Shot in Lynchburg.... Love it!
It’s happened. Your absolute worst nightmare as a wedding photographer. You’ve shot the wedding, you’ve done the post work, and you’ve handed off your images. You wake up a few days or weeks later with an email waiting for you from your favorite “insert wedding blog/website where you take people to read reviews written by past clients that overflow with words of kindness and your greatness”. Except this time, it only has 1 star, not 5.
"Wait, maybe they changed the rating system. Yeah that has to be it. What used to be a 5 star rating is now 1 star. Makes total sense. Because 1 is better than 5. Yeah that’s it.”
No. You now have your very first bad review… "!@#$.” You’ve read it 100 times and it still says things like;
“missed this shot"
“Smells like a hobo"
So now what? Well, first things first. Turn it all off. Take a step back and let’s forget it ever happened for a few hours, maybe a few days. Go get some coffee, go to the gym, or go do something that completely takes your mind away from it. Forget the fact that your business will come crashing down on you, and everything you have done over the last year or two to build something that will sustain you for the next 10 years is all coming to an end. This article will be here when you get back.
Alright now that we’ve calmed down let’s start from the beginning. And I don’t mean from the point where the review occurred. A lot of times things like this happen because of some work you missed on the front end. Let me introduce you to Abby. A fellow friend in the Wedding Photography industry. She is a grinder. And I mean that in a good way. She works her butt off to create an experience as a business that separates her from her peers. And I am super excited to partner with her on this post.
I am going to let her walk you through some of things you can do right now to prevent this from happening to anymore future weddings. That’s right, the work you do TODAY directly affects the out come of weddings you will shoot years from now.
Thanks for letting me be a part of this, Sam! Ok, so no one wants to deal with this kind of situation, but there ARE some things you can be doing right now to help prevent conflict with clients in the future! For me, I’ve found that a proactive approach (vs. a reactive one) is often going to be what saves potentially sticky situations with your awesome brides and grooms. I don’t WANT it to get to the stage where we’re having to discuss refunds or legal action, so I do everything I can from the beginning to built trust and rapport with my couple and their families.
1. Love the crap out of your clients. This is the best deterrent out there! When your clients know from Day 1 that you’re on their side they’re much more likely to give you grace for a small slip-up that happens along the way. On the flip side, if a client's initial impression of you is “you’re a vendor I’ve hired, not a person with whom I have a relationship,” it’s a lot easier for people to get caught up in something small. Love your clients as PEOPLE first, customers second!
2. Have a SOLID wedding contract written by an attorney (preferably an attorney who specializes in law for creative professionals). This is my first line of defense if there’s ever a conflict, because the contract is a solid, black & white agreement we’ve all signed. It’s explicit, and describes in no uncertain terms the conditions we’ve agreed upon, as well as outlines my responsibilities to my client. A solid contract will work to protect both parties; it protects you if your client fails to adhere to the terms of the contract, and it protects your client if you fail to fulfill the duties you were hired to perform.
Sometimes a client's issue will be with something that was completely out of your control. For example, your bride might cite issue with something like “we didn’t receive as many portraits as we wanted.” But if the timeline was crunched due to a member of the bridal party being late, and suddenly I was left with 15 minutes instead of the 90 minutes I was promised, there’s not much I can do. There’s a clause in my contract that protects me from that kind of thing, and I can point to it in a situation like that to gently remind my couple I can’t be held responsible for the failure to take the portraits they wanted if I wasn’t given the time I require to do so.
3. Have a paper trail. Make sure anything that’s promised to either party is confirmed through email! If you casually promise them an additional hour of coverage, that needs to be written down. If they say they need an extra two weeks to make their final payment, that needs to be confirmed over email. If you ever have a phone call to talk about something having to do with services or responsibilities, follow up with an e-mail reiterating what was discussed and agreed upon. This will help clear things up if there’s confusion over what your obligations are.
Thanks Abby! So there you have it! Right from another Wedding Photographer’s mouth. And I completely agree. Set the expectation right away from the beginning so there are no questions on the back end. SO let’s fast forward to where we left off before Abby dropped some knowledge on us. And hopefully you have had a chance to calm down and clear your head a bit so we can talk about 3 things you can do NOW about that bad review.
1. Contact the bride - maybe you can work it out with them and have them take the review down. Maybe you can’t. But the key is to begin to open the lines of communication to apologize and show some empathy. Remember you were commissioned to photograph the biggest day of their life. Maybe you didn’t screw up. But maybe you did. Regardless, listen to their concerns!. A lot can be resolved by just talking and taking the position of empathy.
2. Make it right - This is an easy one. I am echoing Abby’s earlier point. Sometimes a bride just wants to be heard. Sometimes you can listen to them and then overwhelm them by giving them prints, and albums and other things. Its a tangible and substantial way to say, “I screwed up and I want to do my best to make it right".
3. Learn from it - Maybe you didn’t screw up totally. But odds are you did something wrong. And these opportunities are great platform for change. They can be used to solidified a process that needs some help. It can be a great chance to strengthen an area where you may not know you are weak!
That’s it! And remember, it’s not the end of the world. If anything it’s the beginning of something incredible. It will just require a little bit of willingness to change, humility and the ability to do the work to make it right!
Abby Grace is an international anniversary + wedding photographer for the old-school chic couple in love. Abby is based just outside of Washington, DC, where she resides with her stud of a husband and two crazy rescue pups. Her interests include pearl earrings, not being a domestic diva, and anything Harry Potter-related!
Snow is always a great time to shoot!
Absolutely LOVE this
One of our favorites from 2014
LOVE these portraits of Katherine from their wedding earlier this year!
When I talk about how we are shooting 120+ weddings in a year, the first thing, without fail, I get asked is, “Do you edit all of those weddings?”
There has been a huge push in the wedding community to outsource anything you don’t like to do to free up time to do the things you love. But if you outsource your editing, in my opinion, you lose the ability to add your voice to your photos. Some people don’t care about that. But I do. I care tremendously about the final product. So, YES. I edit every single photo of every wedding.
The weddings I shoot, the weddings my associates shoot, and every image in between. The next question I get almost immediately is “How do you have the time to edit ALL of those weddings?!?”
The question itself assumes so much! And I think reveals something about what a lot of us didn’t know when we got started as wedding photographers.
It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) take that long to edit a wedding!
Brace yourselves people… it takes me about an hour to edit an entire wedding. From the moment they finish importing to exporting, it takes me 60 minutes. And inevitably I get a whole array of responses when I tell other photographers that. From disbelief to “wow that’s amazing”. And here is the best part. I am going to give you 5 quick and easy things you can do starting now, that will reduce the time it takes to edit your weddings from 4-8 hours to 1.
1. Turn everything off
That’s right, turn off the distractions. Put your phone on do not disturb, turn off the internet and GET TO WORK.
2. Be selective
This starts on the day of. On average I give the bride 500 finished photos. That means I am shooting around 600-700. That creates a much easier catalog to file through and cut down. The bride and groom don’t need 45 images of themselves cutting the cake!
That’s incredibly overwhelming to the bride and groom. Stop shooting so much and pay attention to what happens. This alone will cut your editing time in half.
3. Abandon Photoshop
Lightroom was made for the professional photographer. It has every single tool you need to edit a wedding. If you aren’t using it, download the trial today.
4. Use presets
There are a lot of great plugins and software you can use to edit your photos. But I since I want to keep my workflow within Lightroom I stick with Lightroom presets. You can spend the time to create your own, or there are many available for sale.
I took the time and made some that I love, you can check them out here.
5. Stop obsessing over every little detail
When I edit the image i don’t spend but maybe a few seconds on each image. Part of this begins on the day of by nailing the shot in camera! Then later you will not have to spend time fixing your white balance, exposure and color.
If you get it right the first time, you can make minimal adjustments in Lightroom and move on to the next image. That isn’t to say sometimes you can’t. There are images I may absolutely fall in love with, or images that I am unsure of that I spend more time on. But don’t make it a habit. The majority of your editing should be quick with minor adjustments.
So that’s it! Five ways to speed up your editing.
When it takes hours to edit a wedding, it’s easy to keep putting off editing because it feels like a giant mountain you need to climb. As you get faster editing you’ll find you procrastinate less. That means your clients will get their photos faster and they will love that!
The details matter!
Absolutely LOVE this!
Such a beautiful wedding at Pippin Hill Farms this past weekend!
There is no shortage of beautiful photos from this wedding!
Another image from Michael and Brittany's beautiful fall wedding in Washington DC
In our photography survey Nick asked, “How can you make more time in the day?”
At first I thought this was a tongue in cheek question. Maybe more of a statement like, “there isn’t enough time in the day!” But the question stuck with me.
I think I get Nick. He wants to get better at photography but he doesn’t have the time. Life is busy, things get in the way, and who has the time to work on a hobby or side business when there is a full time job, family, cars to repair, a house to work on and friends to spend time with? I’m getting stressed out just writing that list.
Maybe you are busy too, but I have some good news! You are never too busy to make time for something you value. It's all about priorities, not time, because everyone has the same amount of time. We make time for the things that are important to us. The question is, do you want it?
I want to help people like you achieve their dream of being a professional photographer, or at least make some extra money doing something you love. The fastest way to kill any dream is to tell yourself you do not have enough time.
Time is a lot like money, if you do not budget your time you will get to the end of the month and have nothing to show for it. And like money it is wise to plan out how you will spend each hour of the day.
Consider this; if you set aside a half-hour every day to work on your photography business, after a year you would have freed up over four 40 hour work weeks. ONLY A HALF-HOUR A DAY!
That’s crazy. And think if you could set aside an hour a day. It adds up fast!
For me it is not about the question of do I have the time, but rather have I been deliberate enough to make time for the things that are important to me. Because the time will go somewhere, and if I am not intentional it will slip away, slip away to mindlessly surfing Facebook, browsing the web, or hours binge watching the newest season of Portlandia on Netflix.
Here’s what works for me:
I have to schedule the time to work on my dream. This is like creating a time budget. If you want to spend more time learning photography or building your business put it on your calendar and hold yourself to it.
Try and make time to work on photography every day. Even if it is only 15 minutes, the time adds up. This isn’t a sprint; slow and steady wins the race. Be steady, be consistent.
Work when you work best.
For me I know I am at my best in the early mornings and late in the evenings. So if i have projects, either personal or for my business, that is when I am working on them. Otherwise it will never ever get done.
You may have kids, so you may need to work after they go to bed or before they get up. Remember it doesn’t matter when, just that you are doing it.
It needs to be your passion
Whether it is photography or something else, it needs to be something you are passionate about. Here's why; working a full time job, juggling everything else in life AND trying to work on your dream at the same time is difficult. It is a lot of work. But, if it’s your passion, if it's something you love, you won't mind working nights and weekends on it, because you will be doing something you love.
Becoming good or successful has less to do with natural talent and more to do with how much time, energy and practice you put into something. If you are willing to put in the sweat you can be successful!
The question is, do you want it?
The way you edit an image should add to, never take away from what you are trying to convey. And there is a fine line between creating a beautiful image, and spending hours and hours and hours editing a wedding. That's why we are really excited about announcing our very own set of SSP Lightroom Presets.
A set of presets for both color and black white images that present a clean and timeless look! Take a look at the before and after images below. Sure it helps when you have beautiful clients to photograph but we love the look we have created with these presets.
AND for a limited time We will be offering these presets at a discount to those who are subscribed to our email newsletter. SO take a second and sign up below!