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This afternoon we have another edition of Ask the Experts and James & Lianne are here as resident photography experts to unveil all the mystery about venues recommending photographers! Once you have found your dream venue and set the date, often they recommend a list of suppliers. On one hand this is great as it can take a lot of stress away from hunting down suppliers, but is this list all as it seems? Sometimes this may not be the case, and James & Lianne have lots of advice for you on the subject. I hope you find it useful in your planning.
As you’ve been checking out venues for your wedding, you’ve quite probably had the organiser present you with a book or a list of ‘recommended photographers’. But who are they? How did they come to be recommended? What does the venue get out of recommending them? That’s what we’ll be shedding some light on today.
Supplier recommendations by the venue are not just limited to photographers but span all suppliers: florists, car hire, DJs etc. But for today, and because we have the insider knowledge for the photography industry, that’s what we’re focusing on. There are a few ways a photographer can come to be recommended, and that method typically dictates the quality of the recommendation.
Some photographers pay to be recommended, especially those venues who get marketing companies to put together their new brochures. Sorry to start on a negative note, but this is by far and away what the majority of our daily phone calls are about. A lot of the venues that marketing companies call us on behalf of we’ve never heard of let alone shot a wedding at. The question is, how can they possibly recommend us if they’ve never worked with us?! This is the lowest quality recommendation as it’s all about cash, and if those photographers want to be recommended again, they’ll have to shell out for the ‘privilege’ of being in next years brochure too. If your recommended photographers are in a nice new glossy brochure made by a marketing company, they’ve potentially never even shot there before they became recommended. That in itself isn’t a bad thing, but it’s worth asking the organiser if they have shot there before simply to establish how they came to be recommended by the venue. This isn’t to say that everyone in a glossy brochure is a weekend warrior who has just paid to be in it, many may be in there quite legitimately but each and everyone has likely paid to be in there which calls into question whether they’re truly ‘recommended’ or not. Ultimately, there’s a strong likelihood that the organiser has no experience with at least a few recommended suppliers in their brochure and that just seems dodgy to us. To overcome this, if a recommended photographer in their brochure does catch your eye, look through their website to see if they have shot there before and that’ll give you some indication as to how they became recommended.
Sorry, this is another negative one! These are less common these days but it still goes on. These are typically ‘hush hush’ arrangements between an organiser and the photographer with no middleman (i.e. not through a marketing agency). A venue or more likely an individual organiser may take a percentage or a set amount from the photographers fee in return for recommending them. As the client, there’s no way of you knowing if this is the case and you may be recommended a photographer just because the venue or organiser makes a bit extra on the side if you go with them, whether or not they believe they’re the right photographers for you. The benefit with this kind of recommendation is the organiser and the photographer probably have at least some sort of working relationship, which makes this the middle ground for quality of recommendations.
On a more positive note, some photographers and venues have built strong bonds over a period of time and this is the best kind of supplier recommendation. All the venues that recommend us, we have established good relationships with. The benefit for you is that the venue will likely have confidence in their recommended photographers to do a good job, be professional, and help keep things running smoothly for all involved (ie. they don’t spend 90 minutes doing group photos whilst the food goes cold). These photographers have probably shot a few weddings at your venue before they achieved a ‘recommended’ status and as such, the venue and/or organiser knows them and trusts them to do a good job for you and has vetted them for their reliability. Venues and organisers that recommend photographers in this way will likely have a spread of perhaps half a dozen photographers with different styles who they can recommend to you based on what you like. Whether you want more fashion or more documentary, they’ll put forward to you the best people for those styles. There are no backhanders, no money under the table nor dodgy recommendations in this case, just genuinely established trust and bonds between venues and photographers.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of how recommendations come about, but will hopefully shed some light onto the perks and pitfalls of choosing a recommended photographer. And the end of the day, no matter who is recommended to you and regardless of how, you always have a choice of whether to book that photographer or not. Asking your organiser how and why they recommend a photographer or any supplier for that matter, can help you make this choice. Recommendations are an excellent way of quickly assessing who’s in the area, who may have shot there before (therefore allowing you to better see if you’d like them to shoot your wedding at the same venue), and who potentially has good relations with the venue. Ultimately, use recommended photographer lists as a guide, do your research and go with who you like.
James & Lianne have been a couple for 14 years and photographers for 6 scooping up awards along the way. They love shooting relaxed, fun weddings and have a penchant for all things analogue, especially film photography.
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