Dear Devlin – I think my wedding client is disappointed 😬
I recently delivered a wedding gallery that I am really proud of, and probably ranks in my top 3 of the year, in terms of overall quality. I’d really felt a good connection with the couple at all stages, and so felt confident that they’d be pleased with it.
Instead, they came back with an email full of queries. They were at pains to be nice about it, but it was a tricky balance. One of the biggest issues is that the vicar had told me moments before the ceremony to stay at the back, and they had been unaware of this. I’ve now made sure I tell couples more or less immediately when this occurs, but it was a surprise for them, and I think it made them question a lot of my decisions from there.
Despite ample opportunities to tell me what matters to them on the wedding day, the bride was upset at what she felt was the lack of a “clear” picture of her walking down the aisle with her mum (her dad is sadly no longer with us). I was allowed at the top of the aisle until she was nearly at the front, but I tend to shoot this on a 35mm to get the reactions from the guests. The church lighting was very overhead, dim and unflattering, plus they were powerfully backlit by open church doors behind, so their skin tones are a bit muddy. I’d say the church lighting was also yellower than most I’ve worked in, in the past.
In response to this, I obviously went in and cropped, and tried to re-edit the existing shots and outtakes, but I get the feeling that they seem to see this as an error by me, despite me explaining about the vicar and unfavourable lighting. I kept my emails upbeat, positive, and proactive, so I feel that the tone of what I was saying was good, and made for a constructive dialogue, but I can’t help but feel that they’re blaming/disappointed in me for something that was mostly out of my hands, and it’s ruining their enjoyment of what is a very good gallery.
Is there anything I can do differently in future? Could I have shot it differently? I tried to expose for her and her mum’s skin tones, and is it possible to really convey something technical, like how bad light can affect a shot?
Disenchanted from Dalston
Dear Disenchanted From Dalston,
This sounds like a very frustrating situation for you, when a wedding client is disappointed and I’m sorry if it’s knocking your confidence. It sounds as if you’ve been very careful in your approach to handling this and sensitive to your client’s concerns. Well done because many would become very defensive in a situation like this.
Many venues and Churches can be hugely challenging. If you’ve been with them for preparations and arrived at the ceremony at the same time as your couple, then there’s often so little time to asses a venue and make decisions about the best approach. It is very common for there to be a complex mixture of light sources from daylight to fluorescent or tungsten to candlelight. Hugely different places on the colour temperature wheel might all fight with each other and give some bad skin tones.
One thing that could counterbalance this is using flash but NOBODY wants to have flashes going off at them as they walk up the aisle and you’d probably be banned from the church.
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘If it’s S**te, Black And White’? It’s how many modern photographers cope with bad lighting situations in wedding venues and sometimes the colour balance battle is simply one that you cannot win. I find myself doing this a lot with churches.
My Wedding Client Is Disappointed
I understand how disheartening it can be when a couple expresses disappointment despite your efforts to deliver a wedding gallery you’re proud of. It sounds like you handled the situation professionally and explained the challenges you faced during the ceremony. However, there are a few things you can consider doing differently in the future to prevent similar situations and improve communication with your clients.
- Pre-Wedding Consultations: Prior to the wedding day, schedule a detailed consultation with the couple to discuss their expectations and preferences. Talk about the specific parts that matter most to them, such as walking down the aisle with her mum in this case, and discuss potential challenges you might face during the ceremony.
- Set Expectations: During your consultation, take the opportunity to set clear expectations regarding the limitations you might encounter due to the lighting conditions or restrictions imposed by the venue, like staying at the back during the ceremony. This way, the couple will be better prepared for any unusual shooting situations.
- Provide Sample Galleries: To avoid misunderstandings about your shooting style and the technical limitations you might face, share sample galleries that showcase different lighting conditions. This will give your clients a better idea of the variety and quality of shots they can expect in various settings.
- Highlight Realistic Possibilities: While you want to meet your client’s expectations, it’s essential to provide a realistic perspective on what can be achieved under certain lighting or shooting conditions. Let them know that you’ll do your best to capture all the important moments, but some factors may still affect the final outcome.
- Educate Clients on Lighting: During the consultation or in follow-up communications, consider providing a brief explanation of how different lighting situations can affect the final images. Simple terms like “overhead lighting” and “backlighting” can be explained in a way that clients can understand how they impact the photo’s quality.
- Continue with Open Communication: It seems you maintained a constructive dialogue with the couple, which is commendable. Keep the communication channels open and continue to address their concerns respectfully. Reassure them that you’ve done your best to enhance the images, given the circumstances.
- Offer Solutions: If the couple still expresses concerns, try offering creative solutions. For example, you could propose artistic edits, black-and-white conversions, or alternative crops, although in your case, it sounds like you’ve already done this.
Consider in the future reminding couples that they are also the clients at their venue, yes even at churches and registry offices. They pay a fee for their wedding and have the power to make requests to ensure they have the ceremony that they want. If photography or videography is important to them then they can make this clear and ask that this is accommodated.
Remember, being a wedding photographer is not just about capturing images; it’s also about managing expectations and maintaining excellent communication with your clients. By being proactive, setting clear expectations, and educating your clients about technical challenges, you can avoid misunderstandings and create a more satisfying experience for both you and your clients.
It’s also sadly sometimes about being the person that they will pass on any sadness or stress surrounding their wedding. These things can be like a lump of hot lava that someone just wants to get rid of so they pass it to you. The expectation of the day being ‘perfect’ is so unrealistic and tapped into their emotions about all of their relationships. When things don’t feel as wonderful as they hoped, they look for targets and all you can do to counterbalance it is be polite and professional.
Head here for more Tips On Handling Criticism