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Weddings are such delicate piece of work. They can’t be done flippantly or without preparation. And with such easy access to high performance pieces of equipment, it is so easy for just any Joe Schmo to buy a DSLR and some business cards. This practice means that us professionals need to be completely on the ball in business and sell ourselves and our services appropriately. Yes, Joe will give you a whole day of shooting and the disk for £300. But he will also give you a lot more than you bargained for if you were actually expecting professional grade results.
I had a message from a friend/client recently who shared her disappointment with her wedding photos. She said, “I ended up with only 3 or 4 good shots from the whole day!! Still have photos in my album with red eye, ones completely in shadow and even though I asked for non traditional photos still have pages of eveyone looking centre and bored, the whole thing just totally unispiring!!!!! It is my own fault really for not knowing what to look for.” When I asked if she’d even seen his work prior to hiring him, she replied, “I saw a few things that he had done, he had a phtography room in his house (wait, he didn’t go to her? Jerk.) with framed pictures on the wall, obviously some of his better shots!! He was just in the process of setting up a new website so had limited access to previous wedding photos (yeeeeah ok. Buh bye!)” I really feel for this girl. Most of our clients aren’t going to be photography minded. They know they need a photographer at their wedding (the first step in the right direction) but after that, they don’t really know what to look for. I imagine wedding magazines give them tips for this important decision.
There are a couple key points from what she said that we can learn from:
1. “…even though I asked him for non traditional photos”
This is where we can see that our clients need our help. It is our responsibility to show them, tell them and then show them again our style. You can’t ask a point-and-shoot photographer to take ‘non traditional’ photos. And as she told me, she should have known better what to look for. But you won’t have a happy client if what they want is non traditional and your style is traditional. You know, you can turn down jobs. I’ve said before that “I don’t think I’m the right photographer for you”. In your pre-booking first meeting, show them your style and make sure it’s clear. My contract says that if a photo is in B&W, that is my judgment call and that it is commonplace for wedding photos to be primarily in B&W to preserve the emotions and the timeless, classic beauty of this act of love. I used to say that I refused to edit in selective colour. I still hate it but many couples want it. So I provide it but I don’t post them online or show them to potential clients.
2. “…obviously some of his better shots!”
Hold it RIGHT THERE! Did you just speed over that phrase? She’s saying exactly what WE should be saying. That those 5-10 perfect moments we post on our blog the day after a wedding and the photos we share in our first meeting with a bride are our best work. I learned very quickly that my brides were expecting that level of perfection for every single photograph. Some were expecting me to do total magic and turn their fluorescent-lit, 1970’s carpeted town hall wedding into some sort of visual masterpiece. I don’t accept work if the venue is a shambles, by the way. Another perfectly good reason to turn down a wedding. Share with them the things about the album they’re looking at that made those photos some of your best. Tell them that the couple required no coaxing, pleading and begging to just ‘act natural’. Tell them that the location was carefully planned to take the photography into consideration. Tell them that the couple took your advice and didn’t place the head table smack in front of a gigantic window (also in my contract). Explain that you will also provide them with ‘regular’ pictures to record their day, their guests, their carefully planned details. But that perfect shot of the rings that took 10 minutes to style (it’s not easy hanging a diamond off a dew drop!) and then another 5 minutes to photograph will not be the norm for every one of their resulting 500 images.
As photographers, we absolutely must communicate every last detail of our services to our client and have a very detailed, specific contract to fall back on if they don’t make room for you in the wedding car and then complain that there are no photos of them in the wedding car. It is their right to know everything your brand is about and your responsibility to communicate that to them. Trust me. After all, I’m that learned-everything-the-hard-way photographer.