by Dave Simm Published 01/02/2001
That is the reason there are so many of us and we all find the right clients, hopefully...
Never sell indiscriminately to an enquirer, ask about their likes and dislikes, if you feel there is another photographer who could serve them better, tell them and hope that your colleagues would do the same for you. There is only one Saturday per week (or Sunday for Jewish weddings) and only one of you. There are more than enough weddings to go round, before anyone says "tell that to my competition..." maybe they're reading this too.
Now let us examine what we should do in the event of a complaint. First, how justifiable is the complaint? well to the client it is very real and totally justifiable. Empathy is the ability to but one's self in the other person's shoes, and to look at the problem from their perspective. How would you like to be in the same situation as the client?
Maybe, and there may well be cases where the complaint is not totally justifiable, on a technical or competence issue, it may be personality.... Do you screech at their guest "No Pictures... No Pictures...
" Don't do that, there is a way to handle every situation, let the guests take their picture first, and then ask them politely not to take picture during your turn. It is not your photo shoot it is their family wedding. Be friendly.
Do not under any circumstances become defensive if, or when, a client complains, it is even better to be sympathetic to the client, ask what it would take to make them happy, ask "how can I restore your confidence". Attempting to put matters right in the eyes of the client is a win/win situation. You may or may not succeed, but the attempt will convince an arbitrator that you have shown good faith and in the event that you have to resort to arbitration it will stand you in good stead,
Now I will attempt to answer the question I posed in the second paragraph. In the case of the first photographer there was clearly a real grievance, pictures were less than the client had contracted for and the onus was on the photographer to try to make amends. In this instance, I know that he did try to do just that, but the client was adamant and wanted everything free.... everything! The association took the side of the client and decided to penalize the photographer, I have to say that I disagreed with that.
It would have been fair to give the bride her album free, but not two parents albums and an enormous number of reprints. It would have been fair to take the entire order and offer a fifty percent discount.
If so many photographs were worth keeping, they were worth paying something for, even if just a token.
The photographer also suffered, but no one wanted to understand that, the damage to his reputation in that small community was irreparable, as I mentioned, he catered specifically for the Jewish market, perhaps he was Orthodox and couldn't work Saturdays, but for whatever reason his target client base was small, compared to those who advertise "spreadshot" to all religious or ethnic groups.
In your contract, you must have a clause which states: That in the unlikely event of equipment failure, act of God or whatever.... the studios liability is limited to a refund of all deposits paid to date. Hopefully you will never have to invoke that clause, but if you look at your labs. conditions of acceptance, they accept no liability for your valuable films. Take a close look at the terms of business of almost any other industry and note the arrogance with which they abrogate their responsibility to do their jobs properly.
I am not suggesting you follow suit, I for one wouldn't want to deal with you if you did. I am suggesting that you protect yourself and your livelihood as others do. I think you should do everything you possibly can to repair the situation. It may be that the client won't want to deal with you in the event that something really bad happened.
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