February 2, 2021
A few weeks ago we were chatting with a photographer friend about a heartbreaking horror story she had heard about. It inspired us to start chatting about wedding photography specific horror stories on our Instagrams. And the messages we got following the discussion were HEARTBREAKING AND DISGUSTING.
SOOOO many people sent messages about their experience with their wedding photographer that left a bad taste in their mouth and regret every time they looked at the photos from their wedding day.
It made us realize that we do NOT talk enough about client experience and treating people well in the service-based industry, especially the photography industry. About a month ago we did episode 104 which was chatting business horror stories in general. And today’s episode is more of the same – but this time specifically just within the wedding industry.
Every single message we’re going to read on today’s show is completely anonymous. We’re not sharing the name of the person who told it, and we’re definitely NOT sharing names or any specific details of the person who photographed their wedding. This episode isn’t meant to call anyone out whatsoever, but instead, to showcase a REAL issue that’s happening in the photography industry, and how ALL of us moving forward can do better and serve our clients SO DANG WELL. This is the SERVICE industry after all.
A recurring theme to talk about, how to deal with requests? When you get client requests, in this instance asking for one single black and white photo. Many people messaged back and said that if they ever send a black and white photo they always send a color option as well. That is a great option to do. We don’t do that, but if any of our clients ask for a black and white photo to be in color, you do it! That is such an easy request and is something you can do. It does not take hardly any effort at all. When they are asking for simple requests like that, obviously do them.
Your job as a photographer, as a service-based business, is to freaking SERVE your customers or clients. This isn’t about you. You are not the star of the show here, your client is and if your client has one simple request, not anything crazy, do it!
First of all, why are you not communicating with your clients? Here’s the bottom line, not only are we in a service-based industry, where your job is to serve your clients. They are the hero of this story, the stars, not YOU. The other thing is if you do a crappy job with your clients if you don’t communicate pricing and then you upscale or upcharge them throughout the experience then you might earn more money but by ripping your clients off. The likelihood is those clients are never going to refer you to anybody else if they feel they have been jipped. You are shooting yourself in the foot with poor quality customer care/experience and that will come back to bite you big time.
The fact that this photographer is charging $3,500 and the gallery is half edited, includes photos of very poorly edited photos AND photos where the photographer’s wife is in the photo. To us, that sounds like incredibly bad work way overcharged. It sounds like they are in it just for the money.
If you are doing in-person sales you have to tell your clients if you are doing a session and then charging them for the photos after. You can’t do a free engagement session and then after charging them to get their photos. If you do that again, just be upfront about it.
Do not show up late first of all. If you are in business that is your responsibility to be timely. Some circumstances are beyond your control but just communicate to your clients.
The kicker is that she brought a hat! This sounds like a photographer who is prioritizing Instagram fame and portfolios over-serving their clients. That is what styled shoots are for. If you want a hat on a bride, host your own styled shoot or a free session.
That is not the time on somebody’s actual wedding day to curate their wedding for your portfolio. That is selfish. This is not about you. This is not about your portfolio, it is about telling their story and serving them. Making them feel like the most important people on their big day. That’s what it is about.
Most of these scenarios could be boiled down to people prioritizing themselves, their own needs, and cares over their clients. All of them have the business owner not caring about their clients in the way that they should. That goes beyond the photography industry. If you are in business you are there to serve. That is your job. You should not be in business for money, to glorify your own self, or to make yourself look good. Yes money is great, yes you want to be perceived well but you are here to serve your clients. If you are in the service-based industry, you are here to serve and that is it. Your Instagram fame or portfolio is meaningless if you are treating people poorly.
You have to communicate with your clients! The fact that the photographer showed up an hour and a half late and never apologized. As we said there may be circumstances out of your control but you HAVE to communicate. She should have called that bride and said, “It is stop and go traffic, there is nothing I can do, why don’t we push this or my assistant will get there…”. You need to communicate, that bride sounds like she was sitting there unsure of what was happening. That is unacceptable. You could also offer to do something to compensate for that time. You partial refund, stay late, or do a separate session.
It is one of the biggest days of their life, it is not about you. They are going to have these photos forever in their albums and you are going to put a hat on them to make YOUR Instagram look pretty?? The photos that you will only post once or twice?? NOOOOO!!!
We never deliver any of the formal family photos in black and white. For this reason. If they want a black and white then we will absolutely do it for them, but no one ever requests to have a family photo in black and white. Yes, we use our artistic ability to choose black and whites throughout the entire day that we think would look good, but we never do it for the family for this exact reason. Nobody wants to frame a black and white photo of their family.
If you did do that, that’s fine but if it is the singular family photo and you refuse to give them color? What?? “It doesn’t look as good”, who cares if it doesn’t look as good that is what your client wants! They won’t care, they want the color photo so give them the color photo.
You have to make your clients happy and serve them! You have to do a great job to have customer satisfaction. If you don’t and they are unhappy, your business is not going to last. It will not grow and it will come back to bite you. That is the number one thing that we have continued to learn through the years, is that consistently you have to prioritize your customers’ satisfaction. You have to. That is number one. With any of these horror stories the client is going to immediately say “don’t work with them”.
People talk. People are going to recommend or not recommend. The minute somebody in your client’s life is getting married or engaged and they are obsessed with you as their wedding photographer. They will be like, “You have to work with them, they made my day 100 times better”. That’s what you need and want, and should be your goal. To serve your people well so that it is your priority and then the fruit of that is you get more business, you do well and impact people. It’s not just about the moment you are in or that one client, it is about your reputation in the industry and you have to guard that jealousy.
Many situations like this stem from the other perspective, you see this a lot in photography Facebook groups, of don’t let rude clients walk all over you or don’t ever give raws. Yes, stand on firm ground and don’t let bad clients walk all over you, but not changing a black and white photo to color is too far. There is a time and place to stand your ground with clients. This is not one of them.
If you are upfront at the beginning with how you work, how the experience is going to go, and what to expect. This is where and when that conversation needs to happen. You have to do all of that work on the front end so then mess-ups like this don’t happen.
Bottom line the client is always right.
This goes back to what we said before of prioritizing Instagram fame and your vibey photos over your client. We get it, family photos suck to take. Yes, our favorite part of the wedding day is getting those cool vibey photos at sunset with the bride and groom. Let’s not beat around the bush that is everybody’s favorite part and it sucks to take family photos but that is part of your job. You have to.
There are certain situations where their timeline can run super late and it was either sunset photos of the family or sunset photos of the bride and groom. You communicate with them and ask them what they would like to do right then. That’s a situation where you communicate with your clients and they choose what they want on their day. There are ways that you can communicate with your client but the bottom line is what do they want on their day?
No words necessary. That is what happens when you do the request. You get more money. We guarantee that not only has this person done three or more shoots with them, they will continue to do shoots and they will continue to highly recommend this person to everyone they know. That is good business, do your clients every possible service that they deserve. The bottom line is you have to care about your clients and make sure that it is not about you, but them.
This is more of an attitude thing. It doesn’t look like she asked for anything specific, but was more upset and confused because it is not matching their portfolio. If you are the photographer, that does hurt when you have an unhappy client, it doesn’t feel good. We push away those thoughts and make excuses for why they are thinking that, but at the end of the day if they are disappointed fix it. Offer a different shoot or refund a percentage. Making it right is so much more than standing on your high horse and saying they are wrong and this is just how you roll and work. Still again, the client is always right and treats the clients so well that they will come back and hire you again.
When we send galleries to clients that are interested in booking, we send galleries that are going to be very close to what they are looking for. We try to match the galleries sent to the style that they are looking for in their wedding or session. Make sure your galleries and portfolios match up to what you actually shoot. Don’t go rogue on a wedding day and try a completely different style.
Same situation, treat your clients well. You are not the ones hanging them on your wall. Yes, we can make that decision to make black and white photos, but just like she said they are not the ones hanging them on their wall. It takes two seconds to make a black and white photo to color.
This is where a styled shoot comes in. You do not curate your clients day unless they have asked you to do so.
It is your job to give poses. What wedding photography goes to a wedding and expects their clients to just pose? Unless you are shooting professional models, but even so communicate that beforehand.
On the wedding day even if you did communicate that documentary is more your style, and your clients ask for you to pose them. You should either explain to them how the documentary-style typically works or give them poses.
You are the server in that situation and you serve the heck out of them. You make sure you facilitate their day and dreams in every possible way you possibly can. You don’t sit there and say no.
It is your job.
We wanted to do this because it doesn’t get talked about enough. There is an arrogant attitude in probably a lot of industries but we are in the photography industry so that’s why we see it so prevalent in the industry that we are in. But there is an arrogant attitude that is coming from the place of “I am the boss, the business owner and it is my job to run the ship tight”. Yes but no.
You have to know that again the clients are ALWAYS right and you are in the service-industry. It is your job to show up and serve your clients until they are happy. Bottom line. Yes, have contracts, explain things beforehand, have FAQ’s, and make how you do your experience known. If you don’t do something let them know that before they book you. We’re not saying to be a limp noodle and do everything your clients ever ask.
All of these problems could have been solved if you communicated how you work beforehand so there are no mess-ups at the end or any expectations not met.
Prioritize your clients above yourself, your Instagram fame, money, and your artistic desires of black and white.
I think when you shift that mindset from about you and turn it into, how can I serve this person? How can I impact their life? How can I solve their problems and make this easier? How can I make their day better? It makes it not only a better business move but will be more enjoyable for you and your clients. Such a foundational mindset shift when we are in it to serve our clients, it is not just for our clients but it is also for you.
This is not about getting featured or fame, it is about your clients and their day. Go out and serve the heck out of your clients. We promise it will change your life, your clients and your business.
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WASSUP FRIENDS. We’re Evie + Lindsey, co-founders of this wild partayyy called The Heart University. Our goal is to empower entrepreneurs to kick freaking BUTT in their businesses, dive down into the heart of their why and how, and serve you with all possible tools you’ll need to up-level your business game and CRUSH those goals of yours.
Whether you’re coming to an in-person workshop, joining our online course, or soaking up all the strategies via this blog or our podcast, we’re STOKED you’re here + can’t wait to see you out there kicking butt.
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