Google search for “wedding photography horror story” and you get over 62 million results. That’s got to say something for the industry right? Think again. Most of these photographers are what is known as “fauxtographer” (pronounced the same, faux meaning fake in french).  Though it’s possible some of the professional photographers out there have the occasional malfunction, and there are amazing photographers who are simply horrible business people and slack on timeliness or product quality or have clashing personalities with certain clients.

The thing is, there are tons of amazing photographers out there that run successful businesses. The trick is to find them and not get stuck with a “fauxtographer” or very unprofessional Pro.  This is one of the main reasons why most professionals almost enforce engagement sessions. Sure they have become super convenient and are great for save-the-dates and invitations, but the most important reason to purchase the engagement session is to test the waters with your photographer before the big day. Most wedding collections include a free engagement session, and only require the wedding date deposit prior to scheduling it. The reason being, it lets you off the hook if you absolutely hate the images or even if you love the pictures but dislike the photographer. It gives you BOTH an out, a reason to amicably part ways.

Sometimes there are clients that seem nice and pleasant at the consultation, and turn out to be crazy demanding or expect discounts on everything because they “did you a favour by allowing you to photograph their wedding”. Others simply are horrible with communication with you. This has only happened once or twice, but I am super glad I found out shortly after the engagement session and was able to complete the business transaction. After receiving the first half of required payments, the couple defaulted on the next two amounts/deadlines with no word. No replies to phone calls, emails, or home visits. Luckily I was able to keep their forfeited payments for my time and efforts, but still.. Another was for an overly budget-conscious bride who kept changing her mind on what affordable meant. In the long run, this was better for everyone. Following up, the couple was able to get their images for half of what I was offering but it shows in the image quality because the low-ballers are often fauxtographers with great cameras (even that’s not always the case), or students who know how to take great portraits but have no idea how to cover a wedding. On the other hand, if a couple and I went through the engagement session, and they hated their images (*knock on wood* this has never happened to me) then I would offer the option of a re-shoot and deletion all the image files, or a dissolution of the contract.

A few things that can be done to avoid these types of situations:
FOR CLIENTS:
Meet with your potential photographer IN PERSON to make sure that you (Bride AND Groom to be) are compatible for personalities. Ask to see a full wedding portfolio, not just one or two shots from each wedding. Often enough, the best of the best are put online, so before your meeting make sure you ask for it so they have a chance to get it ready for you (often archived and not instantly accessible).
Book an engagement session, let’s call it a practice session, within a month of signing your wedding contract and make sure that you have the option to withdraw if you are 100% unhappy with the products and services provided for reasons of A) not consistently matching their advertised style of images or B) not providing the amount or quality of products promised or C) not following the terms of the written contract. Keep in mind you will still have to forfeit the deposit and possibly any other payments because they did provide the service of photographing you–maybe even provided products (my advice: ask for a re-shoot if it was due to a weather or equipment malfunction–they will delete the previous images so make sure you are 100% certain you don’t like them–and let them fix the situation).
Ask to see a large sample of one of their images (whether wedding or not) so you can see and feel the quality of the products. You want to check for softness or action distortion (blurry images),  pixelation (boxy and almost blurry), and the binding quality of their album sample (keeping in mind that everyone probably touches it so it might be a little “used” but pay close attention to the page corners and crease lines because by your 50th anniversary that’s what yours might look like).
Get EVERYTHING IN WRITING about anything and everything wedding related. Good contracts are built to protect all parties involved. Anything from what type of food you should be providing to the photographer (and staff), to what time they are expected to be present for, to the type of wardrobe you expect of your photographer (and staff).

FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS:
This might seem  obvious to most of us, but DO NOT FALSE ADVERTISE! If you’ve never shot a wedding, don’t call yourself a professional wedding photographer. Even if you are a professional portrait photographer, that does not automatically make you a professional wedding photographer. You might not be amateur because of your portrait experience and skills, but you’re not a wedding pro. TELL CLIENTS that you are a professional [enter specialty here] photographer and that you are expanding into weddings or that you occasionally photograph weddings. Like myself, I am a professional portrait photographer specializing in newborn photography, and I also offer small-medium wedding coverage to a limited number of clients; I don’t advertise as a pro wedding photographer.
Meet with your potential client IN PERSON to make sure that all three of you are compatible for personalities. Make sure you show them a variety of different weddings, and make sure your style is consistent. Your wedding style can absolutely be a completely different style than your specialty, but make sure it’s consistent with other weddings that you’ve photographed. Make sure your assistant(s) [yes you should have a second shooter or assistant for the big day] also shoots in a similar style that remains consistent with your company’s wedding style. Get EVERYTHING IN WRITING about anything and everything wedding related. Good contracts are built to protect all parties involved. Anything from what food you are expecting from the bride&groom, how much time you need for formal portraits, what they are required to pay for overtime, if there are penalties or interest for missed payments/deadlines, to what the expected product timeline is.
STICK TO YOUR PROMISES! I don’t care if your car broke down on the way, call a cab or a friend and get there ON TIME or call ASAP if you are running late because of an unforeseen circumstance. Unless for serious illness or  injury, aka hospitalization required, too bad it’s considered your fault (even if it isn’t). If you’re feeling sick, grab some meds and make it work (you probably felt it coming a few days before anyways and should have said something). You said images would take a month, they better be ready in a month. Don’t know how long it will take? Always under promise and over deliver, NEVER the other way around or you will quickly burn your name to the ground. A good estimate for ALL products to be delivered following a wedding: 6 months. Any longer and it becomes a wonder why.. and it should only be the album that takes that long because of the extensive design and production required.

Long story short, contracts are meant to protect both parties involved. Make sure that’s accurate, that the three (maybe 4) of you have an amicable relationship, and that you’ve thoroughly looked each other over (photographer for work and style–client for communication and payment plans). I wish you all the best of luck.