The Dichotomy of Understanding

Dealing with the Not-So-Well-Versed-in-Photography Client

kiss (15335063_blog)“I love candid shots and a journalistic approach to photography. Oh, and here’s an eight page photo list of all my must-have shots. I really like those with the progression of a kiss. We must make that happen.”

It never fails. For every five clients that leave the creative genius up to you, the photographer, and trust you’ll come back with stellar results, you’ll encounter one that resides in a delusional world where “candid” and “posed” are interchangeable terms. Or cropping a picture to make it an 8×10 means that you stretch it to fit the space – you certainly shouldn’t lose the bottom quarter inch of Nancy’s high heels.

It can be rather frustrating to try explaining the technical side of photography to someone who already seems to own The Biblical Rendition of Producing Breathtaking Photos (you just Googled that non-existent book, didn’t you?). It could be anyone: the overly-organized bride, the tag-along dad on a senior portrait session, or the anxious mother of a two-year-old that expects her son to sit still and smile pleasantly at the camera (no goofing off allowed).

It’s no wonder my hair started turning gray at the ripe old age of 31.

Maintaining Grace Under Fire
Screening your clients prior to finalizing a session date is an awesome idea – simply verify that the potential recipients are familiar with your artistic approach. Of note, it’s a red flag if a caller says something like, “Oh yes, I’m familiar with your style and love your work, but I was hoping we could do things a little differently.” You’re going to have a hard time dealing with someone who isn’t willing to give you creative control.

Of course, you may choose to bottle up your frustration in exchange for money in the bank (don’t say I didn’t warn you), in which case it’s important to learn how to side-step those awkward moments when your ability to do your job is apparently in question.

Establish a Clear Approach — Whether it’s in person, via email, a shared Pinterest board, or over the phone, take the time to figure out what your client is specifically looking for. Ask her what one must-have shot she wants, take notes, and assure her that you’ll do everything in your power to make that happen (PhotoMerge often comes in handy under these circumstances).

Assert Your Expertise — When he mentions “candid” shots, politely explain to him what that is and the difference between that and something posed. If she plans to do ten wardrobe changes and five different prop set-ups for her daughter’s one year photo session, explain that her daughter probably won’t make it through more than two before wearing out. You’re the expert. You’ve experienced these situations before and you have a better idea of what to expect, regardless of how well Momma knows her little girl. The key is donning yourself an expert without coming off as pompous and unapproachable.

Give One Last Chance — Many clients don’t know what they want until they’re in the moment of the session. So, get everything you think will make for a solid proof gallery, and, toward the end of the session, ask the client if there is anything he’s thought of before you put the lens cap on and call it good. He may not have ideas, but you’ve done all you can to accommodate – and this will come in handy later.

The Post Session Debacle
As I’m sure you’ve experienced before, the client that is one of the easiest to work with during the session, can turn werewolf once you reveal the proofs.

” Why is she off center?” – Time to pull out the Rule of Thirds chart.

“Why didn’t you take a shot of Jimmy jumping in the air. That would have been great.” – Gently remind him you asked for additional ideas toward the end of the session and no flying shots were mentioned.

“She didn’t smile in a single picture? Is this all of them?” – Assure her that you only show your clients the best of the best and remind her how you stood on your head in polka dot bloomers without so much as a batted eye from your subject.

Many out there simply don’t know what they want until they see the results, and have a hard time grasping the fact that, by then, it’s too late. As long as you maintain professionalism, it’s okay to stick up for yourself and your craft. Oh, and it’s probably a good idea to have some information on aspect ratio to pass along once print orders come in, too.

The Customer Ain’t Even Close to Right
And that’s the nature of any industry and any set of customers. Many think they know what you do and could do it better themselves if they had the right equipment (don’t even get my started on that entirely more exasperating issue). You may have to guide, teach and explain until blood vessels begin to surface in your neck.

Thankfully, the number of avid supporters of your skill far outweigh the under-versed Photography Bible thumpers who want to pick it apart. Otherwise, how would you be in business in the first place? It’s best to put on your Humility Hat, grit your teeth in nodded agreement, and find yourself excruciatingly overbooked the next time that client comes calling.

And the next time… And the next time…

(originally posted on Ink’d Content)


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