Dealing with unruly vendors: Grace under fire!

By // September 4, 2015 // Posted in Other, Wedding, WPPI News

I have been doing my best to steer clear of the drama that’s been swirling about social media this past week but I can no longer remain silent! I want to begin by offering a giant hug to the photographer, and any wedding professional who has had to deal with a situation like this during the course of his or her career. Handling them with grace is what experienced pros learn over the years. Wedding days are fast paced and emotional, and how you react to them instinctively can either add fire to the flames or quickly be blasted with a bucket of ice water.

For those of you who missed the drama this week, here’s a quick synopsis:

-Photographer is doing his job, notices the DJ has pro equipment and is shooting.

-Photographer politely engages DJ. DJ responds “I’m serving my client.”

-Photographer replies, “I’m the official photographer at this event.”

-DJ replies by basically saying I don’t give a crap, and I don’t work for you.

Who’s right? Well of course we’re going to side with the photographer! Here’s some of the complaints on social media we’ve seen:

-We don’t play music at his event, why should he take pics?

-This is so unprofessional!

-He had no legal right!

-You should sue!

I totally get the frustration we feel about this situation, and also understand it’s cathartic to bitch about it—after all, misery loves company. As photographers, we continue to have to deal with ever growing amounts of challenges from outside “creatives” at these events. IMHO how we handle these situations is what will make all the difference.

I want to offer an approach that in my scans of the interwebs I didn’t see discussed. This approach is the same now as it was 25 years ago when it comes to dealing with an unruly vendor who gets in your way, prevents you from doing your job (which could be anything from a hair/mua to a florist not finishing flowers on time, to a late/pushy limo driver) or doesn’t provide a meal when promised or not providing food described in your contract.

We all have standard stipulations in our contracts that mention our exclusivity at events, and what is promised to us. That said, unfortunately the vendors do not sign it, and they quite frankly don’t care about our contracts.

So…when faced with a situation such as the above TRY THIS:

  • Take a deep breath, remove your emotion from the equation, and approach the vendor in question.
  • Explain to them your problem in a calm, rational way that they are impeding you from doing your job, and it’s nothing personal. In this week’s drama, it sounded as if the DJ went on about serving his clients, that this was a special touch offered as a good deed to his client.
  • It’s at that point you need to breathe in one more time and make a very big decision. Do you want to let it go, and live with this unprofessional hooligan, or do you take your problem to your client. If you decide you absolutely cannot work around this person, again, in a calm voice tell them that you understand their point of view, but you would need to go to the client and explain that you cannot do your job given this situation and they need to address you, or let you go home. Keep in mind, by going to client you’re now creating a stress point for them, so you better darn well have a giant problem with this vendor.

Hopefully the trouble vendor concedes, but if they do not the problem is addressed and is out in the open in real time.

I can tell you these situations have come up many times for me over the years. Over zealous vendors have always been a problem for wedding professionals. I learned this technique from my mentor, and I’ve shared this with everyone I’ve ever run into who had an issue like this. Whether it’s a caterer who doesn’t feed you, to the florist who won’t let you get a room shot before the reception starts, this will work, but I stress that it’s the absolute LAST thing you should do!

On a different note, as we set off for our Labor Day weekends, I wish everyone a safe, successful, profitable, and, most importantly, fun weekend out there!

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Jason Groupp

Jason Groupp

Jason Groupp is the Director of WPPI and a New York City photographer heavily steeped in the industry. Adoring New York City far beyond any healthy proportion, Jason has maintained his photography studio in West Chelsea for the past 12 years.

Previously from Jason Groupp:


  1. Dear Jason,

    As much as I appreciate the efforts to spread awareness around this ever growing challenge in our industry, I feel that this article misses the mark. We have been graceful, we have been kind. We have tried diplomacy and used integrity in all our business dealings. The question is not whether we act professionally or courteously towards other vendors. The question is at it’s core about privacy and the appropriate use of social media in it’s still burgeoning role as a crucial marketing tool for business owners. Maybe you could write an article about that, instead of condescending to your peers?


    Alina Prax

  2. Jason,

    This specific case has so many layers that those who aren’t familiar need to first understand before rendering an opinion. The DJ in question is being dishonest and purposely misleading people. When one first reads the case, you can assume the DJ was taking party pictures during the reception for the promotion of his business. After all, that’s what a DJ should be interested in. Which by the way, I personally have no issue with. But this guy started taking pictures prior to the ceremony. Now, I don’t know about anybody else, but I never even see the DJ prior to the reception. He’s typically at the reception site prepping for the evening. This guy was at the ceremony! The DJ! Why? Unless you’ve actually seen the gallery he posted (I did), you can’t fully appreciate that his focus was not on capturing reception images to promote his DJing services. He had processional images of all the bridal party, ceremony images, he captured images from the family formals that the contracted photographer posed and set up.

    Now here’s the kicker. This is a small but important nuance. The DJ was hired through the entertainment company that he owns. However, he posted the wedding image gallery to his marketing/events company’s (separate company) FB page. Which by the way, also offers professional photographic services. In other words, the client hired a DJ through the DJ company, the DJ then captures images of the entire wedding, the DJ then posts those images to his photography company’s FB page and those images are watermarked/branded with the photography company’s brand as if they were the official photographer. Then when he gets hit with the backlash, he couches what he did as photographers trying to keep love hostage and gets all his supporters riled up by misleading and misdirecting the real issues. It’s a snake move and unethical on all fronts.

  3. After over 20 years in the business and having experienced this manny times, I find that. if present, you take the issue to the wedding coordinator, with a copy of your contract, and have them deal with the vendor. I also find, that approaching the couple or a family member/bridal party contact, is usually OK. they don’t want their personal images running around the internet without their permission either. Just approach everyone with a calm demeanor and it will all be OK. But don’t let other vendors do your job by any means. the main lesson is have it in your contract that no other professional photography equipment by ANYONE will be allowed.

  4. While the situations presenter are inevitable for any of us in the event photography of video business, we should also employ ways of preventing their occurance in the by prudent contract terms, a prescribed planning meeting with client inadvance of event, checkout visit to ceremony and reception venues, meeting with site officials, and at least a phonecon with others involved. It is better to have the discussion on advance or even at the event, than having to explain comprised results later. I also learned to roll the video cam (or recording by still cam) if any on-site challenge or confrontation occurs.