Well that title sounds interesting. No I'm not referring them out because I don't want to do their wedding for religious or other stereotypical reasons you'd see in the media. I turn away weddings sometimes (not too often) because after talking a bit if I feel awkward or we can tell during the conversation that it's not a good fit just by our personalities or preferences, it needs to be discussed and said, "I think you might want to look at a diferent photographer."
I'm writing this because as we speak I am still sitting at the Panera, where I met a couple at who are getting married next year, and I made the decision after discussion about styles that we weren't a good fit. What happened was that the couple had met with me and after looking through all my galleries, including two wedding albums online that are available and numerous blog posts, the couple had wanted to see more work to "ensure that the style would fit their needs". I proceeded to show them the work and as we were going through the groom looked through my work, critiquing it, asking me to change my style and discussed how it doesn't look "right" and "de-saturated". The groom happened to be a photographer and while that isn't an issue for me at any time, my main issue is that I don't want a client to determine my artistic style for me. I love the film look and when I started in 2013 the look was more of a light, bright and airy look. However as I've changed as a person, a photographer, and an artist so my style has changed with it. I don't feel like I should have to work or change myself for anyone, even a client. So...
saying no to potential clients isn't and should never be a problem.
Why? Many reasons. But here are FOUR...
1. Refer a client to another photographer when your style expectations don't match. Regardless of your style and their's, you can never be upset if a client just doesn't like your work. The film, matte look isn't for everyone, but neither is the light an airy look in which the background is frequently blown out to achieve that feeling. A photographer's editing style is a lot like their personality. I love light and airy, but I want to feel something a little more emotional and moody when I look at an image and for me in particular that darker look is a little now more my style. But I'm not out to please everyone and change myself for the $$$, that's not my motivation. My motivation is working with amazing people and capturing their wedding day. If it's not my style then I don't feel upset or offended that they don't want to work with me. Additionally, it's difficult to explain to a client that depending on the light, the mood, the feelings, and the overall everything that is creative in the world and why we photographers create what we do, are DIFFERENT for all different weddings. Keep with a style but sometimes some editing is different. If their expectations are sameness across the board regardless... refer. If they can't understand you artistic personality... refer. Boom. Onto the next.
2. Personality clash. In many instances that I've turned a wedding down or moved on with another client it's also because out personalities don't match up. If they don't work out, regardless of professionalism, this business is all about emotion. If I don't get along with or we don't mesh very well, the images are not going to be as emotional or intentional. It's okay to tell your clients that hey, it's just not a good fit, and this is important!!! It's important because you don't want to go to their wedding and ruin images and mess up the "mojo" of the day because ya'll don't clash. It's okay to admit it. I don't have many 'close' friends because I am particular and in turn, fit with those 'particular' people. Not trying to sound weird.
3. The entire wedding process isn't about you. The Photographer. It's about the client and the couple. If you know that someone else is a better fit, you need to recommend them off to someone else. Why? Plain and simple. It's the right thing to do.
4. Never settle. Never expect your client to settle and neither should you. If you are in the medium price range (which I am) and a client is coming to you asking for a look, specifics, and other things, refer them. Even if they want to simply book with you because you charge a little less, inform them that this isn't the best for them, or the best for you. Build these positive relationships even with your clients that you aren't working with. It's okay to admit that you may not be "up to par" with a certain famous photographer with nationally known work, and inform them that if they're expecting this, that and the other; they need to move into the next bracket as far as pricing wise goes.
Overall. It sucks when you go to a meeting and either they choose to book someone else or you know at the time it's a waste of time because it just doesn't fit. Regardless, do what your heart tells you. I know that sounds ridiculous and cheesy, but if you aren't feeling it, then don't do it and explain with the best intentions as honestly and with genuine empathy as you can, that simply.... 'we're not the right fit'.