If you are browsing Ebay looking for a wedding or civil partnership photographer you will be spoilt for choice, but I'm afraid not spoilt for quality. Please read my guide on what to look out for when choosing your photographer.
Do you like the images on their listing? If you have a photographic service to sell you make sure the photos you show to potential customers are your best, right? If you don't like the photographs on display and are considering them on price alone please don't. You will regret not having the memories to look back on. Try instead asking a better quality photographer for a discount, ask them to price-match or jiggle with the products/services they provide within their packages to reduce the cost.
Do they show only one or two images? If so, why? It maybe that they are only beginners or amateurs looking for a quick buck or that their images are not that good. Ask to see more, a complete wedding or civil partnership - this way you'll see how all their photography looks not just the few they pick to show you their auction listing.
Is there any variety in the compositions, the backgrounds and poses? If not this may mean they have only done a few weddings or civil partnerships, it may mean they lack the imagination needed to create beautiful photographs, it may mean their choice of images for this listing was poor. What does that say about them?
Do the backgrounds look cluttered or distracting? Are the images old fashioned or badly exposed? For formal poses and group shots the background should be neutral, and not distract form the subjects, this is something easily overlooked.Has any style, flair, or creativity gone into the creation or editing of the images? Side-by-side shots are old fashioned and look rigid - there are so many ways to arrange a couple for their portrait, visit as many photographers (high st and online) as you can to get a feel for their style and flair and see how the Ebay photographer you are considering compares. Check the images aren't over exposed (too light and no detail) especially images of the wedding dress, also lots of vignetting, soft focus and multi-exposure images are old hat, this may indicate your potential photographer is a little old school to say the least.
Are the subjects looking at the camera? Do the images show guests with their eyes shut or frowning? If your Ebay photographer shows you group pictures where the subjects are looking at someone else, ask yourself 'who are they looking at?' maybe at the official photographer? It could be that the Ebay Photographer you are considering has never officially photographed a wedding or civil partnership before, ask them. If their best images are of people frowning, or with their eyes shut ask yourself - do they only take one shot of each pose? Would you want images of your guests looking away or frowning?
Is their listing clear, is it easy to understand and are there spelling errors? Not everyone can be a whiz on Ebay but if your photographer cannot create a pleasing, simple and easy to read listing it does show a lack of creative ability, which may make you wonder about their photography. If they don't spell check what does that say about their attention to detail?
Do they say they are members of the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers SWPP and British Professional Photographers Association BPPA? Don't be fooled. To be a member of these associations/societies cost an annual fee to join of £99, there is no stipulation that the photographer joining is a professional, or indeed is any good. None of their work is checked, or graded - don't be taken in by the letters after their name it means nothing. However, a qualified member of these associations/societies has had work submitted, which has been judged to be competent. Please make sure you are happy with your prospective photographer's quality regardless of any letters after their name.
Is their Ebay Feedback 100% and is it real? Be wary of Ebay members who may well play such an important role in your life that don't have 100% feedback, Ebay has a reputation for attracting 'get rich quick' types and the photography listings are no different. Check their Ebay feedback - contact the people who have left feedback for their photography, ask to see the contact details for their last 6 or so weddings or civil partnerships - check their credentials it's important. There are also a few unscrupulous Ebay photographers who bid on their own auctions and who give themselves glowing feedback, look out for brand new bidders on Ebay Photographer's auctions - please be cautious.
Do they have good contact details, do they respond quickly to an enquiry? It's important that you can contact them for advice and information and equally important they respond quickly if you should need an answer to a query. Check they have good contact information ask for mobile, landline and email - you don't want to wonder what these are 24 hrs before your ceremony. If you ask a question expect a reply within 24 hrs, if not ask yourself how you would feel closer to your big day if you couldn't get hold of them?
Throughout your dealings with them do they appear professional, courteous and reliable? A wedding or civil partnership is no place for an amateur playing at being professional, please make sure your photographer does this for a living - if this is the case they will deal with hundreds of couples per year and will be extremely easy to get along with, they will put you at your ease, make you laugh and allow you to set the pace of how your special day will run. They will offer advice, and have ideas regarding the photography of course, but it's your day, they are providing you with a service for which you have paid handsomely you are the boss.
How and when should you pay? Never pay by cash nor everything upfront, cash is untraceable unless you hand over the readies face-to-face and get a receipt on the spot there's no proof you have paid. Paying upfront means you have no way of guaranteeing your Ebay photographer will turn up at the ceremony. Payment through Ebay is recommended, it gives you extra security - it means you can ask for their contact details held by Ebay and it gives you someone to complain to if things go wrong. You have the feedback system to fall back on if they turn out to be very bad or indeed very good.
Are they busy or do they just say they are? Many trades people will take a sharp intake of breath when asked if they can fit you in, we've all experienced it. Photographers are no different, almost all those listing on Ebay state they have 'a few dates left' or 'this year's going fast' they also ask you to contact them for availability. Every photographer wants to be fully booked, they exaggerate their popularity so you will be eager to book before someone else does. Ask them for a full list of their available dates before enquiring about a specific date.
Do they have a website? Is it good? Do they have a free email address? Any business advertising on Ebay should have a website. Ebay is by default national and it's natural that couples browsing their pages will be want to see more details of a particular supplier. Is their website impressive, is it creative, easy to navigate? Do they appear to have been around a long time or just set it up? If they have a free email address, be wary; hotmail, yahoo, tiscali, aol, btinternet etc are freely available on the internet and do not indicate the person in question has an established business nor should these email addresses be relied upon for contacting your potential photographer. If possible get a landline, a postal address too.
Reportage, Traditional, Candid, Formal, Journalistic, Posed, Freestyle. Just words? Styles of photography are easy to quote but not so easy to fulfil. Your Ebay photographer may say they are proficient at reportage or relaxed type shots but do they have enough examples to convince you? If you are after a certain style for the photography, firstly get yourself some knowledge of that style then see if your Ebay photographer compares.
Do they rotate all the same photos? How often is their listing/website updated? When you are looking for a photographer you will want to see as much of their work as possible, many Ebay photographers, as discussed above, will display a very limited amount of images. Their website should have many more but do these images remain the same for years on end? Try to look for a photographer who is always revising their listing to make improvements, or is regularly adding recent images to their website. Any photographer is only as good as their latest work, ask to see it.
I hope you have found this guide helpful/useful, if you have please say so below.