Reviews are a must in the industry and who would not read reviews before going with a service. A few things to keep in mind when both writing reviews, as well as reading reviews.
When writing a review, be honest. showcase the facts and don't over dramatize or lie! When your having a good or bad experience, showcase the details of that experience accurately. Showcase point by points of everything that happened throughout the services and showcase what really happened. If you had a great experience, showcase it, if you had a bad experience, showcase it. But be sure to be honest about your reviews and showcase what really happened, vs what you think happened.
Here is a case in point: I had a client who I photographed a wedding for. Super cute couple! Very sweet, great love for life and very excited about there big day. I dont normally meet clients at their home, but the bride had just had her baby and didn't want to bring the baby out. I showed up a few mins. early and we began the consultation. Everything went well, and they booked me. We talked about doing both an engagement session and the wedding, but the engagement session they wanted to wait on, so it was never booked nor was the a day and time showcased. They just showcased an interest in having them done in either March or April, which I did showcase a 4-6 week turnaround and we should do them in early March. Every month like clock work I sent, as I do with all my clients, a message seeing how all the plans were coming along, I made no mention of payments unless they were brought up, or as a friendly reminder as some people do tend to forget about them. Over the 6 months, we talked about a lot of things, we never talked about the engagement session, but we did discuss venue details, itinerary details, etc. At the end of March, she did contact me to try and set up the engagement session, and at that time I did inform her that we needed to do it within the next few days because of the 4-6 week turn around. I was worried, because we were in the middle of Wedding season at the time, that it would take the full duration of time because we had weddings going on during the weekend. She seemed to be upset by this, as I think her plan may have been to do it a few weeks out. But since her wedding was the beginning of May, if we had done them at that point, she would get them maybe a week prior to her wedding and she would have no time to print or do anything she wanted. I contacted her a few days later, to see if they were still wanting to do them and got no response.
Included in her package was an album, but I did let both of them know that they had 6 months from the day of there wedding to order it. All they had to do was go though the images, select the images they wanted in the album and I would design it, send them proofs, then once they approved it, Order it. This is our policy because since we take so many images and a lot of video at each event, we can only hold the images for 6 months. In 2015, we photographed 57 weddings, That is a lot of images and video to keep on our hard drives for a long period of time. We do understand that now we have "the cloud" and other paid services to store the files, but that is still at a cost, and would drive up the cost of our services.
The big day came and went really well. It was supposed to rain that day and I did contact the bride asking if there was a back up plan if it rained. Her wedding was outside and pictures after the ceremony were planned for outside as well. She did let me know that if it did rain, everything was to be moved inside. and that was the end of the conversation. We got lucky, it did not rain during the ceremony or pictures outside and the day went great. We even Received a Huge Tip from them at the end of the night.
During the editing process, we did have an issue, the bride had a dress malfunction (she mentioned this in her First review, so since she mentioned it, I feel I can.) We didn't notice it at the wedding because it happened during the toss, and when the bride tossed, the malfunction accrued, and after the toss it corrected itself. we were able to edit out the malfunction and they were very happy with the outcome. Here is a screen shot of her first review! And she posted this same review on ALL of my review sites!
After this, I never herd from them other then a few comments on Facebook posts and such. That is until a few days ago, She messaged me asking questions about her album, but it was almost a year later. We had a contract that showcased it as well as I did let them know that they only had 6 months to order their album, after that, they would lose their album without refund. So I reminded her of this and she sent me several messages back in regards to this. Now weather they were rude, hateful, harsh, kind, sweet, happy, sad, upset etc. I dont really know, I can only guess. Because as we all know, there is no emotion in messages. These were massages via my personal Facebook account, and not vie the website she found me on, business e-mail, etc. She did showcase that she was disappointed and brought up the engagement situation, as well as she showcased (mind you a year later and there was no mention of any of this), that she did not get any pictures of a $500 Tea station she had set up that was put up about 15 feet from them, As well as a Card box her Maid of honor gave her, and that her rings were messed up in all the pictures. Again, none of this was mentioned prior to this, this was the first I herd of any of this (other then the engagement session. I did respond apologizing for the ring being messed up (I had not seen the images at this point), As well as for the Tea station, and card box. She also showcased that I never took pictures of the guest book (which was captured and she did not showcase after).
I was actually able to find the images, and have a link to showcase them for all to see. In looking at them, I see maybe 4 images with her ring messed up. and I am truly sorry for those. But in my defense, we are talking about 4 images, out of over 1000 images I gave them. Her ring was big for her finger, and has a HUGE Diamond on it, so Gravity does kick in, and since its loose, it will move when she moves. With that said, im still sorry I did not adjust it for the 4 pictures. Also, in looking at the images, I did see in the background the Tea Station. I was not told at any point that this was being put up. So I did not know to look for it, and I will be honest in saying that I don't even remember it being there. I will say this, In seeing the station in the pictures from what I can see, it does look like a typical Coffee/Ice Tea/Water station that venues put up for guests, that in which we don't typically photograph, and since I knew nothing of the station, I didnt think to capture it. If I had known, which is up to the couple to tell me, I would have photographed it.
With all this said, she did take the time to change her review on yelp, I am not able to screen shot it, as what she wrong was to long and went off the page, but I am able to copy and paste it here, and I will address what she showcased in the review afterwords.
"I have to write my honest review. My then fiance and I were just starting out in a new home with a new baby and were being very cautious of the money we were spending on our wedding. Which is the main reason we chose S.T. Photography. Engagement photos, Unlimited wedding photos, a videographer, wedding video and wedding album for a great price.. Who can beat that? Well the old saying goes.. You get what you pay for. First off he didn't even try to set up the engagement shoot or let me know it had to be done a couple months in advanced to the wedding.. Maybe he told me on the day we met months prior? But I couldn't get a reminder email/text? I got weekly payment reminders before it was even due. And figured he'd at least HELP to make sure they were done on time? I contacted him to see if we could set a date. He said he was busy on weekends so had to be during the week within a week or it was too late. (He contacted me saying he wrote me 3/28 but I wrote him 3/24 and he said it had to be done in the next couple days or not at all. Confused)) Anyways, my husband works and my daughter has school during the week. So, no engagement photos - He even stated we didn't agree on them.. It was the first professional pictures of our new baby. We DEFINITELY went over them. Even extended the time to accomodate for the baby. He did great in going over the itinerary.. Almost obsessively. Giving me great pointers on the venue. I thought he had everything under control. As I'm getting ready the morning of the wedding Scott texts asking what he should do with his camera if it rains.. He doesn't have covers or a plan... For one how am I supposed to know?? I could have asked the venue more details if he told me to, the plan was already to move inside if it rains.. We had already discussed where we were taking the pictures if it rains.. I guess the camera wasn't thought of? Scott did get some amazing and beautiful photos. Especially of my daughter, who is obviously extremely improtant. He started clicking from the moment he got there and my bridesmaids, guests and relatives instantly fell in love with him. Very personable and very professional. He had a lot of great ideas and took a lot of pictures. He went to our hotel, in between our rooms and then to the venue. I am dissapointed he didn't get a single shot of a meaningful $500 Persian Tea Table with two samovars that was set up right next to us or a picture of my personalized card box from my maid of honor. And my wedding ring is messed up in every picture. I also did not have much direction during the after photos. I am awkwardly standing and my hands are awkward in many of them. He did make sure to get all of my family in a picture. The wedding video is very nice. Fast-forward. I thought Scott said we have one year to do the wedding album. Keep in mind you're basically on your own. You go through all the pictures and set them up page by page... I text him for advice but he said our six months was up. He doesn't have the images. I told him I did but he stood by it and said no, its too late. was a single friendly reminder too much? Considering all the payment reminders. Forget it, I can do the darn album through Shutterfly. Just be prepared to make sure YOU have it all under control if you want to work with Scott. Or you might be a bit dissapointed too. Scott has replied this all was all my fault. (sorry, it's my first wedding!) And of course that he gave me waaaay more than other photographers do. That he is blocking me and not to contact him again. Rude.
She starts off by staying "I have to write my honest review" What her first review not honest? and I have images, can provide screen shots of conversations that showcase this review is not honest. I understand budgeting and to clarify, This is what her package included....... "1 photographers for 6 hours of coverage (she later added 2 extra hours) Capturing a min. of 100 images per hour, plus as a free bonus a 2nd photographer capturing Video. Plus a 10x10, 10 side Leather Bound Album of your images. Plus, You will also receive all images fully edited with copy rights so that when you need more prints, you can print what you would like, when and where you would like.. Plus, as an added bonus, you will receive a video slide show of all your images set to music of your choice." Engagement photos were not included, nor paid for, I did not offer unlimited wedding photos, a 2nd photographer capturing video was included, but not a videoographer, and yes, an album, which I mentioned had to be ordered and it is in our contract showcasing it could not be ordered later then 6 months after. I did not send her weekly payment reminders, and can prove it! I messaged her once a month for updates, The only time I mentioned payments or her deadline was when She asked or was talking about them, as she was talking to me about adding time on. I explained about the engagement session above, but as i mentioned to her, it was mentioned when we met, as well as in late March, that was it. She never mentioned it at all in between. If she had, we would have set it up. She blames me for this when it was her choice to wait until March/April. As for the itinerary, I do take time and go over that a bit. But only at the benifit of the clients. Most of the time, We photograph couples getting married for the first time and dont know how to time things out. Some times DJ's Wedding planners etc also do this. But when they do it, they dont account for what the photographer needs as far as time, especially when it comes to after pics. Most only give 45 mins to an hour, and 9 times out of 10 we need more then that. So I go over it with my clients and showcase what they need based on how big their wedding party is, family is, and where we need to go for couple images. Some times it takes 15 mins just to get to the photography location and they dont know that. So I go over it so we can plan for it. I never txted her asking what I should do with my camera if it rains, That is False. I asked if there was a back up plan if it rained, I did mention that equipment does not work well in rain, this goes for DJ equipment as well. I asked if there was a back up plan for the ceremony since it was outside.
As for the posed pictures, I can only refer you to the images them selves. Again, here is the link: https://sthomasinc.smugmug.com/T-K/ If you scroll down, you can see the couple pictures, which I did give her direction on, But I guess she came up with those poses and did them herself? (Yes, this is sarcasm). Not sure about her awkwardly standing in all the images, as she is in fact sitting in several. Her awkward hand placement im also not sure about, I asked her to put her hand on her hip, and that is how she naturally placed it. I Did photograph in this same location 3 Months prior, and some of the poses are the same, including the sitting down. Here is just one example of this. Did both Couples not have Direction? Hers was taken on 5-9-2015, the other couples image was taken 2-14-2015.
As I mentioned, and I did mention it to her, She only had 6 months to order the album. As other clients that received albums can vouch for, she was not on her own. With that said, It is up to the clients to choose what images go in the album, and it is up to the clients to make changes to the album after I design the proofs as well as make changes. But she never got to that point because as I mentioned to her, she failed to order it on time, That is something that is not my fault. Im sorry she didnt get her album, her images were stunning, but I cant hold images longer then 6 months, which I go over with all my clients. Also part of my policies is that I require 50% down at the time of booking, along with the remaining balance can be paid at any time, but no later then 2 weeks prior to the wedding. If the balance is not paid, the client looses our services without refund. When the deadline gets closer, I do remind the clients about the balance because I don't want them to loose our services.
I did give her Way more then most photographers. I promise my clients a min of 100 images per hour, Most photographers promise 50-75. We were there for 8 hours, and they received over 1000 images. thats 200= more then I promised. She was given FREE Video. and her package came out to $800. The average photographer in Riverside, ca (where they live) costs $1400-$2500, Digital images costs $250-$450, Video coverage costs $900-$1500. Added up is a cost of between $2550-$4450. These are average costs from Costofweddings.com and here is the link for a generalized zip code in Riverside, ca. http://www.costofwedding.com/index.cfm/action/search.weddingcost?zipcode=92501 Since her cost was $800, she did get way more then what she paid for.
I am sorry she is not happy now, But again, this is on the basis that it is now 1 year later, none of the above was mentioned to me at all until now. There are now multiple versions of her review, Which one is honest and which one is not? Yelp wont let me respond to her review, so I am limited to responding here. With all said and done, Im sorry she is un-happy with the overall outcome as yes, she did not book me for an engagement session, and she did not order the Album on time. Both in which I cant take responsibility for because those were choices I did not make for her.
Yes, I did block her, because after repeated, what seemed to be angry) messages on my personal Facebook page I felt enough was enough, There was only one course of action to take to stop the messages and that was to block her. Is that rude? Some might thing so, she did. But here is the reality of it. It is my personal page, its not my business page. My wife, my kids, my other family, as well as my friends are all on that page. Like her at the time, Some of my clients become friends, but all in all, Do I not have the right to choose who is on my Facebook? and do I not have the right to block someone from sending me repeated messages?
This blog is not about being right, but it is about being honest with reviews and showcasing what really did and what did not happen. And some of what she said did not happen! Either way, Im not happy that she is not happy with the service she received, but people do need to see that there are two sides to each story. I am a man, and if I am in the wrong, I have not problem doing what I can to make it right or make up for it. But If I am not in the wrong, Im not going to take responsibility for it. That's not Fair! Uninformatively no matter what I say or do, Society will always have the opinion that if a person is un-happy with a service, It is always the professional at fault, that The customer, no matter what the situation is, is always right. And Im sorry, but I however am an honest and upfront person show will tell people the truth. Customers are not always right, some times they are wrong. And this client is showcasing things that did not happen and are not the facts.
So which review is honest? "He had lots of ideas for the cocktail hour photos" or "I did not have much direction for the after photos"? etc. The first review was posted almost a month after we photographed her wedding, At which point, she had her images for at least 2 weeks. Up until almost a year later, all of this is now showcased. If her album was done on time, would she have changed her review? Would these issues come up. No! I would put money on it! But since she did not get her album in on time, now these are issues. When she finally did tell me about these (on 5-7-2016, 2 days shy of her 1 year anniversary), she said they were small issues, but now they are big issues to her.
I OWN UP to all of my reviews and I at this point am not going to contact Yelp to try and take it down. Reviews matter, and non-5 star reviews matter to us above all else. We love all of our clients and wear feedback on our hearts and will make changes to ensure we grow. Because we can only grow with feedback.