The ‘Sepia Tone Bride’ Drama is a Valuable Lesson for Photographers

A bride in a voluminous, elegant white gown stands facing a bright window with sheer curtains billowing on either side. The soft lighting creates a warm and ethereal atmosphere, highlighting the layers of her dress which flow to the floor.

When I first reported on Alexandra Conder, AKA the sepia tone bride, the situation was largely contained to a discussion on TikTok and Threads. Since then, however, The New York Times and a host of other publications have taken up the story.

Although some of my colleagues and readers rolled their eyes at a TikTok drama, there is a valuable lesson here for photographers. In case you missed it, Conder was unhappy with the editing work done to her wedding photos and claimed the sepia tones made her look like a Simpsons character.

The drama unfolded over dozens of TikTok videos posted to Conder’s page in which she outlined every grievance she has with the photos.

Now, without being unkind, it is fair to say that Conder is a difficult client, especially given how much grief she has caused this photographer. Note: PetaPixel is not naming the photographer but did reach out to them before we published our first story.

Conder mostly has no issue with the content of the photos the photographer shot, often praising them for capturing beautiful moments — she reiterates as much in a follow-up to the original viral video. It was how she looked as a result of the photographer’s editing that she takes exception with.

And that is the crux of it and something that we as photographers must live up to in the 21st century.

We live in a world where people take photos of themselves all the time. They know how to make themselves look good and most don’t care about the overall photo “quality” that many photographers spend their time concerned with -— no, it’s about how good they look in the image, not how much dynamic range that image has.

All professional photographers, but especially wedding photographers, must navigate this. While I think that Conder’s wedding photographs were great, I can see the point she is making.

Color in digital photography is difficult to master, especially when you’re shooting in RAW and have a huge batch of photos to edit. One solution is to slap a preset across thousands of photos. I’m not saying that’s what the photographer did but I’ve shot weddings and I know I did that.

The point is that for the sake of keeping your client happy, photographers should consider how their editing choices affect their subject’s appearance.

Most clients won’t whip up an international storm because they’re unhappy about how they look the way Conder did. Plenty of clients would be too afraid to say anything at all, but that doesn’t mean they’re not thinking it, too.

Social media, beauty filters, and the need for engagement make photographer’s lives ever more difficult.

Call it vanity, call it vapid, call it selfish, call it whatever you want. But this is the reality and photographers will do well to consider how large a client’s ego is before working with them.

Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.