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Tips & Tricks

Quitting Your Day Job: How To Answer Tough Wedding Client Questions

By Chris Nachtwey on October 2nd 2014

This is a un-sugarcoated look into what life is really like when you walk away from the steady paycheck and enter the world of being self employed. I will be sharing my experiences, thoughts, and anything else that comes my way as I navigate the waters of being a full-time photographer. I also hope to interview other full-time photographers to share their experiences with you as well. To see the rest of the articles in the series, click here.

How To Answer Three Tough Wedding Client Questions

Clients, we need them, and for the most part, clients are pretty easy to work with, but every once in awhile you will get “that” client. You know, the client who thinks Photoshop can fix anything; the client who wants all the RAW images; or the one who wants to pay you after you deliver images.

Please note: The couples featured in this article are there to make the article look pretty, and were not “that” client.

REWIND: QUITTING YOUR DAY JOB: WANT MORE REFERRALS? FOCUS ON CLIENT EXPERIENCE

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While working with one of those “that” clients can be frustrating, don’t take any question or request that makes you upset or irritated personally. We need to remember that most clients are likely not educated in the business or technical sides of photography. While they might be asking questions or making requests that make us cringe, they probably have no idea how difficult, or out of this world, the request might be.

Three Common Questions You May Be Asked

1. Can We Pay Our Final Balance After We Receive Our Photos?

This question will be asked at some point in your career, and the hard part about it is that it will most likely be asked in a meeting or phone call. This means you have to come up with a response on the fly. I actually thought ahead about this question and how to answer it before I started booking clients when I started out, just in case someone asked me and I had to answer it on the spot.

I will be honest with you, the times I’ve been asked this question, I instantly get concerned that I’m not longer talking to someone who loves me and my work, but is a budget-only minded client, meaning they only care about getting the best price, and not the best quality. With that said, that’s not always the case.

My Response 

I know wedding photography is a very large investment, but I do require all final balances be paid before your wedding day. This is the industry standard and common practice among many, if not all wedding photographers. I would be more than happy to create a custom payment plan to help break down your wedding photography investment into smaller amounts over time leading up to your wedding if that would help you manage your payments better.

Did you see what I did there? I stood my ground, but still gave the client the option to pay their balance over a longer period of time in smaller amounts. I’m absolutely fine with creating a custom payment plan with a client if that means I book them and keep money coming into my business. I require the final payment for wedding photography before I show up to shoot a client’s wedding, but you could even offer to accept a final payment after the wedding, but before the images are delivered. Be understanding and flexible if you would like to still work with the client, but hold your ground. Sometimes clients are just asking you questions like this to test you and see how you react.

2. Can We Have All The RAW Photos?

This question is another common one that we run into as photographers. Personally, it baffles my mind why a client would want the RAW photos, but again it’s a question you need to be prepared to answer.

My Response

The final images I deliver are expertly curated and edited to provide you with a final product that is at the highest image quality. This allows you to sit back and enjoy your wedding day photos, rather then curating and editing your own wedding day photos. If you are seeking all the RAW images from your wedding day, I’m not the right photographer for you.

Without going off on a client about why they don’t need the RAW images, I choose to say that the final product is delivered so they can sit back and remember the day with the highest quality images vs. doing the work themselves. I’m also very blunt about stating that if they want RAW images, I’m not their guy. I’m ok with that, because a client who wants the RAW images is not my type of client whatsoever.

3. Can You Photoshop This, That, Oh and That Too?

Photoshop, I love it and hate it. Personally, I think it’s sad that in our society, the saying “Photoshop it” is even a thing. At some point, you’re going to be asked to Photoshop something in or out of a client’s image or images. Deciding what you want to edit into or out of a client’s image is completely your choice. I personally try my hardest to not have to do any Photoshop work after a wedding has been delivered. Meaning, if I see some unsightly object in the background that I missed when framing my shot, I will most likely remove it. I also make sure to clean up any blemishes or wrinkles on all close ups of the bride and groom and family formals. If I have a question about something I notice during editing, I will ask my client during the editing process if they would like me to remove it or clean it up.

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I’m cool with making edits during the editing process, but once I have delivered the images and then start to get bombarded with requests, I can become annoyed. Again, this falls back to our clients just not knowing any better. They don’t know it can take an hour or more to do a full portrait retouch. Be professional in your response and don’t be afraid to tell the client you would be happy to do the edit, but you do charge an hourly rate for the work being requested and would be happy to create a quote for them to consider before making any changes to the images. I look at it this way, if you’re a good photographer, you have done all you feel is necessary to deliver final images that follow your style. If a client is requesting additional edits, you should be compensated for the time and effort to make the edits.

You are free to deal with additional edit requests however you would like, but I know from experience, if you give a client an inch they will take a mile, and all of a sudden, you will have a stack of editing work on your hands. If all else fails, outsource the work and bill the client for it accordingly. You could also go the route of just saying no, but I’m one to always find a middle ground where both parties are happy.

On a side note about post production, if you’re looking to speed up your editing workflow, you should really check out the new Version 6 of the SLR Lounge Lightroom Preset System. It’s full of amazing Lightroom presets, tips and tricks to help you make editing your latest wedding a breeze.

Conclusion

Those are just three very common questions we run into as wedding photographers, and we all have to answer them in our own professional way. The truth is, the more couples you meet with, the more couples you book, and the more weddings you shoot, the more unique and sometimes interesting questions you will be asked. Just remember, no matter how out of the world the question or request might be, stay professional, calm, and know that a great client experience is your best friend when it comes to getting more referrals and booking more work.

Till next time, keep shooting, building your business, and embrace the hustle!

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Chris Nachtwey is a full-time wedding and portrait photographer based in Connecticut. He is the founder and creator of 35to220 a website dedicated to showcasing the best film photography in the world. Chris loves to hear from readers, feel free to drop him a line via the contact page on his website! You can see his work here: Chris Nachtwey Photography

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Clare Havill

    Thanks for the useful tips Chris.

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  2. James Matthews

    It’s an interesting topic about asking for RAW. Most people will ask for high-res images so they can print themselves but majority of clients won’t know what to do with a RAW file.

    I had my wedding last week and I e-mailed about 15 photographers explaining that as a photographer I just wanted someone to turn up, shoot the wedding and give me the RAW files. In return I give them a nice wad of cash in their pocket and they don’t have to do any of the post.

    The reason for this. I didn’t want to wait months for the images and I was hoping to cut down on the cost a little bit also by doing the post-work myself. Disclaimer: As a photog I’m not complaining about the cost of wedding photography and trying to short change anybody. I’ve just moved countries and trying to find work, every dollar counts!

    I knew I was going to be challenged by this request so I explained that because I would be doing the edits that I wouldn’t attach the images to the photographer unless they were happy with my post-work then I would happily promote them as the person who captured the day. They could use the images in their portfolio, a no-brainer because they are technically the owners of the images.

    14 said no, reason being that they want to deliver a particular style and don’t give out the RAW files. Fair enough, they obviously didn’t read the e-mail properly though. 1 said yes and they were awesome. They gave us the RAW files and walked away with a generous wad of cash in their pocket. They took their fave photos and put them up in their portfolio and I had my wedding photos in 3 days. Everyone wins.

    Funny side note. 4 of the 14 photographers that said no, changed their mind and e-mailed me back as they didn’t have bookings for that date.

    Giving out the RAW files is always an interesting discussion…

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    • Jim Johnson

      I’ve done this for clients, but I always made sure they were capable. Essentially, if you are a quality photographer and retoucher, I know you are not going to damage my brand, you are going to refer clients to me as you can, and that you understand what you want and how to get it.

      I would make the one request that you let me do something for you (ie a portrait or something).

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    • Matthew Saville

      Yes, I think we should have a discussion on raw delivery sometime, because as a full-time wedding photographer myself I do find myself in the minority of folks who WOULD actually consider releasing raw images to a client.

      As Jim Johnson mentioned, of course you need to vet the customer a little bit first, that goes without saying. But there are still plenty of clients out there who are harmlessly asking for something they truly want or need, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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    • James Matthews

      Agreed. I explained thoroughly to them that I wouldn’t link to them unless they were happy with the quality. Even though I’m trying to get a start in weddings, I’m not hiding other photographers, what goes around comes around so I would always promote someone else that helps me out. I also asked them to check out my work out first to make sure it was of a standard they approved.

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  3. Mike Kropf

    The question I hate the most (after sending around 400 images) is, “Can we get the rest of the photos?”

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  4. Brandon Dewey

    I found when clients ask for the RAW images it’s because a wedding magazine add that question to there list of “Questions to Ask Your Photographer”. Most don’t know what they are asking for, they are just asking questions straight off the magazines list of question.

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  5. Daniel Thullen

    Chris, once again well reasoned, sound advise.

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