Several years ago, I took my wife out to dinner at a nice restaurant in the West Village. We had come across this particular restaurant on one of those restaurant documentary shows in Netflix – so we were both super stoked to be finally experiencing this restaurant in person.
The hostess greeted us warmly, and welcomed us to the bar as we waited for our table. The drinks were honestly some of the most delicious concoctions we’d ever had in our lives. Dinner was even better, which looked/tasted better than anything we could’ve ever imagined. Then arrived the dessert menu, which presented itself with 2 options:
1. Chocolate cake a la mode
2. Homemade apple pie
I kindly asked the waitress if I could have the apple pie with vanilla ice cream instead – a request which was flatly denied without any hesitation. I even offered to pay extra for the hassle, or even both desserts as separate items – and was denied again.
At this very moment, I was (mildly) peeved – why would they deny such a trivial request? Pie and ice cream just makes perfect sense, right? What could possibly be so objectionable about that? “I’m sorry sir, but we don’t do that here.” she said, before politely smiling and walking away.
It took several years of introspection (because my ability to hold a grudge is surprisingly uncanny) to finally conclude that maybe the restaurant’s policy on customizing desserts wasn’t so bizarre and strange after all. This revelation occurred to me as I was dining omakase at a Japanese restaurant, where a chef pretty much decides what you’ll be eating. Just imagine this: your personal chef would have spent his entire professional life combining textures and flavors in order to bring about the most incredible culinary experience you’ll ever have – and you’ll simply be there to receive all that yummy amazingness, no questions asked. Granted, there is a boatload of trust involved, and this probably isn’t the most ideal dining arrangement if you have food allergies/preferences. So while you don’t necessarily have to eat everything in front of you while dining omakase, it’s universally accepted that the chef will always offer his culinary creations on his own terms, period.
So why am I telling this story?
Having been a professional photographer over these past 8 years, we’ve seen all kinds of advice and special requests to alter the way we shoot/edit our images, write our contracts, and even how we run our business. In the beginning of our career, we would honor most of these requests because we were genuinely new to all of this and simply didn’t know any better; our portfolio would pretty much be all over the place in terms of style and color, and we’d have 6 different versions of a contract going out to the same group of friends. To say it was a chaotic first few years would be the understatement of the century. It took us several years of “experience” to finally build up enough confidence to say “Enough was enough – these were our products/services, this is how we’re going to produce/deliver them, and based on that information, prospective clients can decide whether or not we’re the right fit for them.” Once we decided to build a business and brand on our terms, our lives were forever changed for the better. After years and years of struggling, there was finally consistency, growth, and most importantly, appreciation.
Just like in the omakase restaurant story above, our clients fully understand what they’re getting themselves into when they invite us to document one of the most important days in their lives (it also doesn’t hurt that our online reviews read like a Carfax report). We understand and appreciate that many of our clients relinquish a great deal of control to a person they barely know, for one super important day that happens only once in a lifetime – but they’ve read the reviews, seen the work, and have reasonably concluded that they’ll be in good hands one way or another. In these 8 years of blood, sweat, and tears, we’ve developed a formula that’s done a wonderful job for our portfolio, clients, as well as our business. So why on God’s green earth would anyone want to mess with that?
Probably for the same reasons why some nincompoop in the West Village is demanding ice cream to go with great-grandma’s 90 year-old apple pie recipe:).