Managing Client Expectations: For Wedding Photographers

There is so much more to being a wedding photographer than pressing the shutter button Shooting the actual wedding is only the beginning of a process that can take us weeks to complete. We strive to balance balance family and work, and often, find ourselves actually accomplishing our goals, both in business and in our personal lives. Our hard work has paid off and we begin to enjoy a thriving business and loving what we do until…..wait for it……THE COMPLAINT.

OMG, a bride actually wasn’t happy with her wedding photos? You ask yourself how this could possibly happen. As the sweat runs down your forehead, you make a mad dash to the your computer and pull up her gallery. The pictures are fine so why is she so unhappy? Often times, it’s a failure on the photographers end to manage their client’s expectations. Common misunderstandings are:

The approximate number of images the bride will receive: Some photographers give an exact number but most have a range. As an example, if you have an 8 hour wedding with one photographer, the groom arriving already dressed, and the reception area was a DIY project with minimal table settings, a good range for me would be 600-1000 images. Much would depend on how many group shots were taken, the length of the ceremony, and how lively the dance floor was! The more details and storytelling moments, the more images. It’s wise to give your clients a range of images to expect but also explaining the variables and how every wedding is unique. I’m sure we’ve all had the bride who asked for ALL of the photos taken at her wedding. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM which leads me to:

Explaining the process and what to expect after the wedding: You might think that the b&g don’t want to hear about the technical aspect of the business, but honestly, many of them do. I’m not talking about every editing step but a general outline of what your process is like regarding their photos. An email titled “What to Expect” is a great way to educate your clients a little about the process without using words they won’t understand like cull. Just a short paragraph letting them know their images are in the process of being downloaded, backed up, and sorted through for editing. It helps them understand or at least I think so.

Table Shots: I’ve recently added a section to my wedding questionnaire regarding table shots because I usually take a photojournalistic approach. That does entail trying to eliminate the messiest area of the tables, etc but I find the brides differ in their desire for table shots. Some just want the photojournalistic shots while others want you to take them with the b&g in the photos. Some want posed shots, but let’s get real, table shots are rarely our signature work. Although we try to make them as awesome as possible, we have food and glasses in our way. Don’t you wish you could just pull the table cloth from underneath all that mess to clear the tables? To prevent disappointing the bride, it’s best to address this before the wedding. Many brides have family and friends fly in from out of town to attend their wedding and these shots are just as important as the group shots! What’s so odd is the most brides don’t think to mention it prior to their wedding so it’s up to us, as professionals, to really get to know our brides and what’s important to them on their wedding day.

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My pictures don’t look like the ones on your website: If you’re just starting out and have a lot of models on your website, you’ve got to start somewhere, no doubt. I do suggest, however, that you replace them ASAP with real weddings and leave the sytled weddings for your blog and/or publications! I also believe that showing a bride a few of your recent galleries will give her an idea of what to expect, MANAGING HER EXPECTIONS. We only put our best work on our websites and that’s just plain old good marketing, however, millennial brides usually do their research. As a professional, you want to encourage her to do so to ensure that you’re a good fit. Talking to her in depth, showing her a few of your recent galleries and blog, will help to manage her own expectations. Also, keep your editing style consistent so the bride isn’t suprised when she receives her images.

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Why don’t my ceremony pictures look amazing? The bride’s one hour ceremony was held in a catholic church where flash was not allowed, it was darker than your closet with the door closed, and there were these harsh, yellow, lights beaming from the ceiling directly above your b&g As professionals, we are expected to know our gear in and out, push it to the limit when necessary, and know how to shoot in ANY lighting situation but that doesn’t always mean it’s a good lighting situation. So many photographers ask me how I shoot in badly lit churches where flash is not allowed and the answer is and will always be, you do what you can do. You bump your ISO up, shoot as wide open as possible, and simply do your best. However, managing your clients expectations before her wedding is a must. When I know that the ceremony is in a church, I speak with a coordinator and get all the rules. I hop on their website and see if there are any photos of the inside, and then I discuss what’s needed with the bride.

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Reach out to your client immediately: Ok, fine. At first, you’ll probably just stare at the email for a while, go over her pictures, and then stare at the email a little longer. Give it a little time to digest, but respond to her concerns in a polite and professional manner. Also, take the time to honestly answer this one question: “Are any of her complaints valid other than not managing her expectations?”

The millennial brides are doing their research and chances are, they’ve already been to your website, blog, Facebook, and Pinterest before inquiring about your collections. Once booked, I always want to know why a client chose me. Was in merely because of my work or a combination of things like price, personality,work, etc. After reviewing the bride’s wedding information sheet, it’s up to us a professionals to review it and do a little research of our own regarding church rules, time of day, who the participating vendors are and how many family members will be present. This not only helps in developing a tentative tine line, it helps you talk to the bride about what she might expect. That’s a wonderful way t challenge yourself to exceed those expectations and delight your clients in doing so! It’s all about keeping it real and being upfront and descriptive when speaking with your clients.


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