Hayley Lehmann Photography Blog

Wedding Photographer Ethics

Friday September 23rd 2011

My daughter is an estate agent which is a business that the public thinks has no ethics. She always tells me that when someone has made an offer on a property and reinforced that by having a survey, they stop taking new clients to view the property and effectively take it off the market. So how do those ethics relate to me as a photographer, and what goes on in my industry?

One photographer I know takes all the bookings he can for the same date without letting his clients know that he is already booked. On the day of the wedding he tells the clients that his mother-in-law has died and that he will be sending a substitute. At this late stage the couple have no alternative but to accept the situation. Although he sends along very reputable substitutes nothing can mask the disappointment of the families concerned that they are not getting who they booked.

I have always strived to be extremely ethical but often this has resulted in tears, some being my own. Let me illustrate this with 2 examples:

Many years ago two couples came to see me about the same date. I didn’t tell them about each other and used the principle of first come first served. Trouble is they both came back to me at exactly the same time. I felt like a property waiting to see who could get the surveyor in first. Both brides were in tears, and I had their mothers on the phone trying to sort the mess out. After that I decided to try something different.

I decided that I would always tell prospective clients about the status of other clients so that they should know exactly what was what. And if I was booked and I had a second or third enquiry for the same date I would try to sell the services of one of my other photographers rather than using the dead mother-in-law trick. If the prospective only wanted me, then I wasn’t wasting their time or my own time by courting them with examples of my work. Everyone knew what was what.

This week I had two couples make appointments to see me about the same date. The first one came on Saturday. They went away to think about it and left a message on my answer phone on Monday morning to say “We love your photography and want to book you but just need to discuss a few things first”. The groom was from a family whom I had worked with before. I photographed his brother’s wedding in 2002. It felt lovely to be back with a family for a second wedding. I tried to call the first bride back twice that afternoon but only got her answer phone. Just before the second couple were due to come and see me on the Monday evening I phoned the groom in desperation to clarify whether I was booked or not. He said that he was in a meeting and could he phone me back? If he had been in a meeting why had he answered his mobile phone? I said very quickly “Could you kindly confirm that you wish to book me because I have another couple coming to see me now for the same date”. He confirmed, and when I saw the second couple I told them that I had just been booked and showed them the work of my colleague. After much phone tag during the week the first groom phoned today to cancel their booking. In essence the groom didn’t like being interrupted in his meeting when he’d asked if he could phone me back.

So what is the moral of this story? I guess like in the world of the estate agent, a man’s word is not his bond. Unless a deposit is received and a contract is signed, a booking is not a booking.

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