Photographers tend to like people. They like to please and they like the praise that comes when they complete a project. And they hate monsters.
What are the monsters photographers come up against?
1) Bridezilla. You know her. She has her own show on cable. Her appetite for human flesh is insatiable. Somehow, somewhere, she came to believe that her wedding day is only about her and everything she wants. There is no pleasing her.
2) Momzilla. Momzillas prowl in every area of photography. They are tough to work with. They tell you how to pose your subjects. They hover over your shoulder telling you what pictures to take. They nip like small dogs.
3) Petzilla. This pooch or feline is a well-dressed nightmare. Petzilla has no discipline, won’t respond to commands and pees on your studio floor.
4) Paparazzilla. With everything from cell phone cameras to point and shoots to amateur DSLRs, this monster swarms every time you have a group posed. They pull subjects’ eyes off your lens to their own, they stand in the way and the slow down the process wanting to get their own shot of every pose.
5) Videozilla. The aggressive videographer who covers the wedding like CNN at a disaster is everywhere. He moves fast and has his camera and glaring light about 3 feet from guests faces the entire wedding.
So what’s a photographer to do?
If you have your own methods for ripping the teeth out of these monsters, share them. None of us want to get eaten. I do have some ways I deal with monsters. Maybe they’ll help you.
1) Bridezilla. I offer each of my bridal packages a free engagement shoot. (They order prints and pay for those.) Why? It gives me a chance to spend a couple hours with the bride and groom. It gives me a chance to interact with the bride. If she’s a monster, depending on the package size and my bank account balance, I refer her to some other photographer-psychologists I know telling her that I think their style is exactly what she’s searching for. Turn away business? Yes. If there’s no pleasing her, what are your chances of having her say good things about you after the wedding? RUN AWAY!
2) Momzilla. I run into momzilla mostly shooting senior portraits. Momzilla, much to the dismay of her kid, shows up at the shoot and starts directing. Thankfully, Momzilla is usually pretty easy to shake. On location, a senior and I will head up a hill, down over rocks or to places mom just doesn’t want to hike to. Then we ditch her and find her back at the car spouting and growling while my subject and I are laughing and talking about the next steps. “Mom, where’d ya go? We headed up the path and then we didn’t see you again when we looked?” (snicker, snicker) Momzilla isn’t very compliant. She orders few prints planning to scan them. I just order fine linen texture to make them scan lousy. I once had Momzilla get mad at me and go with a different photographer because I was hospitalized suddenly. GROWWWWWL!!!
3) Petzilla. “Oh, Muffy is so well-behaved! You’ll have no trouble with her.” Usually two questions help me determine if I will charge extra to photograph Muffy. “Can you walk her off leash with her obeying voice commands? Does she like people?” If the answer is no to either, I charge an additional fee. I keep treats in my pocket to make Petzilla my friend.
4) Paparazilla. This monster shows up at events and makes your job tougher. The throng of paparazzi comes to the front with their point and shoot cameras and 10-foot mini-flashes. While you are photographing the wedding party, people in group shots pick a camera and smile at it. You want them looking at your lens! They stand in your way, slow things down and are an overall nuisance. I have cards printed that I offer brides which say “Relax! Put your camera away!” They offer quests prints of the wedding for 40 cents each through my product fulfillment site. Most guests like that idea. Of course, I do still have to have a talk with a few over aggressive weekend shooters and explain that the bride and groom are paying me well and I need room to move. Sometimes I even ask them to hold a useless reflector. (insert evil laugh here)
5) Videozilla. I’ve seen videographers stand right next to the officiant, I’ve seen them walk in front of the bride and groom and I’ve seen them move bridal parties. Gee, everyone wants a photo album with the groom and best man separated by a guy with a video camera, right? Not so much. I strike up a conversation with the videographer early and exchange cards and talk about referring them. I sometimes tell a horror story of a past videographer getting in the middle of everything at a wedding I shot, just to make them think twice. And then, if during the reception they are consistently in the way and sticking their camera and light into guests faces, while always being directly across from you, you can always take the diffuser off and be ready to waste a few exposures blasting directly into his lens. That’s only in the most severe monster attacks though. Usually, videozilla can be tamed and you can work as a team for your clients.
And then, one final key: INDEMNITY INSURANCE. Know what it is? You better!
How do you deal with the monsters you face? Any hints? Any I have forgotten?