May 14, 2013

Pancake Session: When a Client Wants to Change Your Style

A little while back we got an email from a sweet bride. Like we talk about in The Guide, we use a lot of the questions on ourinquiry form to help us filter our clients to make sure we’re only taking the weddings where we are truly the best fit for that couple. Because, of course, what we’ve found is that when we’re only taking those couples where we’re truly the best fit for what they’re looking for….they’re a lot happier & so are we!

One of the most helpful questions on that inquiry form to help us figure that out is just an open ended comment box that says “Tell us what you’re looking for.” There is no character limit, so that couple can tell us as much as they want. And in doing so, they’re really giving us an idea of whether we would be a good match with them or not. This particular, very sweet bride filled out her answer and when it was all said & done, it may as well have said “the exact opposite of what you guys do!” :)

To give you an idea, one of the things she mentioned was that she didn’t want a lot of “dark, black & white photography.” I don’t know if you guys have noticed or not :) , but we LOVE us some black & white photography around here. It’s become a huge part of our style and our work. And for us the moodier, the better! So I pretty quickly knew we were probably not going to be the best fit for her. I wrote back letting her know, and she responded asking if we could just change up our style for their day and then go back to how we shoot after. I responded with a very kind, but firm “no,” and I did it for three major reasons.

*In the heat of the moment, we’re always going to shoot the way we see the world Even if I promised to change up our style and go for more of what they were looking for just to get the job, the truth is in the heat of the moment, when push comes to shove, and when things are happening a mile a minute like they always do at a wedding, we’re always going to revert back to how we shoot naturally. When that moment is unfolding right in front of us, we’re always going to end up shooting from the gut….from the heart. The way that we see the world. And that’s always going to lead back to that style we have already.

*We’ve spent a lot of time figuring that style out & we believe in it Our style doesn’t just come from what aperture we use or what photoshop actions we put apply. Our style is driven by a fiercely believed in Why that guides every action. A belief in the beauty of light, a belief in the truly authentic moment, and a belief in what these images will stand for over the test of time. We’ve spent years figuring out exactly why we do what we do & the how that goes along with that. And for me, I would rather lose a job than ever waiver on that.

*The clients who love us for US are going to help grow our business much faster anyway. I could say yes to this bride, knowing full well that I’ll probably disappoint her in the end anyway and tie ourselves up in knots in the process. Or I could say “No, but let me help you” and help her find someone who really is a good match for her. And for me, that move has way more integrity because we’re looking out for her interests as much as our own. In doing so, we’ll keep a good referral from her if any of her friends do happen to love black & white photography. And it keeps the door open for us to hold out for those clients who truly love us & the work we do just as it is. Because those are going to be the clients that we work the hardest for, get the best work at their weddings, remind us of why we love what we do, and they’re also the ones who go out shouting our praises for the world to hear. Those are the clients who will go to bat to make sure we keep getting inquiries from people just like them, and that we have a calendar full of clients who were looking for exactly our style. So in the end, it works out best for everyone involved.

I know that whatever stage you are in your business, it can be really hard to think about turning work down when there are bills to pay & mouths to feed. But if you could see it from above & over the long haul, trust me being willing to hold out for the clients who love you for YOU (and will help build the business with their two hands alongside you) is the far less risky move. And…the MUCH happier one!

Happy Pancake Day y’all!

  1. Abby Grace

    I never knew I was "allowed" to be choosey about who I worked with until you guys did the 2-day live lighting intensive back in December 2011. I had the same qualms most people voice at the beginning, but once I put it into practice, I realized you were 100% right. Being selective is better for my clients AND better for me, and I’m so thankful you and Justin clued me into it!

  2. Urška Majer

    So true! Thank you Mary for a bit of a reminder to stay true to yourself :)

  3. Tiffany Farley

    Yes! Love what you said about shooting in the way you see the world in the heat of the moment. So so true.

  4. Emilia Jane

    Hell yes.

  5. Mark Potter

    Great post Mary! Couldn’t agree more and really appreciate the advice.

  6. Megan

    That’s so crazy you posted this today… after I got an upsetting email from a client yesterday, I was kinda bummed. She was upset because her images didn’t reflect things I give a ‘hard pass’ to. And it’s even stated on my website! Oh well, I stuck to my style and the way I do things… I love the images even if they don’t. Thanks for the lift! :)

  7. Tiffany Bolk

    Yes! I’ve been doing this, this year, even though I desperately need the money! I would rather be poor then go against my standards and vision and feel crappy about it afterwards. I also just had an inquiry where the bride said "I just need someone to shoot the photos and I can do all of the editing, if I could shoot my own wedding myself I would." And I had to turn her down and kindly explain to her that this was not how I worked. Being a business owner and sticking to your guns is hard work and eye opening work!

  8. rich

    3 AWESOME points! very very necessary to move our business in the right direction =)

  9. Jessica

    You totally inspire me to keep moving on. I love reading your blog, I love you guys, and I’m incredibly grateful I found your inspiration. Chugga, chugga, chugga … trudge on!

  10. sharon elizabeth

    YEP!!!! preach!

  11. Jackie Lamas

    so true!

  12. Cathy & Jeff

    I echo Abby’s comment-I didn’t realize I had the right to choose until I found you guys! Shortly before the very first time we heard you speak, we had a meeting with potential wedding clients that I fretted about from the morning of the meeting. During the meeting they asked if we would change so much about ourselves for their day and my stomach was in knots because I knew if they hired us that I would be miserable. Thankfully, they hired another photographer and I was SO relieved!!!! Then I heard you guys speak and you talked about finding those ideal clients and it was so freeing! We’re in the process of re-designing our website and are going to have a more detailed inquiry in it so that we can do some more pre-qualifying. Thanks for being an inspiration to help those of us that didn’t know we could choose. :-)

  13. Faye Bernoulli

    I can’t tell you both how many times I wish we were getting married again just so you could capture our love!

  14. Andy and Rachel McCloud

    Definitely needed this today. It takes courage to stick to your style and not budge. Thank you :)

  15. Lea Ciceraro

    This is so fantastic! Thank you for the reminder and encouragement! And I can’t believe she was actually gutsy enough to ask you to change your style for a day… LOL. Good on you for how you handled it!! Round one of my business back in Austin, I took anyone and everyone as a client and it really bit me in the butt in the end! I was stressed and overwhelmed and unhappy with the work I was forced to create and the clients who were coming to me. Now that I’ve had the opportunity to move and start completely fresh in North Carolina, I’m taking YOUR approach and only displaying the kinds of work that attract the types of clients I want, and making sure clients are the right fit before accepting a job!! This is so so sooooo crucial! I just had to learn it the hard way. Thank you, thank you!

  16. Wendy Cunningham

    I love this post. I had something like this recently when someone emailed me a ton of images that they found on Pinterest and asked if I would EMULATE them. But the kicker was that none of them were anywhere near anything that you would ever see on my site. Totally not my style. It hurts to turn away clients at this early stage in my business. But I believe in what you say about a happy couple helping to grow my business faster. :)

  17. Girish

    Thanks for a great note. Turning down work is difficult at any stage. But the points you’ve mentioned are very true. You need to say No. It does help. It’s difficult at first to say no to a client but after a bad experience it’s what one would do :)

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