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Newlywed Couple Submit 30-Page 'Lab-Report-Like' Feedback to Wedding Photographer

We’ve all encountered those clients whose tedious demands have left us feeling exhausted. So imagine how this photographer felt after submitting his images, only to receive a 30-page document of feedback, including analytical shot breakdowns.

Media outlet DCFever reports that one newlywed couple in Hong Kong submitted a “lab-report-like” document of feedback to their photographer upon receiving the photos of their big day. The pair allegedly went into painstaking detail, describing how unsatisfactory they felt the photos were. They had printed off the images, aligning them in the document with text boxes containing their opinion. Amongst their advice were comments regarding the rule of thirds and how it should always be followed, remarks on framing the subjects more carefully, and their express disapproval of the “overexposed backdrop.”

The document has become a topic of debate amongst Chinese social media users. Some felt the comments were fair, as the photos didn’t meet the standards you’d expect when exchanging money for the job, while others defended the images by saying they were yet to be retouched by the photographer.

Do you think it was fair of the client to do this? How would you react to such vocal criticism of your work from one of your clients?

Lead image by Eftodii Aurelia via Pexels.

[via Digital Rev]

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Chuck Tintera's picture

Was the "Report" palatable?, obviously not so much to someone.
In a case like this I'd respond with polite minimums and chalk it up to experience.
I suppose you could try to educate the customer over to your point of view, but that's only a maybe outcome even if the customer suffered from no taste. And even if they were trying to lower their cost substantially.
That being said I'm betting there's more to this story than reported.

Matthew Saville's picture

Trying to "educate" a customer AFTER the wedding is almost always a disaster. The clients often would have really preferred to just get the final product they were EXPECTING, and an "explanation" of the photographers stylistic decisions will not help at all, it may even make the clients more upset if the wording comes across as defensive. In America, it's a possible recipe for a trip to small claims court.

The best thing you can do is sniff out these types of clients beforehand, and then show them the images you're getting all throughout the day, so that they pre-approve of the artistic style and technical methods with which your'e shooting each scene. I know this may sound insane to some photographers who have only ever encountered clients who give them full creative liberty, but in some areas, such clientele is more common unfortunately. It's up to you to turn down the booking if you don't think they're the right type of client for your style of shooting.

I bet there's more to this story too, though. From the video I can see that the "pro" shot the wedding in jeans and a T-shirt. It is entirely likely that they simply did not give the couple a professional experience, period, and their attitude during the day was too "chill", which may have come across as careless or sloppy. If this is what happened, then the "underwhelmingness" of the final result is almost inevitable. Not necessarily because the photos are particularly bad from either a technical or artistic standpoint, but simply because you can't turn every single moment of a wedding day into an award-winning piece of timeless art. There are many "boring" parts of a wedding day that may only yield one or two truly creative images, which get lost in 5-10+ images that merely state "and this is what happened next"...

In short, I don't think the photographer was entirely at fault, I think the couple is really nit-picking here. However it is the photographer's own fault if they failed to deliver a professional experience, and to discuss this attention to detail before the wedding.

Indy Thomas's picture

An extreme example of why wedding photography is for only the few, the brave, the poorly paid.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

Ouch, worst nightmare

michael buehrle's picture

i thought the rule of 1/3's only applies when it doesn't

Deleted Account's picture

Did the images they critiqued match the style of the photographer's portfolio? If so, then it's the couple's own fault for hiring a photographer with a style they don't like. If the images don't match the photographer's portfolio, then they have a valid complaint.

Matthew Saville's picture

This is a very important point of discussion, indeed. If the photographer's portfolio is nothing but perfectly staged moments without any technical flaws, and/or clearly a significantly different creative style overall, ...then the photographer dropped the ball in general by delivering a "sloppy" product when their portfolio represented something else.

However, having looked at the few photos that were included in the video, and the critique points that the couple made about them, I think they're nit-picking and I think the photographer did a decent job considering the "journalistic" conditions. This particular photographer would have had to have a WILDLY different portfolio to be truly at fault here.

Matthew Saville's picture

So, I had a huge comment brewing in my mind, ...and then I saw that the "pro" shot the wedding in jeans and a T-shirt.


But, I guess I should still share my thoughts, as this is a very huge thing that many wedding photographers will one day face, and they should know how to be prepared for it.

First and foremost, some clients are just this way, period, and they need to be "sniffed out" before you even book them. It is partly the photographer's own fault for not discovering that this couple was so detail-oriented until after the fact. You should ALWAYS be able to go into a wedding knowing just how nit-picky your clients are. (Or, if you're just not that type of photographer, refuse the booking!)

Ask questions about what it is they like about your photography, and what they're expecting to get from their own wedding photos. Ask them if there are any details or attentions-to-detail that stand out to them, etc. etc. Basically, you need to give the conversation the CHANCE to go in the direction of "we like the rule of thirds", if it needs to go there. Again, this should happen before you even book them.

Having said all that, some couples are just looking for a refund. They might have played nice and acted like they're just in love with everything the photographer does, and they can just "defer to them for all creative decisions", etc. etc. ...and then utterly destroy the final results with criticism and "feedback". Make no mistake, unfortunately people like this do exist, and they're just trying to get a refund, or a free album, or free retouching, or whatever.

If you encounter this type of client, (you weren't able to sniff them out in the first place) then you now have the unpleasant decision of whether to appease them, or to play hardball. In some cases, sticking to your guns and telling them to go pound sand is the best thing to do. If they're super-critical of everything you did, (and if a review by your peers confirms that you did indeed to a great job overall) ...then just tell them that by all accounts you did the same job that they can see you always do in your portfolio, based on the journalistic nature of documenting a wedding day. They should have brought up such fine details beforehand, if they were that detail-oriented, and if they want you to go nuts with retouching, you will have to charge them by the hour.

Alternately, sometimes it's just not a battle you can win, if the couple has massive social media influence (or financial / legal power) or something, and you're just a one-person-show who is barely making enough money to pay your bills. You might be better off just doing a few hours of retouching, and/or cutting them a small refund, as long as you admit no fault etc. etc.

Hopefully this type of thing never happens to you. Hopefully you can sniff out this type of client beforehand, and either turn them down, or go into the job knowing how much you'll have to pay attention to details.

BTW, I looked at the images they did briefly reveal in this video, and IMO the photographer's images are completely normal for professional work. The fact that they didn't follow the rule of thirds for every single photo, or perfectly expose a pure-white backdrop, or that they "chopped off the head" of some secondary participants in a moment, is entirely normal. The couple is nit-picking for no reason, in my opinion, and should be told so. Of course it's also this photographers fault for not realizing this beforehand; if they had known then they could have at least regularly shown the client photos on the back of the camera throughout the day, and gotten their approval, or taken some queues to not chop off heads, or over-expose the background, or compose a little differently.

TLDR: sometimes this type of client comes along, and sometimes they even sneak up on you, but there are plenty of things that YOU can do as a photographer to ensure it NEVER catches you off-guard.

Mick Ryan's picture

In China most people attend weddings in causal clothes such as jeans and t-shirts and it would be totally normal for a photographer at a wedding to dress so. It’s a cultural thing not a fail.

Pedro Pulido's picture

i had this thought... it can be culturally acceptable to wear jeans. Different country, different traditions and habits. plus dressing etiquete is probably addressed in a previous meeting before the wedding. This analysis was on the pictures, not on the clothing.
as for the analysis itself, i don't know the full story so i have no opinion. Nor do i know how i would address such a problem before reading it carefully and thinking of the most polite and accurate response to send back.

Ed Sanford's picture

No matter what industry you are in and no matter how much it hurts or how uncomfortable it makes you feel, feedback from a customer absolutely must be valued. Moreover, for a customer to take this much time and to present it in a specific way should be highly valued. Many customers will never provide feedback to the vendor, but let the rest of the world know how unsatisfied they were. I think this photographer should read the feedback, thank the client, and develop a path forward.

Lee Morris's picture

Feedback is very different than wanting to do it for you. They hired this photographer based on their portfolio. As long as the Photographers portfolio was legit, they should have gotten exactly what they paid for and what was expected. This seems way beyond a normal critique.

Ed Sanford's picture

Your key words: "based on their portfolio"; "legit", "should have gotten"... "paid for and and what was expected"... It is way beyond a normal critique.... That's why it is worth listening to their comments... especially, if they paid him despite their dissatisfaction.

Gabrielle Colton's picture

I would respond to it with a "Thanks for the constructive criticism" LOL

Olafs Osh's picture

You left "LOL" outside quotation marks for whatever reason.

Lee Morris's picture

I haven't shot a wedding in almost two years and I still have nightmares about weddings. I'm either showing up late, camera battery dies, or I forgot memory cards. It always ends with the bride being totally let down. This client is literally my worst nightmare.

Cthulhu The Great's picture

Tell me: where is it you work now that showing up late and unprepared is ok?

brian wheatley's picture

Before I'd comment I'd like to know how much the couple paid for the photographer. Was he expensive? Was he cheap and cheerful? How much experience does he have? I've worked alongside all sorts of photographers on weddings over the years and you can quickly tell who the pros are and the ones shooting for extra pocket money. You pays your money - you takes your chance!

John Pyle's picture

There is a price point where things like this great reduce. I wonder what that price point is?

Samuel Flores Sanchez's picture

Time ago I was watching a presentation, I think from B&H and the photographer, if I remember clearly, said that this clause I attach here, was giving to him by Steven Spielberg. He was working for him or they were friends... I don't remember the whole history, but Spielberg hands it to him saying something like "look, you have to protect yourself, you have to put this on your regular contract...". It catched my interest so I take a screenshot of the document. I think is a great solution!

Austin joffe's picture

4 types of customers:

As a business person, someone selling goods or services, you should know how to do business with each type of customer - or refuse to do business with them. You should help your potential customer make educated decisions.

As a customer, you should do your research and know what you're buying before you purchase. Did they not review the photographers portfolio prior to hiring them?

Some people you just can't please, like the difficult customer. It doesn't matter what you do. You can give them all that is promised, and reduce your cost, and they'll still find something wrong. This is the nature of being in business though..

Kurt Lindner's picture

Really? Yeah, the photos aren't great, and the photographer could have done better -at the same time from at least what was shown in the video, you can only work with what you are given -and it looked like a civil ceremony in the bad part of town.