Before With Jack I was a freelance wedding photographer. I was lucky to attract good clients throughout my 7 years photographing weddings. I mostly had a positive experience.
Doing something for so many years, it was inevitable there would come a time a client wasn't happy with the photos I'd taken. It was a stressful and scary experience.
I've had many candid conversations with wedding photographers and it's clear most of them experience this at some point.
Now I've moved from photography to insurance, a big part of my job is being exposed to situations where a client isn't happy with the work of a supplier. I've compiled some dos and don'ts if you find yourself in this situation.
Before the wedding: Pre-wedding day questionnaire
Collecting information beforehand is crucial to delivering photos your client is happy with on the day. You need to ensure you're all on the same page so there are no surprises.
What questions you ask is up to you, but it's vital to find out what details, people and moments absolutely can't be missed.
As wedding photographers, we strive to capture all of the important moments and special people. However, there might be times you miss something you never realised was important to the couple.
For example, if you aren't told about the couple's pet hamster making a surprise appearance for 10 minutes post-ceremony, you might not be in the right place to capture it.
Early in my wedding photography career, I would ask these questions face-to-face when meeting clients over a coffee. That was until I learned it's better having everything recorded and written down in the client's own words.
During the wedding: Fulfil your contract
A contract outlines what's to be expected of both parties. Some of the factors that are covered in a wedding photographer's contract could be:
- An estimate of how many photos will be delivered
- The coverage of the day (is it bridal prep until first dance, or from the ceremony onwards?)
- How long clients can expect to wait before their photos are delivered
- In what format the photos are delivered (is an album included, or is this a digital package?)
Having a contract written and signed by both parties means that—if any accusations were made against you—you can show you fulfilled your duties, therefore the claims have no basis.
This can also be shown to the insurer as evidence you fulfilled your duties, should things escalate to that stage.
After the wedding: Don't return a client's money
When I had my first negative experience with a client, my instinct was to refund their money. I thought that by giving them their money back the problem would go away.
It felt like they weren't happy with whatever changes I made to the photos or suggestions I gave them. (As an aside, this isn't necessarily a reflection of your work. There are simply some hard to please people out there!)
Having spoken to other wedding photographers, it seems that after exhausting all options their instinct was also to refund them. Please don't do this. Here's why:
Let's say the situation escalates. Your client isn't happy with the photos and their tone changes to threatening. Maybe they're asking for a refund or implying you've ruined the day they've spent so much money on and time planning.
The first thing to do in this situation is contact the insurer you have your professional indemnity policy with. They'll review the details and—if it's covered under your policy—appoint a legal expert to help you decide the best course of action.
If you've refunded the money, the insurer will see this as you admitting liability. That will potentially void your insurance.
Hopefully you never have any problems as a wedding photographer, but let's face—it's a special day the couple has invested a lot into and people only plan on doing it once. This means there's a lot of pressure on suppliers to deliver.
I can speak from experience when I say that other issues from the day are sometimes taken out on the wedding photographer. This is because you're usually the last supplier to deliver their goods.
This is why it's important to:
- Collect information from your client before the big day to make sure there are no surprises
- Make sure you have a signed contract and fulfil what's expected of you
- Never refund a client. Contact your insurer at the first inkling this could escalate