necessary, a wedding date is all but chiseled in stone. Over the last decade, I have never so much as considered missing a wedding. I’ve sucked down DayQuil and shot through a flu. I’ve inhaled pain pills on the final day of a memorial day weekend marathon of three weddings in a row. I’m not a superman for doing this. It’s just that there is no such thing as a “sick day” for an event that cannot be rescheduled. And I know of many, many other professional wedding photographers who have sacrificed or worked through just as much. Because this is our job.

While I do understand how difficult, even frustrating, this profession can be when a best friend calls to announce their wedding on a date already booked, I have zero sympathy if the response is to bail on a contract with a client. When money has exchanged hands, there is an obligation to follow through. This is the commitment we make. As far as I’m concerned, when my clients sign a contract and give me a deposit, they own me on that day.

I’ll have to be in a hospital bed before I’d miss it.

And when you are spending your money, be it $500 or $5000 on a wedding photographer, it is not unreasonable for you to expect that level of commitment.

So how do you, as a client, protect yourself from The Flaky Photographer? Read on…

Nebraska wedding photography

Marissa and Ryan, 2017
Roca, Nebraska
A recent Studio Orange wedding

Number one: Make sure you’re working with someone who has a contract. This is the big one. If there’s no contract, RUN! I don’t care how much you like their photos or how much they are within your budget, a lack of contract is an irrefutable deal breaker.

Also, make sure their contract actually says what happens if they have to cancel on you. I mean, even I can’t guarantee that I won’t get hit by a bus. At the very least, the contract should agree to refund your money. Or make sure to provide (at no cost to you) a replacement photographer.

Number two: Ask how long they’ve been doing wedding photography professionally. Now, at the lower price points, you’re probably going to find people who haven’t been doing it very long. If that’s the case, it’s ok to ask if this is something they plan to make their full time job, or if it’s just a side thing. There’s no right or wrong answer to that question, but you want to make sure they seem passionate and serious, regardless.

Ask them if they’ve ever had to cancel on a client before and how they handled it.

Number three: Find out if they are willing to let you speak with past clients, so you can ask what it was like working with them. Again, if you find someone fairly new, this might be tricky. There simply may not be many past clients for you to talk to. But if you can talk to at least one, it will help give you the peace of mind that they actually have followed through with a contract before.

Number four: Ask your other vendors (reception space, DJ, etc.) if they have heard of the photographer or ever worked with them. If you are going with outside help to plan and coordinate your wedding, such as a company like Event Design, they can be an excellent resource for steering you toward a reliable photographer (as well as other vendors).

Number five: If you feel uneasy about the photographer at all, don’t be afraid to walk away. It doesn’t matter if the price is right. If your gut tells you they might be flaky, then trust it. It’s better to locate another photographer, rather than go with someone you’re uneasy about. As long as you’re planning far enough from your date, you’ll have plenty of options. But if you get left hanging out to dry close to your date? That’s when it’ll be tough to find a replacement.

Now, maybe unsatisfactory answers to any one of the above might not be a strong enough red flag (except the no contract — if they don’t have a contract, don’t even think about it). But if some or all of these add up to someone you just aren’t sure about, then it’s really not worth it for you to risk it. As I’ve said above, and I can’t stress it enough, this is a saturated enough market that as long as you’re planning ahead, you will be able to find plenty of photographers to choose from.

Look, if you’re here reading this, I’m not going to lie. I hope you’re considering Studio Orange to photograph your wedding. But even if I’m way out of your budget, I don’t want to see you get burned by someone you put your trust in. Your big day is too important for that.

I would say that, in general, most of us photographers are honest and enthusiastic about helping you on your big day. But there are a few who seem to be causing some real problems for couples, and giving the rest of us a bad name in the process. Some diligence on your part will help to keep you safe and give you a much better chance of making sure the memories of your wedding are preserved.

Posted in Tips | Leave a comment


Why I Don’t Base Wedding Photo Packages on Hours


Kim and Joe GET MARRIED! Lincoln, Nebraska.

Some things are inevitable: The sun will rise in the morning. Someone, right now, is offended about something on Facebook. Every guest to my house will get a German Shepherd nose in an inappropriate spot.

And…every few weeks a wedding photographer will post a question in a group about what everyone’s policy is on the number of hours they give couples on the wedding day.

For some reason, the topic of hours is incredibly vexing among wedding photography professionals. It’s a topic that will generate dozens of conflicting answers. All day. 6 hours. 10 hours.

The fact is, there’s no one answer. No right answer. But I do understand the pressing need to ask this question.

When we love our jobs, we want to do the most for our couples that we can. However, being mindful of the actual time we spend photographing is critical to developing and sustaining a successful business.

Everyone new to wedding photography finds themselves stuck with trying to juggle the right number of hours, with the fee they need to charge, with the number of photos they’ll need to prepare for delivery.

Believe me. I’ve been there.

To make matters more complicated, the hours a couple hires a photographer for isn’t exactly a cut and dried concept. Yet it’s often one of the first questions I’m asked.

The thing is, it’s not like I show up on the wedding day and start a stopwatch. I’ve never heard of a credible wedding photographer who does that. Yet it’s a common practice to state a given number of hours in a package.

Where things are confusing is that I think many of us mean slightly different things when we talk about how long we will be at the wedding.

I’m not constantly pressing the shutter button from the instant I show up. As much of a marathon any given wedding generally is, there is some down time. And this is what makes the “how many hours” question tricky – both among us photographers when building our photo packages, and with our couples when we discuss those packages with them.

My first several years as a wedding photographer, I used to tell my couples that they would get about 8 hours of shooting time with my most popular photo package, the Tangerine. But then I would explain I don’t count the down time. So if I arrive, say, around 11:00 am for some of the getting ready photos, then I will be done for the day around 9:00 pm or so (give or take, depending on the timeline for the day).

Another photographer might simply tell his or her couples that they’ll be with them for 10 hours.

Yet we both pretty much mean the same thing.

Which is why I’ve never been satisfied with the hours question or how to answer it. And maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like my couples care less about the specific number of hours, and more about the coverage of the events of the day that are important to them. (And couples reading this: if I’m wrong, chime in!)

So several years ago, I abandoned talking about hours at all in my packages.

Instead, I build my wedding photography packages around the events of the day.

Getting Ready. Family Photos. Ceremony. Reception. You get the idea.

I feel as though this better represents what my couples want and expect from me. It isn’t about worrying about a specific number of hours. It’s about capturing the important memories of the day.

Thanks for reading. If you’re a wedding photographer and decide to adopt my philosophy for describing coverage, drop a comment and let me know how it goes.

And now enjoy some photos of a super awesome couple: Kim and Joe!

Lincoln Nebraska Wedding Photography: Kim and Joe

Kim and Joe GET MARRIED!
Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln Nebraska Wedding Photography: Kim and Joe

Kim and Joe GET MARRIED!
Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln Nebraska Wedding Photography: Kim and Joe

Kim and Joe GET MARRIED!
Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln Nebraska Wedding Photography: Kim and Joe

Kim and Joe GET MARRIED!
Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln Nebraska Wedding Photography: Kim and Joe

Kim and Joe GET MARRIED!
Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln Nebraska Wedding Photography: Kim and Joe

Kim and Joe GET MARRIED!
Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln Nebraska Wedding Photography: Kim and Joe

Kim and Joe GET MARRIED!
Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln Nebraska Wedding Photography: Kim and Joe

Kim and Joe GET MARRIED!
Lincoln, Nebraska

Lincoln Nebraska Wedding Photography: Kim and Joe

Kim and Joe GET MARRIED!
Lincoln, Nebraska

Posted in Random Thoughts, Tips, Weddings | Leave a comment


Square will no longer have a Round hole to fit in…

Not everything that crosses my mind has to do directly with photography.

Today is one of those days.

Apple just announced the new iPhone 7. One of the biggest changes to the new phones is the elimination of the headphone jack. The basic device connection interface that has been around since long before there were ever iPhones in the first place.

One of my immediate thoughts (after musing about how much I really dislike Bluetooth headphones to begin with) was: What about Square?

I have been a fan of Square since day one. I actually received their very first model of magstrip reader. Square is the company that allows Studio Orange to accept credit card payments to this day.

One of the things that made Square such a cool technology for small businesses is that it relied on ubiquitous technology for its basic magstrip reader. Every single device Square could interface with has a headphone jack.

This meant that Square did not have to rely on specific device standards.  It could make one reader compatible with just about everything.

This also meant that Square could keep the costs of its service low, and deliver its basic reader for free, making the service appealing and available to a huge range of small businesses, from coffee shops to crafters. The ability to accept credit card payments securely and easily has been a major advantage to many businesses, saving them from the hefty fees other companies not only charge for processing, but also to acquire their card reader devices and services (or even maintain landline or internet access to transmit payments — not necessary with Square, which can easily transmit payments via cellular networks).

Apple is now changing the game out from under Square, and other such card reader devices.

Yes, currently there will continue to be more Apple devices with a headphone jack than without, and currently the new iPhones (and presumably new iPads, if they take the same route) will offer an adapter… but one thing Apple does is never look back from a change. It stands to reason that they will work to completely phase headphone jacks out of all devices and rely solely on the proprietary Lightning connector from here on out.

This means that eventually Square will be forced to sign up for Apple’s MFi program (and pay any associated licensing fees) in order to create a reader compatible with Lightning connectors, and then offer two options: a universal (except Apple) reader, and a Lightning connector reader. The development and licensing costs alone will mean that Square will almost certainly no longer be able to offer free card readers, the very thing that has made them the industry standard for accepting mobile payments, and a favorite for small and micro businesses.

The alternative is that Square (and other companies) will simply have to ditch the heaphone jack magstrip reader entirely. Square already offers a wireless reader that accepts chipped cards and Apple pay, but at the cost of $50. They could also potentially go a Bluetooth route for their basic reader. But either way, there is almost no way going forward that Square will be able to offer an option to Apple users (possibly any users) that is free.

In one fell swoop, Apple has shaken up the small business world. Only time will tell whether or not this will negatively impact small business growth, or if it does, to what degree.

Posted in Random Thoughts | 2 Comments


2 Responses to “Square will no longer have a Round hole to fit in…”
show comments ⇓

  1. I had this same thought as my wife relies on that card reader for her voice and piano studio. Thankfully, the Lightning to Headphone adapter included in the box of the iPhone 7 (and sold for $9 separately) allows the Square reader to still work.


    That said, we’ll eventually pick up the chip/NFC puck from Square as that is the way all payments are heading in the next few years. And since I work in the InfoSec field, I say good riddance to magstripe as it is a huge security hole for finances (not as bad as checks, though). But until that day comes, the trusty Square reader will work with the little adapter.

    • The other issue here is that this decision goes way beyond just card readers. Being the powerful market influence that they are, Apple has just forcibly changed the game for *ALL* companies relying on the standard headphone jack. Most notably, of course, headphone makers.

      The fact that Apple is offering an adapter with the iPhone 7 is clearly just a stopgap to stave off backlash. But if there’s one thing that goes 1000% against the design ethos of Apple, it’s the notion of any kind of adapter.

      It remains to be seen, but it would not surprise me at all if this were the only device going forward in which Apple includes the free adapter. In any case, it certainly won’t be an ongoing thing for long (in device cycle terms). Apple will do everything it can to discourage the use of the adapter — because it’s an ugly solution.

      But this poses a problem for a HUGE industry of devices, of which actual headphones are the lion’s share of that industry.

      Right now, Bluetooth isn’t magic. It isn’t even all that good. They keep promising the next iteration will only get better, but right now it’s only a promise. And when it works, it sucks battery life, which is no small issue, especially when it comes to power users, for whom the notion of a day without the need to recharge their phone is an amusing joke. Adding to the battery life frustration, if users want to go wireless, now they have one more thing to have to remember to charge. That’s one thing if you willingly buy into the Bluetooth ecosystem. It’s another to be shoved into it by your phone.

      And to not use Bluetooth? Good luck, because now you can choose to either use your attached device, or charge your phone. Not both. At least not until even UGLIER splitter adapters are available. Because Apple decided to further limit device ports on their device without even the common courtesy of introducing wireless charging to pick up the slack. I feel like Steve Jobs would be spinning in his grave at the notion of the inelegance of it all.

      But now all headphone makers will be faced with the decision to either invest in the necessary licensing to create a Lightning port solution for their headphones, go all in on Bluetooth, or simply ignore Apple altogether (or let customers go with Apple or other third party adapters).

      Whichever way they go, one thing is almost certain: the entire industry of headphones likely just got a little more pricey going forward for everyone.