I'm sure you have a beautiful portfolio as do most professional wedding photographers, but have you ever stopped to think what may be wrong with showcasing such a filtered representation of your work to potential clients?
Now, let me get this straight. I am not really providing a solution, instead I am raising a debate on the possible implications of showcasing a heavily curated gallery of our work to potential wedding clients. I have had this in the back of my mind ever since I went to my first wedding show. I remember it clearly; I noticed a beautifully decorated photography stand filled with thick wedding albums, a bunch of framed images scattered on the table, but more importantly, a large framed print right next to the stand which was clearly visible from the other side of the venue. The picture was of a young, beautiful bride with striking hair, and in a perfectly fitted wedding gown. Although on further inspection, she most definitely was a professional model, I didn't really think about it then. The colors of the photograph were vivid and welcoming as was the attractive bride.
My first impression was: "That's such a beautiful photograph and is presented nicely." But I had only just started out in wedding photography and something like easily swayed me to favor the said stand over others on that day. However, looking back with the experience I have now, it has got me thinking about the wrong impression we may leave on easily impressionable wedding clients who have no experience or knowledge of wedding photography industry as such. We often grow fond of certain images taken during our career that remain on our online portfolio longer than others, and it's inevitable that we will pick the "best" images to act as a visual representation of our business online.
It's unfortunate that there are still so many couples that fall for the wrong photographer, one who may have stolen photos from others and claimed them as theirs when speaking to potential clients. Or, photographers who have got a plethora of creative couples' shots in their portfolio or a bunch of styled shoots from all over the country but none of the "fillers," namely, images that fill the majority of everyone's wedding gallery and in a way could be seen as the more challenging yet important ones.
Think about it, only a vast minority of clients would like to only have perfectly styled images of them as a couple and no documentation of the actual event, which is a celebration of love, friendships, and family ties. These images are the hardest because you actively have to look for the right moment, and not only react to it but also compose it in a way that tells a compelling story as opposed to a guided session of two people looking into each other's eyes with a beautiful sunset behind them.
Although I said I am not offering a solution, merely raising a discussion, I have been trying to solve this by following three steps to ensure my clients are aware of what I offer and whether that meets their expectations. Firstly, I make sure that when potential clients go on my website, they do see these "filler" shots. I try and steer them away from only looking at the couples' portrait gallery and instead added various sections that tell the story of different parts of the day, from the morning until the night. However, you could argue that although I've chosen to show these photographs, it is still not a true representation of what they would receive in a gallery because these are actually my favorite shots from each section.
Secondly, as many of us are already doing, I implemented a blog section that I named "Stories." Here I give an insight of several weddings and engagement shoots by showcasing a smaller scaled gallery of what these couples actually received. Again, this is not a full wedding gallery but rather a highlight reel of each one of them but it does show a more condensed version of the wedding. And, thirdly, I make it very clear during our face-to-face meetings that what I show on my website is only a small part of what they receive, and as such, I let them choose one or two galleries to look at more thoroughly. As they scroll through the actual final gallery of one of my previous clients, I provide a brief commentary of the things I look out for, how I work, and I always make sure to mention that every wedding is unique and theirs will look completely different but one thing that won't change is that it's me capturing it. I'll still employ the same eye and watch out for those little moments but they will be completely unique to them.
The reason why I try and filter my clients like this is to ensure that there is only a minute possibility that they will receive something they are disappointed with, hence why through every part of our communication I try my best to both sell myself and the experience I provide but also to be completely realistic. I have nothing against styled shoots or showing breathtaking couples portraits but the issue lays in photographers allowing potential clients to think that this is a true representation of what they'll predominantly receive at the end of it.
What are your thoughts? How would you ensure that clients don't have false expectations based on beautifully curated galleries?