Getting screwed: why you should always use a contract as a wedding photographer in Taiwan

Over the past few weeks I had been looking forward to taking pictures of my first wedding in Taiwan which was due to take place on December 28th. Everything seemed to be in order and I had requested to meet with the client a few weeks ago at the wedding location to go over the setting for the official portraits.

Note: most wedding photographers do not bother with this formality. They are happy to show up at the event with less time invested. Being a perfectionist, I prefer to plan things out ahead of time. Most importantly I want the couple to be happy with the location and setting of their official portraits and this is not something that I think should be improvised. Therefore, I prefer to arrange a meeting with the couple at the church or reception area beforehand.

Well, unfortunately for me the night before this meeting was to take place we went out for Thai food with Carrie and John. Consequently I felt extremely nauseous the next day and it was all I could do it make it out to the meeting. As the Thai food had made me sick I was not able to produce the photographic contract and was somewhat low energy and tired during the meeting. In addition, the meeting was very long and the clients discussed many details with their wedding planner that did not concern me. It was also a very expensive cab ride and a somewhat awkward encounter as the wedding planner showed me the reception area and not the clients. I prefer to have the clients tell me exactly what they like and don’t like about a location. During this experience, my flash was somewhat inconsistent and I made arrangements to buy a more suitable devise for the big day. To accommodate the wedding I also booked the day off work, which will now cost me seeing as the bastards have canceled.

This has never happened to me and I was not prepared for it. In the past I’ve had clients pay me late and so on but I’ve never had a client cancel two weeks before the big day. This sucks. They told me it was because I did not speak Chinese. Fair enough. But last night my budding conversation skills were zinging at a Christmas party and I feel this is somewhat unfair. When I initially heard the news I wrote the client and told him that it was o.k. as I had not yet bought the flash and felt somewhat relieved of the pressure. My photography exhibit at Citizen Cain will open soon and I am in a mad dash to finish my PhD course work for the end of term. However, now that a few days have allowed the news to sink in I definitely feel screwed. Yet, there is a lesson learned from all this. Always use a contract to protect against nice people who won’t hesitate to stab you in the back.


5 Responses to “Getting screwed: why you should always use a contract as a wedding photographer in Taiwan”

  1. 1 globetrotteri
    December 23, 2007 at 5:17 am

    I was shocked when you told me this story last night Jo. It’s really horrible, especially since you’ve put in time and rearranged your already overloaded schedule to photograph their wedding day.

    Their excuse seems really flimsy. If they are so concerned about your inability to speak Chinese, they should have mentioned it at the first meeting. You could have easily arranged to ask one of your students at university to help translate anything you weren’t able to handle yourself.

    Brides can get really picky and a bit over-stressed just before the big day. I remember dealing with some real ‘winners’ back in Canada. I was often commissioned to design something only to have them back out at the last minute because they’d changed their mind. They never give a thought to how much time and energy we go through to ensure they get exactly what they want on their special day. It’s really too bad your first wedding experience in Taiwan has turned out this way.

    It’s their loss though. The two photos above are stunning, and if I know you (and I know I do), these photos don’t even come close to what the end product would have been.

  2. December 23, 2007 at 7:45 am

    It’s cuz you didn’t airbrush out the zits on his forehead, silly!

    This is not a market I would ever want to get into. Too much at stake. I’d prefer to stick with simpler, less controversial, safer stuff like environmental nudes or combat photography.


  3. December 27, 2007 at 1:16 am

    Not speaking Chinese might be their rationale but it is very flimsy as they should have thought about whether or not they believed that would be an issue later. Personally, I can still imagine scenarions where it would not have mattered, although I can imagine a couple circumstances where it might – however, I assume you have professional adaptation strategies for those. Contracts, contracts, contracts. I get blown off by clients all the time and it is extremely frustrating. Consider having an upfront cancellation fee.

  4. December 27, 2007 at 8:49 am

    To person who commented and implied that I am unprofessional (sorry I deleted your comment). First of all I behaved professionally at the meeting and was sensibly dressed and polite. If anything I stayed longer than I should have, despite being ill, in order to appease the needs of the clients. The clients were familiar with my wedding work on my blog and did not cancel the contract due to my lack of ability.

    I am a trained event photographer and have been photographing weddings for over six years. No client has ever behaved this way with me. If anything I am shocked by this treatment as I had taken time out of my schedule to plan for the event. (Again this is going to cost me money for the time off that I had booked)

    If you wish to discuss my photographic professionalism you can speak to the editors of Discover Taipei magazine, with whom I have shot two covers, and TaiwanNights.com with whom I am shooting an event (with a flash!) over New Years.

    Actions speak louder than words and when it comes to photography a picture is worth a thousand of them. There will always be haters and there will always be people who will be supportive towards you. So far your comment has been the only negative one.

    Thanks everyone, especially Carrie, Brian, and Michael Turton for their support.

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