Wedding photography complaints and how to avoid them

The most horrifying things a photographer can face are wedding photography complaints, so let me highlight 4 things wedding couples complain about and how to avoid them:

1. Not enough photographs of important wedding guests

Recently I was chatting with one of my second shooters a short while after a first dance. I mentioned I wanted to get more shots of some of the guests, as there were still a few I hadn’t photographed.

He said “Nobody’s dancing or doing anything interesting so there’s not much we can do”.

My response was roughly this…

“I rarely get negative feedback from my clients, but the most common issue I hear is that I’ve not taken any / many photographs of certain guests.”

His response was that important people should be covered in the group photographs and if they’re not doing anything interesting then there’s not much you can do.

It’s true that there are always certain guests who spend most of the day looking at their mobile or gloomily staring into space, or in uninspiring conversations.

But, can you really say to the bride and groom “I’m sorry there weren’t any photographs of Great Aunt Betty – she just wasn’t interesting enough! You should have had her in the group photographs.”

…That’s when you realise you’d persuaded the bride and groom to cut down their group photographs. Partly due to time, but partly (let’s be honest) because you find them dull and stressful.

So on the one hand we’re telling couples to let us ‘capture moments’ and reduce group photographs, but on the other hand we’re not photographing lots of guests because they’re not ‘being interesting’.

That won’t wash with most couples.

So, what do you do about it?

Here’s what I do…

I go and chat with the guests I’ve been struggling with.

At the very least I’m going to ensure I get some lovely portrait shots of them.

But what do I say? How do you break the ice?

I’ll often say the following (always with a nice big smile on my face and a happy tone of voice):

“Hi there, you can’t avoid me all day you know! We can either do this the hard way or the easy way! The easy way is I can make you look fantastic right here and now and I’ll leave you in peace. The hard way is I’ll stalk you for the rest of the evening and I’ll pounce when you’re in the most compromising situation possible!”

I’ll then ask them who they are. If they’re an important person I’ll let them know how much the bride and groom really want photographs of them. It’s good to remind people you’re not photographing them just to be annoying, but that the bride and groom actually love and care about them and want the photographs.

I might jokingly tell them to down their glass of wine to get rid of their inhibitions (yes, I’d even tell grandma to do it – old people have a sense of humour too you know and they usually love the attention and banter).

I’ll also give them tips on how to avoid photographers at future weddings! I tell them they should always sit next to fire extinguishers and other unattractive backdrops and to always avoid lovely window light. They always appreciate this tip.

By now they’ve smiled a few times and their barriers are coming down, so it’s easy to grab a few nice headshots.

Ultimately it’s about relating to people and being a good conversationalist.

…but what if you’re not a good talker?

…I was incredibly shy for most of my life and two things helped me overcome my fear of talking with people…

…networking groups and house parties/pubs!

Networking groups forced me to get used to chatting with complete strangers and with time and practice I improved massively. And as I improved my confidence grew, which meant I improved even more.

Through my 20s and 30s I got invited to a lot of nights out and with time (and alcohol!) I got used to talking with strangers. The key is to keep asking questions until you find some common ground.

One of the great things about chatting with the guests like this is that I hear back from couples that the guests really appreciate it, so it helps referrals.

And all you have to do to practice is get drunk at parties and pubs and go chat with someone new. 😉

In fact my approach to photographing weddings is to act like I’m a guest at a big house party. I go chat with people and get people feeling comfortable being around me. When you do that they become less afraid of your camera.

Plus you get lots of referrals because you were “that awesome photographer who was really lovely and friendly”.

2. The group and romantic photos took too long

I’ve never had this complaint levelled at me, but a lot of couples and guests complain to me about other photographers that took ages over the group and romantic photographs at other weddings they’ve attended.

The key is to have a plan.

I generally scout wedding venues with the couple so I know exactly what I’m going to do and where I’m going to do it. I also create a ‘mood-board’ of wedding photos for the couple on my mobile and ask them to delete the ones they don’t like. This leaves me with a style guide of the kind of photographs they want on their wedding day.

I’ll obviously get them to create a group list too. On average it’s around 10 group photos.

My usual list is:

  1. Everyone (I start with this one and I’ll announce that anyone can grab me at any time if they’d like a photograph with the bride and groom. This means that anyone who’s not on the group list has an opportunity to grab a photograph if they’d like one.)
  2. Bride and Groom with bride’s immediate family  (parents and siblings)
  3. Bride and Groom with Bride’s parents
  4. Bride and Groom with Bride’s grandparents
  5. Bride and Groom with Groom’s immediate family  (parents and siblings)
  6. Bride and Groom with Groom’s parents
  7. Bride and Groom with Groom’s grandparents
  8. Bride with bridesmaids
  9. Groom with Groomsmen
  10. Bride and groom with bridesmaids and groomsmen

If you want to know the things I say and do to make my group photographs entertaining then check out our book ‘No more dreading-wedding group photographs’. Members can download it free in the download section of the membership site and non-members can buy it here for just £6.99

3. The photographer was too timid or too aggressive when doing the group photographs

I’m always surprised to hear that many wedding photographers don’t get a group list from the bride and groom. As I said earlier, missing people out of the wedding photos is one of the biggest causes of complaint from couples.

But even with a list, how do you take control of 100+ wedding guests without sounding like a tyrannical dictator?

Personally, I use a loud-haler. It means I can speak in a nice friendly tone of voice but still be heard. Without a loud-haler you have to shout at the top of your voice and it’s hard to shout without sounding angry. And that’s not a great way to endear yourself.

Again, if you want to know the things I say and do to make my group photographs entertaining then check out our book ‘No more dreading-wedding group photographs’. Members can download it free in the download section of the membership site and non-members can buy it here for just £6.99

4. I didn’t like the style of my wedding photographs

As wedding photographers we look at wedding photographs every day. We know the different styles, the traditional shots, the creative angles and the cool new fads.

Our clients often don’t.

You may think it’s creative photographing their wedding dress hanging from a tree… they may think you’re going to get moss-juice all over it before they’ve even put it on.

You may think it’s fun for the groomsmen to carry the bride, she may not fancy being groped by 6 drunk blokes.

And vice versa – she may love all that! But how do you know?

Now I know what you’re thinking…”They can see my style on my website.”

Although some clients will stalk you and analyse all your photographs in great depth, many won’t.

And some may love 90% of what you do but hate some of it too. Do you really want to guess which photographs they do and don’t like.

So this is why I use the mood-board idea I mentioned earlier. It removes all the mindreading and guesswork.

It doesn’t mean you always have to photograph to a formula, but it will ensure you’re in the right ballpark. And since the client is actively approving the photographs on the mood-board nothing can get lost in translation.

Those were 4 of the more common issues I’ve heard about (apart from the photographer just being useless, late and rude – but I’ll assume that doesn’t apply to you!)

So, what have I missed? I’d love to hear your horror stories, worries and sneaky tricks.