Wedding Photographer Canceled On You
Your Wedding Photographer Canceled on You.What Do You Do?
If you are finding this you might be searching for what you should do after your photographer cancels on you. It might have been a last minute cancelation but what we have heard is that most often it is a ‘family emergency’ and in advance of the wedding or proposal. We are writing this not because we ever have or ever will cancel on one of our couples but rather that we keep hearing this happen to couples. It is becoming so common that we think we might need to start measuring the number of couples who came to us because their photographer dropped them.
There are very few legitamate reasons for a cancelation. While 2020 was called unprecedented it was not a new scenario but rather a more widespread ‘disaster’. Normally natural disasters will cause events to be rescheduled, downsized or canceled but at a local scale of a region or specific venue. In our Colorado market this last occurred from the 2013 flood. In 2020 it was 3rd parties forcing this to occur at a global scale to various degrees. Regardless how you may have felt about these events we would encourage you to step back and see them as more widespread rather than unprecedented as the impact is parallel. With that in mind we would encourage you to understand that your vendor must obey local laws but also that the venue should be the only vendor to initiate a cancelation on a couple due to circumstances outside of their control. Policies will differ between companies but regardless if it is legal for a photographer to provide the service they should seek to provide it as agreed. If it is legal to provide the service the cancelation would fall under the supposed ‘3rd category’ listed below where you take something and use it as an excuse.
Here are a couple of options of what you can do:
1. Proactive: Search for a New Photographer
Taking a proactive approach to resolving your problem is by far the best approach. If you were dumped then it likely was inconvenient and you are now behind the curve of availability of photographers to quality photographers. If you have a weekend date things are also going to be hard to find a replacement so the best thing you can do is get all funds to be returned to you and put those toward a new [good] photographer. If you did not pay a deposit then you should know you either were not booked or did not have commitment 2 ways. There will be someone else that will come with a chunk of money whereas with you all they have to lose is the potential of some money. You could easily cancel on them without cause so the deposit is the key to getting commitment from both parties. If you did have a deposit make sure you get it back if they canceled on you. We need to note here that we are not saying you take a vendors date and then should expect any refund. All funds received by the photographer should be non refundable otherwise the deposit is pointless and you could be canceled on as nothing is holding the date. The main idea is look for someone who runs their business well. If you liked that they did not have certain things like a deposit, that big of a deposit, or a easy to get out of booking then know it might run 2 ways as there is nothing to commit them. Hate that this is a lot about money but many couples are seeking to spend the least amount for the most amount of quality. This makes this be a fine line.
2. Reactive: Go After Their Business
All that a reactive approach will do is make you feel better and functionally waste your time. When reading about this scenario happening to others online about a 3rd of people push for this approach but the reality is that in almost every situation a review will not really hurt their business because there is not much of a business. Everyone is a photographer today but very few are living off of the income which is what we would call being an actual professional. Most are treating the business a hobby on the side therefore are not losing much if they miss out on those funds. In the case of a review you may not even find much of an online presence or at least a quality one of consistent top rated reviews with lots of awesome things to say. On top of that we advocate for your saving your time because unless there is a contract or proof of payment it can easily be taken down from certain review locations. Taking a legal approach may seem good on the surface but really you will spend more going after them then what you are likely losing on the bad business deal. If they give everything back there is still damage but how do you quantify it? If they do not refund you then it is likely going to cost you more to go after it then to just suck it up and move on. In the end if you are booking with an actual business it will be extremely clear how you book, when you are booked, and that the commitment is 2 ways. If the business canceled on you in 99% of the circumstances it was not an actual business.
What is the Problem?
The problem is either you or the photographer. Not some external circumstance only impacting them.
You are saying I am the problem? No – The photographer is definitely the problem but we would be amiss to not express that you might be a contributing factor to why they canceled on you. Years ago we had someone come to us saying that their wedding photographer canceled on them a month before their wedding for the classic ‘family emergency’. We wrote them back and advised them we were already booked and that it was going to be hard to find someone for the peak weekend date. The result was them writing us back an email full of expletives. We get it is stressful but if your initial reaction is going off on a stranger you might have caused your own problem in some other way along the way with that photographer that canceled. What is likely the more subtile way of being a contributing factor is having excessive expectations that keep coming out on the back end after booking. In life you want to get the most service or product for the least amount of money. There are limitations to that being a positive thing when you start putting unrealistic expectations on someone.
This is the majority of the problem in almost all circumstances. It is how they run their “business” or their ethics of life. We have touched on the how someone runs a business a little above. If you did not get a clear contract with a non refundable significantly sized deposit then you did not get a two way commitment. If they said they have been doing this for a while but you do not see a regular flow of blogs being posted on their website or if the blogs do not fit the season when they were posted then they are doing this on the side as a hobby. People change hobbies all the time and do them because they are fun. We also think ethics can be a large part of it. We have never and will never cancel on someone for their wedding. We would not want someone to do that to us and so we will not do that to someone else. If we say we will do something we will do it. If we commit to you we will hold up our end of the commitment. If expectations are off we will work with you to figure out how to meet those expectations or how we can adjust them if they are not realistic. Culturally there is this flippant attitude toward work commitments and we think this is a huge contributing factor to why this kind of thing happens.
No 3rd Category
How many times have we heard of a family emergency? 90%? Unless someone is giving specifics about the circumstance then is them just trying to soften the blow with being vague. You are sharing your wedding day with them so it being too personal is a cover up for a partial truth. If it were a true family emergency they would say ‘my dad just got diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, is across the country in New York, and I will be flying there to be with him for an unknown amount of time.’ The real professional would then follow by saying they think they will be back in time but if not then they will allow you to find someone else and would provide all the funds back if needed. We have only heard of a cancelation being days before once and the only time there were cancelations the day of was with a local Colorado photographer functionally scamming people. The point is that you can find a way to make good on your commitments and will do that if you are running a real business. Perhaps this is why we rarely hear of couples with sizable budgets getting canceled on. While increasing the budget may not hurt the budget is not the problem. The problem is a person and most people that are the problem will pass off the problem to be something else to save face.
Weddings Going Forward beyond 2023
There has been a huge influx of “photographers” in the wedding industry who started a business with some free time. As most people book weddings a year out this means that there has been almost 3 years of photographers entering the market with little to no real wedding experience (2019-2021). They will have some wedding photos but lack full wedding day experience. We note all of this to say that there are many people that might not really know what they are getting into as normal weddings are very different. If you are not seeing any work from getting ready photos to a formal exit be cautious as that means they may not even have shot a real wedding.
Most people we see shooting photos have a camera and a couple lenses so there is clearly a newbie feel to the industry. There was a huge reset in the wedding photography market. Some photographers are going to realize this is not for them and move on to something else in life. We saw signals of this starting in 2022. 2023 is a year of lower demand due to inflationary – recessionary pressures and high photographer availability. People will either be desperate, double a reasonable price, or unresponsive giving couples a sense of desperation to find someone. This leads couples to then unknowingly select “photographers” that are not that committed to photography as a profession. This then results in your getting dropped and trying to figure out what to do. We see this happening in even the very casual engagement shoot level so expect it to get far worse.
What does this mean for you? Photographer initiated cancelations will likely be high into 2025. The main fix we can recommend is to find an actual professional photographer. This means to find someone not just getting paid but rather someone living off of the income. Below are some helpful links on how you can find an actual professional photographer.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
How to Find a Good Photographer
Finding someone good can be difficult. There are different type of photographers available in the industry. At the above link in the photo you can look at the different kind of people you can get to take wedding photos for you. Everything from a friend, family member enthusiast to the gimmicky company. We also give some qualities you can look for from the perspective of a couple.
Differentiation Between a Hobbist and Professional
The link above in the photo will take you to a blog that will help you determine what kind of photographer you are looking at based on external signals you can determine. While you might feel good about the booking if someone is not running a real business or committed to wedding photography you are at risk of getting caught in a similar scenario.
Case Study: Colorado Photographer Accused of Scamming Couples and Photographers
There was a photographer in Colorado who appeared to be running a legitimate business. Couples gave deposits and signed contracts. This person had a website and a LLC established with the Colorado Secretary of the State from 2018 to 2021. We had couples find their images online and share them with us asking for that kind of shot (which is always a bad idea). The story the photographer painted was that they got in over their head so hired associate photographers and took on more work. If you cannot manage a small business well making it bigger will not fix the issue. There are two sides to every story so we are open to listening but something does not line up with our experience in running a business. As more couples come out with their experiences what you see are people who got canceled just before the wedding or other shoot. There are excuses that are very specific like breaking a leg, child being sick, the associate photographer canceling on her, the photographer going into labor. Many wedding couples never got their images cause the 3rd party photographer would not deliver images until they got paid.
The theme you are left with is that communication was poor (later found to be lies), the price was too good to be true, and social media was highly utilized. None of those things are at the surface level a red flag. The business may have been legitimate but they could not have been an actual professional photographer. We make this assertion based on that in 2020 /2021 they did not utilize a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. This was free money based on actual past income verified / distributed by a bank. There were scams related to such but in general those were shell / fabricated companies. If you want to find a real local photographer in Colorado go look up their business name and you can see how much they made in 2.5 months. If they are not there or the number is small then they are not an actual professional or a very new business which is a risk consideration. Here are some other thoughts:
- Sales work on products produced in volume not services. If you are getting some kind of sale you are likely getting sold something else. Margins differ between companies but as a simple ballpark math divide the price in half and think if someone could live off of it with all the backend work.
- New work regularly released shows you likely are legitimate. People can steal others images online which will likely make you see inconsistency in the editing as you cannot edit web non RAW images well to blend them. Be cautious of recycled work be shown or an inconsistent blog.
- Lies are common in this save face world and ‘your wedding day will be perfect’ culture. Those with ethical behavior will tell you the truth. This means you may get answers you not want to hear as a means of helping you avoid wedding day issues.
- Outsourced photography is a risk. Outside of not knowing if the photographer is any good there is no invested interest by that photographer. Some new photographers are desperate so could also be victim to a bait – switch.
- Reviews matter but no business can avoid people with mental health issues. A lack of ones ability to leave reviews means there is a lack of transparency. People looking for a quick buck are not patient to build a real business over the long run.
- Social media is not where it is for a business. People lean too heavily on social media thinking its everything and often it is a platform for illegitimate activity cause its free and easy to setup / dissolve.