I debated for a long time whether or not to post this. I am still not 100% confident I should have posted it, but here we are.
It happened back in the day -- towards the beginning of Strouse Photography. After a terribly bruised ego, some hard conversations with my client and mentor, we realized that the experience we are about to share was a pivotal learning moment, life lesson and eye-opening experience, all wrapped in one. It changed a LOT of things in our business and for that, we are forever grateful to that couple.
Without going into too much detail, but in an effort to be candid, here's what happened.
We had a shoot in a part of town we were unfamiliar with. We were shooting at a time of day that wasn't great. We didn't do location research prior to the shoot to prepare better.
Nah, that sounds like a bunch of excuses.
Basically, we went into the shoot nervous, uneasy and unconfident. We weren't prepared. We "faked it until we made it." The overall experience for the couple was nice. However, the photos were not our best work.
Deep down, we knew it.
However, we felt like we didn't have a choice so we sent the photos anyways.
And we waited.
A couple days letter we got the email that made our hearts and stomach drop. As sweet as can be, our bride said: "Honestly, we're kinda disappointed. I was shocked to see some technical errors with exposure and it's left me really on edge and worried about wedding day photos!"
We can't say we were surprised. We knew we messed up. But it still stung to read -- anytime anyone gets criticize it stings. It doesn't matter if you are the CEO of a company or the newbie at the store, criticism stings.
After reading and re-reading the email several times, we talked through our emotions, what we wanted to do and what we should do. We consulted our mentor who has always been straight with us (and that is why she is our mentor). After getting up the nerve, we followed up with an email that requested a phone conversation.
And we waited to hear back.
That was the longest few days of our business. Those few days and any days in between when we send a couple their photos, and we wait to hear if they liked them or not are the longest days as a photographer.
Once we did hear back and talked to the couple, we came to a mutual agreement that we were not the photographers for them.
And that is ok. We knew that we couldn't repair their confidence in us, even if we knocked their wedding out of the park. There would be this unspoken concern that we would mess up and ruin their wedding day. As harsh as it sounds, it's true!
In the end, they found a photographer they loved, and we felt better knowing they wouldn't be worried on their wedding day.
From that experience, we changed A LOT in our business, how we handled conflict and how to better prepare for sessions.
We suggest times for shoots (in a time of day that we know the lighting will be great).
We suggest wardrobe tips for photo shoots.
We either do walk-throughs of the location or do online research prior to the shoot or event if it's a place we've never been.
We discuss expectations and set up expectations the day of.
We have increased our experience, knowledge, technical skill and education of photography GREATLY.
We've tweaked our editing and post-processing process immensely.
We learned a hard lesson in how to take criticism and grow from it.
We will FOREVER be grateful to that couple, their grace, their honesty and their willingness to help us understand how to be better.
The shoot we did after that hard conversation was one of our BEST to date, and we give all the credit to that couple who helped us grow personally and professionally.
So, while we've never been fired from day jobs (or at least, I haven't. I can't speak for Brad), we have been "let go" from a client. And you know what, that is ok. It happens to even the biggest, best, most famous photographers in one way or another.
What was a turning point in your business that helped you grow?