You never want to be the photographer saying, “my client hated their photos,” but if it DOES happen to you, here’s how to handle it! (Featuring THIS MODERN LOVE PHOTOGRAPHY)
“I hate my photos.”
This is the last thing any photographer wants to hear from a client. It’s even worse when you know you delivered a beautiful collection of on-brand images. How can they possibly be unhappy???
This is exactly what happened to South Asian wedding photographer Sara Shaikh of This Modern Love Photography. Sara has defined her brand with beautiful, bold portraits and emotion-packed documentary photographs, but one client was unconsolable.
The Worst Kind of Phone Call
“After I delivered my client’s gallery to him, he immediately called me and told me how upset he was at seeing the images. He said they appeared very dark to him,” Sara remembers. She knew her photos were perfectly aligned with her marketed style, but her client was determinedly unhappy.
“At the time I was fuming with anger,” admits Sara, “because I was taking everything he was saying personally. I was being defensive and trying to explain that my editing style was unique.”
Sara’s response is understandable. Photographers invest years into solidifying their post-production style, and spend even more time developing marketing approaches that clearly demonstrate their unique style and approach to prospective clients. After all, no one wants to book clients who won’t be happy with their results. Sara’s brand is no different. She employs clear marketing and a consistent style that has sustained her business since 2007.
How to Handle Your Cranky Customer
So what do you do when you have a client who – however unreasonably – is unhappy? Is it time to dig in your heels and refuse to accommodate their requests? IS the customer always right?
For Sara, the question of who was right or wrong only perpetuated the conflict.
“I was so hurt that a client would react this way, I didn’t take the time to just listen to what he was saying.”
It was only in refocusing on a desire to find common ground that Sara landed on a solution.
“Finally, I decided that I would re-edit his photos with a lighter style of editing and send him a new gallery” Sara says. “I sent him the re-edited photos, and he ended up really loving the images.”
Check Your Ego at the Door
Choosing to side with a client can be a painful exercise in humility. “After this experience, I realized how much of an ego I had developed running my own business,” Sara admits. “Sometimes you work with people who just don’t see things the way you do. And at the end of the day, people give you the energy that you give them. So if I was very defensive and negative, he was going to be the same way with me. If I changed my attitude and reflected a more positive mindset, this would help him reciprocate with the same energy.”
Sara’s choice to collaboratively resolve her client’s complaint certainly took time and effort; but the resulting happy client made the added investment of energy worthwhile.
“When you are faced with difficult situations,” advises Sara, “it’s really important to take some time and reflect about everything. Step away from the situation, breathe, and look at the facts without involving your emotions.”
Learn the STOP Skill
In mental health circles, this approach is known as the “STOP skill.”
- S = Stop. Do not react when emotions are high.
- T = Take a step back. Do this both figuratively and literally, removing yourself from the intensity of the situation so you can breathe deeply and refocus.
- O = Observe. Look at the facts of the situation, and take in all the details of what is happening around you.
- P = Proceed mindfully. Consult your “wise mind” – that perfect blend of reasonable and emotional processing. What is the wise way to proceed?
Make it Easy
Sara’s own mantra pairs perfectly with the STOP skill.
” ‘Make it easy,’ ” quotes Sara. “I read this in a book recently, and it really made a lot of sense to me. We can get wrapped up in overthinking and overanalyzing things, but if you go with this approach of making things easy, things will just come your way effortlessly.”
As Sara’s disagreement with her client grew more heated, she was able to take a step back and contemplate what would turn a difficult situation into an easy one.
“I decided to take a step back and look at the situation as a whole,” Sara shares. “Sometimes, people don’t understand where you are coming from. It doesn’t mean that they are against you; they simply just don’t know. Take the time to educate your clients, hear them out to see what their needs are, and come to a common ground that makes everyone happy.”
In Sara’s case, this meant re-delivering a brightened version of her client’s photographs, and assuaging his fears that he would be stuck with photographs he didn’t love.
“Every client wants to see their photographs and relive those moments again,” Sara explains. “If you simply focus on what matters most, and preserve those moments in the best way you know how, they will be happy – and you will be happy.”
Years have passed since this encounter, but Sara’s business model continues to be impacted by the lessons she learned.
“I’m definitely more mindful of myself and the energy I give to others,” Sara admits. “I want to leave a lasting impact on everyone I meet and inspire them to be in a better mindset all-around. Hopefully people read my story and understand that, instead of being defensive, it’s always better to treat people with kindness.”
Share Your Challenging Client Story
Have you solved a major client challenge? Share your story in the comments below!
Written by ANNE SIMONE and SARA SHAIKH | Featuring THIS MODERN LOVE PHOTOGRAPHY