Sunday, May 18, 2008

Destination Wedding Photography

One of the most important decisions you’ll face is photography. We’ve already covered this in previous posts, but want to revisit the topic.

First, we found a YouTube video (below) by destination wedding photographer Neil Cowley of Rochester, New York that should be mandatory viewing before you hire a destination wedding photographer.

Assuming you can’t find the talent you want locally (a pretty good bet), you’ll be bringing your own photographer. Let’s face it, it’s your wedding and you only get one shot at the photography. You’ll probably hire someone you feel comfortable with and bring them with you.

Neil Cowley’s video is from one destination wedding photography talking to another. But as a couple, there’s quite a bit for you to learn here.

There are really two kinds of destination wedding photographers:
  • Someone who is a wedding photographer, but loves to do destination weddings because it’s a mini-vacation for them (at your expense) and they tack on time before or after for their vacation.
  • Someone who is a seriously destination wedding photographer and it’s all about the business.
We prefer the former, but understand the need for the latter.

Regardless of which one, this is a business for them. Some photographers prefer to make their own travel arrangements and will charge you a mark-up (Neil Cowley charges 30%). That adds up fast. But…it is a business for them some kind of mark-up is reasonable. Unfortunately, some photographers use the mark-up principle to pad their profits.

We would recommend to couples that they work with the photographer to find a good travel schedule, but then the couple books it and pays for it directly. We’re not opposed to wedding photographers making a decent living…but there is too great an opportunity for some wedding photographers to abuse the mark-up principle as a way of screwing couples.

The other major issue in Neil Cowley’s YouTube video is the issue of documentation. He prefers to go undocumented. However, we had a friend who had a problem with this and couldn’t get her photographer into the country. The work permits aren’t all that expensive (certainly less than the mark-up on the travel) and your local wedding coordinator can often handle it for you. It is customary for the couple to pay for the work permit for the photographer. So, why risk your photographer being locked out of the country and you have to scramble for a “plan b” locally? Just get the permit.

Here’s Neil Cowley’s YouTube video:

Note: There’s also a video Part II, but it’s just him showing his cameras and you don’t really learn anything.

Suggested readings:
Covering the basics – Photographer


miss purple said...

Finding a DW photographer is definitely complicated. I must say, it was a bit scary to hear the guy say "if the couple is at all thinking about budget beforehand, it's usually a no-go for me". I'm hoping that if I can find someone who looks at it as an opportunity for a vacation, they'd be more open to keeping the prices reasonable because since it's a win-win. (Call me an optimist!) Thanks for the great post and video.

Ultimate Destination Weddings said...

We think we need to clarify this post. Our aim was NOT to criticize Neil Cowley. In fact, we applaud him for his honesty. Neil may or may not be a great photographer. We haven't actually seen any of his work and did not interview him to be our photographer.

There's room for all kinds of vendors in this world. And our goal in posting this was not to criticize Neil or any other photographer who does mark-ups (at whatever percentage). It was to make brides aware of a business practice that some photographers do not do a good job of telling their clients about. We are also business professionals and understand the need for mark-ups.

That said, the economics of destination wedding photography get to be a bit mind-boggling. In our research for our wedding, it was not uncommon for a photographer to charge $2500-$4000 for a 2-day shoot (essentially a fly-in, rehearsal dinner, then wedding day, then fly out early on the third day). Plus all costs. Now if you are marking that up by 15-30%, it gets to be quite pricey very quickly. (And that's for just a simple destination wedding in the Bahamas or Mexico). When we were doing reference checks, we found one couple who (happily) paid over $11,000 to their photographer. I don't think we're cheap (god knows we spent enough on our wedding), but we think that is insane.

It is important for a bride for find and work with vendors who can deliver the product
they want - including quality, price and aesthetic. The right vendor is the right vendor for you.

Anonymous said...

The video isn't showing.

Anonymous said...

I hate those hidden fees that photograhpers charge - transportation charge, special processing charges, a black & white supplement fee, etc.

I don't mind paying $6000 or $7000 if she was just upfront in what that included and didn't include.

ultimate destination weddings said...

The video should now be showing again. There was an issue with the YouTube embeds, but has been corrected.