A couple paid $800 for wedding photos so dark and grainy that their iPhone pictures came out better

  • The bride also said the photographer didn’t give adequate direction for poses and left the wedding early.
  • The couple ended up hiring a different photographer to take new wedding photos.
  • Wedding planner Amy Shey Jacobs recommends doing thorough research, meeting photographers in person, writing contracts, and scheduling engagement shoots to avoid a similar scenario.

Hayley and Nick Kelble’s engagement photos went viral in 2017 when their romantic moment was photobombed by a gleeful hippo named Fiona at the Cincinnati Zoo.

Their wedding photos, however, were a different story.

When Hayley Kelble asked her Facebook friends for wedding photographer recommendations, someone tagged a photographer whose profile said she studied photography at Kent State and included a link to her Instagram page. They got in touch, and Kelble says they agreed on a rate of $800.

“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,” she said.

The day of the wedding, Kelble says the photographer didn’t use her flash in the dim church setting or provide adequate direction for poses. She also says that the photographer left two and a half hours earlier than they had planned.

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

After the wedding, Kelble says that the photographer then cashed the $800 check before sending her all of the pictures. The first few she’d sent looked nice, but Kelble was shocked when she saw the rest.

The photos appeared dark, blurry, and underexposed

“Even with editing, they couldn’t be fixed,” she said.

“The images were so underexposed that they were just grainy and blurry. I didn’t know what to do. I was like, I don’t want to pay for these.”

By comparison, a picture Kelble’s mother took on her iPhone came out sharper and more vibrant

When reached by Insider, Kelble’s wedding photographer declined to comment.

The couple ended up hiring a different photographer to take new wedding photos

“Luckily, they turned out great,” she said.

We asked wedding and event planner Amy Shey Jacobs of Chandelier Events about how to avoid similar unfortunate wedding photo scenarios. Here’s her advice:

  • Set up in-person meetings. Skype or FaceTime calls can also be helpful in determining whether or not the photographer is a good fit. “So much of the photography relationship is based on chemistry and personality,” she said. “Ask lots of questions to gauge if their style meets your wants.”
  • Get everything in writing. If a photographer says you don’t need a contract, don’t use them. “Contracts are the only sure bet that your vendor can be held accountable for your agreement,” she said. “Make sure your expectations and package are clearly spelled out: number of hours, number of shooters, number of images and prints, albums, and what happens in the event there is a dispute.”
  • Do an engagement shoot. “An engagement shoot is fun! But it’s also a great opportunity to test thewaters with your photographerbeforehand,” Jacobs said.

Kelble is happy with the pictures she has now, but wants other couples to know that an experienced photographer is worth the steeper price.

“Do your research and spend more than you think you should, because that’s all you’re going to have of memories of that day,” she said. “It doesn’t matter how much you spent on the actual day, you’re not going to have memories of it if you don’t spend good money to hire someone to take those pictures.”

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