It’s in my nature and I imagine a lot of photographers to go to extreme lengths to please the client. The question is when is enough enough? When do you put your foot down and refuse to do further work for want of feeling taken advantage of? It’s a fine line. Very fine. Since the passing of my friend and cohort Reid Mason, I had taken it upon myself to complete the weddings that he and I shot before his passing as well as several others that were in some state of completion. Well let’s just say that no good deed goes unpunished. The first one I had to deal with was actually the last one Reid shot. This bride was literally stomping her feet, screaming at me via email. “I JUST WANT MY PICTURES!!!!” was all her last email said. So I gave up trying to explain to her that none of the images had any post production and sent her the images. I knew that there were issues with some of the images. Exposure. White balance. Things of that nature. I sent her jpegs sized for 5×7 prints only. Bride two went off without a hitch. She went through and made her selections I did the post production and sent her a dvd. Doing good I thought 1 for two. Not great but I’m batting 500! Bride 3 has been nothing short of a nightmare! The kind of client every photographer dreads. A little back story is necessary here. Reid died on Sept. 24th 2012. Her wedding was on August 11th, 2012. So there was a little more than a month had passed since I delivered the images to Reid and his passing. So upon my return from WV retrieving Reid’s computer and sorting through his things I created a private viewing gallery on my website and posted some 300+ images. I sent the client the link and password and explained that she should go through and make her selections of for her album and prints. Didn’t hear back from her. Didn’t hear back. Didn’t hear back. Finally after almost two months I hear back from her that she can’t open the gallery and see the images. OK since I used to do technical trouble shooting I attempted to help her. I looked at the gallery to see if there were issues. Files too big, etc. Nope not a problem. The entire gallery took less than 2 minutes to load on my old PC with only a 100 Mbps connection and a download speed of about 24Mbps from the server. Not bad. We go back and forth several times with her not really answering the pertinent questions I was asking. She finally gets back to me a week later telling me that her system says its going to take 3 days for her to download the gallery. “No problem.” I send her a zipped folder of the proofs via You Send It. No word. Don’t hear back. She finally gets back to me telling me that her system is telling her this is going to take 18 hours to download. WTF! Long and the short of it she had a very slow DSL line. Now the panic sets in. She wanted the images so she could make calendars for Christmas presents. So I FedEX her a dvd of the proofs. (Complete with watermark at this point) to the only address I had for her. You guessed it. Wrong address. She had moved and forgotten to tell me. So when the first dvd didn’t arrive when it was supposed to I sent a second one. This time via USPS with over night delivery to the correct address. (I’m sure by now you’re saying to yourself OMG!) This is not where it ends. If you’re keeping track of time this is about 1 week before Christmas. She receives the dvd. I get a nasty email from her saying “What am I supposed to do with these? They all have “PROOF” all over them. I can’t make prints with these.” I told her that was correct that she should make her 50 selects, tell me which ones she wants for the calendars and I’ll get them printed for her out of the print credit she coming from the package she purchased from Reid. I checked with the lab and they said they could have things turned around in 2 days for me and so I passed that information along to the bride. You know the routine by now. I don’t hear back from her. 4 days go by and still no word. I drop her an email asking what’s going on. I get an email back where she’s blaming me for her not being able to get her Christmas presents done in time and that I should have just sent her all of the images. That’s all she wanted. I explained politely to her that that is not how it works. I didn’t hear back from her for more than a month and a half. Now she wants to order a canvas print of the formal image of the family. No problem. I send her the 3 options for canvas prints styles that I offer along with the pricing for the different sizes to her at a significant discount to my list price. You guessed it. Again I don’t hear back from her for days. This time she’s telling me how “frustrated” she is over the whole process and just wants to be done with it. At this point I’m done. I’ve done everything possible to make this bride happy. I figure she’s either not getting my emails or just ignoring what I have to say. I’ve come to realize that in none of our correspondence does she actually answer any of the questions I ask. So I politely tell her that I’m done with this favor and that I will send her a dvd of her select images (she finally did pick 75 as her selects) sized suitably for printing at 5×7 and that I would be removing her gallery from my website in 30 days. Amazingly I got a response within minutes. This time she was apologetic and explained how she and her friends were going to order all sorts of prints through me and I’d be able to make some money that way. Thanks but no thanks. This was the first time in 5 months of correspondence she had gotten back to me in a timely fashion. WTF!! I was just fed up. The amount of time this was taking was no longer worth it. Especially considering the only money I had made on the deal was my shooting fee. I’m sure this woman will slander my name all over West Virginia but I can’t care. As I said no good deed goes unpunished.
A few weeks back I shot wedding in West Virginia covering for my friend Reid (Mason Photographics) who had double booked himself. I haven’t done many weddings to date so I was a little nervous. I have grown to appreciate the skills and talents of the really good wedding photographers I’ve seen. It’s a lot of hard work to say the least. Just the people wrangling for the formal pictures is a chore in and of itself. I have also come to the conclusion that an assistant is a must on these adventures. Unfortunately I did not have one for this shoot (or the other that I did for Reid). Here’s a couple of samples from the first one. As always I’d love to hear what you think. Thanks.
I know. I know. I know. I need to be a little more regular with my posts. What can I say. It’s been a busy and interesting couple of weeks. I have been in West Virginia the past two out of three weekends. Doing something I never thought I’d do. Shooting weddings. Yes I have lost my wedding cherry. I was covering for my good friend and fellow photographer Reid Mason of Mason Photographics. He does amazing work and if you haven’t checked out his website it’s; http://www.masonphotographics.com. Make sure you peruse the Fine Art gallery. He is truly an artist. But I digress. Reid had double booked himself and asked me to cover for him on two weddings. I must admit I had fun doing it. A little hectic. A little crazy. But the people in WV are considerably more laid back than just about anywhere. Don’t get me wrong. I felt the pressure to perform. But I got some great shots and I’ll post a couple in a few days. While you can read all the books you want about how people like David Ziser (I highly recommend his book)shoot a wedding. It can all get thrown out the window when you’re in the heat of battle and just trying to get the shots and not screw up too badly. What they don’t ever talk about in those books are things like, what to do when the bride is running late for the shots before the wedding. What to do when you’re not shooting in a nice venue like a church. What to do when half the group in the wedding party aren’t interested the formal pictures and just want to get to the reception and drink. And what to do when the bride just wants it over with. Not to mention what to do when the bride decides that since everyone is dressed up we should get portraits of all of her brothers and sisters and their wives or husbands and children. Oh well I guess these are things that only experience can teach you how to deal with.
See you next time.