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Unhappy Customers

Lesson 72 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

Unhappy Customers

Lesson 72 from: 30 Days of Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

72. Unhappy Customers


Class Trailer

Day 1




Evolution of Susan's Style


Branding and Identity


Mistakes Made and Lessons Learned


Day 2


Introduction to Gear & Equipment


Lenses Part 1


Lenses Part 2




Day 3


Seeing the Scene


Seeing the Scene Q&A


Rhythm and Repetition


Leading Lines and Rule of Thirds


Rule of Odds and Double Exposures


Day 4


Intro to Business


Day 5


Financing Your Business


Day 6


Q&A Days 1-4


Day 7


Pricing Calculator


Day 8


Package Pricing


Day 9




Day 10


Vendor Relationships & Referrals


Day 11


Marketing w Social Media


Day 12


Booking the Client


Day 13


The Pricing Conversation


Day 14


Turn A Call Into a Meeting


Day 15


In Person Meeting


Day 16


Wedding Planning


Day 17


Actual Client Pre Wedding Sit Down


Day 18


Engagement Session Details


Day 19


Engagement Session On Location


Day 20


Wedding Details & Tips


Day 21


Detail Photos Reviewed


Day 22


Bridal Preparation


Day 23


Bridal Preparation Photo Review


Day 24


Bridal Prep - What If Scenarios


Day 25


Q&A Days 5-11


Day 26


First Look Demo


Day 27


First Look Examples


Day 28


Portraits of the Bride


Day 29


Portraits of the Bride and Groom


Family Portraits Demo


Family Formal Examples


Wedding Ceremony Demo


Day 30


Wedding Ceremony Examples


Different Traditions and Faiths


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Demo


Wedding Cocktail Hour and Reception Room Examples


Wedding Introductions


First Dance


Wedding Toasts


Parent Dances


Wedding Party


Reception Events


Nighttime Portraits


Nighttime Portraits with Found Light


Post Wedding Session Demo


Post Wedding Session Critique


Wedding Day Difficulties


Post Workflow - Backing Up Folder Structure


Post Workflow - Culling Shots


Post Workflow - Outsourcing


Q&A Days 12-23


Post Workflow - Gear


Post Workflow - Lightroom Editing


Managing Your Studio


Post Wedding Marketing


Client Care


Pricing for Add-Ons


The Album Process


Balancing Your Business with Life


Post Wedding Problems


Parent Complaints


Unhappy Customers


Working with an Assistant


Assistant Q&A


Lighting with an Assistant


Q&A Days 24-30


Lesson Info

Unhappy Customers

The customer isn't always right, but they are always the customer even if they're dead wrong even if they don't like them for reasons that are ridiculous even if you fully fulfilled your contract and there's nothing else that you could do for them and all you want to do is send them that email that says, but I've done everything I said I was going to do for you have a good life they're still your customer and the first thing you should do is just listen to them. I am so sorry to hear that you don't like your pictures not I'm so sorry that you that I've done something wrong to you, but I'm genuinely sorry that you feel this way about them so sorry to hear that you don't like your pictures, can you? Can you tell me what don't you like about them and then shut up listen don't make excuses don't start defending yourself don't jump in with well, but but this thing happened let them talk until they're done just sit there and take it however hard it is to hear however right ur and wrong they ...

are even if they make points that are true even if you screwed up in some way sit there and let him explain because the first thing they want to do is get this off their chest and they want you to hear them and don't apologize you've got to hear them out one hundred percent to figure out what they're unhappy about before you start offering up apologies and are you wrong right did you screw something up did you forget to do something? Did you she may be phone it in a little bit that day or did did they want to do something and you didn't do it quite right like if you were wrong you need to say I'm really sorry I screwed that thing up or I'm so sorry you wanted these portrait's with your grandmother I forgot back to the beginning principles which is tell the truth and above anything else I try to run my business with two things integrity and respect and if they're unhappy with me and I've done something wrong I need to kind of there's really no good phrase for it I need to be able to stand up and tell them that I'm wrong and I'm sorry legit sorry and then ask them what they want I'm so sorry that you're unhappy I'm so sorry that I did this thing wrong or even just I'm so sorry you feel this way what can I do to make it better whether you did something wrong or whether you didn't or whether their complaints are rational or whether they're not you have to ask them what they want I'm so sorry what can I do for you to make it better no there's really nothing you can do I just you know I just kind of wanted to get that out I feel I feel better now thank you for listening to me that happens sometimes well, honey, I don't know like not really sh mu maybe somewhere like a bigger album like we put more pictures in our album okay, so the pictures that you don't like you now want you want more of them in your album okay that's my personal favorite is we hate the picture is what we want more of them right? And are you are you willing to give what they want and this is one of those things that I can't teach you you have to gauge on the level of complaining about nothing that you did wrong versus kind of you sort of did something wrong and then what are they asking for and are you willing to give it to them? I can't teach you where that balance lies I don't even have like a scientific method for where that balance lies I have to find it in myself did I miss the first kiss and there and I forgot to take a full length of the bride I got like three quarters in a close up but her mom really wanted a full length and she told me about that in the meeting and I didn't write it down and I forgot about it I'm really sorry. Can I make you one eleven by fourteen of your favorite bridal portrait so that your mom has something really wonderful? I know it's not exactly what she wanted, but I will retouch it at no additional charge and have it mounted for framing for you. Oh wow, that's really nice, thank you and sometimes that diffuses all attention. Sometimes they just want to feel like you care. I will never forget the single worst email that I've gotten in all thirteen years of being in business, where a client blamed me for everything that wrong, everything everything that went wrong was all my fault and you didn't do this and you didn't do this and you didn't do this and you didn't do this and I was like, what? On a lot of it wass you didn't tell us that hair and makeup we're running late? You didn't tell us to hurry up for this. You didn't tell us to do that, I'm like I'm not your coordinator. Why should I have told you any of that? You didn't get a picture of the whole bridal party together? Yeah, I know I know you remember how that went down because a couple of your girls went inside and then a couple of the other girls scattered and then the guys went off to be ushers and no one would come back and I couldn't get them all back together that's why it didn't happen it didn't happen because I didn't do it and then she capped it off with and my guests complained that you were rude to them and that's the part of the email where I checked out cause I was like okay, I can see these legit other complaints whether they're real or whether they're not I'm never rude to anybody no matter how mad I am are hot I am hungry I am or stressed I am I am never rude to anyone ever and part of what sanders job is is to watch my face I know we laugh but I have every emotion that I've ever had in my entire life on my face and I can't help it and she'll look at me and she'll be like she like you're visibly angry and I'm like shake it off keep on moving that keep moving because I don't want the clients to ever misinterpret my facial expression is anything that it's not and I know that sometimes when I'm thinking really hard face looks like my I'm really mad at you face so I have to be careful with it you will know when a client apologize it one client complains with you, if you're wrong or if you're not, and then you'll find in your own self what you need to do to make it better. And it is the hardest thing in the entire world to listen to somebody complain because it is soul crushing. I've been doing this for thirteen years. I am excellent at divorcing my business for my personal life, and when I got that email telling me that she hated everything that I had done for her, I cried like a two year old for an entire day. It was the worst thing ever, because this there's no way to not take that personally, but the way I handled it after that was I wash my face. I brushed it off and I said, okay, the poem and the girl pants and figure out what we do about this problem. And if you are feeling emotional and a client is complaining to you, do not respond until your call. And if you write an e mail and you think god, this email might be snarky or easily misinterpreted or come office to defensive, have a friend read it. I've got a photographer for jen from sidecar post if I have to write an email to a client, I'm not sure it's going to come off the right way I'll send it to her and let her read it I'll let sandra reed and be like can use look at this before I send it cause I want to make sure I'm not firing something off and like the heat of the moment and then you know, when do you say no that's that thing that I can't I can't tell you where to say no at which point you have to say listen, I have fulfilled everything that I've done in this contract for you there's nothing else I can do for you I can't address the problems that you're having the problems that you're having have nothing to do with me and the photography I it has been an honor to work with you, but respectfully I've done everything that I can for you. I wish you a good life and I've done that once or twice that's a very hard thing to dio there is when clients are upset about things that have nothing to do with you, sometimes you just have to shut the door on them and be like I can't take this from you because now we're not even talking about photography sometimes you have to swallow your pride and compromise even when it's undeserved most times offering at least a partial refund is enough to keep the couple from plastering the internet with bad reviews about your wedding business is from book more brides dot com they got a lot of really great advice on a kind of howto handle things, and, you know, every once in a while this sometimes I'll give them something. Sometimes, you know, we had a problem with this one thing, and all we really want is the hundred dollars that we paid towards it back is giving them a hundred dollars worth making them happy and getting them to go away sometimes. And we're talking about the truly off the wall ones, the truly around the bin ones, not the ones that you can help but the ones that just go off the rails, the ones that, you know, we're going to go angry on the internet and say that you're a horrible person could just cause that anger rises up in them and there's nothing you can do about it. Can you cut your tie quickly and walk away? Sometimes that's worth it? Sometimes it's very worth it. So there are a couple of sites that I kind of go teo on a on a daily basis who really help with sort of dealing with difficulties with clients they've got a lot of articles on them a camera in a dream which is one of my personal favorites there really snarky there really tongue in cheek there very funny but they are very riel psychology four photographers dot com I know it sounds crazy it's brilliant they most recently wrote this incredible article about how to write your about me section of your website when it makes you feel very uncomfortable too right and about me section about your website but they talk about dealing with different difficulties and different problems within your own self and it's a really one it's a really great one and then steel toe images also has some great articles on kind of how to deal with client difficulties and I hate to say it but when it comes right down to it at the end of the day your clients are not your friends they're not and if I get into a dispute or a disagreement with sandra or jen or any of my friends we're going to sit down and we're gonna work it out my clients aren't my friends and it is on ly business so I try to not let the way I feel about it or the way it makes me feel hurt my self worth and also make me act out in like a stumpy little girl fashion I have to keep it very professional the entire way all the way through excellent cat g asked, how do you handle it when the groom is just not into the photographs? I have enough coming wedding and the writers so excited and getting about photographs, the groom is very disinterested at the engagement session he really was not into it at all. I feel like it's going to be an awkward day help my groom wasn't that into it? I have no images of my husband getting ready at all because that just that wasn't important to him on dh kind of lots of portrait of the two of us together, it wasn't really important to him or me either, and ah lot of times and I run into this all the time where the photography is super important of the bride, but the groom is just like, I don't understand what we're doing this you just do it, you know, don't ah lot of these things and a lot of the questions that people wrote into me about like I'm struggling with this, I'm nervous about this, I'm worried about this, sometimes you're nervous about things that just aren't even going to come to be, and sometimes we're nervous about things at your clients are never going to notice the groom is awkward in the pictures, maybe he's, just awkward and all pictures do you know what I mean? Like it's he is who he is and trying to get this guy to come out of his shell and be like, affectionate now going and exuberant, maybe that's not howie rolls right and have him do that would be kind of disingenuous, so don't worry about it too much just keep going and if the bride is enthusiastic play off of her enthusiasm and she will be able to pull him into it more than you're going to be able to pull him into it and a lot a lot a lot of times engagement sessions are awkward for everybody by the time the wedding day is rolled around it's just easier on everyone don't worry, you'll be fine have you ever had a situation this's from grog? Oh, how do you handle it if a customer is still upset after you've listened after you've apologized and the customer just tells you that their wedding day was the one special day and there's nothing you can do to fix it or make it up to them I really like and this is where I just kind of want to sit down with them and be like seriously like this is it's like the only day of your life that's every point like people put so much importance on the wedding day itself and I'm not saying that it's not important that's not what I'm saying at all but sometimes there's almost an unrealistic expectation built up in their head about what it is and what it's going to be and what you're going to be able to do for them that you could have made the best images of your entire career for them and they're still not gonna be happy and that's what I talked about in kind of the one of the last slides is there does have to be some point at which you have tto tell people to stop abusing you and abuses kind of ah melodramatic word of sorts but there is a point if a client just keeps coming and keeps coming on keeps coming that you have to say listen I've asked you what I can do to make it better you haven't given me anything that I can work with I've been everything that I can to listen to you and respect you and make this a better experience for you at this time I don't know what else I can possibly do for you I fulfilled the contract I love the images I hope in time you come to love them as well I wish you all the best drop the mic done like you can't what are you gonna do with these who would beat you up for the next ten years like it's some point in time you have to say I've done my job for you and it was an honor to do it and we're done here that's a horror that's the two e mails that I sent like that I literally felt like I wanted to go live in a bomb shelter for like a week after sending them because I was like they're going to kill me and they just kind of went away and I never heard from him again and it's awful because I know that there's somebody out there who's mad at me maybe I could have done something about it and maybe I couldn't but beating yourself up about the unknown that's awful all you could do a sort of take it learn from it learn from the experience and just see if there's anything that you can do in the pre stages of the day or the day itself for in the customer service after the fact that could prevent a similar problem from happening again but at some point in time you've got to move on because you have other clients you have to take care of and I'm not saying be disrespectful I'm not saying give them the double finger and like slam the door in their face dude what am I going to do that printer who messed up my books am I just gonna go like burn his house down or toilet paper is tree or keep screaming at him for months I'm not gonna do that that's not productive for anybody it just life's got to keep going sucks is this the happiest day we've had yet or what is awesome? We also really bad now we have more keynote or would you like to finish up before I put a brake on a couple crest questions? Yeah let's take a couple questions that we're gonna take a quick break and then we're going to come back with working with your assistant, which is a nice little bonus that nobody knew was coming all right uh one love by terra online asked do you feel like you weed the potential bad or difficult clients out ahead of time before even agreeing to do their wedding? Sometimes sometimes sometimes you just don't know sometimes there are no red flags sometimes there's they're saying all the right things, they're doing all the right things everything is lining up the right way and then it's they turn into aware wolf and just crazy things happen and you don't see it coming. Weddings are stressful and we always joked that we never try toe gage a feeling on a wedding day until after the ceremony because stress is so high right and everyone deals with stress differently. When I get super stressed out, I either get and like really snarky or I get really quiet some people get really crazy, some people go away inside themselves like it's how you handle stress, some people do it well some people don't and sometimes you see red flags, and sometimes you don't. Sometimes I see red flags and I booked the client anyhow and they end up being great. Sometimes red flags totally go away in the end, so I don't do a whole lot of pre weeding out because I really do believe that my customer service my images the way I treat people I can pull around, even the weirdest red flag. You know, there somewhere. I can tell that we're just not a good fit, usually more stylistically or financially. I do ignore a lot of red flags, but sometimes you've got those stealth attacks that you just don't see coming now and there's, nothing you could have done about it. But we're not talking about like this doesn't happen me ten times a year or twenty times a year. This happens maybe once every other year that something goes off the rails in a way that I don't see coming, and usually it has something to do with something that's, not me.

Class Materials

bonus material

Quicksheet Inside Guide (one large PDF file)
Quicksheet Inside Guide (zip file of individual PDF pages)
Pricing Calculator

Ratings and Reviews

Misty Angel

oh Susan, you are AWESOME!! I am not a wedding photographer (despite dipping my toe in this intimidating pool for one of my dearest friends), I shoot all forms of portraits and love sports too! Your '30-Days' has been the single most influential and educational moments since I started my venture into photography in 2009! THANK YOU! Your honesty, directness, bluntness, humor and vulnerability makes these 30-Days the most worthwhile time spent away from actual shooting; while simultaneously is the most inspirational motivator to push you out there to practice these ideas/techniques! #SShostestwiththemostest You raise the bar in this industry, not just with wedding photographers, but with all genres of photography! I wanted this course to learn about shooting and thought, great... I'll get a little bit of the business side too... OMG! I got it ALL! I'm dying! What an awesome investment in myself, my business and in YOU! PLEASE keep doing what you are doing! I love your new Dynamic Range, I feel that it is a wonderful extension of the work you do with Creative Live! I watch you EVERY DAY, every morning... I know that I continue absorbing your wisdom through repetition! I don't want to be you, I want to rise to your level! So thank you for the inspiration, motivation and aspiration! Keep on being REAL, its what we love about you! We embrace your Chanel meets Alexander McQueen-ness! :) Thank you for stepping into this educational space and providing us with your lessons learned so we can avoid the negative-time investment making mistakes... we are drinking your virtual lemonade!! HA! Like the others, whatever wisdom you offer in this medium, I will be jumping at the opportunity to learn from you! THANK YOU!


All the positive reviews say it all. When Susan took on the challenge of teaching this course it must of looked like attempting to climb Mount Everest...and she accomplished just that. Susan is a detailed, well-organized photographer and this clearly comes out in her teaching. Using repetition, clear instructions, a logical and well laid out presentation, she answers most any question you might have when it comes to wedding photography. I felt like I was having a private consultation when watching the course. She is real, honest, tactful, funny, and a gift to the photography community. Finally, her photography is professional and inspiring. Thank you Susan for the tremendous amount of work that you put into making this an outstanding Creative Live course for us all.


Wow. What a super, comprehensive, entertaining, informative course. Well done. I've taking a lot of photography classes and this one is definitely top of the list. Susan Stripling was very well prepared (and great job by the CreativeLive Team too). Terrific course. Susan shared so much. Thank you! P.S. Love the CL boot camp courses.

Student Work