We all know weddings are expensive; it’s really no surprise to anyone just how pricey they can be. With today’s technology anyone in the industry or searching for wedding vendors will get targeted with ads relating to weddings. Since we are a photography and videography team, we get a lot of ads popping up on Facebook for photography, videography, and both as a bundled deal. One that I’ve seen over the last few weeks advertises Photo & Video for $1,800. That’s a steal, right? WRONG. The only steal that’s happening when you hire a company that advertises prices that low is them taking your money and then you not receiving the quality you dreamed of.
When you think of the amount that company pays their contracted employees (**side bar: yes, contracted employees. The company itself DOES NOT actually shoot your wedding)–$100/hour–there’s no way they can actually make a profit. The business side of things makes no sense. Say you have coverage for 8 hours with both photo and video. The company is already at $1,600 just on vendor pay alone. They also outsource their editing, which leaves basically nothing left. With that knowledge, it’s no surprise when they can’t keep staff. Project managers have an insanely high turnover so you may not be in contact with the same person you booked your wedding with. Contracted photographers and videographers also drop out due to other obligations or simply because they don’t have any sort of real relationship with the couple–get this: you won’t know who your team is up until the wedding day…and that’s if they show up. Don’t take my word for it, though. Take theirs. Read the reviews from previous clients.
On the evening of October 1, 2022 I had a message on Instagram from Tolman Media New Mexico. They said they needed help filling in dates for videographers. Get this. The first one was for October 8. One week later. The couple has been booked. The wedding paid for. AND THEY STILL DID NOT HAVE VENDORS LINED UP. The other dates were October 14, 2022, two different events on October 22, 2022, **FIVE** different events on October 29, 2022. I already have a bad taste in my mouth from Tolman Media Texas (more on that in a later paragraph), so I voiced my concerns.
*I took the screenshot at 3:15 the next day, but the original message was sent Saturday at 6:45 p.m.
“…my biggest concern is that you book these brides… and then don’t have vendors for them? Why not? You are fine with taking their money, but rely on other videographers and photographers to work for you. What happens when you can’t find someone? Do the brides get a refund? Do you just take whoever says they can regardless of skill, leaving your clients with less than ideal quality? October typically books out for the entire month at least a year in advance. But then you’re messaging me (and other photographers/videographers in the area) asking us to work for you a week before the wedding?!”
They respond with, “I really do understand your concerns and have heard these types of questions many times in the past. Our goal was to help brides with lower budgets still be able to afford beautiful wedding media. The wedding industry is so expensive, but everyone deserves to feel beautiful and special on their wedding day. Because of that, a lot of our brides are typically lower end and wouldn’t be able to afford a photographer/videographer any other way. …We work with local photographers and videographers that just want to book more weddings, fill in the gaps in their schedule, network with other talented people in the area, and build their portfolios. We usually hire photographers and videographers that are just getting started in the wedding industry and give them an opportunity to get their feet in the door.”
Here are the issues with their response:
1) They’ve heard the same questions “many times in the past”. This isn’t a new thing for them–being left with no one to work the wedding and are left scrambling for vendors in as little as 7 days before the event.
2) Because their brides are on a budget, they call them “on the lower end”. To me, that’s offensive. Like, “we know you’re can’t afford anything else, so we’re gonna grab someone who is portfolio building and you can’t get upset about the quality because you have a low budget and hired us anyway.”
3) As posted in a previous blog post of mine, YOUR WEDDING DAY IS NOT A PRACTICE RUN FOR A PHOTOGRAPHER.
They go on to contradict themselves in the next message, sent immediately after, by saying:
“We do not hire anyone.”
The message continues with, “They are thoroughly vetted by our quality assurance department and undergo extensive training prior to being allowed to take on any weddings. Once they are officially on the team, we provide a lot of training and opportunity. Our goal is for photographers and videographers to ‘graduate’ from our program and start booking $5,000+ weddings on their own. We just give them training and provide experiences for them.”
Issues with this portion of the response:
1) They say they have to train them first. Just how thorough is this training when they have less than a week to book a videographer for a wedding?
2) They use trigger words like, “start booking $5,000+ weddings on their own”. Guys. You can’t even keep a team of photographers or videographers together. Reviews after reviews on Google from brides claim to have rather hired a random person with a camera because you’ll get better quality. How is someone who is new to weddings going to go off and magically start booking $5K weddings?
3) I wasn’t thoroughly vetted. They don’t even follow us on Insta. They just dropped in and immediately asked if we could shoot for them. While it’s true that we are professionals in the industry and our extensive portfolio can back that up, training was never mentioned.
This same paragraph continues:
“As for the weddings coming up this month, we had a few videographers on the team ready to go and were assigned to these projects months ago. One of them was just diagnosed with cancer and can no longer shoot weddings. The second one moved. And the third completely ghosted us. So we were left in the lurch. It was definitely not our intention to leave these weddings uncovered so last minute. We always try to have a team assigned months if not years in advance. It was just the perfect storm of unfortunate events,” and “We do depend on responsible and talented photographers and videographers that we contract with and when they don’t come through or have personal issues come up, we try to do everything in our power to make sure the bride gets taken care of. Therefor, that’s why started reaching out to people via social media.”
1) Bruh. You’re blaming someone with cancer for not being able to cover your own ass.
2) By their own words, they only had 3 videographers available to cover the ENTIRE month of October’s weddings. How on earth were they going to go about the FIVE different events around the state of New Mexico on the same day? And that’s assuming each of those events only has 1 videographer instead of 2.
3) The founders/owners of Tolman Media are based in Utah. Their names are Brennan and Jelica Tolman. THEY OWN THE COMPANY BUT DON’T DO THE WORK. Just as stated previously and confirmed by their own social media guru for the New Mexico branch, they will not be the one to come to your wedding. They never were.
I go on to ask them, “What about the issue of brides not even knowing who is going to show up on their wedding day? Or brides who have a team show up and they don’t get everything they paid for (ie: only one photographer when they paid for two), or your vetted associates showing up late… or not showing up at all?”
They refused to answer this question, only to respond with: “Our company is definitely not for everyone. You seem like a very talented and experienced photographer/videographer. You are charging a lot more on your own, which is great! I’m excited and happy for you! That’s ultimately the point we want our team members to get to. Our immediate need is to just get these weddings taken care of, which is why we are reaching out to people like you. But I understand if you’re not available or interested.”
Look guys. I don’t stand for businesses scamming people. I don’t put up with that shit and I’m quick to call it out too. If you’re on a budget and can’t afford a $3K+ photographer, that’s fine. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. But as a business who preys on brides like that only to leave them high and dry, I’m gonna push back.
“The few you’ve hired who are no longer able to help… were they the same three for the entire month of October? I see some of those dates there are multiple events on the same day. Did everyone you hire quite at the same time? Or did you not actually have anyone lined up? It doesn’t make sense.”
They respond, “We have a team of about 15 people in New Mexico. As you mentioned, October is a very busy month. The majority of people on our team are either already booked with us or on a personal wedding. Most of our brides book both photo and video packages. So each wedding took at least 2 team members. As I mentioned earlier, the three that were set to do these weddings we are inquiring about had personal issues, moved, or ghosted us.”
Y’all know I have issues about this, so here they are:
1) Confirmed: they were using three people to shoot every single one of these events… which isn’t even possible.
2) Even their trained, contracted members are peacing out. Regardless of being assigned to the wedding. My question about clients being refunded was never answered, but based on their Google reviews… I’m guessing they won’t see a cent.
As mentioned in our conversation above, I have a friend and past client who booked with Tolman Media Texas for her wedding photography and videography on May 21, 2021. The issues were many, but I’ll list them below. It was so bad that they ended up booking an entirely different session with me in their wedding attire at their venue so they could have images they were proud of. Paulette, my past client/friend, even wanted her entire bridal party to come so we could get those images. Sadly, that wasn’t able to happen, but we got some awesome portraits of them. This is how our conversation started,
Paulette: “I was wondering if I could get your professional opinion on the pics I got back from my wedding? I’m like iffy about them and I’m wondering if I’m just being picky. I feel like they placed a bunch of random pics, weren’t edited right, or not even tried to crop out the bad/straighten them out.” She proceeds to send me her full gallery that was provided. I say,
“Just based on the decor shots in the reception hall to the prep photos of you putting on your dress, I can tell you they’re definitely inconsistent. Almost none of them are straightened (which is annoying to me in general), so I would definitely ask if they could at least do that. There’s some big inconsistencies in the dress prep where it’s super warm edited and then a few other ones are just straight up blue (and this is from a calibrated monitor specifically for editing).”
Here’s a summary of the issues this poor girl had to deal with during and after her wedding:
1) Editing inconsistency. Some were warm, some were cool, they were very contrasty. Some didn’t even look like they were edited in the first place. Here’s another red flag: the company offers a “complimentary re-edit” (which only pertains to up to 20 images). What does that mean for you as a client? That you have no idea what style your wedding will be delivered in, and if you don’t like what they deliver, you have to wait even longer for them to fix something that shouldn’t have been an issue in the first place. She asked me what I would say because she was, understandably, at a loss for words. I told her to say this,
“I would mention that the edits you received back didn’t match the style of work advertised on their website, for one. That would be my biggest issue. I would even send over the screen shot I sent to you of the prep photos where the top one is warm and the bottom one, taken within close proximity and in the same room, is blue. Basically the entire top portion of the couple’s portraits is awful (the ones of you guys with the sky in the background). Bad posing, images not properly focused or composed, and atrocious editing. The stuff with flash, again, is fine. But if you booked them based on what they showcase on social media and their website, it looks like you were wanting more of the natural light and true to life editing style. The second part would be how lax they were with culling and editing. There are tons of duplicate photos (like of reception decor) and the fact that almost none of them are level (and you absolutely should NOT have to pay extra for them to straighten an image…).”
They tried to charge her a $75 re-editing fee and she fought them on it, but still received unsatisfying images… and it wasn’t even for the entire gallery. Just a small handful.
Paulette & Tristan’s full gallery that they received from Tolman Media Texas can be viewed here: https://tolmanmediadmv.pixieset.com/paulettetristan/reeditlightairy/
YOU GUYS!! They are rebranding as a different company!! I had mentioned it at the bottom of the comments, but then realized in Paulette’s gallery, the logo in the top left corner says TIMELESS and the tab name when you open the gallery is “Paulette + Tristan by Timeless”!!!!!!!
**Edited to address that allegedly Timeless is not associated with Tolman Media. They previously worked for them, but have separated and are going through a lawsuit, so there are no real further details on that. An anonymous comment written on this post is the one who alerted me to the re-brand, and when I saw Paulette’s gallery, it shared the name Timeless as well. Timeless Photo + Video are also based in Utah, but service the DC/Maryland/Virginia area with different staff. I actually had a 20ish minute phone call with the owners of Timeless, Veronica & Brad, where they assured me that they want nothing to do with Tolman. I’m no lawyer, but I advised them to take down galleries that were shot via Tolman Media photographer/videographer teams, especially since it’s under their name; it’s hard to say you’re a separate company when you’re still sporting the same galleries under a different name. Though it isn’t something they were wanting to do quite yet, they said they did start a new Pixieset site to deliver client galleries. I also questioned why they didn’t just start a new WeddingWire account to distance themselves further since a good amount of the, albeit, 5 star reviews mention Tolman Media by name. They also assured me that they run their business better than Tolman and the 5 star reviews can attest to that. Granted, they still run the business the same way where they are not the ones to shoot the weddings nor are they based in the areas they service, but contract photographers and videographers using the same bidding system as Tolman.
I’m a bit confused over it, so I can’t confirm or deny that they’re the same company, so take it with a grain of salt. They said something about an NDA, but I suppose we’ll see what happens when the lawsuit is done. I’ll also add that I have not found anything online about any sort of Tolman Media lawsuits, even when searching the founder (Brennan Tolman) by name.
Also adding in that I was assured that they were not the same company and that they only run the east coast side. There’s a Timeless Texas. You can find them on WeddingWire. The reviews also mention Tolman Media there. When you click on their website, it takes you to a Timeless Texas specific website. WITH THE SAME FREAKING LOGO. The same thing happens with Encompass Weddings. Although I had searched “Tolman Media Texas WeddingWire”, the 8th result down shows Encompass Weddings, while reviews mention Tolman Media. You click on that website and boom. Takes you to the same freaking Encompass website. Y’all. The scams run so deep no one even knows what’s going on.
Note the intro where it says WE RECENTLY REBRANDED. And of course, more reviews for Tolman. Same with everything I’ve found with Encompass. And how their Timeless account with The Knot literally says Tolman Media in the header that they wrote.
2) Tolman Media Texas did not honor their contract that THEY set. She says, “On top of that, no sneak peeks (even though I practically begged) and they waited till the very. Last. Second. To send me these. Like THEIR deadline (contract AND verbal) was by yesterday night. I didn’t get these till this morning and only because I followed up and asked for the fifth time.”
3) You aren’t sure who will be shooting or editing your wedding.. or if they’ll even show up. “I think this is a company where they have different editors do the editing, not the photographer. Which I didn’t know until after the wedding… which is why I was super nervous about the pics. Looks like I was right to be.” In her final gallery, the second shooter (which she didn’t even know would be there) had an entire sub section to their images… which had like 25 images… from an entire TEN HOUR wedding day. When I asked if she knew who she was getting before the wedding her response was, “And no not exactly. They just had them contact me and talk to me about what I wanted and what style but I figured they would be editing them since they asked so many questions.” When she had asked to see the photographer’s portfolio, she was told that they would send it. Surprise, surprise, they never did.
4) Bad Photos in General. “Oh and did you see how of the SEVEN exit pics, none are good?” Her entire gallery was full of bad angles, distracting elements that weren’t cropped or edited out, completely out of focus images, and images that were so dark, you couldn’t see what was happening.
5) It’s extremely difficult to find information on their business and packages. Their main website doesn’t have any information listed when it comes to packages (as of 10/4/22 at least). Half the links on their site are broken and don’t take you to any actual place, just an error landing page. This was my take on it when she and I were chatting. “It looks like they’re not really based anywhere. It’s almost impossible to find information for them regarding location, prices, and how exactly they work. I did watch their little promo video but had two huge red flags come up: 1) the fact that the comments are turned off on the video itself and 2) the biggest one being that they brag about hiring the best and that “local” photographers charge thousands of dollars when they can just… hire those same photographers for a fraction of the cost? That doesn’t even line up. I don’t know a single wedding photographer who would be willing to shoot for them for a fraction of what they would book on their own. It’s the same amount of work? Seems really disrespectful to other photographers.”
6) Unprofessional and Inexperienced “Members”. “80% of the damn pictures are so FREAKING RANDOM. Like wth were they doing the whole time,” she asked. When someone isn’t a wedding photographer, they don’t understand the flow of the day; what is important to capture; how to capture it. “What made me even more upset and stressed was that I had to be the one to gather everyone and tell them how to pose and when to be where. Like I would expect him to be like “ok gather your bridesmaids, we are doing bridesmaids photos.” I had to tell him about it and one of my girls gathered everyone and then grabbed him.” A bride should not have to tell a photographer what is going on during the wedding day. I did admit that the ceremony photos weren’t all bad, but the angles were really weird. “I do think the ceremony photos are nice, overall. Again, mostly all horizontal. And it looks like the photographer was crouching down for most of the day. Not typically a flattering angle. The company brags that they hire photographers who have their own business and are the best in their craft… any idea your photographer’s first and last name or their “actual” business? I have the feeling that part of their business is a scam.” She knew the first name of her photographer, Robert, but never got to see his portfolio or editing style, even though they promised it would be sent.
7) COMMUNICATION. Or the lack thereof. Add in a sprinkle of gaslighting.
8) Reviews. While it’s nothing to be too worried about if a company has one or two one star reviews (no one is perfect, we’re all human and can make mistakes)… But when there are handfuls and handfuls of bad reviews mentioning the same issues from different brides over the years? Big yikes. You can find honest reviews and experiences with them on Reddit, WeddingWire, The Knot, Google, etc. But not Facebook… because they disabled their reviews.
Reddit Threads: https://www.reddit.com/r/wedding/comments/feqv4r/has_anyone_booked_with_tolman_media_for/ , there’s more, so all you have to do is search “Tolman Media” there… lots of stories.
For places like WeddingWire, you can sort by rating. I recommend reading the worst ones first, but screen shot below are a few “favorites”.
There are sooooooo many more than the ones I shared here. Take a gander for yourself. Attached are their review sites:
The Knot – https://www.theknot.com/marketplace/tolman-media-provo-ut-2032418
Google – Just search “Tolman Media” and on the right side it will show their ratings and where to read more of the reviews.
Better Business Bureau – https://www.bbb.org/us/ut/provo/profile/wedding-photographers/tolman-media-1166-90029117
Wedding Wire: https://www.weddingwire.com/biz/tolman-media/d410c9ef5dcff9f1.html
Glassdoor (from people who actually worked for them): https://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/Tolman-Media-Reviews-E4419598.htm
Insider (not a review site, but a viral story of how a Tolman Media videographer LEFT THE WEDDING when they found out it was a same-sex wedding): https://www.insider.com/same-sex-couple-videographer-walked-out-wedding-2021-4
Facebook – honestly, just search “Tolman Media” and watch all the nonsense pop up.
Looooooonnnggggg story short: be on the lookout for scammers. This company has a lot of the same attributes… so I mean, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…
Weddings can be stressful enough and you don’t need to add to it. If you’re trying to narrow down a photographer in your area, use WeddingWire or The Knot. Tolman is a middle man so it isn’t “their” work they’re advertising. Or even if there’s a photographer you’re smitten with but can’t afford, ask them who they recommend. More often than not, we are able to help you find someone awesome and trustworthy. Obviously I can’t tell anyone what to do. Thoroughly vet your vendors. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
And I suppose I should add, if anyone from Tolman is reading this… do better.
BIG UPDATE: It has come to my attention that they are starting to re-brand to avoid their own reputation. In some states on the east coast, they have rebranded to Timeless Photo & Video (their WeddingWire account has a review that mentions Tolman Media), and in the northern part of the country (Wyoming area) they are rebranding to Encompass Weddings. This is a typical scammer move. When reviews get too bad, leave everything behind and start over… with the same shitty business practices.