You are thrilled to be engaged. You interview photographers to capture your big day, looking through their portfolios to see if they have captured other wedding days in the way you envision your own being documented. You hire a talented photographer who you completely trust and are comfortable having around on the most important day of your life. The wedding day comes and goes and is all you hoped it would be. You are blissfully married.
What happens now?
It's difficult for most couples who are planning their wedding to think beyond the wedding day itself. Planning a wedding is such a HUGE endeavor that you naturally have tunnel vision, focusing only on how to make that day all that you hope it will be. But from observing my own clients, I can tell you what inevitably happens after the wedding.
You wait in eager anticipation to see the photos.
They are the one thing that allows you to hold onto that day; to savor the sweet memories and emotions that you experienced. If they are all that you hope they will be, they are the bottle that stores the love you felt for your spouse, the way he looked at you, the emotion on your dad's face as he gave you away.
Chances are, you have no idea how important seeing the photos FAST will be to you until you wake up the morning after your wedding. It's not something that many couples think about when hiring their wedding photographer. But it should be. Because at that moment in time, it's all you'll be able to think about.
Conversely, photographers who are reading this, it's of utmost importance that we strive to deliver photos in a timely manner as well as to manage our clients' expectation, so they know what to expect from us after the wedding.
I've heard too many horror stories from couples about how long they had to wait to see their photos. I've even heard stories about clients never hearing from their photographer or seeing a single photo after the wedding! These kinds of stories make me sick to my stomach, and also make me want to shout from the rooftops to encourage couples who are interviewing photographers to investigate and ask each photographer about their post-production workflow.
I recently got an email from a bride who lives across the city and has followed my work for some time. She wrote to ask my advice. She had been married last year and a full four months after the wedding, the photographer emailed to let her know that he had just started working on the photos, and found that some of them had been destroyed by a virus on his computer and were unrecoverable. Needless to say, I was heartbroken for her. We emailed back and forth a few times and thankfully, they were able to come to a peaceable resolution with their photographer. But I asked if I could share her story and she agreed. Obviously, this is one of the worst things you can imagine happening as either a bride or a photographer. But there are some clear lessons to be learned from it.
First of all, for photographers reading this -- you have no business being entrusted with someone's wedding day if you are disorganized and unable to deliver photos in a timely fashion. This photographer had excuses about sickness, which may have been legitimate. But more than likely, he just didn't have his business in order. I know photographers are human and experience difficult life circumstances, just like everyone else. But even so, I can't see any justification for a bride and groom, in this day and age, having to wait 4 months to see their photos. And worst case scenario, if a life tragedy does strike, outsource your post-production. Pay someone else to do it so that your clients aren't left hanging. Second lesson -- back-up your files. The computer virus that destroyed the files did so 2-3 months after the wedding. So if the photographer had processed the images in a timely fashion, those images wouldn't have been lost. They also wouldn't have been lost if the photographer had backed them up. Do it the night of the wedding before you go to sleep.
For brides, the lesson is to consider each photographer's post-produciton timeline when interviewing them. It won't seem that important to you at the time, but it will be of utmost importance to you after the wedding, and may be worth paying a little extra for. We live in an age of instant gratification. I know how important it is to my clients to see the photos right away after the wedding, so I've made it a priority to streamline my post-production. This is what my clients can expect from me:
1 day after the wedding: All proofs online and available for viewing and downloading
4 days after the wedding: An initial album design
1 week after the wedding: Disk of high res. images and everything ready for collection.
This is super-fast turn-around by industry standards. Not every photographer will be able to deliver images this fast. But I don't see any reason why a photographer should take more than one month, at the most, to deliver online proofs. Do your research, so you don't end up as one of the horror stories.
Photographers, manage your clients' expectations and be responsible business owners. Brides, prioritize good service when interviewing photographers and find out what you can expect from them after your wedding. In doing so, we will put an end to the horror stories and hopefully, live happily ever after.
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