*If you were in the wedding/associated with it and want to say something about the photographers, please leave a comment. If you have had similar experiences with Crane’s, I’d love to hear from you. Please comment as you see fit.

This has probably got to be one of THE most difficult posts to write. And I’m not even sure where to begin…

When DH and I were looking for photographers, I had two must-have items: 1) they had to have done weddings a number of times before, 2) they had to have two photographers, one of which had to be a photojournalistic style.

We met with multiple photographers, talked with many over Skype, nixed a few because they were afraid of my blog reviews and honesty, and took more into consideration after we got recommendations from friends.

We ultimately decided to go with Crane’s Photography (principal photographer Harold Crane) from Lake Zurich. Once we announced our choice to family and friends, we got loads of feedback about how other women dreamed of having this person do their wedding; how they’d seen his work in his shop front in Lake Zurich and swooned; how he was just absolutely.freaking.perfect.

We were quite pleased. Harold never talked to me like I was an idiot bride. We clicked because I knew photography terms, hated being ripped off, refused to ruin his photos by printing them at Wal-Mart, and knew how to edit/photoshop them if necessary.

He had an amazing price package, with the only downside being we wouldn’t get rights to our photos (but we could view them and order prints in the mean time) for a year.

So we started out with Engagement pictures in October 2010. These were only mediocre, and part of the reason is because I wasn’t comfortable with how I looked. I knew I needed to lose some weight and felt like this was just an awful start to the wedding shebang. But we went through with it. We took the photos in the places that meant the most to us (our hometown). But the shots were generic. And throwing leaves in the air? Please. For some couples it looked good, for others, nope. When we saw the finals we compared them to others he had taken. It felt like he had rushed through ours.

I should mention we didn’t get any clothing changes, had to pay extra for shooting in a town that wasn’t his home town, and didn’t get rights to these photos until a year after the wedding–which was more than a year away!

Either way, we trekked on. We asked him about the secondary photographer–who would he be? He gave us the name of his right-hand man, Rado. I started looking up his work and fell in love with him. PERFECT photojournalistic shots. My mood brightened as I looked forward to having him do our wedding.

Harold called us a few months before the wedding and told us that Rado was busy doing a different wedding. They had booked two weddings on our date and they couldn’t spare him for my wedding anymore. Oh…my heart fell about 20x that day. I started to worry about the quality of our photos. Would they turn out generic like our engagement shots? What other photographer would we get? What communication will we have if this is what it’s like?

Harold told me that he’d have Gino be his back-up. I asked for more photos from this guy and was quite unhappy to see that there wasn’t a single wedding shot in any of them. They were all professional head shots, or corporate photos of functions. I almost freaked. I called Harold, told him my concerns and was given a link to wedding photos of his. Much better. Not as amazing as Rado, but at least it transformed my thoughts from, “OMG MY PHOTOS!” to “Oh, well that’s not bad. And that one isn’t either.”

Then, a few weeks before the wedding, we got a call from Harold again. He had seen a few posts I made on Rado’s Facebook wall, pleading with him to reconsider our wedding. So Harold offered me another option: Have Rado be the main photographer on my wedding, and have Gino be the backup. Harold would go and be the principal photographer on the other wedding. While I wasn’t as keen about losing Harold, I was beyond relieved to have Rado take the helm of our wedding. We agreed to it and looked forward to meeting the guys at the wedding!

The week of the wedding, Rado called me to discuss the types of shots I’d like. Since I was running errands the day he called (getting those VIP checks from the bank, actually), I told him I’d email him the types of shots I wanted. I also gave him the addresses, dates and information about my schedule that morning, starting with hair and ending with makeup at the hotel. Then I told him we’d see him the day of!

And this is where the story sort of spirals out of control. The morning of the wedding, my gals and I met at the salon early. We had an 8:00 a.m. appointment start and I ended up rolling in around 8:15 (even though I live mere blocks away! oops!).  But the salon was amazing. They called me at 8 to make sure we were still coming. They surprised me by having enough stylists to get us out of there on time, if not a smidge earlier. They served us snacks (oranges, granola bars, raisins, etc.) and passed around mimosas.

Everyone was in a great mood and good god were they just awesome. How amazing was it that I found them? Especially after all those recent haircapades!?

So we got started. We gabbed, took our time, and had fun. And then I realized as I sat down in the chair at 8:30 that no photographer was there. I had one of my bridesmaids call the company to see if he got lost.

She didn’t get through. 9 0’clock rolls around and she gets the number for Harold and tries to contact him. He had NO idea that the photographer was missing. He says he’ll figure it out and call back. 9:30 rolls around and a few girls are just getting finished, while my mom is making sure things are a-okay and set.

My hair takes quite a freaking while, so I’m still content sipping alcohol.

At 9:40ish,  Harold calls to tell the bridesmaid that Gino was supposed to show up and that he’s on his way.

10:00 a.m. ticks by

Then 10:15.

Then 10:30 and we’re pretty much done.

Thank god that another bridesmaid brought a camera. She snapped away. Hair stylists came in and snapped away. It didn’t damper the mood for the day, but it did leave a big frizzy mark in my mind.

My mom paid for our day and we were leaving the salon at 10:45 a.m. (15 minutes before we were done). No photographer in sight.

At noon, Rado called the bridesmaid to ask if we could all meet. We were getting lunch at the time, so we told him we’d be back to the hotel to eat it momentarily. He met us there with Gino.

I won’t forget this ever: No one apologized. He just asked where they should be and when. I didn’t want to see them. Not then. I was having a moment. The girls? My god…my girls are amazing. The crap they put up with that day for me…my attitude, my nonchalance about it. I wonder if they thought I was going to lash out and break something ;p My anger was more directed toward DH–not having to deal with this! And I told the photographers to come back at 1, when we’d start getting ready in my mom’s hotel room.

And then we started the makeup. The photographers ran over to the guys’ room temporarily. Then came back. We all went over to the church to take photos. And from there on out, they were like normal photographers.

Was I miffed? Yes.

Did it ruin my day? No.

I did eventually get an apology: first from Rado, who never gave an explanation for why Gino wasn’t there. But he apologized a million times over. Then Gino slinked over and apologized. Said he tried to get some unique shots to make up for it. But also never gave me a reason. I did hear a single excuse through this whole ordeal: “You said you’d be at the salon from 8 until 11. And you left early. We figured we’d just stop in midway through.” This probably tipped my scale a bit, or threatened to. We ended up leaving the salon 15 minutes early. And all signs pointed to someone dropping the ball.

But at the end of the night, I didn’t want apologies. I just wanted to be left alone. Weddings are a huge thing. And ours was larger than I would have originally thought. Other things went wrong that day that were on my mind (the cake, the father-daughter dances, the playlists, the food, etc.) and the photographers were far from my mind that moment.

After the wedding, we didn’t hear anything from Harold for about a month. When he did call, he was upset. He almost sounded sick. Disgusted. Angry. He told me he fired Gino. He swore at him. He swore that his company has never had this happen before and that this isn’t the best way to do business.

He then told me he wanted to give me all of my photos upfront. That we wouldn’t have to wait a year for them. As a way to make up for what happened.

But here’s the thing: Brides have to go out to him, drop off a very large hard drive, then go back out to him to pick it up once the photos were uploaded (it takes about four hours for the massive amount of edited and unedited photos). And that’s what we got. No more contact from him. Just, “here’s your photos.” He ended up shipping our harddrive back to us, but didn’t insure it, which had me on pins and needles the entire time. It was a borrowed drive and if it got lost in the mail? I’d be spending beaucoup to replace it. But we got it. And have looked through the photos. And picked some out as our favorites.

He wanted me to just not write a negative review for his company. And I totally understand. But I knew I had to write some sort of a review. And thus far I’m ambivalent to his services. Gino was a mediocre photographer at best. More than half of his shots had Rado in them, with his camera set, taking photos. Many of them were blurry. Many of them were of children. My god. I don’t mind having kids at the wedding, but anyone who knows me knows that I’m not exactly partial to a plethora of children. And now I have a few hundred photos of them. My bet is they wanted guests to order those photos of their darling kids.

Making money from my photography stuff. Yep. Left a bad taste in my mouth.

Overall I’d say the photographs were ok. There were some great shots. There were some crappy shots. There were 3,000 shots. I never want to see 3,000 shots again in my life. If I would have been shown only 300, hand-picked, really good ones, it might have altered my opinion. It took me and DH three hours to go through, pick out good ones, and decide which were worth being printed.

Would I do it again? I’m not so sure. More photographers means more problems. More people to make sure they’re where they need to be. More money. I might have gone with a small, single-person company that would have done only photojournalism.

But I know that this company meant well. And if I’m the anomaly? Then they had a good person to make error on. I’m not suing them. I’m not roaring my complaints up and down all the bridal sites. I’m just posting my honest experience here. And I’m STILL wondering why Gino never showed up, why we weren’t at least offered a few prints (or discounted fine art prints), and why I didn’t get some sort of refund.

I’d tell future brides to just be aware of what problems can happen, and to be prepared if it does. It could happen with ANY photographer, not just this one. If Harold had a track record for this behavior, I’d be worried. But he doesn’t. And he does do some nice work. I wouldn’t steer anyone clear of him. But I can’t use his services again after how it turned out for me. I’m glad that it’s behind me now. And I think I handled it exceptionally well.

When all is said and done though, I did get some nice shots. And I’m married. Which was what this whole thing was about in the first place, right?

*If you were in the wedding/associated with it and want to say something about the photographers, please leave a comment. If you have had similar experiences with Crane’s, I’d love to hear from you. Please comment as you see fit.