Ego Question

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by green_photog, Sep 26, 2011.

  1. I've met with other couples who wanted to use the E session as a guideline before booking me for their weddings. All of them eventually did book me for their weddings so I'm not insecure with doing it this way. But none of these couples said it out loud that the E session was a test of my ability, it was just understood.
    So I just talked to this couple wanting to do an E session which I of course didn't object. But the guy basically spell it out that the E session is a test. That riled me up that I immediately though about emailing them in a few days that the day is now booked.
    If he just said let's do an E session first, I would have no problem with it. The way he put it wasn't rude, just a little unpolished in his manner of speech.
    If you don't ask the priest to perform a ceremony rehearsal as a test before they hire the priest, I think us photogs should be extended the same professional courtesy. What do you think?
     
  2. I think--if you want the job, do the e-session test. If you don't care, or aren't sure yourself, whether you want to work with the couple, don't do it. After all, e-sessions are normally discounted, given that it goes along with the booking of the wedding coverage.
    Or, agree to do the test, but stipulate that if they decide not to book you for the wedding, the e-session reverts to the 'normal' cost, which should be more in line with your portrait costs.
     
  3. The priest won't be hanging on their wall for the next 40 years.
     
  4. I am not a pro however there is nothing wrong with what this client did. While he could have been a bit softer in his approach but testing a vendor with a small job before giving them a more important and larger job is very common, regardless of the industry.
    Be confident of your abilities and go prove why he should hire you for the wedding.
     
  5. I should add--IMHO, the e-session is not at all like shooting a wedding, so while it is a good test for how you interact with the couple, and how you can make the couple look good, it isn't really a good test for how you can produce great images in a stressful situation, under adverse conditions such as bad lighting, which is usually what you have during a wedding. More so these days, when everyone is squeezing what they can get for the shortest amount of time.
     
  6. I agree with Rob Bernhard that the analogy of photographer to priest is invalid. The way I'd explain the invalidity, is by saying that it doesn't matter whether the priest does a good job or a mediocre one. The service he's asked to perform is a sort of absolute, that is, couple married by a mediocre priest or preacher or rabbi or JP will be just as married as the couple married by the Pope (or whoever your idea of clerical Top Dog might be). This is less true of, say, the caterer, but the truth is, as long as the food doesn't poison anybody, mediocre food won't spoil a wedding. Anyway, with the photographer, ability matters and continues to matter for decades.
    Back to your question. I don't mind the engagement session being regarded as a test, in fact, I get to it with my clients first. I can't insist, of course, but I really try to persuade the bride to agree to some kind of photo session prior to the wedding (bridal portrait, engagement session, something). I think this is a very good thing for all concerned.
    I think it's really valuable to work with the bride (and if possible the groom) before the Big Day. It gives ME a chance to get a better idea what she wants. The wedding day is too late, and so is the day before the wedding. It also gives me a better sense of the bride's personality, how she's going to react when the camera's pointed at her, etc. In a sense, the session is a test for the bride, in which I do the grading. I've never had a bridezilla, but if I discovered in the preliminary session that the bride was simply impossible to work with, well, I think I'd very candidly suggest to her that I didn't feel that we worked well together and try to help her find another photographer.
    And a session lets the bride confirm that I can deliver what she wants. I've never had a bride cancel after the preliminary session, perhaps because I simply don't shoot as many weddings as some people here. But I want the bride to have that opportunity. I'd MUCH rather lose the wedding ahead of time, than shoot it, go through all the trouble of post processing, and then have the bride tell me that I made her look fat or something. I want the bride to be pleased with my photos of HER prior to the wedding. And I want the bride to see for herself that I'm competent. I think this is the surest way to avoid serious problems later.
    So I don't mind the "test" idea. Every gig we do is a test and we're all being graded all the time.
    Will
     
  7. OTOH, playing Devil's Advocate, it might be a warning sign that the client doesn't trust you and/or that they are going to be a difficult client to deal with. That's hard to evaluate, and you have to go with gut instinct to some extent. To put it another way - if you feel like the chemistry is not right or you're not going to get on with the client, then there's something to be said for leaving the date open for someone else.
    For those lucky enough to be girls, there's always feminine intuition to fall back on ;)
    But try to ask yourself: is it just the fact that the client is being a bit direct on this point, or do you generally think you're not going to feel comfortable with them?
     
  8. Nadine writes:
    I should add--IMHO, the e-session is not at all like shooting a wedding, so while it is a good test for how you interact with the couple, and how you can make the couple look good, it isn't really a good test for how you can produce great images in a stressful situation, under adverse conditions such as bad lighting, which is usually what you have during a wedding.​
    I take it that Nadine's point is, it would be a mistake for a client to think that the engagement session is a good predictor of how wonderful the wedding photos will be. This is certainly very true, but I don't feel the need to impress this point on clients.
    Clients, in my experience, don't understand and frankly don't care about the very different kinds of challenges presented by different types of photography. I mean, a photographer might be great at wedding formals and mediocre at the reception, or vice versa. I think it's a basic fact that almost anybody is going to produce better images if the bride and groom are both gorgeous and the wedding is in a gorgeous cathedral (and there's a great wedding coordinator, etc.), than when the couple actually look more like real people and the wedding is in an uninspiring and badly lit wedding chapel. These are facts of life.
    So the portrait session is a test designed simply to prove that the photographer can make THIS client look good under ideal conditions. That's why it's important for brides to review the photographer's wedding portfolio as well. Nevertheless, a good job on the portrait session beforehand will make the bride feel more confident about her choice and I think that has many benefits.
    Will
     
  9. Thanks for all your responses. Just wanted to clarify that I am not oppose to using the E session as a test per se, I just don't think it's polite to tell it to my face.
    I've decided to give up on this couple. It's a summer long weekend Saturday so chances of picking up another job is fairly high.
    The most important thing is that, like Simon suggested, the guy is skeptical. Maybe I could still please them at the end, but I would rather pick up other impressionable couple who would simply fall for my charm.:)
     
  10. In business, I would rather deal with an individual who is abrupt but honest than one who is passive-aggressive.
    Selling is all about overcoming objections. Ones pride might not be for sale, but it really doesn't matter in the end as long as they pay the bill.
     
  11. Sorry but I'm with Michael. Running a business means that you need to be thick-skinned and remove your ego from situations. If you can afford to turn away business because they are up-front and honest about their needs, then I wish you the best. I have no idea why a perspective customer telling you that the e-session is a test would "rile" you up. From what you told us, the customer did not do anything wrong. As a business person, I actually love such honesty because then I know exactly what the customer is looking for.
    I don't mean this harshly but I know that I could never do business with someone who I need to tiptoe around.
    All the best.
     
  12. I think you need to wear a thick skin! They are the clients. They pay, you work. As long as they pay on time and don't have any major complaints, don't refuse the jobs. The way the economy is going there might be less business in the future. So make hay in the sun.
     
  13. @barry - Photography is a personal business in that we are building relationship when we do the E session. I don't know how to build relationship with you if you tell it to my face that this is a test of something. If you don't say so and even if a test is your intention, I can overlook it and treat it like any other E session.
    What if a client says to your face that I like ABC's work better but I couldn't afford ABC, so I want you because you are cheaper. Would you sign her?
     
  14. If someone came across a little rude, well, that's life. Don't worry about it.
     
  15. Sorry but most businesses where you are dealing with people is personal. I've been in professional services for way too many years (20+) and I know what it is like to deal with people one-on-one. And I know that some clients will tell you how they are evalautating while others will be more passive-aggressive and will fire you without ever telling you why. In the photography business, if the engagement session goes well, then there is the wedding. If that goes well, then there are baby showers, school pictures, family reunions and many referrals to their family and friends. The point is that you are constantly being tested and depending on how well you perform, you may be called back for more work.
    So in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a client telling me that the first project is a test and if it goes well, there will be additional work. In fact, I love the idea that they are able to be that open and honest. I'm confused but isn't that what pretty much happened with you?
    The second point about the the customer telling you that they went with you because they could not afford someone else, I don't know why this would upset you so much. Instead of viewing this as a negative, use it as an opportunity to impress them with your great photography skills and win them as a client for life so that they never think about going to your competition again. You ask me if I would sign her? The answer is "hell yes". As long as they are knocking on your door, who cares how they got there.
    I know that I myself can come off as harsh and I apologize if I am coming off as harsh to you but my advice to you is to separate your ego from your business. I know that is easier said than done but you do need to develop a thick skin. For most people, it is hard enough get clients to come to us and I would hate to lose clients because of such petty things.
     
  16. But the guy basically spell it out that the E session is a test. That riled me up that I immediately though about emailing them in a few days that the day is now booked.​
    It doesn't take much to rile you up.
    Moreover, you apparently prefer people hide their intentions rather than merely be forthcoming. Even more, someone gives you the respect of telling the truth and your response is to lie to them? Something is wrong with your communication practices.
    The most important thing is that, like Simon suggested, the guy is skeptical.​
    I read Simon's writing as he says which is a "devil's advocate" discussion of possibilities, not a conclusion per se. So what if he is skeptical anyway. Everyone else was according to your story.
    If you don't like the vibe and people being honest with you, then its your call. Unless the shoot were free however, I don't see the harm in doing it and getting a more reliable indication about the client(s). After all, Its a test the other way around as well. The guy could just as easily be concerned about all the negative experiences we hear about with hack job photographers. Its a significant personal decision. Why shouldn't a prospective buyer be able to say he wants to take car out for a spin without leaving the potential seller shaking in his boots.
     
  17. I would just do what you want to do. It's one of the perks of being self-employed.
    I'm not sure whether I would be annoyed in your position or not. A lot would depend on the person's general attitude, whether they otherwise seemed positive, interested, enthusiastic etc. If they were grumpy types and this was just the icing, then I'd probably pass. If they generally seemed easy to get on with but they were just so interested in the photography that they wanted to make sure they were going to get what they wanted, then I could understand them and that would be a different matter.
    Another thing to bear in mind is that this may be them giving you notice that they want you to reserve the date but they might still be shopping around, and might cancel. Or that they want a free/cheap photoshoot. If they're telling you that it's a test, it could be that they are giving you advanced notice you that they may cancel on a whim. You don't want to find yourself in a situation where you refuse other people for the day, you do a good job at the engagement shoot, and they then cancel anyway because they decided they aren't going to have a photographer after all or whatever.
    I also don't think it's good business to reserve the date for them if you think that you aren't going to get on with them. The better the chemistry, the more likely they'll be cooperative and appreciative, the more likely the pictures will be good, the more likely that they will recommend you to all their friends, and so on.
    So, basically, I'd just do what you feel is right. Especially if it's a midsummer Saturday. If it were a midwinter Tuesday, the answer might be different.
     
  18. One of the important attributes of successful salespeople is their ability to detach their personal emotions from the sales situation.
    Objections and rejections come with the territory; it's not personal. Besides, the customer is always right. :)
     
  19. He is not testing the photographer, he is testing the bride-to-be.
     
  20. There's absolutely nothing wrong with using engagement photos as a guideline, just the way it was put out by this guy.
    Other clients have said something like could we do the engagement photos first and see how it goes, and I was perfectly fine with that. But this guy said we'll do the engagement photos first, it's a test.
    I'm a PT shooter and I'm low rent ($1300 for full day plus $200 for E session for 2012). If I make $5K from a wedding, that would be diffeerent. After all, I take worse verbal abuse at my day job but it pays the bills.
    This "test" guy could turn out to be a good client. And that's nothing wrong with him being prudent (other than his manner of speech) before handing me his hard earned $1,500. It's still a lot of money to many people.
    After almost two years of working a FT day job and weddings, I've made the decision to turn down weddings I am not interested in. Otherwise, I will feel brun out and soon quit shooting weddings which won't be a good business decision.
     
  21. Its your choice and enjoy the luxury of being able to exercise it in full discretion as it should be. His honesty deserved some in return however.
     
  22. This is a business that requires a thick skin, but it is also a business in which you can choose your clients. I have had the great fortune to work with couples that absolutely respect me and my work, but even if you have the best clients, there are still relatives and wedding guests to deal with, and some people can be very abrasive.
    As far as the e-session being a test, if the couple hasn't already booked you, than yes, the e-session is a test. So are initial meetings, e-mails, phone calls, anything before the couple books you is a test to see if you are the right person to photograph their wedding. It sounds like this guy was just putting in words what you already knew.
    And the priest analogy isn't quite right. Think of bakers and caterers-they usually provide a free tasting to the couple. So providing an e-session isn't that far off from that. I sometimes offer free e-sessions as a tool to get couples in to meet with me.
     
  23. Every time we work with a client and every time we deliver a service we are being observed and evaluated. The impressions that we leave can and will impact future business (repeat business, referrals, prospective clients casually watching how we conduct ourselves). Even the way that we conduct ourselves ONLINE can have an impact.
     
  24. The comparison to a priest is actually quite valid IMHO... Way before the wedding, the couple gets to know the priest personally, talk to him etc. - which is basically a test too. If they realize the priest is not a good talker or they just don't like him that much, they can go elsewhere. And I think pretty much every priest knows that... True, no need to spell it out loud, but no harm done either.
     
  25. Are they paying for the e-session? If so, and they seem like a decent couple, and/or you're hard up for cash, then go for it. If you have a funny feeling in your stomach that this is a precursor to a zilla-type wedding, then turn them down. It will feel good. :)
    I don't get this whole "test drive" thing. Seriously. If they've met with you -- seen your albums -- seen your prior wedding galleries -- what makes them think that you can't do for them what they have seen in the work you've done to date and during your client meeting? I have an ego when it comes to my work. I won't be test driven.
    Granted - my thinking is rather jaded since I have only one more wedding left before I'm done with the business of photography (not the art/love/passion of it).
     
  26. Someone clue me in as to what an e session is. Thanks in advance. J.
     
  27. E(ngagement) session.
     
  28. If I don't like the people and don't want to shoot the wedding I refer them to some of the other photographers. Usually they give me a few bucks, sometimes around $100 for the referrall.Works out for you, the photographer, and the couple.
     
  29. Just wanted to clarify that I am not oppose to using the E session as a test per se, I just don't think it's polite to tell it to my face.
    I take a different view. I think you should change your attitude to look at this like a challenge which you are (or should be) prepared for. I have had clients tell me just that. That the engagement shoot will serve as their trial run. Do you take offence or do you rise to the challenge? I think it is fair to ask, and certainly something that I would as a client. It is tantamount to asking a building contractor to do a small patio for you before you allow him to remodel the rest of your house.
    A lot about photography is predicated on attitude and self-confidence. I daresay, judging from your posting history, that this is an area you might want to work on, especially when you are in the wedding photography business.
    Bottom line, if you want the wedding shoot, then do the e-session and wow them. If you choose to take offence, then just walk away. Your attitude will be just as key to getting good images as theirs, on the big day...
     
  30. It's really not fair to Green to dismiss his reaction as thin-skinned. He is reacting - consciously or subconsciously - to
    the words, the body language and demeanor, the personality, and the implied intent of the prospective client. Some
    here have observed that this might have been a strong and reliable signal that the groom wasn't open to Green's approach,
    or that he fully intended to use Green for a free session and drop him, or would otherwise be a difficult client. All we can
    evaluate are the words, which could be innocuous, or not. Green evaluated a lot more.

    So I'm inclined to trust his judgment, even though he's the one asking.

    At the same time, this (a test) is partly how I see my own e-sessions. I work hard to establish rapport and credibility
    with my clients during these sessions. But like Green and Maria, I avoid people who demonstrate an inclination to take
    advantage.

    The key, if doing a session prior to signing and booking the wedding, is to sign an agreement that the session is a
    part of the wedding agreement and that the fee they pay for the session (prior to shooting) is applicable to the
    wedding package when they book.
     
  31. A lot of good points raised, thanks all. To clarify my original intent of posting this is that if certain action isn't inappropriate in itself, does "spelling" it out make it inappropriate?
    We have the right to chose clients which in itself isn't inappropriate. But if I "spell" it out to the bride in a meeting that I don't shoot budget brides with plastic cups and paper plates, is it an appropriate professional behavior on my part?
    Same with using E session as a test which I don't think is inappropriate. But telling to the photog's face that we'll drop you if the E session isn't good, is it appropriate on the client's side?
     
  32. Whether x behavior is appropriate or not is not the point, IMHO. Regardless of how appropriate, you just have to go by your instinct and reading of body language and intonation and decide for yourself what the client's intention was. Then choose your own behavior based upon what you want to do. As I said--you want the clients and the job, do it with a smile. You don't--don't do it, or attach a 'happy price' to the engagement session IF the client decides not to book you.
    Since no one else was there when the client said his piece, no one can tell you how appropriate his comment was. Could have been totally innocent, or could have been laden with passive aggressive behavior.
     
  33. It may not be "polite" for someone to tell you, to your face, they're testing you, but it's honest. And you should know that - you're being tested each and every time you pick up a camera for your clients, regardless of whether you've already secured the contract or not...
    So, do or don't do the shoot - that should be a choice you make based on your chemistry with the couple and your own abilities, rather on the premise that they may not like your work in the end...after all, that is a possibility every single time.
    Personally, IF I ever decide to take the plunge, I seriously and honestly pity the poor photographers who'll submit themselves to me for selection...;-)
     
  34. So I emailed the bride about the date now being booked. Reading her email saying she's disappointed made me feel a little sad as it was the groom's idea to use the E session as test drive.
    But now I understood why I'm cold to using E session as test drive. Although there's nothing wrong with it, just like dating, if it doesn't feel right from the first moment, it probably won't feel right for the both of us at the end, no matter how well the E session turns out. At least that's how I feel about this business.
     

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