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How to Ask a Photographer for Wedding Day Images: A wedding vendor dilemma

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I keep hearing this question come up in conversations. Usually, a planner or another wedding vendor is approaching me and asking how I handle it. But in the last few weeks, I’ve had a few photographers approach me and ask me if this has happened, how often and what I do. I realized it was something we don’t openly talk about, and I wanted to share this post with you.

How can a planner (or other wedding vendor) request photos from the photographer if we haven’t received them yet? Or rather… CAN we request them? 

Let me preface this by saying that I have been very, very blessed to work with some absolutely phenomenal photographers in the last 2 years. I joke about how the photographer community has “adopted” me because I have so many close photographer friends and spend my down time pouring over a blogs written by photographers. While I have NO desire to be a photographer, I love what they do, find so much value in what they do and want to know everything I can about it so that I can facilitate needs and demands on wedding day.

While I have had the privilege of working with some outstanding photographers, I have also worked with some not so great ones. I have had a harder time with communication before the wedding day, on wedding day and then it never fails… I never hear from them afterward & am therefore never given any photographs of my work.

One of my FAVORITE weddings I’ve ever done, I have never seen images from. And to be honest, I don’t think I ever will. It’s disheartening to put SO MUCH time, energy and heart into an experience, and not receive any of the memories from it. Of course, I do what I do for MORE than just the photographs – it’s about the MARRIAGE. I understand that and want to take the stress of wedding day logistics and design AWAY from the couple so that they can focus ON their marriage!!! And while that is so, so important and a huge aspect of my job, I am also running a business. And to continue to book clients, I need to have images that showcase my work. Future brides want to see what past bride’s have done, right? Before hiring me, they want to see what aesthetic I have done before, what flowers I have created and what events I have executed. Images allow me to show clients all of that and then some.

So what do you do if you do not receive the images? 

First of all, let’s get on the same page! We are working together, not against each other. Photographers and wedding vendors are ALL working toward the SAME goal; there should be no ‘Photographer VS Vendors’. That’s silly and petty and completely ridiculous.

Photographers should be EXCITED to give their images to vendors because it’s more promotion!! And vendors should be EXCITED to share the photographs and CREDIT PROPERLY on blogs and social media outlets.

If you do not receive images from the photographer, I want you to share a few take aways with you:

1. What are your expectations for the photographer? Are they unrealistic? Ask yourself: How long has it been since wedding day? On average how much time does it take for you to receive images? My blog schedule will never allow me to blog a wedding the week after. I will not get the photographs that quickly; and that’s OKAY!!!! I would NEVER expect that from a photographer. That’s a very unrealistic expectation. In the last two years, I’ve noticed that on average, I receive a full gallery of photographs 4-6 weeks after the wedding day. Think about what your average is, and if you’re worried it’s a bit skewed, ask some photographer friends!!! Normally, their workflow goes something like: (1) blog the wedding (3) send the gallery to the bride (3) send the gallery to all the vendors.

2. Since we aren’t able to blog the full wedding immediately after the wedding, how can we showcase some of our work in a timely manner? How can we show the world that we’ve been BUSY and that what we’re doing is AWESOME!? I blog iPhone sneaks on Monday’s after the wedding to show off the big day, talk about my weekend and get readers excited to see the full blog post. Due to the 4-6 weeks timeline, I have to wait quite a while to place the wedding on my blog calendar. I still haven’t blogged weddings from May & June because (a) I don’t have images yet or (b) the wedding is going to be featured so I can’t blog them yet. I try to take iPhone shots (or ask one of my assists to) then I edit them to brighten them up & use them on my blog & social media until I have the full gallery.

A lot of photographers will share a sneak peek the day of or shortly after the wedding day. If that’s the case, I will regram or share it on social media outlets, too!

Remember – – – if you are submitting the wedding for a national feature, some publications (either print or web) will require exclusivity. They don’t want the images shared until THEY have shared them. Usually, those publications will allow the photographer to blog them, but that’s it; they don’t want other vendors to reveal the full blog post until it’s been featured. 

3. What if it takes longer than the average time to receive your photographs? What if you’ve been waiting months – should you contact the photographer? YES. Absolutely!!! In my contract, I state the following:

“Use of Images: Dear Sweetheart Events reserves the right to contact your photographer and use photos from your event for promotion, display, advertisement, publications, etc.”

I am legally able to email the photographer and ask about use of images. Now, I am NOT contracted with the photographer – the client is. So my legal right is to email and ASK to use the images, crediting properly; it doesn’t mean I always get to use them.

If 6 weeks have gone by, I will reach out to the photographer and say something like:

“Hi ____! I just loved working with you on ____ and _____’s wedding day! I loved seeing your blog post with your favorite images, and the sneak peeks you shared on Facebook. I would love to be able to use their wedding images on my blog, website and social media outlets. Of course, I will be sure to credit you along with the other vendors! Would you be able to send the gallery my way soon? Thanks so much!! xo! kat” 

It’s short, sweet and to the point. And 80% of the time, that email is received very well!! Usually they respond back quickly, happy to share the images with me!!

4. What if they ignore the email; what if they don’t respond at all? I’ve had this happen very few times in my career. All five times it happened, I knew the bride has received images since she had created a Facebook album. After a week had gone by and I hadn’t heard from the photographer, I emailed the bride asking her if she was willing to share those images with me so that I could blog them and share them. This is, in my opinion, the very last resort as I would much prefer to chat with a photographer about images and not the bride!!

5. I will never bring my own camera or hire my own photographer for wedding day, and you shouldn’t either. I feel very, very strongly about this. As I said before, I designed a wedding that was one of my FAVORITES, and unfortunately, I don’t have images to show my work besides my iPhone shots. While I WISH I had images to show for my own benefit, and I wish the bride has images to showcase her hard work, day dreams and vision, we don’t. It was a terrible situation and I learned a lot about ‘red flags’ to look for, how to prepare for a situation like that and how to handle it.

HOWEVER, I will never bring my own camera or hire my own photographer to shoot wedding day details and here’s why: It destroys respect.

As a planner & florist, I would be very offended if someone else was there to ‘help’ me do my job. I have actually had a situation where a bride asked a friend to ‘assist’ me without my knowledge. I arrived on wedding day and one of her friends proceeded to follow me around all day, telling me what to do, ‘correcting’ things I had done, etc.. It was the MOST FRUSTRATING experience!!! I felt disrespected, undermined and annoyed. I actually cried in the bathroom during the reception because I felt emotionally and physically drained!

I would never want a photographer to think that I don’t value their work, their time, their talent, or their expertise. I want to cultivate mutual respect between ALL wedding day vendors; one vendor is not better than the other. One job is not more important. We are ALL on the same team, working for the same goal & therefore we NEED each other to get our jobs done!!! I do NOT want to have one of my staff walking around with a fancy camera, getting in the photographers way and disrupting their work environment.

 6. Let it go. Let’s be honest, friends, if you pour your heart into wedding design, wedding stationary, a gorgeous bridal updo, or the most perfect bridal bouquet and you don’t receive professional images from the experience, it’s heartbreaking!! It flat out SUCKS. But please don’t allow that experience to taint the others. Please don’t hold a grudge on ALL photographers because of how a small few treated you and your work. Be open, honest, kind and respectful.

That photographer was not your ideal vendor, therefore live & learn & try not to work with them on a wedding day again. I think we need to have IDEAL VENDORS just like we have ideal clients!! Who are your ideal vendors? Why? Think about it. Find them. Attract them. (Keep reading #7 for more on this!)

7. Work towards avoiding being placed in that situation again. An attribute of my ideal client is her love for photography. I want to attract clients who CARE about the moments being captured, who value photography and invest in professional, beautiful images. When a potential client inquiries, photography is something we talk about BEFORE the contract! I want to know her heart for it & I want to ensure that she’s going to receive the very best images to showcase the best day of her life!

I want to attract clients who attract some of my ideal photographers. Therefore, I want to associate my brand with those photographers in a very authentic and genuine way. I do this by working with them (examples: styled shoots, side-projects, etc.). I do this by reaching out to them to introduce myself, offer to serve them, and share the DSE Experience with them. I also do this by genuinely becoming FRIENDS with them!! Some of my closest industry friends are photographers!! We LOVE each other, love working with one other & love referring each other.

NOTE: I am NOT telling you to make unintentional and selfish relationships with vendors. We are all in this together, therefore we NEED each other – not only working together & helping each other in our businesses, but we also need and crave RELATIONSHIPS with each other!! I want you to craft and cultivate BEAUTIFUL relationships with vendors that are REAL and RAW because we all understand each other!!! We’re in this crazy wedding world together & not everyone emphasizes with us. It’s comforting to find women & men who DO understand, and can lift you up and walk alongside you. 

WHEW. This one got a little long-winded but I do hope it was helpful for you!! Have you ever had this situation come up? How have you addressed it? How do you keep it from continuing to happen? 

xo! kat

Image via Dyanna Joy Photography

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  1. Katie says:

    This is great! So different to think about it from another vendor’s perspective 🙂 I love sharing my images with other vendors and am happy to do so, but I think there are probably some photogs who are less eager to do so because they’ve been burned in the past 🙁 I’ve seen people filter and/or edit my work, leave off photo credit completely, or otherwise not really use good etiquette when it comes to the images. It doesn’t bother me that much personally, but I think that could be one reason why some people are less likely to share…I think also the industry is evolving in a way that’s all about sharing, so you are probably LESS likely to encounter that in the future! Anyway, we love working with you and are happy to share images anytime!! 😉

  2. Really great points here! I’m glad I’ve worked with such great photogs that I haven’t run into this yet!

  3. Christin says:

    Wow, different viewpoint for sure! My girlfriend shoots primarily weddings and though she always shares the images with the vendors, I never thought it was required or expected, just a nice gesture and favor. Interesting for sure! As a newborn/family photographer, it’s something I haven’t ever had to deal with, but very interesting viewpoint, thanks for sharing!

  4. N Womack says:

    Nice info! It makes me think.

  5. cindy says:

    great blog kat! i am very polite and respectful of their art and always give credit. it’s disappointing when they do not respond but most that i have had the pleasure of working with are wonderful 🙂

  6. Jo says:

    I’ve just come across this as I was searching for something online about how to respond to and deal with a multitude of vendors requesting marketing images after a wedding when you barely have time to deal with your clients.
    We have one hassling us for photos whilst we’re still processing and we haven’t even delivered them to the client yet.
    No ‘great images’ or we love what you’ve done with the sneak peak just give us the photos.
    As a photographer we have to keep tight control over which of our images are online, searchable with google images and they have to remain true to our brand.
    Most photographers will not be falling over themselves to take images of cakes, flowers and table decorations, these are filler photos and nice reminders for the couple that they had beautiful arrangements etc.
    If we were to respond to and spend time sending photos out to all the vendors we worked with we’d barely have time to run our business.
    The photographs are the photographers property and their brand and their product. A savvy photographer will guard these and disseminate them to best market their brand and business.
    A photographer may photograph a wedding which they choose not to market themselves with. As soon as the images are out there then their brand is out of their control.
    I would suggest always taking photos with your camera phone and don’t assume that you have a right to the images taken by the pro photographer. Our contract is with the bride and groom.
    Yes, sending a few pictures out cleverly to some vendors is useful, however, as the florist, cake, etc come down the line with bookings after venue and photographer it isn’t always beneficial for the photographer to spend a vast amount of time plying vendors with free marketing photos. We generally don’t have brides book us through their florist or cake maker.
    Don’t get me wrong, we are all working together but our photos are our product and we decide what’s published in that big old World Wide Web.

    We do provide some carefully chosen images to some vendors but we can’t supply them all.

    • dearsweetheartevents says:

      Hi Jo! Thanks so much for commenting! I understand that you definitely have a successful business to run & that sending galleries to vendors can be time consuming; however I have to respectfully disagree. I do think that as the professional photographer for the wedding day, those images should be sent to ALL vendors who contributed. As a vendor, I will never, ever bring my own camera to a wedding because I am not a professional. I think that would actually be rude to do! I want to leave that TO the professionals!:) Just like as a photographer, I would never expect you to provide the bouquet for the bride to hold or the cake for the bride & groom to cut! We each have our own roles & when we work together as a team (before, during & after the wedding), we only better the experience for the couple & for our own businesses!:) I do appreciate your feedback though & found reading your point of view helpful! xo!! kat