Tavia: Welcome to Part 3 of this series where we’re taking your client stories, your client issues, your client questions, and we’re just sharing how we would handle these situations. Welcome back to this episode, Lydia. Excited to have you here. So if this is somebody’s first episode ever hearing your voice, can you give us a quick intro on who you are?
Lydia: Sure! I’m Lydia. I am a coach in Marketing School, Tavia’s sidekick. I started business about 7.5 years ago in the birth world and now I’m in the weddings world. So I spend a lot of time thinking about how to navigate situations.
Tavia: It’s always fun to have these conversations and some of them are not fun. Some of them are serious and I honor that it’s a safe space for you guys to bring your questions and let Lydia and I just share, in our experience, how we would be thinking about and looking at these situations so that hopefully it gives you a new different perspective on what to do.
Do you have a client situation that you need help with?
Arguing Couple During a Session
“I photographed my first wedding and there were a lot of issues with the day. People were not showing up on time – the bridal party, some of the vendors – some of them didn’t show up at all. There were issues with the florist and the officiant. This caused the bride and groom to argue a lot that day, and it made the photos really awkward. Any advice for how to handle a situation like this if it ever happens?”
Lydia: I need to know what price point this is at.
Tavia: Right. I forgot to add that to our form right out the gate.
Lydia: My advice is charge more. Almost a hundred percent, that’s my advice.
Tavia: Is that a general advice that you’ve noticed of just working with people at different price points or is that coming from the vendors not showing up and all of that?
Lydia: When you’re at higher price points, vendors are showing. I could be wrong, but it’s very possible that this is a lower budget wedding where they likely don’t have a planner. So a lot of the responsibilities are falling on the couple and it’s lower end vendors that are not making their wedding day a priority. And that adds a lot of stress.
You can though, look at how you respond to the situation and how you can be an anchor and a calming presence on the day of the wedding.
I know a lot of photographers that do timeline building services, so if you’re not already doing that, I think that could be helpful too, to make sure that you are the one that is providing the timeline to the couple instead of them just trying to come up with what would be the best thing.
So that way, maybe other vendors aren’t doing what they’re supposed to, but you guys can kind of just keep on keeping on with your timeline. But honestly, the higher up you get, the less you are probably going to see this kind of thing. That is really hard though. And I think couples that have coordinators or planners are going to have less of that stress on their wedding day.
Tavia: Yeah and the only thing that I can relate this to is obviously birth photography or newborn photography, where it feels like the couple is kind of at each other and if I was thinking about those other things not happening and just thinking about the couple kind of being, you know, not super friendly and nice with each other, I think it’s different than a wedding on a wedding than a birth session or a newborn session.
But I just try to carry on as normal. I kind of don’t acknowledge they’re arguing or they’re spatting with each other. I just carry on as normal, do the things I would normally do in a newborn session, “Okay, put your arm around mom, snuggle in close, look down at your sweet baby, look at your wife, snuggle in, kiss,” whatever the normal things that I say, I just continue to say. Even though we all know they’re arguing, I just pretend I’m oblivious to it.
Lydia: What are you going to do? Have a therapy session in the middle?
Tavia: Yeah, a hundred percent, therapy session unless you’re also a therapist. I don’t know. Two for one.
Ghosted by Clients on Session Day
“I recently had a client schedule a family session with me and didn’t show up. I called and texted them with no response. After about 45 minutes, I left. I was so frustrated because I got childcare and wasted an entire afternoon. The client texted me the next day to apologize and said they misunderstood and thought the session was a different day. So my question is, how do I handle a situation like this as a professional and also protect myself from clients like this?”
Tavia: What are you charging?
Lydia: Yeah. Not to say there can’t be misunderstandings ever. If they’re not even answering your texts or calls, that tells me that it likely wasn’t a misunderstanding. It was like, “We’re just not coming and we’re ignoring you, and then we’re going to make up an excuse later.” So, yeah, it makes me think that it’s a client that isn’t a priority to them.
Tavia: Agree. Because I don’t think that this has ever happened to me charging over 250. I can’t actually think of a time it ever happened to me. This is rude, you know what I mean? I’m sorry that you were so disrespected like this. I would say having a non-refundable deposit, and this is good for, I think anybody listening to this who might be in the newer stages to be thinking about how can I protect myself from paying for childcare, driving to a location, my whole day revolving around this and them not showing up. What if you have a non-refundable deposit or retainer, right?
Lydia: Did they pay already? Because somebody who’s paid already, they’re not going to not come, you know? So I think that’s something I agree. The deposit is important or having them pay in full before they come.
Tavia: And understanding that there’s a rescheduling fee, there’s a section in our contract that talks about a rescheduling fee under different circumstances, so that you’re not going to a session and people aren’t showing up, and you’re just out the money and expected to show up again.
“I met with a client for a maternity session. I arrived about 15 minutes before the session, and she was nearby finishing her hair and makeup. She got done around 30 minutes after we were supposed to start shooting, and she wasn’t dressed when she arrived to the location, so we’re now 45 minutes late. She told me she was super hungry and there were restaurants all around us. She suggested going to get something to eat before we started shooting.
45 minutes late at this. I couldn’t believe that she was suggesting that, but I also wasn’t going to tell a pregnant woman that she couldn’t get food. So we went inside a restaurant. I figured we could order a side of fries or something. So we walk in and I started walking up to the bar so that we could place a to-go order, and she walks up to the host stand and says, “Table for two, please.”
Also, her family wasn’t there yet for the session, so we’re now over an hour late. The family isn’t there. The sun is starting to set, and we’re literally sitting down to eat dinner at this point. Her family is on the way.
I was so shocked, I didn’t know what to do. She kept asking if I wanted to order anything and I said no, I wasn’t hungry. So she eats an entire meal and her husband arrives and orders food too. Left the kids in the car. Sits down and is ordering food too.
So now I’m legitimately worried about the light, and I mentioned several times that we need to start on photographing the session soon because the sun is setting, it’s now almost dark outside and she pays for her food and goes to the bathroom to change.
I’m not even joking when I say I was using street lamps for my light source because it was night time for this session, like the stars were out. I somehow managed to get decent shots, but I was hurrying them and she kept saying, “Oh yes, I know we’re keeping you from your family.” And I said, “You’re not keeping me from my family. It’s just literally night time right now and we’re not going to be able to take anymore photos.”
It was the strangest thing that’s ever happened to me at a session. And I guess my question is would you have left? Said no to sitting down? I don’t know what just happened or how I could have handled it differently, mainly because I was so shocked to every step of the way that it was even happening.”
Lydia: I think when I started to realize it was going south, I would probably have said, “We need to start by X time or we need to reschedule.”
Tavia: Yeah and cut it. What is wrong with people? This is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. Going to sit down at a restaurant, table for two and it’s getting dark outside, and the family’s not even there. But also, I can appreciate that it’s like she had her hair and makeup done. Well, I don’t want to be, “It’s 45 minutes late. Bye.” You know? Because she had just gotten her hair and makeup done, but still it’s dark. We have to end this meal and go start taking photos now.
I think as soon as she started indicating, I would multiple times say like, “I know that this is really important to you. You’ve already gotten your hair and makeup done. If we don’t start by X time, we’ll have to reschedule and I would hate for that to happen.”
Lydia: I would just reiterate that repeatedly, be like, “If it’s not done by this time, we’ll have to reschedule. It’s not done by this time, we’ll have to reschedule,” as she’s like, “I’d like to go to the mall now. I’d like to go pet shopping. I’d like to go mow my grass. I’ll be right back…” what on earth?
Tavia: That’s a really good point. I agree that just setting clear boundaries of like, “Okay, the sun is setting, we need to stand up from this restaurant meal that we’re having and go take some photos before there’s no light remaining for this session.”
Lydia: Or, “Your family’s not here anyway. Can they just bring you some pretzels? And we muscle through,” right?
Tavia: No. Table for two.
Lydia: That’s the weirdest thing. That’s another one where I need to know your price point.
Tavia: I agree with you.
There’s so many of these things that just don’t happen when you’re at a certain price point. Clients just respect you, they respect your time, they come prepared, they understand how things are going to go.
Lydia: Moving forward, it doesn’t sound like we don’t have to cover every single situation in our client guide like if it’s dark out, I can’t do photos. If you’re hungry, we can’t go eat. Like, if you have the sudden urge to go to the zoo during the session, we’ll have to wait – we can’t cover every scenario.
Tavia: If you’re hungry during your session, please bring a snack. Sign here that you read this clause.
Lydia: There just has to be some accountability for people.
Tavia: I imagine if we’re like, “Okay, you need to update your contract to state that you will not be sitting down to have a meal at the maternity session. Okay, add that to your contract now.” Oh man. People are so goofy.
Lydia: We got to know price point and how long in business before.
Tavia: Okay. If you guys are going to submit stuff from that one, let us know your price point.
“I recently had a client’s mom taking photos and video over my shoulder with her phone during her grandson’s newborn session. I know she was just excited and the photos on her phone aren’t going to be anything close to as good as what I captured. I felt so awkward in the moment and I didn’t know how to handle it or what to say.
Well, now she’s posted all the photos on social media and the client is dragging their feet to place an order. I can’t help but feel like they’re just using the images the grandma took instead of ordering from me, what should I do?”
Lydia: I mean, part of me is like, grandmas are going to grandma! That’s what they’re going to do. I would be interested to hear what they’ve paid up front for the session if they’ve paid a retainer already. And I feel like that could potentially be a big jump.
I can’t imagine knowing grandmas and knowing phones. I cannot imagine these are decent images. I think it’s probably more a case of a mom being overwhelmed by having a newborn and delaying her order than it is her being like, “Well, these cell phone photos are terrific.”
I think I would take a deep breath and let go of any insecurities and just follow up like you would any other session if you didn’t know that grandma had taken photos.
Tavia: You know, I’ve had this situation like this more than once. I can relate to feeling awkward because at certain points I’ve had signs in my studio that are like, “Please don’t take photos.” But then at the same time, it’s like a momentous thing for them. And also sometimes, clients take behind the scenes photos with you in them and they’ll post them and stuff like that, which is always fun. So I didn’t want to discourage people from doing that.
But I have had clients before, coming right where I am with my camera, whether it’s the grandma or I’ve had the nanny do it before, or I’ve had the sister do it before and they’re like right there with the phone and it is kind of awkward. And I know what I’ve read in these Facebook groups how to respond to this, but this is actually happening to me in real life and I’ve never said anything. I’ve just let it happen. And honestly, it’s never affected my sale. It’s never been an issue.
And most of the time it’s just them. They’re terrible because we use a strobe, first of all. And so the photos in the studio are dark. If you’re a natural light photographer, they can be decent and you’re setting up the shot and you’ve got it lit well and they’re coming in with their phone or starter DSLR or something that might be a different conversation. But for me it’s always been in my dark studio with studio strobes.
And it’s like, I know that their photos are going to look like crap because it’s dark in here. And so I think if in the session it made you feel uncomfortable, you could kindly say something just like, “Hey, I’m taking lots of great photos for you, so you can enjoy this moment. Feel free to just sit back and watch your little bit – say something along those lines.
Lydia: I wonder what would happen if, and this may go off the rails. What if you said, “Do you want me to grab one on your phone real quick for you?” And then just kind of took it and then kind of set the phone down?
Tavia: I like that.
Lydia: And then it’s like they’ve gotten one and then they’re like, you know, I can grab one real quick. I know you’re excited to post that on social media. Maybe that kind of closes the door. Try. Maybe it doesn’t, but it might!
Tavia: I like that a lot. I agree with Lydia though. I don’t necessarily think that this is keeping the person from ordering. It’s probably just like normal stuff that would be keeping anyone from ordering. And maybe try that next time. That’s really good.
That’s it for the third episode of My Client Said This – What Should I Do? That was really fun. Thanks for being here, Lydia.
Lydia: You’re welcome.
And remember my friend, if you have a passion, it is not an accident because not everyone loves the thing that you love. So whatever your passion is, it’s there for a reason, and I hope that you will get out there and make it happen. Have a great week!