We asked ShootProof photographers, “What do you wish your clients understood about your job?” See what they said, and educate your own photography clients! (Photos: SIMPLY KORSUN PHOTOGRAPHY)
A photography career may seem glamorous from the outside, but for the folks who actually wield a camera, it can be anything but. We asked photographers what they wish their clients understood about the hard work of being a photographer – and they didn’t hold back! Here are the most common photography misconceptions, and tips on how to handle them with kindness and professionalism.
When your clients think you’re making bank…
“So much work goes into this – and money! To the clients, we are [just] shooting. That’s all they see.” – W.G., Georgia
“We invest a lot of $$ to run our businesses: insurance, [corporate filings], gear, etc.” – I.S., New York
“25% [of my work] work goes on before the session, [and] 50% [happens] afterward. [Clients] think the session/wedding day is all they are paying for.” – D.S., Tennessee
“We do not make ‘$500 an hour’ when we charge $500 for a one-hour session.” – S.H., Illinois
“[I wish they knew] how much I actually walk away with after taxes and CODB/COG.” – J.W., Washington
#ShootProofPro Tip: Don’t be afraid to say no!
There will always be someone who doesn’t understand why their one-hour session isn’t $19.99. But for your more logical photography clients, don’t be afraid to say, “I can’t budge on my rates, as they’re based on my time, experience, and costs of running a business. But it’s important that you feel comfortable with your photography investment, so please look around at your options, then reach out to me again if you think I’m the best fit!”
When photography clients are too cost-conscious…
“[If] you go cheap, you’re not going to get the chance [at] a better experience… unless you remarry!” – L.F., United Kingdom
“Most people/phones can take a good photo in good conditions, but only a good photographer can take a good photo in poor/difficult conditions.” J.F., Australia
“My prices are based on my talent and costs. Not your budget.” – A.W., New York
“We provide true heirlooms that tell the story of their lives. What we create for [our clients] becomes their most prized possession, and the value transcends money.” – J.D., Oregon
#ShootProofPro Tip: Invest in your own brand and business.
You don’t want to say, “I told you so,” but it’s tough when you hear someone complain that their bargain photographer didn’t take a single in-focus photo. Instead of putting down photographers who charge less, focus on demonstrating the value of what you offer with professional web presence, and prompt, friendly communication.
When clients want a “famous” photographer…
“Having a camera (or worse, a phone) does not make one a photographer.” M.E., Pennsylvania
“Most awards are horse [poo] covered in glitter and then pooped out again…” – J.W., England
“It is not the camera that takes great photos. It is the photographer.” – M.S., Pennsylvania
#ShootProofPro Tips: Own your successes.
Some clients really like to know what you’ll be shooting with. To them, it’s a fun fact, or a way to confirm that you’re a “real” professional. So don’t knock it when your photography clients go gaga over an award you’ve won or the gear you’ve got. Proudly showcase your successes, and openly share, “I work primarily with professional Canon/Nikon/Sony/etc. equipment, but I never hesitate to incorporate whatever tools I need to get the job done!”
When “fauxtographers” get in the way…
“It’s not okay to stand behind the photographer with your own camera and take pictures. No, this is not a chance for you to bring your DSLR and shoot your own portraits of your kids on my set. This is not a workshop.” – J.D., Texas
“If you are at a wedding, stay out of my way with your phone or iPad trying to take pics, or, ‘Oops, sorry! i missed that kiss!’ ” – B.N., Indiana
#ShootProofPro Tip: How to handle over-the-shoulder shooters.
If the over-the-shoulder fauxtographer isn’t actually disrupting you, you may be better off letting them do their thing. But if your own work is being inhibited, it’s time to speak up. “I’m glad you’re excited about this session!” you might say, “however, I don’t allow other cameras in my studio” or “I prefer that other photographers don’t shoot over my shoulder.” Then, because everyone always wants to know WHY, explain, “It’s important that all eyes are on me with no distractions so I can deliver the high quality my client has commissioned me for.”
When your photography clients don’t value your time…
“Any changes [clients] request are going to take time – and probably have an extra cost.” – B.E., Mexico
“Don’t come to the review/design/order appointment by yourself if you can’t make financial decisions by yourself. [And don’t] send someone else, like your child. It just wastes everyone’s time.” – C.H., Texas
#ShootProofPro Tip: What would it cost you to hire someone else?
If you find yourself feeling guilty for charging for your time, consider this: if you were sick or injured, what would it cost you to outsource that same work to someone else? If you’re not making at least that much, you’re doing yourself a disservice (and taking a big risk!)
When you’re dreading the session…
“Weddings in the middle of summer are really, really hot.” – D.E., New Zealand
“[Winter weddings] are usually cold – and even icy!” – G.S., United Kingdom
“High-noon, after lunch is not best time to take pictures. Perhaps a convenient time, but…” – S.L., Minnesota
“If you are at the beach for vacation and pictures, don’t get sunburned. Pink people with shaded eyes… not a good look!” – M.B., Alabama
“if you are at the beach, your hair is GOING TO BLOW. If that’s a problem, you should have pulled it back.” – A.S., North Carolina
#ShootProof Pro Tip: Pick your battles and set some boundaries.
You can’t always control when or where you photograph – for example, when photographing a wedding. But when you can, don’t hesitate to assert your experience! It’s okay to say, “I only photograph on Fridays and Saturdays during the last two hours of daylight.” And if your client pushes back, remind them that these policies are what enable you to make the photos they love so much!
When they just don’t get “copyright“…
“Digital files are not ‘free!!!’ ” – J.F., Australia
“[There is a] difference between Copyright and Print Release.” – C.B., California
#ShootProofPro Tip: Educate your clients.
When photography clients ask for the copyright, but you know they really just want printing rights, take the chance to educate them on the difference! Try this: “I believe what you’re looking for is a print release, which will allow you to make all the prints your want from your digital files.”
When your photography clients are totally unprepared…
“If you are in a wedding, please smile. I may be taking your picture.” – M.B., Alabama
“Quit pushing your head back towards your shoulders when you smile. It makes you have a double chin.” – G.W., Wisconsin
“If you ‘expected’ something very specific [from your photography], you should have told me. I’m not a mind reader.” – J.D., Texas
“You have to comb your kids hair, iron their clothes, and wipe the food and snot from their faces [before getting photographed]. I’m going to have to update my client guide. I thought those things were implied.” – B.M., Tennessee
“If anyone in the family (human or non-human) is hungry or tired, you won’t get good photos. Everyone should be rested, fed, watered, and pottied BEFORE the session start time.” – L.L., Arizona
“Brush your d#%$ teeth!” – C.B., California
#ShootProofPro Tip: Find a work-around.
Client worksheets and questionnaires, in-depth conversations, and open communication can help prevent a major client faux pas. If you have photography clients who do show up wholly unprepared, consider whether it’s worthwhile to say, “I feel like this may be a bit of an off-day for you guys. Would you like to reschedule? I think you’ll enjoy your photos more if everyone is rested.”
When they make prints at the drug store…
“High-resolution PRINT QUALITY files and low-resolution SOCIAL SHARING files are not the same!” – J.S., Pennsylvania
#ShootProofPro Tip: Protect your printing.
Chat with an attorney about adding a clause to your contract, or simply incorporate this phrase into the product portion of your website: “I work with professional labs to offer the highest quality prints and products. I cannot guarantee the quality of prints and products produced by other lab and manufacturers.”
When your photography clients are fashion-challenged…
“Choose thee to four main colors, and coordinate colors (including a neutral or two) with only a few patterns. [Don’t wear] matching outfits.” – N.F., Ohio
“Don’t have your whole six-member family wear the same plaid shirts.” – R.L., Ohio
“If you don’t feel comfortable in your clothing or don’t like how you look in it, don’t wear it! I had a senior who wore a cute little black dress for most of her session, [but] afterward they didn’t like a lot of the pictures because she didn’t like the dress!” – P.T., Wisconsin
“I always tell my seniors to take selfies in the mirror so they can see what their clothes look like before they show up to the shoot. That crop-top does not always look good in photos!” – J.G., Colorado
“Painful shoes may cause pained facial expressions.” – J.C., Illinois
When they have terrible timing…
“Don’t get your kid’s hair cut just before the shoot. A bad haircut is not my fault.” – J.D., Texas
“Brides: the shoot is not a trial run for your hair and makeup, or to see if your dress fits. If you don’t like your hair, you won’t like the pictures.” – J.D., Texas
#ShootProofPro Tip: Pinterest is your friend.
Use Pinterest to create “What to Wear” and “Hair & Makeup” boards for your clients. This is an easy way to share styling tips for all kinds of sessions!
When clients ask you to “Photoshop it”…
“No, I really can’t ‘Photoshop this out later.’ Not everything can be edited in or out. Trust your photographer’s judgment when it comes to locations, lighting, props, clothing, hair, etc.” – M.G., Georgia
“Don’t come to a photo shoot with your kids face covered in food from breakfast. And when the photographer asks you to wipe it off, don’t tell them that it can be ‘Photoshopped out’!” – L.B., Australia
“Professional makeup/hair really gives you a glow and a polished look in your photos. Totally worth it!” – J.F., California
“Some facial lines offer character, dimension, and depth. It’s part of life. If they are all removed in [post-production], you will look like you have a plastic face.” – J.S., South Carolina
“I am photographer not a magician.” – A.K., Ireland
“I was doing lifestyle shoot of a woman who hated her arms; but guess what she wanted to wear? A [sleeveless] shirt. And [she] asked if I could ‘do anything’ about her arms.” – S.X., Minnesota
#ShootProofPro Tip: Know your retouching rates.
Go ahead and set an hourly rate for extra retouching – and don’t be afraid to share this with your photography clients! If you personally aren’t comfortable doing advanced retouching, there are plenty of online services who can do it for you. When a client suggests that you “just Photoshop it,” kindly respond with: “I do offer custom retouching services if you require them! Additional retouching begins at $50/hour with a one-hour minimum, so just let me know if you have any special requests once you see your photos.”
When they don’t get that you have a life…
“I can’t take the photos, edit, and deliver [them on] the same day.” – G.F., Florida
“Sometimes I cannot reply to your text or email the moment I receive it. Years back, I had a client email, call, text, and Facebook me at 9:45pm, and when I didn’t reply, she and her co-workers attacked my FaceBook business page. I corrected this by posting office hours everywhere: on FaceBook, in the signature of every single email, and [in phone reminders.] Now, if a text comes in after business hours, I reply with something like, ‘Hey, we’re not in the office right now, [but we’ll] get back to you during normal office hours tomorrow.’ ” – J.M., New York
“The photos aren’t ready the moment the session ends.” – A.S., Australia
#ShootProofPro Tip: Automate, automate, automate!
Automatic email responders are a great way to navigate needy clients. “Thank you for getting in touch! I’ll respond within 1 business day.” And don’t forget to turn on a vacation message any time you’ll be unavailable for longer than usual.
When the parents are hovering…
“I had a session where the parents gave their three-year-old [daughter] two toys [as bribes] during the session. Guess what wouldn’t leave her hands the entire time without a major meltdown?” – A.S., West Virginia
“Telling your kids to smile makes for the WORST expressions on their faces. I get the best smiles by telling them I don’t need them to smile!” – M.M., California
“Most children and teens do better if mom walks away and lets the photographer bring out the natural beauty and enjoy a great shoot.” B.N., – Indiana
“I photograph TONS of kids, and [I encourage parents to] bring bribes. [Small] candies or treats, specifically, [like] mini marshmallows.” – C.H., Texas
“As a pet photographer, I wish I could tell people to stop pointing at the camera to get their dog to look at me. Sure, the dog might briefly look at me, but your pointing and talking ruined the photo!” – S.A., New York
When stress has taken control of the session…
“Concentrate on what you do have – not what you don’t have.” – D.P., United Kingdom
“Stop yelling at your kids to smile at the camera!” – K.C., New York
“It’s more important to be present with each other on [your wedding] day, than to be worrying about a few stray hairs or messed-up makeup.” – T.E., Australia
#ShootProofPro Tip: Communicate clearly.
Before a session, have a final call or send a final email reminding your photography clients, “The most important thing you can bring to your session is a smile! If your kiddos cry or squirm, take the opportunity to tickle, tease, and smile MORE! If you’re upset or frustrated, your kids will be, too. So set the example by staying calm and happy throughout the session, and leave the posing to me!”
When you’re praying they liked their photos…
“After I send their gallery to them, I am anxious to hear back and look forward to their feedback!!” – S.K., Georgia
“Some of us need immediate feedback to affirm our talents and ensure we know you do not in fact hate us and/or our work.” – J.D., Georgia
#ShootProofPro Tip: Ask your clients for feedback!
When you send your photography clients their photos, include a little note saying, “I hope you love your photos as much as I do! Shoot me an email when you’ve had time to enjoy your images; I can’t wait to hear which photos are your favorites!”
How do you handle these questions and comments from your photography clients?
Share your stories and advice in the comments!
Written by ANNE SIMONE | Photographs by SIMPLY KORSUN PHOTOGRAPHY via TWO BRIGHT LIGHTS | Special thanks to BRIDAL HOUSE OF CHARLESTON, MODEL BRIDE, CHARLESTON VIRTUOSI, SIMPLE MAN LETTERING, EVENT WORKS, SOMETHING BORROWED K&S, BEARDED FLORIST, CAROLINA OCCASIONS, NICKI PAIGE COLLECTION