The double edged sword of being a Venue ‘preferred’ Wedding Photographer

Published by Sam, Editor -
The double edged sword of being a Venue ‘preferred’ Wedding Photographer

I have heard many a tale from fellow colleagues naming some high end wedding venues that have a strange stance on photographers wishing to blog or publish on line the wedding photography from their venue.

Being a ‘preferred’ Wedding Photographer

Where is the problem with an artist wanting to show off his / her work? Surely it acts as an advert for the photographer along with the venue. You would think that any venue no matter how grand or small would not turn down ‘free’ publicity in this day & age. But they do…

A few months ago I received a call, from a local Dorset Wedding Venue, who started their conversation with congratulating me on my recent blog post naming their venue as the counties leading venue of choice.

Their next sentence had a change in direction asking that I remove the image of their venue from my blog or change the wording of my post. Apparently I had insinuated that I was a preferred supplier – I had indeed used a meta tag of “****** *** Wedding Photographer” on my post but had not indicated that I was a‘preferred’ official, recommended or anything else similar.

I naturally held rank and refused to remove the image as it was mine and my copyright. As for the wording, I didn’t want to budge and seized upon why he was so determined to protect this ‘approved’ vendor status. Ahhhh, the penny dropped, ‘preferred’ supplier – “I have heard of such things…that’s where you get a back hander” I said. To which the venue manager exploded, fiercely rebuffing my words and denying any improper payments taking place.

It certainly hit a nerve but I promptly apologised with my choice of wording, saying for want of a better word, the system and reality are one and the same. Wedding suppliers pay a percentage of their booking fee as a commission to the venue in return for being listed in their documentation. Some venues even refuse to let ‘non preferred ‘suppliers operate within the venue, which really does take things too far.

Now this isn’t a gripe from a disgruntled wedding photographer, trying to get his foot in the door with yet another prime wedding venue. I am not after me, me, me – I honestly see the whole system of ‘preferred’ suppliers as corrupt and exploitative of the clients – the Brides & Grooms!

The couples hiring these wedding venues are already paying a premium for using the building for its facilities and possible picturesque backdrop. So why should the ‘preferred’ suppliers now have to charge the couple and extra 10% or more to cover the ‘tax’, ‘fee’, ‘back hander’ payment to the venue ?

I am sure that If you had to add up all the key suppliers from cars, accommodation, florists, cakes supplier, entertainment, disco, hair & beauty, marquees, videographers and photographers – If they all hand over their ‘cut’ to the venue, the combined bill for the day has automatically risen by on average £1500 to £2000.

This is not only immoral but absurd and something that I will have no part in. This type of exploitation only exists as once again the venues customer service starts & stops with it opening its doors and closing them on the wedding day. I argue that the people that make the wedding a success are the suppliers operating within the venue upon the day, and they almost always go the extra distance in making sure everything is perfect!

The venue’s that operate a ‘preferred’ supplier list pray upon other suppliers insecurities with wanting to have associations with big name venues.

My perspective is clear, I am a wedding photographer uninterested in joining any kind of ‘preferred’ venue list, especially if it involved having to up my prices to my clients, for this I make no apologies.

I urge all Brides & Grooms to be to take a look further that the venues ‘preferred’ supplier list – this does not necessarily contain the best available, and they may not be ‘what you are looking for’. Your wedding day and its many aspects deserve time and thought in talking, meeting and selecting the various suppliers.

A great deal of pleasure can be derived in researching and selecting your creative suppliers that can be found easily with the click of a mouse. You should select your photographer according to other attributes such as their photographic style, their proven track record and most essentially how they ‘fit’ with you and your needs.

Your ‘preferred’ wedding photographer should not be chosen according to the size of the referral fee paid to your wedding venue!!

Linus Moran Photography

Dorchester | Will Travel | From: £1495

Author – Bournemouth Wedding Photographer Linus Moran

Have you come across this? What do you think about ‘preferred suppliers’?  


  1. Phill

    I experienced the rough end of this type of set up this year. Having received an enquiry from a couple that bought in fully to my style of photography, a few emails went back and fore and then we started proceeding towards the contractual stage. Then the bombshell hit. Their venue told them they were only allowed to bring in approved suppliers, everything from catering and florist to the photographer. I wouldn’t be allowed to photograph their wedding as I was not an approved supplier. The venue had five photographers listed on its Web site, with links in turn to their Web sites. I checked out all five in detail, all were excellent photographers but all worked in a classical style. The couple had wanted me for my predominant documentary approach but it looks like they were going to be obliged to use a photographer shooting in a style more in line with how the venue wished to be presented. A crying shame really.

  2. Beth Swift

    I had a similar experience when a friend of mine wanted me to shoot their wedding but found out the venue charged them £100 pound extra to use an ‘out of house’ photographer and I couldn’t use the grdens! Even though the couple have paid for the venue. I thought this was awful but told them to do as they liked as they loved the venue. I was also asked by a different location to be a preferred photographer and turned them down as the fee was masive and I didn’t feel comfortable with how the media company promoting the venue were handling it. Either way round it’s a rough deal!!

  3. Alex Essex Wedding Photographer

    I’ve not come across any venues specifically asking for money themselves to be on a ‘preferred supplier list’ yet. Then again, I do operate in East Anglia, so we are a few decades behind the South 😀

    I have however, been offered space in three ‘promotional brochures’ attached to venues. In all cases, £2500 to be listed as an approved supplier. Come on, you recommend people who do a good job, not pay you a fee to do so.

    @Phill – surely that contravenes a ‘right to work’ law?

    • Mr France

      Recently came across a venue who charged such fees for a brochure…
      Then handed out a “supplementary” A4 list of thier Exclusive ( not in the brochure ) suppliers …. How’s that for a kick in the nuts if you’d just paid 2k for an advert.

  4. Linus

    Thats an awful situation to find yourself in @Phill and even worse for the couple. Photography is so personal and we all want clients to appreciate us for what we can bring to their days in capturing it and presenting it back as a collection of cherished memories. That one couple you have dealt with will always remember the photographer that they couldn’t have no matter how good the’preferred’ venue photographer is. A crying shame as you say.

    P.s – I did ammend my copy in the post from the venue being the leading Dorset Wedding venue, to reading ” in the top 5 Dorset wedding venues for Dorset Brides”

    One small snub I suppose !

  5. HayleyRuth - Cambridge Wedding Photographer

    I have seen this before, both in refusing to allow any photographer not on the list, Clients being asked to pay extra for using a supplier not on their preferred list and a church who charged clients extra for having pictures taken in church, I have shot at a venue which is exceptionally dark who recommend you use their suppliers and if not then the photographer has to visit the venue prior to the wedding to see exactly what it’s like and how dark it is. Although it wasn’t clear to me at the meeting what the point of the meeting was other than to get you out there?!

    I too have been approached to be on a preferred supplier list that I would have to pay for and I think this is wrong!! I mean surely venues want to protect their reputation and recommend suppliers who will deliver a good service to their clients and not just line their pockets with cash, but in reality it seems not everyone thinks that way.

    Clients should be able to choose whoever they want to supply their wedding without extra cost of hastle.

    I am lucky enough to be a preferred supplier at several venues who sincerely do only recommend suppliers whose work they trust, and don’t charge me or my clients extra and support me in doing the best job I can and those are the venues I recommend whole heartedly!

    Great discussion Linus!

  6. Randall Murrow

    I was contacted a couple of years ago by a venue who wanted permission to use some photos I took. I knew from others that they charge £2K to be a “recommended” photographer, but I played dumb and offered to give them a broad usage licence in exchange for being on that list. Nope! They think photographers should just freely offer up their marketable work in exchange for a tiny copyright notice (if that). Awful industry! There are exceptions, but they seem to be rare.

  7. Mr France

    Anyone who thinks a photographer can just walk into a venue with a wad of £50 notes and get on the list is naive….. I have been “invited” to many lists without any mention of back handers, these invites were based on integrity and reputation. I think we should make it VERY CLEAR that the majority of venues do not operate in this manner, MOST venues use a support network of established local suppliers. Maybe they are 10% more because they are simply offereing a better product ?

  8. Paula

    Good for you for writing this article! I haven’t been adversely affected personally (yet!) but I know of other photographers who have.
    The whole back hander arrangement is a scam and needs to be brought into the public eye.
    One thing we need to look into is the European competition laws – someone said recently that bribes for business are now illegal in Europe. I keep meaning to look into what the law says but haven’t got around to it…

  9. Jason Lloyd

    Perhaps if more photographers stood their ground on this type of issue, then the venues wouldn’t be able to do it. There is always someone who will give over good money to a venue and as long as someone is willing to pay, it will continue.

    I’d seriously consider taking legal advice if a venue refused to allow us on the premises as not being a ‘preferred’ supplier. This is the sort of thing photographers organisations such as MPA, BIPP and SWPP should be dealing with and supporting us on – that’s a good use of your annual subscriptions.

  10. Danny Cain

    I disagree with the term ‘ receiving backhanders’.
    I am the preferred wedding photographer for the White swan Hotel, Alnwick, Northumberland.
    Although I am their preferred photographer, I do not receive backhanders in cash or similar. If the Bride and Groom book the wedding venue and hire myself as their photographer, they receive a luxury double disc of wedding images. This saves the Bride and Groom £145, and is an exclusive offer. I agree it’s the Bride and Groom’s choice in photographer, but I do not receive any extra moneys.
    I have alos provided product photography, and bridal photography for this hotel, free of charge! It’s a two way street. I receive extra bookings, but save the clients money, whilst providing a professional service.

    • Paula

      I feel for photographers like yourself Danny, I know there are honest business relationships out there and surely none of us can object to your arrangement. However, there are so many arrangements that are presented in exactly the same way as yours to clients when they are less honest.

  11. Graeme Simpson - up the right tree photography

    A friend of mine has booked a wedding that came with “their supplied” photographer.
    I happen to know this photographer and at a recent wedding fayre I saw his work. Now I’m not knocking his ability but I will knock his creativity here.

    On his table there was about 12 albums (pretty battered they were too) and each ceremony was from this venue and each album had the same photos at the same locations with the same poses, the only thing different was the B&G.

    There was no photo anywhere from any other venue and his “non-venue” prices were £200 cheaper than if he was “supplied” by the venue for an identical level of service.

  12. Antonella

    thanks for posting this Linus! It could explain the difference in calibre between the level of the venue and the recommended photographers in some areas…

  13. Linus

    Its been great to see all the valuable advice, personal experiences and empathy shared from making this post – certainly got people talking.

    A number of months ago when talking to another colleague, they expressed a wonderful notion, that if the venue takes a slice of the other suppliers fee’s for working there, what happens if the photographer is asked to refer a venue? Does the photographer get a % of the venue hire fee ?

    Nooo – but a nice thought I suppose 😀

  14. Steve

    Nice post Linus! I see a number of wedding venues trying to pull this trick, but it is the power of the bride and groom to use their own preferred suppliers rather than that of the venues themselves, especially when there is a back hander in place.

  15. Simon Atkins

    I wonder if that’s the same Dorset venue who threatened legal action against me for daring to post a couple of images from a wedding at their venue under the title xxxxxx castle wedding photography.

    I was told to take them down and delete the blog post.

  16. Marie Lloyd

    As far as I understand a lot of this falls under competion laws and if you have evidence then send it to OFT for advice.

  17. Pete

    There are a few venues up here that have preferred supplies, for which they take a 10-15% cut of your fee. We’ve always said no, but we can still photograph there.

    Shocking that a venue could get away with actually dis-allowing non-preferred photographers from shooting there! That is utterly ridiculous and seems completely illegal.

  18. Tom Weller

    I am fortunate enough to be a preferred supplier at a number of wedding venues and I get a decent amount of weddings through them. There has never been any mention of a commission and I would have refused if they had asked. In my experience it is those venues that want to provide a tailored and personal service to clients who want to recommend suppliers that they respect and enjoy working with. For the venue it is part of the service to their clients – to recommend, without obligation, suppliers who they have worked with and can vouch for.

    It has taken a long time to foster these relationships and they need to be tended to regularly as I am sure they get approached all the time. If you don’t have a strong personal relationship with someone important at the venue then you will struggle.

    Let us not forget that “recommended suppliers” who are paying the venue commission are not “recommended suppliers” they are “advertisers”. In my experience there is no loyalty shown to advertisers and they are certainly not “recommended” on the basis of their quality or relationship with the venue.

    A good post.

  19. Andrew Cresswell

    Unfortunately I have also been approached to advertise as a preferred supplier for a huge payment. It has happened on two occasions, by two different companies, but turned out to be the same person. One approach was from a venue that I had never worked at, the second was from a very local venue to me that knew my work. Each approach was initially by phone stating that they were calling from the venue and wanting me to be a proffered supplier. Once at the meetings it became evident that I was talking to a marketing company (a point that was not made clear on the phone) and that they wanted thousands of pounds to be listed. After further research I found out that these companies offer venues free brochures as they get all of the suppliers to cover the costs. I also know that they were randomly choosing suppliers from the Internet as possible candidates. This whole approach is disgusting and as already mentioned by others I feel for the brides and grooms who think that the preferred suppliers are hand picked by the venue who trust and know the work that they are “recommending”. I know that this is not always the case but how are the vendors to know the integrity of the preferred suppliers list?

  20. Den

    .. and if you are a prefered photographer do you get a free meal as well , or is that something else they charge the B&G for too….

  21. Brett McNally

    This was a very interesting post Linus. I have not come across this yet but I am slightly concerned with a comment above saying ***** Castle, Can you send me a message and let me know which venue this is as it looks like it could be one im photographing next week. :-S

  22. David Islip

    Not every preferred supplier list is paid for. We are on several preferred supplier lists but only because we offer an excellent reliable Professional service. We do not pay commission!
    Paying for recommendation is immoral and probably questionably legal!

  23. Nathan Eames

    Now, I have a story of a Dorset venue that went one step further and insisted on a supplier contract that involved a fee to work on the premises. £25 per MUA/Hairdresser £75 Photographer/Video £125 for a live band! with a few others but you get the point, Being a long time service provider I stood my ground and refused but now am on an ‘untrusted supplier list’ which is amount to slander. I really don’t want to work there again as the owner not exactly pleasant when questioned so it’s been left.
    What do you think to that Linus?

  24. Linus Moran

    Nathan – I can believe such things happen when fools are in charge of venues. Let them learn by their big mistakes and move on without worry. The fact is, there will be photographers who pay, and there will be others who will be the new kids on the block, offer the free themed shoot etc etc. Hold you own moral boundaries and walk forward mate!


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