Ever been guilty of pandering to your clients as though they were your best friends? It’s okay, we’ve all done it. After all, having a great rapport with the couples whom we are shooting is a great way to help them feel comfortable in front of the camera. So why then, as a photographer, do I still aim to maintain what I call a healthy ‘professional distance’?
First and foremost, we are Paid Artists, not friends trying to win a popularity contest.
And while this isn’t to say that friendships cannot develop over the course of our work, we should never lose sight of the fact that we were paid to do a job. A very important job. One that requires us to be fully focused and intent on using every ounce of our experience and expertise for the benefit of the people who hired us.
Secondly, not blurring the line between service provider and service receiver protects both parties. From our perspective, it shields us from unfair expectations. The client needs to accept that we are required only to carry out the work that was agreed upon in the contract; and not bend over backwards for them, just because we’ve been friendly throughout the day. Had they wanted more coverage, they should have requested it in advance, instead of simply assuming that we would be happy to stay late into the evening without a defined finish time. From their perspective, it guards them against unprofessional conduct on our behalf. Because by the same token, we are obligated to deliver precisely what was set out in the contract without cutting any corners. Again, this isn’t saying that we can’t go above and beyond for our clients if we wish to. It’s merely stating that it’s not something they are entitled to.
Thirdly, understanding that you are the employed photographer on the day should be an empowering notion. The most significant people at the wedding (i.e. the Bride & Groom) are relying on you to guide, advise, and maybe even coach them on how best to come away with resplendent pictures from their beautiful union. So don’t be shy, take the reins, and in doing so, reduce the stress that can be inherent to a photo shoot. A confident photographer’s gentle instruction goes a long way in helping the couple feel less awkward if they’ve never before been photographed at such length.
So the next time you catch yourself being overly friendly, ask yourself this: are you doing everything you can to create the best art? Or are you perhaps trying a little too hard to be besties with people you barely know.