Feeding the photographer. A debate that comes up time and again over on hitched.co.uk.
There are strong feelings on both sides of this debate, but surprisingly they’re never as clear cut as you’d imagine. Often it’s perceived that couples are unwilling and uninterested in feeding their suppliers and that photographers are sitting there rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of a free meal. Generally speaking however this isn’t the case!
As with a lot of things at the moment, this is one of those issues that we’re seeing from both sides of the fence. On the one hand, we’re a young couple with a wedding to pay for and enough mouths to feed already- but we’re also both wedding photographers so have a bit of insight about what it’s like to actually work a wedding.
Hopefully you’ll find below an unbiased summary of of some of the key issues associated with this subject.
Ok, so first let me stick on my bride to be hat and address the main points that tend to come up on this topic.
- I don’t get fed at work. My meals come out of my own pocket & I don’t expect to get catered for, so why should we pay for our photographer to eat?
- We cannot afford to.
- We don’t want to.
“I don’t get fed at work!”
By far, the most common point raised is “I don’t get fed at work”, “you don’t feed the gas man when he comes over” or “we’re already paying enough for them, why should we have to feed them as well”
These are perfectly valid points of view and for the most part, they’re true. If you call in a builder to put up a new fence for you it’s not often that you’ll be presented with a meal request in their terms and conditions, so why do some photographers (& other vendors) feel that it is appropriate to expect to be catered for?
From a professional point of view, there are endless answers to this one so i’ll cover as much as I can without boring you to tears.
Firstly, weddings are unpredictable. It’s the nature of the beast. Everything from the weather, to the surroundings, timings, running order- it’s endless. Whilst a professional will have the experience and skill set to cope and deliver fantastic results regardless of weather or timing blips, one thing that is a given is that you will need to eat at some point. The thing about shooting weddings as opposed to being employed by someone else is that as a self employed photographer you are not guaranteed a break. You can’t just sit down when you’re aching or sore, or nip to the loo when you need to. There are no coffee breaks, cigarette breaks. If you’re lucky enough to get some time to just sit and breath you wont always know when it will come. Having a meal provided is one way of kind of guaranteeing (as much as you can) that you will get a break. If you’re served food whilst everyone else is eating, for that 5-10 minutes at least, you should be safe not to miss anything. Which begs the question as to why your photographer can’t just bring their own lunch and eat at this time too.
If you’re employed as opposed to being self employed, you presumably will have the option and/or facilities to bring or purchase your own food. You may have a staff room with facilities such as a fridge, kettle or microwave so you can bring your own lunch and store it safely or prepare it on site. You may have a canteen, food trolley or snack van. If not you will at some point be legally entitled to a break meaning you may then also have the option to source lunch from elsewhere- perhaps somewhere off site. However, as a photographer no matter what you put in your contract about taking a break or going off site, no matter what the law says you’re entitled to- if an impromptu cake cut happens or an amazing sunset pops out of nowhere you would be failing yourself as a professional and ultimately failing your clients if you let that moment pass by without capturing it. So you can go off site for a designated period off time and look for somewhere to eat, but not without constantly being on edge or potentially compromising on your ability to do your job properly. That is assuming of course that there is somewhere locally that they’d be able to go. It’s not uncommon for wedding venues to be miles from anywhere- or if your wedding is on a Sunday and the outside world has closed at 4pm, there wont necessarily be anywhere open for them to go anyway.
Therefore, as wedding photographers, these options generally aren’t available to you. Every venue we’ve ever worked at do not, under any circumstances allow food brought in from elsewhere to be stored in their fridges- it’s a health and safety issue. So the option to bring your own food basically means leaving food in a cool bag in the car for anything up to 9 hours before it’s eaten. In the winter, this isn’t always such a big deal, but during summer there’s only so long most foods can be left in a hot vehicle before they become un-edible or unsafe to eat. And that’s if you have a car. In cities it is not uncommon for photographers to use public transport, so they’ll be lugging their lunch around with them all day.<
So why does that mean that you should pay for their meal? If they want to eat at the venue, can they not pay for their own?
Well yes, they could but do try to imagine yourself in that position. Imagine you were contracted to do a job by your employer. You’ve been paid for your time, but by no means a ludicrous amount. You’re at your place of work, you’ve been working for 8 hours already, its 32 degrees outside and you’ve not yet had a break, or even a glass of water. You must be on site and available all times. You finally get a window to eat and your only meal option is to order something from a gourmet menu costing, potentially £45 or more. 3 hours worth of wages. Would you expect under those circumstances for provisions to be made, your food to be subsidised or for those costs to be covered? That is the exact predicament that photographers find themselves in time and again. That also assumes that your venue has 2 or more kitchens operating simultaneously, because no chef in the world is going to stop cooking guest meals to cater separately for a photographers order. Looking at it that way when you think of yourself, the couple, as the employer it becomes a little easier to understand why some photographers feel it is necessary to be catered for, because sometimes, there just isn’t really any other option available to them, aside from not eating.
Whilst I understand that the same can largely be said for Nurses, Doctors and various other professions, at the very least many of them have catering facilities, a staff room or other members of staff they can call upon should they urgently require assistance, cover or just a helping hand.
I know there is an assumption that photography is an easy job, but it really isn’t. It’s rewarding, enjoyable- but it’s also physically demanding and mentally exhausting. You’re in work mode at least 24 hours before the wedding itself as you prep and prepare for the day- cleaning and charging kit, going over timelines one last time etc. That then continues for anything from 8-12 hours throughout the wedding itself and then for several further hours until all cards are safely on your computer and backed up at home. Then it all starts again the next morning and is ongoing until the photographs are delivered back and the client is pleased with them. Even as a fit, young pair of twenty somethings with everything planned to perfection and each other to share the workload it’s hard.
This is why many photographers will have it written into their contracts. It’s not to be cheeky, rude or demanding, it’s for consistency and fairness among all clients. Finding something to eat becomes one less thing to worry about and allows them to spend more time doing their job.
If you really, really have issues with supplying a meal and it’s a deal breaker for you (in other words, you wont book that photographer if they insist on being fed) relay this to them. If there is literally not a penny left in your budget to supply a plate of chips most will be understanding of this and will be able to make their own arrangements if given sufficient notice.
Now before it starts to look completely like we’re saying you should feed your photographer, keep in mind that this is not something we have in our contract and insist upon. Why? I hear you ask. If there are so many reasons why it makes sense to ask to be fed, why don’t we?
The short answer to that is that we don’t want couples to feel obliged and we’re a little wary of coming across as rude. If a couple want to feed us, that’s amazing and so very appreciated, but if they don’t that’s absolutely fine too and we don’t think any differently of them for it. So although we do understand the logic, know the reasons and actually agree with the sentiment behind photographers having meals written into their T&Cs, we’ve decided that for us, we still want our clients to have the choice. That’s what works for us. All businesses are different, all photographers are different and all couples are different, so please don’t think badly of a vendor who requests a meal in their contract if they are going to be with you all day.
We are incredibly lucky to have a wonderful relationship with our clients and 9 times out of 10, yes we are fed, but it’s never expected and i’m sure that for the vast majority of professionals (even those with it in their contract) it’s not seen as a “right” or entitlement. If you are going to be feeding your suppliers, here are a few quick tips:
- Try to find out if there are any allergies or things they cannot have (if they’re vegetarian for example) as the last thing anyone would want is for you to go to the expense of providing a meal only to find that it cannot be eaten.
- Where possible, please relay to your caterer that your suppliers need to be served at the same time as you. Some caterers will not supply any food to vendors at all until yourselves and your guests have finished all courses. This means that food you’ve paid for often goes to waste as by the time it comes out your supplier will already be up and back to work ready to shoot your speeches.
- You do not need to provide a 3 course meal, or even the same as what you and your guests are eating. A cheap option from the bar menu, a bought in Meal Deal from Tesco/M&S etc should usually suffice.
- Check your contract. There may be details of what your particular vendor requires. Some will insist on a hot meal but you want to be as informed as possible so you can make any necessary provisions.
Hopefully that’s provided a little food for thought and an insight into why you may consider feeding your suppliers.