We all know that different people handle criticisms differently. I’ll never forget when my relatives criticised me for not completely fulfilling a wedding shoot that I had offered to undertake for free (as a token of my appreciation for the bride and groom). I took this negative feedback badly because from where I stood, they not only spoke badly about my work but also insulted my gift for the couple.
How many of you professional photographers got asked to shoot a wedding as a favour for a family relative and you agreed because it felt like the right thing to do and you wanted the photos to be a personal gift to the newly weds, their family members and friends? That is exactly what I had in mind when I voluntarily said YES but as things turned out, it quickly became the biggest mistake I ever made! I really should have known better considering this isn’t the first time it’s happened but was in fact the second wedding that I had volunteered for FREE and rightfully the last. Not only did I give them several sets of images on DVD but had also produced a high definition DVD Slideshow so they would enjoy the wedding experience better than just looking at prints.
PRO Note: Review and Post processing about 1000 JPEG images and then DVD Slideshow production in a rushed job of a week because the bride and groom reside overseas and juggling several other jobs for clients. A week after family members had screened the slideshow, I received the most damning phone call to tell me that the family was “very disappointed” with me that I had missed photos they expected but were not taken. Their grief included missing photos of bride getting ready in the morning, missing photos of bride arriving in an “expensive” car and criticised the creative compositions in some of the photos.
For the benefit of international photographers and viewers, this was a Chinese/Church wedding and a typical Chinese bride would be up as early as 5 AM to get ready to have her hair and make-up done. I had earlier told them I would not be covering this and it was agreed (or so I thought). Despite this, the matter was brought up during the phone call that a complete wedding coverage would have included the make-up session in the morning, I was dumbfounded and speechless. Next came why there were no photos of the bride and her entourage arriving. The church is newly rennovated and air conditioned (hint: condensation on lens). I would have really gone outside and waited but as things progressed that day, by the time I realised I should have been outside, it was too late .. the bride had already arrived and it was just not possible to rush outside, risking a fogged lens and capturing nothing anyway. In actual fact, I did just that – I ran outside, lens fogged right up and I had to quickly hop right back back inside, and took the first shoot of the day i.e. photos of the lovely bride and her dad getting ready for the march.
Recently, I discussed this matter offline with a number of wedding photographers and have their support that I had done nothing wrong. Without explicit instructions from the B&G it is entirely up to the photographer to capture the moments as he sees them. A local Bruneian WPJA photographer after listening to my story shared this link:
No photographer likes to be given constant art direction. Remember: you’ve hired a wedding photojournalist, because they don’t style photographs. Not only is it annoying, but perpetual third-party direction also takes away from the creative element of documentary style wedding photography. Directing is the antithesis of the natural, unscripted moment. And, as McGraw adds, the more art direction brides and grooms are giving, the less they are enjoying their wedding—and the fewer natural moments there are to photograph.
Unfortunately, this is quite the opposite of the situation I found myself in that day. Not only were there no instructions because “you are a pro” so you should know what we want but there were presumably many uncommunicated expectations of me deliver. Another wedding photographer said to me “I see that your photographs are more creative than before and are progressing well as a wedding photographer.” Unfortunately, progress on one hand means moving away from what folks here are used to while on the other hand, opening up all possibilities of producing a mix genre of creative and photo-journalistic photographs, much to the surprised disapproval of the family.
I’ll finish up with this observation. Those images that I had not captured are perhaps 3% of the total work I had undertaken. Bear in mind this is a relative shooting for another relative, it is not a professional relationship. However, I think my conduct at the wedding was nothing short of professional. What one considers important is completely subjective. Who is right or who is wrong? The one thing that bugs me is the attitude people have today, instead of being grateful and appreciative for the 97% of the “excellent” (actual comments from several members during screening) work that I produced, it’s more convenient to pick on the 3%!
A word from a happy client …
Jan, I finally have time to view my own wedding photos.
What can I say apart from ‘a BIG THANK YOU’ for capturing all details and moments (I finally know ‘what was going’ on on my wedding days – cos most of the time I was waiting in the room..hehe)