The title of this post says it all and I believe that this is something that needs to be reinforced. Every client is not your client. I see issues relating to this basically on a daily basis on my
nerd photography forums. Photographers complaining about clients. (And I mean, complaining about EVERYTHING about them!) Complaining that they won’t pay their prices. (If they don’t want to pay your prices and if you think that you are worth what your are charging, they are not your client.) That they don’t like their photos. (Did you create what they asked you to? Or what they expected you to?) The thing that we need to all remember is: every client is not your client and nor should they be.
I met with a bridal couple recently. They were a lovely couple and had a general vision for their wedding. Within the first few minutes of them sitting in my office, I was asked if my rates listed, that they had viewed before scheduling our appointment, were the best that I could offer them. I was a little thrown off. I had little information about this couple other than that they were referred to me by a past client of mine and that I was available for their wedding date. Before they gave me more information about their big day and before I even had a chance to dive into all of the information about my wedding photography, I was basically being asked to drop my rates. I told them that I could provide them the next day with a custom quote based on what they were looking for and we continued with the appointment as I do with all of my potential clients. We discussed their wedding, my style of photography and how I go about it. How I work hard to get to know my clients including sending them a Who Are You form and shooting an engagement session. How I approach making portraits. You know, all of the good things. Throughout the meeting, a couple of other points stood out to me that just did not sit right with my gut. Here’s the thing: your gut often speaks the truth.
I went home that night and could not stop thinking about the appointment. What my conclusion from it was this: I did not believe that I could provide this couple with what they were looking in their wedding photography. They seemed to be looking for a more traditional and formal photographer and while I can act like that, that is not who I am. After over a decade of photographing professionally, I am confident in my photography skills and I am also confident in what my style of photography is. What is true to my heart and how I work best. I also know that when I am able to work by the way of my heart, I am going to provide the best experience and best images to my client. And I was not sure that photographing this couple’s wedding was going to result in all of this.
Although I am still looking to book more weddings for 2016, my solution to this situation was to politely suggest that this couple look at other photographers who would both fit their budget and their style of photography. I posted on a photographer referral group that I am a member of on Facebook to see who was available for the date and I mentioned that the couple was looking for someone who was a more traditional photographer than I am. From there, I emailed the bride telling her that I thought that they were a wonderful couple but that I felt that they should look into hiring another photographer who would better fit with them and their vision for the day. I then gave her a list of a few photographers that I felt I could stand by and I wished her all the best with her wedding planning.
Sending work away, especially when I would love some more at this point, seemed like a strange thing to do. I said no to potential income which is a hard thing to do when you are self-employed (and currently living in the cold, quiet wedding-less winter of Canada!). But it also felt good. In the hundreds of weddings that I have photographed, I can count a small few that I should not have booked. They were with couples where, it turned out, we could just not see eye-to-eye and in the end, there was disappointment for all parties. When it comes to something as personal as choosing a photographer to document one of the most important days of your life, it’s crucial that you choose one who gets you as a couple. It’s also crucial that as a photographer, you book clients that you feel confident in knowing that you can provide exactly what they need.
One of the photographers who had replied to my posting on that referral group commented, “I can be anything that they want me to be.” Reading this made me cringe a little. I think that as a photographer, you need to define who you are and you need to photograph what you feel in your guts and how you feel it. You should not just bend to what you think you should shoot. If you want to be successful, you need to find what makes you a photographer and you need to stick with that. Anyone who is successful in any field has the common factor of being consistent in all that they do. See your light. Create what your heart tells you. And keep it up. Find your vision and the your right clients will find you.