Sudden dip in clients when I featured gay couple...

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by ella_swanson, Feb 6, 2011.

  1. I may be presumptuous in thinking the problem isn't at all my fault, but I've noticed a drastic fall in the number of people booking me for weddings after I posted a gay engagement shoot on my blog and website. I didn't ever think about the fact that people might be turned off by seeing gay people in my portfolio, I was mostly thinking about horror stories from gay couple getting turned down by photographers and I wanted to make sure everyone knows I'm equal opportunity. You know?
    I'm not removing the images. If a client is going to not hire me based on that chances are we probably won't jive well together and do I really want to enter into that kind of contract with them? I'm sure you'll agree that it's so much easier to have a client who you really click with.
    Like I said I'm probably just being cocky. I also don't want to pull the bigot card so quickly. I have photos of people covered in blood on both and a whole series on a mannequin so it's prooobably my fault. But I wanted to get someone else's opinion on this.
    WEBSITE | BLOG
    00YAk9-329559584.jpeg
     
  2. Also I realized my name is different, but I promise the website is mine... It's just a random name so clients won't see my really old dumb questions when searching for me.
     
  3. There's not much point in stirring controversy when it doesn't serve any purpose. Thing is that one never knows the total effect with a thing like that......and, as I say, nobody benefits. If you are asked, then you tell the truth, at least I would, but whose asking here?
    And as for the "click" thought, it doesn't matter that much at all in my experience. I am a professional delivering a complex service......cliicking can actually have a downside to it too....best regards, Robert
     
  4. You were brave to do it.
    At least you will not face any discrimination accusation.
     
  5. If you're proud of the quality of images from a gay wedding, are you going to hide them? Where does it stop? Will you hide the images from Jewish weddings you were paid to shoot? Or Catholic? Or Muslim? What about African Americans or Latinos, or weddings of two people who appear to be of different races? Any images on your site might drive away somebody.
    Good luck.
    00YAlw-329595584.jpg
     
  6. If you are a professional photographer there to make a living from your craft, your primary goal is to earn money. I applaud your sincerity and passion for equality. Ultimately, the clients call the shots. Why not have two blogs? One for heterosexual couples and another that depicts the idea of union in general and perhaps publicise the latter through LGBT press?
    If you are lucky to be from an are that lives in enlightened times and have embraced cultural changes, it would be foolish not to feature gay couples. However, if your locality is a little more conservative it would be equally foolish to do so. You are a wedding photographer, not a documentary photographer instigating social change. It is all about being sensible.
     
  7. Your website (at least not that I could find) doesn't state a location - but as Starvy pointed out - if you are not in an accepting area - it could have a negative impact on bookings.
    Unfortunately not everyone is open and accepting of everyone else - no matter how many laws the government passes.
    Ultimately - it's the customers that call the shots in this business - if an image on your website or blog turns clients away - then you have make the call - Are you getting an increase in same sex couples equal to or surpassing the loss in heterosexual couples? If the answer is yes - then leave the images. If the answer is no - and that is the only variable that has changed (which I kind of doubt) - then remove the images and do as Starvy suggested - create a mirror site and promote it in the GLBT community.
    As a general rule my area is one of the most accepting and open in the country - right up there with San Francisco - but there is still a certain segment of my clients who would object to me featuring a same sex couple on my main page.
    Dave
     
  8. The problem with your website is not the gay couple but that you make it hard for people to do business with you. Like David said, you need to state the area that you serve. I also strongly recommend putting your phone number (NOT AN CONTACT US FORM PAGE) on the footer of your site so that it is easy for people to find you. Every page of your site should have a goal and a CTA (call to action). For a site like yours, the CTA should be to get people to contact you so make it easy for them to do so. I hate filling out contact forms because you have no idea how long it will take someone to get back to you. You can leave the contact us page put put your name and the your phone on the top of the form.
    I also don't like the calendar because if you are slow, it will be obvious to everyone and they will be wondering if something is wrong with you. Also the dates can be misleading because you might be able to handle two events on the same day (maybe a family brunch in the morning and a dinner in the evening).
     
  9. Firstly, I applaud your effort to have integrity on the subject, but you will have to lay in the bed you choose in the end (pun intended). This is business and what sells is what someone wants to buy. You can be Saks 5th, or W* mart. You have to choose to whom you will "sell" your wares and market yourself appropriately IMO.
    One cannot expect the masses to readily accept changes in society, especially when those changes are perceived as "different".
    However, I think there will likely be a time when that walk of life is "normal" and "different" will be some other orientation the is perceived as a threat to the society.
     
  10. Whatever you post as an example of your work will have an impact on what market you attract (or don't). Having said that, I am glad you find yourself in a position to hang on to your ideas about the type of work you want to do, both personally and professionally. That is a luxury not every photographer can afford. I firmly believe that there are enough clients out there for everyone, and it may take you a little longer, but displaying the work YOU like (and like to do) will insure that you attract clients with whom you'll "click", setting up a situation where you'll be your most creative and your clients will be the most satisfied.
    Good Luck!
     
  11. People 'vote' w/ their dollars. I live in an area where the culture is not widely accepting of GLBT life. I enjoy shooting G&L events and clients, but I understand that HERE, I would be discriminated against for making my personal views part of my business. So I don't emphasize them publicly (such as in my gallery). Practicality is part of business, and while I wish it weren't always so, the bottom line is that you do business at the discretion of those who do business with you, so while I applaud your attitude, you have to accept the possible results. Call them bigots, call them jerks, whatever, but you'll have to accept it.
    After all, after prop 8, didn't a lot of businesses who supported it (financially) get protested against, and boycotted by people on the other side, I felt that was appropriate, and turnabout is fairplay.
     
  12. Despite trying to be fair open and honest.
    and being willing and not discriminate against anyone.
    You may have done yourself a dis-service.
    The support for gay marriage and gay life style is very loud.
    but in reality it is a very small minority.
    Twice california voted down Gay unions, and twice one judge over ruled
    the will of the voters. The vote indicated the feelings of Californai voters. and california is a very open. tolerant and liberal state. You may be suffering a backlash from this attitude.
    as was said clients make a choice and pay the bills.
    if you disagree with a majority of clients or JUST appear to, it can cause a rejection
    by some clients. It is your choice, get more clients or to be more politically correct.
    I think it is possible you may not even be considered for many church weddings.
     
  13. Many people are very open-minded... until they actually see that which they don't really agree with.
    I'm open-minded, but having a tough time looking at the image you posted in this thread. No, I'm not homophobic... I just don't like looking at it.
    Maybe I'm just a disgruntled Californian who is sick and tired of liberal judges disrespecting the will of the people. :)
     
  14. Here's a thought...try doing a test and taking down the picture for one month and see if there's any improvement.
    Also are you using Google analytics (or another competitive product)? It would be interesting to see the drop-off rate for when the picture is displayed. This will tell you for sure if the picture is causing issues, or if it is something else.
    On a side note, I'm a conservative but have absolutely no issue at all with the picture. I guess it is all about people's perceptions.
     
  15. Walter, support for gay marriage is by no means a "very small minority." From the NYTs: http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/02/bush-and-mccain-daughters-reflect-age-divide-on-gay-marriage/?partner=rss&emc=rss
    If your recent blog and website entries are off-message of what you've been marketing yourself as, then yes, the photos could have a serious impact on bookings. But, without knowing anything about the clientele you serve or want to serve, it's a bit thoughtless for anyone to make a judgement about whether the photos are responsible for your decline in bookings. Really, your decline in dates could be anything- the economy, your marketing skills, a rash of new talent in your area, even this miserable winter.
    A bit off topic, but from Forbes, on the potential windfall of legalized gay marriage: http://www.forbes.com/2004/04/05/cx_al_0405gaymarriage_print.html
     
  16. I am not sure what the question is. You are reasonably sure that the drop in your business was caused by posting pictures of gay couples in your portfolio. You are proud of your work and you are willing to live with the financial consequences. Is there a question here?
     
  17. Moderator Note:
    Brian M.
    --the question is--what is your opinion about Ella's situation or conclusions.
    "But I wanted to get someone else's opinion on this."
    Senor and everyone--let's not make this discussion about the politics of gay marriage or being gay, but about photographing gay marriages or relationships and how it affects one's wedding photography business.
     
  18. If a client is going to not hire me based on that chances are we probably won't jive well together​
    Why is this relevant? Are you in the habit of discussing gay rights (or politics, or religion...) during a photoshoot? It sounds like what negotiators call 'rationalisation' - you are avoiding addressing the true business issue (recovering your business activity) by justifying the situation with an irrelevant argument (your clients beliefs).
    But it is an almighty assumption that the pictures are the cause of the business drop off; but if it is true, it means that the sort of people you refer to made up a significant part of your clientele in the past and you didn't know and cared even less. Go figure.
     
  19. I've seen many young shooters look at a two week or four week period and then jump to the conclusion that it constituted some form of a trend. My first question would be about your data. I am assuming that you are keeping track of the total number of inquiries and then looking at your appointment rates relative to inquiries, and finally the amount of bookings versus the number of initial appointments and total number of inquiries, etc.....if so, what do the numbers tell you.
    OTOH, you've already stated that your personal beliefs trumps your business priorities and that if the images have damaged your bookings then you don't care. So then what is your point? The images that you choose to showcase your studio will define your studio. If you really cared about personal integrity and being upfront/honest then why the fake name on P-net?
     
  20. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "I've noticed a drastic fall in the number of people booking me for weddings after I posted a gay engagement shoot on my blog and website. But I wanted to get someone else's opinion on this."​
    The Content of Photographs one places on the website (maybe) will have an effect on the Number of Enquires one receives. After all the mechanic of a website is that the Advertizer (the Photographer) has NO active leverage whatsoever in that engagement.

    The Attitude, Pre-conceptions and Stories the Photographer brings to the table, at the Sales Meeting will have much more effect on the outcome of that meeting.
    Considering the question is about BOOKINGS – I suggest one articulates a definitive number of drop-offs, in INQUIRES.
    Depending upon that result, maybe then look for answers in the later area, first in the techniques and then also maybe in the areas of Attitudes, Pre-conceptions, Stories and Baggage: rather than the former passion to attribute the blame (and the reasons) to be associated with a few images.
    WW
     
  21. David, I think Ella answered your question already.
    It's just a random name so clients won't see my really old dumb questions when searching for me.​
    IMHO the above is a good reason for using a pseudonym on an easily searchable forum.
     
  22. The photo posted seems pretty innocuous to me. I can't believe there are people who "just don't like looking at it." What does that even mean? It isn't men having sex with one another -- its just two guys showing affection. That's so hard to look at? Really?
    What will make you the most money isn't always what you are ethically and/or morally comfortable with. Sometimes we sacrifice dollars to take a stand for what we believe is right. That said, I don't know if I could take a stand on something that is relatively small (one photo on a website) but could cost me the ability to pay my rent.
    In the abstract, this is an interesting question--you could always write to the ethicist in the New York Times Magazine. I'll bet they'd print the letter! But in actuality, I'm not convinced the photo is to blame here. I like the idea of the experiment posed above--remove it for one month and see. If there's no impact, then it wasn't the photo. It is hard to imagine if you live in a place with 1/2-way normal people that just because out of hundreds of events you photographed one for two guys that people wouldn't hire you anymore. If true, its horrifying that this is America and that's what goes on. Might as well be in Uganda or Iran.
    At the same time, you shouldn't lose the ability to pay your rent because of one photo.
     
  23. Marriage is a social contract. Isn't it better to stick to the norms of society if you want to make a big splash? And another question, did Robert Capa shoot weddings?
     
  24. Ah......Kyle.....you know little of Uganda, or Iran. There is also a guys kissing image in the website that you missed.....
    It's not going to help to remove-and-wait.....whatever, if any, damage was done and it will take longer than that for the effect to dwindle to nothing.
    I don't see that any "cause" is being espoused here at all.........just a question as to whether a cause and effect might exist between a drop in bookings, and a possibly controversial image post.
    But Uganda? Iran? You really need to get out more.....Robert
     
  25. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I agree that there is no way to tell what is affecting your business, which someone said above.
    I also think it's important to stand up for what you believe, even if it does hurt your business. I shoot wedding-like events, including children's events, and I don't hide that I shoot strippers, fetish enthusiasts, transexuals, and pretty much anyone. I would rather be more hungry and lose the business of bigots.
    You have to decide. If you think it's going to destroy your business and that is your only livelihood, then it could be a real problem. However, if there's one gay couple whose wedding you can shoot, there are plenty more out there.
     
  26. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    . . . on a ligther note: some Kid's Parties have appeared to me, as tough as a Cage Fight.
     
  27. I'm not removing the images.​
    Sounds like a business decision to me.
    We all rise or fall on our decisions; right, wrong or indifferent.
    If a client is going to not hire me based on that chances are we probably won't jive well together and do I really want to enter into that kind of contract with them?​
    If I were to pick and choose only clients I like or get along well with, my income would be cut in half.
     
  28. Mike Hitchen [​IMG][​IMG], Feb 07, 2011; 06:58 p.m.
    If a client is going to not hire me based on that chances are we probably won't jive well together
    Why is this relevant? Are you in the habit of discussing gay rights (or politics, or religion...) during a photoshoot? It sounds like what negotiators call 'rationalisation' - you are avoiding addressing the true business issue (recovering your business activity) by justifying the situation with an irrelevant argument (your clients beliefs).
    But it is an almighty assumption that the pictures are the cause of the business drop off; but if it is true, it means that the sort of people you refer to made up a significant part of your clientele in the past and you didn't know and cared even less. Go figure.​
    Mike, there is a LARGE difference between what is relevant and what should be relevant. The American public (and for that matter the French, Russian, Chinese, Argentinian, etc.) will by and large make a decision based on what they like or how they feel. If you need an example, I'd direct you to the entire marketing industry. Where I live, I can promise you that people's perceptions make a large difference. You don't need to like your clients, but your clients absolutely need to like you. It doesn't take a genius to see why people that are against gay marriage wouldn't hire Ella to shoot their wedding. If she doesn't believe in the sanctity of marriage, then she obviously doesn't have any respect for the process and will probably do a terrible job. It's not a big leap to picture a client thinking this way.
    In the future, I'd remember that your website should show the clients you want, and not the clients you have. If you feature gay couples, you'll get hired to shoot more gay couples. This is not necessarily a bad thing. However, you may find that putting gay, non-Christian, or interracial couples or services on your site causes you to lose business from Conservative WASPy couples.
    You could try asking couples how they feel about it too. Tell them, "Look, I shoot mostly people that oppose gay weddings. I have no problem with it, and I'd be happy to shoot your wedding, but I do have a business to run. If it's okay with you, I'd like to refrain from putting any of your photos on my website until it's a little more common." Some people will be okay with that, and some will be offended. Good luck.
    The last two paragraphs obviously only matter if money is your main goal. Which is okay - a job's a job. But if you're strapped for cash, maybe now isn't the time to make a social stand yet.
     
  29. I applaud what you are doing, Ella, and think your course of action truly correct. I am neither a businessman nor a professional photographer, but there must be a market for standing up for your beliefs somewhere.
     
  30. Thank you for all the responses. I'm sure everyone has had these moments where you mostly have made up your mind about a situation but wanted to gauge the public.
    I realize now that my argument that I wouldn't want a client who would reject me based on one image is a moot point. I would probably never run into a situation where I would learn their political leanings, I'm not someone who talks about politics at all. It's just useful to get more varied opinions on the matter because after living in Chelsea (NYC) your ideas of what is the norm are considerably altered. It's such a bubble.
    I'm not trying to stand on a soapbox here. Just asking for people's opinions. Thank you.
     
  31. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It doesn't take a genius to see why people that are against gay marriage wouldn't hire Ella to shoot their wedding. If she doesn't believe in the sanctity of marriage​
    Total disconnect. What one thinks about gay marriage has nothing to do with the "sanctity of marriage."
    If I were to pick and choose only clients I like or get along well with, my income would be cut in half.​
    It's not about you. Plenty of clients pick photographers they don't necessarily agree with on certain issues. They should pick them because they do a good job. It's not like Ella is saying she's going to carry a picket sign to a wedding.
     
  32. It's not about you. Plenty of clients pick photographers they don't necessarily agree with on certain issue​
    Total disconnect Jeff. You misunderstood my statement.
    I don't choose my clients based on political beliefs, social commentary or the way they look.
    I am hired to do a job.
    I will say there are fences I won't cross.
    ..and by the way, it is about me, my income and my lifestyle.
    That does not mean I don't deliver to my client what they need & want; I do.
    ...and just to clear the record, I do choose my clients, we all do; anything less is either prostitution or desperation.
     
  33. Jeff, you're wrong: there's no disconnect there in my sentence. I think every rationally-minded person agrees that there SHOULD be a disconnect there, but in all reality there isn't one in many people's minds. Even though most people would not think that photographing gay couples -> supporting gay marriage -> underminding the sanctity of marriage -> bad wedding photographer, the fact is that in many, MANY parts of the United States (including where I am from), this is indeed how a lot of people think. I wouldn't say that a majority thinks this way by any means, but I would say that enough people think this way that one would want to be careful about which buttons one pushes if you're using this as your sole income.
    Mayoral hopefuls in New York City get flak from people for rooting for the Mets over the Yankees (who are also a NY team, last time I checked), or Buffalo over the Giants. If the general public can't even refrain from judging people based on the sports teams they like, I think you're expecting an awful lot to think no one will judge someone based on a cultural, political, and possibly even religious reason.
    Personally, if it were my site, I would only put up photos of gay couples if I also had photos if minority couples or non-Christian services, or at least a few gay couples. A single gay couple isn't enough to show you as a diverse and equal-opportunity shooter, but it is enough to upset Upstate or Western New Yorkers. Trust me ... I live in Upstate New York, there have been advertisements I've run with mixed-race couples that got me phone calls about how I just lost business. And those are the people that were outraged enough to actually call!
     
  34. I think there are two things at play:
    1. I think more people are open to the idea of gay unions, as written on paper, but to see a photo of it is another thing. I imagine if you took a poll, "Do you think being gay should be allowed by law" you would get a yes rate of 95%, but if you asked "Would you want to see two gay guys kiss" you would get a yes rate of 10%.
    2. It may not be that the people are instantly turned off by your photo, but if a couple is choosing between you and another photographer who has similar quality and price, it could be the deciding factor between you two.
     
  35. Ella, you are correct when you say where you live alters your way of thinking and in this case your business. I live in a
    very conservative state and work mostly in a very liberal state and how I conduct myself in one does not work well in
    the other. How's that for difficult? But, I do it all the time. You see in business you have to be very diplomatic and as
    long as you don't have to bend your core values too much you should be okay. Does Mc Donald restaurant or Burger
    King turn down business simply because they dont like your position in politics?

    You don't have to be gay to shoot a gay wedding you just have to be a good photographer that's all. Like one poster
    said, if you have to click with all of your clients to work for them you'll be out of business pretty soon.

    Anyways, good luck!

    Ed
     
  36. I think you have to do what you think in life is right. Whenever I found myself faced with two choices, one was what seemed the right thing to do, and the other one was the sensible one, I always followed the non-sensible, right one, and never regretted it.
    To me, it is mind boggling that there seem to be so many who might have a problem with it, and as for
    I've run with mixed-race couples that got me phone calls about how I just lost business​
    I am speechless that that could happen. Would you really want the money of people who thought like that, and even less want to photograph their wedding, I would feel dirty. If you want to look at it as a business decision, there are other ways to make money in life. If life was just a business decision, I'd still be a lawyer.
    We happily included photos from a gay wedding on our blog, and also included a selection of the photos in our printed portfolio we show to clients. As far as I can make out, clients seem to like it, find it interesting, and I think it helps encourage more intelligent and interesting clients. So far no one has betrayed any visibly negative reaction, generally the reaction is to look at the pictures with interest. Either way, they book. I think most people positively like it and seem interested.
     
  37. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I may be presumptuous in thinking the problem isn't at all my fault, but I've noticed a drastic fall in the number of people booking me for weddings after I posted a gay engagement shoot on my blog and website . . . I wanted to get someone else's opinion on this.
    [i.e. opinions on “the drop off in the number of people booking me.”]
    .
    “I'm not trying to stand on a soapbox here. Just asking for people's opinions. Thank you.”​
    Yep, I understand that. I understood it the first time around. But in your reply you have not addressed my question, implied:
    Have you noticed a drop off in INQUIRES . . . (and your conversion rate)?
    I am interested in your answer and more information regarding the situation because I am interested in your question and the possible reasons for the situation you outline: and I too am not interested in standing on any soap box – but again from the response it seems the situation (fall off in bookings) is not being addressed; but rather ad hoc attempts and ducking and weaving are happening to attribute a reason, for that fall-off.
    My point is, if you want a to address the fall off in the Wedding BOOKINGS your business is making, there is no place for soapboxes, More importantly, there is no place for defending the fact that one is NOT standing on a soap box. These elements are: Clutter. And it is easy to make Clutter an answer and then make “business decisions” based upon that answer of Cluitter . . . only then to go on defend the business decision, with the very same Clutter.
    To the point of the OP again, definitively:

    What are your inquiry numbers? Over what period? Any other changes to the website apart from the new Images? What’s the difference in your conversion rate? Etc . . .
    WW
     
  38. WW....apparrently the interest here is the soapbox, not the actual numbers, data, or the business issues.
     
  39. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Gidday David,
    I noticed that the main thrust of your original response was the same as mine - "what is the data" “how many inquiries”, “how many conversions”, "leave the emotion outside if you want to do business thinking" . . . etc.
    Apparently we were having the similar thoughts, at the same time, as indicated by the times of our first postings in this thread.
    What I would NOT like to happen, is that the OP mistakes my (and your) perseverance on this issue of data and business focus, to be mistaken for argument and / or having emotive content.
    Previously, my lack of emotion and the literal writing style of responses, have been mistaken for emotion and indeed me having a soapbox . . . ironic.
    WW
     
  40. not the actual numbers, data​
    We can probably take the OP's word for it that there has been a fall off in activity. Knowing whether it's a big fall or a small-ish fall might be interesting, but why do you need to know actual numbers? Yes, the OP should consider the possibility that the drop off in activity is wholly or partly caused by something else. Unless you can interview some would-be clients who were put off ad are willing to say honestly why, you will never prove what is causing the dip.
    The more interesting point is that the OP believes that the fall off may have been caused by these images, and others on this thread seem to believe that it is credible that it might be. That in itself is enough to justify the discussion of the main issue, which is an interesting and important one.
     
  41. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    The more interesting point is that the OP believes that the fall off may have been caused by these images, and others on this thread seem to believe that it is credible that it might be. That in itself is enough to justify the discussion of the main issue, which is an interesting and important one.​
    Agree, Simon.
    And that is exactly what I have been stressing: “the OP believes that the fall off may have been caused by these images”

    Yes, interviewing people is nonsense, agreed.
    Yes, having a broader discussion on the topic is nice, but off the main topic as the question was asked.
    It is a business question.
    Yes the question touches on what stand we each should take into our business profile and to discuss thta element and gather opinions on particular social issues is fine and proper, (IMHO).
    BUT - if this discussion is to in anyway address the fall-off in BOOKINGS (again not “activity” or “numbers of inquires”), then it is poor protocol to assume that the posting of the “Gay Marriage” images on the website, is the cause of the bookings drop-off and then to go around in circles, harnessing opinions and discussing how that could be the fact of the matter. Such is very limiting method to find what the REAL cause(s) of the BOOKING drop-off.
    As per my first post, as well as looking at Inquiry Numbers and Conversion Rates: other matters need to be investigates: the protocol of the Initial Sales Meeting; indentifying any change of attitude brought to that meeting, by the Photographer.
    The latter is an area which warrants investigation, because the OP is initially of the belief that their action (posting the images) is a reason for bookings dropping-off and subsequently is insistent upon the same, not being a soap box.
    These are key areas which can be investigated, without very much work, at all.
    WW
     
  42. Some studios, including ours use a different studio name and advertise in some of the gay magazines.

    I think you may wish to keep a different phone line as well.
     

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