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Navigating Conflict Between Planners and Photographers

Today, I had the pleasure of chatting with Jenny Demarco about some of the greatest grievances between planners and photographers.  


And of course, while recording- my husband surprised me by coming home for lunch as today is our anniversary! And alas, I lost the recording when he started streaming something, not realizing I was relying on the Internet.


We will forgive him and I will now write this blog with notes from our call.


For context, Jenny is a luxury photographer that focuses on large, challenging weddings with difficult logistics, fast moving pieces, giant wedding parties and has perfected the mastery of hard lighting. She is celebrating 10 years as a professional wedding photographer this year and is well published, even finding a recent wedding on the cover of People magazine. Jenny immerses herself in the planner community and spends a lot of time engaging with other vendors to better learn about each category and how we can all work well together. We share a common interest in elevating this industry, one educational conversation at a time!  


That to say, Jenny brought some insight both from her own perspective but also from having asked other photographers, knowing ahead of time what my questions were. So let’s dive in!


When do photographers generally want to be looped into the timeline making process?


Best practice is for the planner to make a skeleton timeline at the beginning, even for event management clients, that the couple can then take to conversations with vendors as they hire them. At a minimum, photographers appreciate mapping out a start / end time, first look or no first look, ceremony start and sunset time as early in the process as possible. That way, everything else can be built around that premise.


When working with photographers that take on too much of the planning role (dictating timeline, recommending vendors, etc), Jenny suggests giving the benefit of the doubt. Oftentimes, a client may have asked the photographer a question and it’s simply being answered. So when a client tells the planner that ‘their photographer said such and such’, it may just be that the vendor only answered a question. Approaching the photographers with benefit of the doubt is when unpacking conflicts is helpful in order to open up the lines for better education. Then of course, for those blatantly sourcing vendors and directing beyond their lane, approaching with kindness and a spirit of education can be helpful but being tactful is key. We can otherwise perpetuate an arrogance that can cause friction.


Is it okay for a planner to bring styling pieces (ring boxes, trays, ribbon, etc)? What kind of conversation should take place about that ahead of time?


Jenny asked around in the photographer community and the response was generally positive. YES, if you as the planner want to schlep that stuff around, great! It is welcomed.


The things to consider here are:

·      Does this align with the photographer’s creative process or will it cause pressure?

·      Start the conversation early and make sure there is time built into the timeline.

·      Decide who is styling- planner or photographer?

·      Is it okay for the photographer to move things around?


In general, it’s never a bad idea to simply reach out, mention you have a “toy box” and ask if it’s okay to bring and style! It’s all in the approach and for the most part, well received. There will occasionally be photographers that don’t focus on details so this can create pressure. But again, having that conversation in advance can open the lines of communication for possible compromise or alternate solutions.

Why do photographers not want planners to bring shooters for details and how can we approach for a compromise? Are there best practices in this arrangement to consider?

There are a lot of things to consider here so I’ll do my best to highlight Jenny’s feedback on this sticky topic.


Essentially, the conflict comes down to misrepresentation of companies via detailed shooters. One thing that happens is newer photographers will crash weddings, take pictures and post on their websites! So as you can imagine, levels of protection are in place for a reason.


Reviewing these best practices can also give insight on other issues that can unfold:

·      If it’s simply a matter of having enough time to capture everything, ask the main photographer to hire a 3rd shooter for details. This often benefits the clients so the level of benefit can determine who pays for the 3rd shooter (client or planner).

·      If the planner would like to hire a detail shooter based on needing a different style, the main photographer can still contract that person and deliver in the planner’s desired style – allowing published credit to remain with the main photography company. The point of sensitivity here is simply that it can create confusion to the public on what style the main photographer has, consistently.  

·      When hiring a 3rd shooter via the main photographer, the turnaround time for the planner images is still much faster than the client gallry. So if turn around time is the cause for needing a detail shooter, this is still an option to consider.

·      If hiring an independent detail shooter, outline an agreement that includes things like: appropriate attire as to not reflect poorly on the main photographer if anyone confuses the two, no posting of those images in their own gallery- they are hired for marketing images as in the planner receives the copyrights of the photos. Also, in addition to providing the planner specific edits to the planner, provide RAW images to the main photographer so they can be edited in cohesion with the main gallery for the client.

·      When tagging the wedding, tagging credits go to the main photographer.

·      Don’t publish the wedding based on the detail shooter. By having an agreement that the RAW files go to the main photographer, this opens up stronger publication opportunities. The images are more detailed and the edits are cohesive.

·      One idea is to hire a photographer that doesn’t do weddings. That way, there isn’t a competitive pull. So maybe an architectural or landscape photographer!


As a bonus- I added my tips for navigating the various styles of edits that are provided by photographers. My first ‘tough love’ pointer on this is to relax. Over time, we build portfolios strong enough to not worry about varying styles. Would I love my IG thread to be all light and airy or all moody? Of course, it’s just “easier” that way. But the truth is, our clients sometimes have different style preferences and there ARE ways to mix it up.


·      Ombre feeds allow for light to dark and back and forth.

·      Breaking up light and dark with quotes is another option.

·      In my @heavenlydayevents feed, I’ve started doing more “content” than in the past so I do photo/content/photo/content. My content posts have less “likes” but they often have more engagement in conversation and regardless, I’ve noticed feedback from people better knowing and seeing our brand message at a glance. It reduces the number of images I need, it dissolves the issue of style variations and it better attracts my ideal client because instead of relying on them to click a picture to read my valuable caption, they can get a snapshot by skimming my thread- which in turn serves as click bait for further reading of my captions.


I referred to social media engagement and I want to leave you with a healthy nugget. I know we all get overly connected to social media engagement. I can’t stress to you the amount of freedom I experienced when one day I just “decided” not to care anymore. It really was a decision… a choice you can freely make. I stopped caring and you know what, nothing changed. With some fresh perspective and some added time in my day, I put that energy elsewhere and have some out ahead in the long run. You hold the power in your own hands!

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