Couple Who Paid Wedding Photographer $800 are Left With 'Dark, Grainy Images', Family's iPhone Photos Better

Couple Who Paid Wedding Photographer $800 are Left With 'Dark, Grainy Images', Family's iPhone Photos Better

A couple has suffered everyone’s worst wedding nightmare. After receiving the professional images back from their photographer, they discovered all of the images were dark, grainy, and unexposed — so much so, their family’s iPhone photos came out better.

What’s worse, the photographer they used came recommended from a mutual friend of theirs. After reviewing the photographer’s Instagram page, the couple agreed on a rate of $800.

Bride Hayley Kelble told Insider:

I had asked her about a contract, because everyone else I had contacted wanted to do a contract right away before anything was settled. She said: 'No, we don't really need to do that.' That was kind of the first red flag.

Kelble said the photographer didn’t use flash in the "dimly lit" church. She said there was also no adequate direction given when posing guests and that the photographer left two-and-a-half hours earlier than agreed.

We moved things around so that she could get pictures of us cutting the cake and stuff before she left. She stayed for like 20 minutes of the reception and left.

Images that Kelble’s mother had taken on her iPhone upstaged the professional images, appearing sharper and warmer.

Insider reached out to Kelble's wedding photographer, who declined to comment. The couple ended up hiring another photographer to re-shoot images in their wedding outfits.

Images used with permission of Hayley Kelble.

Jack Alexander's picture

A 28-year-old self-taught photographer, Jack Alexander specialises in intimate portraits with musicians, actors, and models.

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"Couple Who Paid Wedding Photographer $800"

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.

"Poor people don't deserve wedding photos"

I've met and worked with numerous wedding photographers who produced very good - though not what I would call outstanding - images and charged $600-800 for a small wedding.

This idea that everyone should have enough money to pay $2000 or more for wedding photographs is not only privileged, but doesn't help photographers working their way up either. While undercutting prices across the board is not a good thing, there IS a market for people who need sub-$1k photos and there are good photographers who are working their way up in the business and can't charge thousands of dollars. Doesn't mean they aren't capable of producing good images.

If a couple can't afford whatever minimum price you think they should be paying, then they won't hire anyone. I don't see how that's helpful at all to anyone.

The issue is NOT the price, it's the (likely) lack of vetting the photographer via at least two references and certainly via a portfolio of some sort.

I shot a wedding one summer while i was still a student (majoring in photography). I don't remember exactly what I charged but it was cheap. I dressed like a guest, brought my teenage sister as my guest/photo assistant, got drunk, danced and partied with everyone and shot the whole thing on film (which they paid for). They loved the photos and I was happy with the money. Also, not long after college, I shot a really really expensive wedding. Like a million dollar wedding for 2500. Hired my photo major friend who was still in college as my assistant and same thing, had fun, shot a bunch of film and digital, mostly Leica documentary style stuff and they loved it. Point is you don't have to make it a big production to take great photos you just need a good eye and a good attitude.

So nice to see you got drunk at a wedding you were covering. Very professional!!

Presumably, he's using the term "drunk" loosely - I doubt he was staggering and falling over. And for candid, Leica type documentary wedding photography, a little alcohol probably wouldn't hurt. Depends on the person too.

He was also a college student and college students do things like that. Presumably, he didn't make it a habit.

Plus, they were happy with the photos.

But, sure, call people out for their actions on one day years ago in their life.

exactly, I was totally in control of my actions and my motor skills. I was just a loose as everyone else at the wedding and had a good time. I was also 21 at the time. Being professional wasn't my M.O. as much as capturing great moments and having a good time.

When it comes to candid stuff, a little alcohol would certainly help me be a bit more adventurous and ease my general anxiety (thus freeing up creativity). If I still drank alcohol, that is.

I was stoked when I found out the contractor I hired to remodel our upstairs was drinking on the job, too.

Yeah, I encourage the excavator operator to have a few drinks whilst he's on the job, too. "Just make sure you're fully in control of your actions and motor skills" I tell him. That unlocks his adventurous creativity which gives the best results on the ground.

Apple to oranges my dude.

800 dollar is alot for alot of people, u should at least get some descent photo's for it! Wait no, u should get great photo's for that kind of money, alot of awesome photographers here in Belgium ask that for a short weddingshoot!
I think alot of photographers here are a bit of elitists, I ask only €400 for a weddingshoot but it's not my main job and I only accept jobs from people I know!

Yep, I've done many weddings for a low price (for me). Only need me for a couple of hours and a web gallery. Prints extra, or course.

I've shot 2 weddings for a lot less than this. Granted I'm not a 'wedding photographer' but I'm a competent photographer who delivered above their expectations. Unless the photographer is literally just some person who happens to own a camera and doesn't care about their reputation I don't see what price should have to do with the amount of effort they put into getting decent images.

It doesn't. Privileged people just like to say shit like "you get what you pay for" and blame it on the cost of the photographer, not the ability or effort of the photographer.

The fact of the matter is: burgeoning photographers need to start someone and they aren't starting by shooting weddings for 4 grand. At the same time, there are PLENTY of people (especially in this country in this economy) who cannot afford much for a wedding. They're often shoestring budget affairs, not fancy receptions in a gigantic ballroom with an open bar.

And if someone with less experience (which doesn't mean poor skill) can shoot their wedding within their budget, I'm not sure why that's bad.

For $800, that should've been the ONLY red flag to consider, and be enough to run for the hills, let alone the lack of a contract!

This is your classic "Too good to be true" situations.

Been doing this for 12 years and I don't do contracts and my clients love it. Stressful, easy going, they know exactly what they're getting based on COMMUNICATION and when they book me they get an invoice. No need to complicate things more than they need to be.

Not doing a contract is INCREDIBLY foolish! Even here on Fstoppers, how many posts have been uploaded detailing the horrors experienced by both clients and photographers in situations where no contract was established and signed by all parties, and then later one of the parties turned out to be jerks and started taking advantage of the situation?

ALWAYS do contracts, even with friends and family! It's there to protect the photographer, as much as it also protects the client!

You have been fortunate to not need a contract. I made my brother-in-law sign a contract and shot list for his wedding and I did it at cost. In the litigious society we have in the United States it is just not worth the risk.

I volunteer to photograph sports at the local high school and still carry a $2 million in liability insurance just in case something happens.

Did they pay the 2nd photog $800 too? Cause that would make $1600 total and that's closer to a real wedding photographer than they neighborhood Rebel owner.

The flowers will last maybe a week, the food will be eaten and what is not will be thrown away, the photos are the only thing that will last long after the wedding is over, and yet the photographer is the one people want to pay the least for, these people got what they deserved.

I used your reasoning with a couple to justify my price of $2500.00. I was later told by an associate who attended this wedding, and let’s just say, the couple wondered IF It was possible for me to salvage their images via PhotoShop. I suggested they contact several photographers who farm out their editing work. When all was said and done, the couple paid $2500.00 to fix the images PLUS the aforementioned $800.00.
Take away: being “cheap” is EXPENSIVE.

Same with product photography. I have shot things after other photographers sometimes last minute and I gained a client for 17years after she hired a family member of hers and almost lost her job due to the provided work. She has retired since but I still have the client today.

This is a single anecdote. It is not universally true - I would not even say it is the majority of lower budget photographers.

I know - and have worked with many - wedding photogs who charge(d) less than $1k and they produced photos as good as "real professionals." Many of them have now worked their way up to higher paying work, but they did that by starting at the budget end.

The marriage, I trust, will last longer than any of the above. Most people wouldn't admit it, but very few get any use out of their wedding photos after the first year, especially if they are the same tired, staged photos displaying couples in situations they just don't experience as a genuine part of their lives.

To be fair, if we're going to get technical about it, the musicians probably still get to claim the prize of "people not wanting to pay them". You think somebody not wanting to spend $1,000 is bad? Try someone not wanting to spend $200 on seasoned professional musicians with advanced degrees. Seems to be the same lesson with photography as with music: you get what you pay for...

As a musician who's played a number of these gigs, I can vouch for what Scott says here.

I certainly think a musician should be paid the right amount. But a few things here

1. How long did the musician play. Often not as long as many photographers are on site - in any case they should be compensated the same amount for time

2. A musician invests in the song they play at weddings but can essentially use the same practiced songs over and over. This means they don’t have Zilt post production work. This comes as an additional charge for photography

You spend the same amount of time after the gig as you do during the gig. So all things being equality the photographer will be paid more because it is a bigger gig

3. I suspect a musician will spend a bit on their instruments and audio equipment. But while comparable, photography equipment is often a a far higher cost especially when you are dealing as a one man band. It’s like the whole audio setup PER photographer.

4. Products such as prints and frames come at much higher cost than many people think they cost.

5. And last but not least - risk and longevity. You miss a beat in a song? No one cares no one remembers after the event. You miss the kiss at the Altar you may not get paid - you certainly get into trouble. People will go back to the photographs a whole life. The music is forgotten after some time. Even if it was the greatest act ever people will only remember having fun which they have most of the time and will not remember any of the music after 2-3 years

These are some good points and questions, and I'm happy to answer.

1. This depends on the type of instrument and what the desire of the couple are. I am a classical trumpeter, so for me, my performance is basically all during the ceremony, but for guitarists, string quartets, pianists, etc., it's quite possible their performance would begin before the ceremony and continue through the cocktail hour and reception. Many couples will opt to go with a rock, jazz, or funk/party band for the reception, so the total expense may be split up among different musicians, but the total time commitment and expense would be similar.

2. Yes and no. Yes, we will use the same music for multiple ceremonies. And yes, we don't have post-production commitment. But we do have hours of pre-production commitment. Having played a piece before does not rid a musician of their need to practice. And different pieces have varying difficulty. A musician could luck out and the couple could only want easier pieces that only require 2-4 hours of practice. Or they could ask for difficult music that requires 20-40 hours of practice, starting weeks in advance.

3. Also depends in the instrument. An acoustic guitar could be a few grand. A classical trumpeter will generally have anywhere from $4,000 (on the low end) to $15,000 (on the high end) in equipment (horns, mouthpieces, etc.). A pro model flute can range from $4,000 to $20,000 (or more). And it's not uncommon for violinists to spend $15,000 to $100,000 on a violin. So, take that for what it' worth (ha, pun...).

4. I don't know of an equivalent thing to compare this to with music, but a photographer is going to charge different prices based on their package. If the couple wants prints and frames, sure they're going to pay for that. They could also just want a digital package.

5. This reasoning doesn't really hold any water for me, because firstly, they very well may remember the music for years to come. Hire a high schooler that plays out of tune and with bad tone for the whole service and see how memorable that is. Or hire a seasoned pro that sounds great and elevates the experience. Both memorable in different ways, right? And also, by that logic, people shouldn't bother spending money in anything for a wedding if they won't get future use out of it. Why bother having good food, music, an expensive dress, or having people give toasts/speeches when they could "just be forgotten"?

But ultimately, all of this is beside the point I was making at people balking about the cost of professional services. I wasn't actually even saying that one should be paid more than the other when it comes to work vs. dollars. Ultimately, both photgraphers and musicians are all in the same boat when it comes to being artists trying to get compensated fairly for what we offer.

And their marriage will last a couple of years.

Those planning a wedding need to realize, an $800 quote translates to: "I've never shot a wedding before, but I'd love to give it a try and see how it goes."

you don't need to have shot weddings to take good pictures. if you're a good photographer and you take good pics you'll do fine. When I was young I shot multiple weddings documentary style for cheap and everyone always loved my photos.

Exactly, there's a difference between not getting the best images possible taken by someone who knows precisely where to be and exactly how to manage guests etc, and the crap that this photographer gave to the client. There is middle ground, and any photographer who respects them self will do a 'good' job

They even say that some of the first few photos she sent them looked good. Then she got paid and it seems like at that point sent them out of camera JPEGS.

Though it's also pretty clear from the photos that her gear is not great.

Sony shooter for sure. Bwahahahaha!

100% false

Most reasonably intelligent people ask for a portfolio and a couple references. Many sub $1k wedding photogs have both of those.

I shot a wedding for free. Years ago I shot one for $500. Somehow, I produced excellent photos. Crazy.

In some cases. I shot weddings for 20 years. Owned a multi person studio shooting anout 80 weddings a year. I retired but still shoot an occasional wedding for 500 bucks just for fun.

A little post processing would have improved the images immensely. No need to re-shoot.

I think wedding photography is a bit of a scam, like the entire industry, but this made me lol.


The entire wedding industry is a bit of a scam, or the entire photography industry? Or maybe both?

I was referring specifically to the wedding industry. However, there are many terrible "professional" photographers out there.

You are correct. Anyone with a camera can show some fake wedding photos to anyone. There's always budget ( cheap) brides out there. Once the day is done there's no going back.
I saw so many who got screwed. Yet many are too embarassed to admit their photos suck and their cheapness got them screwed.

Wedding industry is a big scam imo. And i shoot weddings.
Every thing from renting furniture , to flowers , video, photography and makeup are extremely overpriced.
Not saying we as professionals dont deserve it for the hard work it takes, but imo, its still over the top.
- in this case above, the photographer just used some paid pressets he found on instagram, thinking he would have the same results.
Clients end up paying high not to risk falling on these scams, not because they value the work offered. (generalzing of course)

So are a scammer too ?

As is said: You get what you pay for. People need to stop being cheap with one-time special events -- unless you think your second marriage is the one worth paying top dollar for a high quality photographer :-)

they would get crappy photos even if they paid 3k for this photographer.
it isnt really about the pricing as im sure most here started charging cheap.
Its about checking the portfolio, checking with other people that hired the photographer...etc.

I feel like some people here forget that not everyone can afford $1500+ for photos. I don’t know if they could have or not but I’ve shot a few weddings in the past that turned out quite nice but only charged $500 or less because they were lower income.
But I’m not trying to defend this photog or couple though, they should have at least looked at the photographers work history.

It's not that anyone is forgetting that not everyone can afford good photography. It's that good photography has a value, whether or not people can afford it. You can't skimp on photography and expect great results. You also shouldn't provide great photography at a significant discount because it devalues the industry.

I think more often than not you have people spending 10-50K on a wedding and saying they "can't afford" photography, when in reality they just don't think photography is worth much or that it's "easy".

Good photography does have a value, but unless you're missing another booking to shoot a wedding I don't see the harm in occasionally charging people what they can afford. I offered a couple to shoot their wedding for free earlier this year. It was a real shoestring budget, even the catering was a pitch in by friends and family. They didn't have to give me any money, but paid me what they could afford. It felt good to use something I have to make people happy.

It entirely depends on the scenario. If you're doing it for friends or people you know, that's different. But, most people these days seem to think photography isn't worth much, and every time someone takes a job for less money they're commoditizing the industry a little more.

It adds to this idea that photographers are like uber drivers and should be paid the absolute lowest margin possible to effectively be a robot that clicks a button for a couple of hours.

In your scenario you're not likely undercutting anyone, because they weren't going to get a pro photographer otherwise. But if you lower your prices just get a gig, then that person, and everyone they ever talk to will think good wedding photography is only worth your discounted rate. It hurts everyone.

And thats the clients prerogative. They are free to value whatever they want more.
Ive met with clients having extravagant expensive weddings who dis not value the photography.
They were more interested in impressing their guests.
Behind rhe scenes vendors like a photog or videog arent something worth going overboard on to them.

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