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The Client Is Not Always Right

There’s a topic that is generally avoided or not often discussed that I feel is worth covering. That topic has to do with the client is not always right. Most often you have the issue in the preplanning stages, or at least it seems that way to me. Also, the more clients you have the more likely you are to encounter these issues. Here is why I want to bring this to your attention, we really want to please our clients and that can often lead to failure. That failure falls on you and your business and the potential of having a dissatisfied client.

As professionals, it is our business to know our profession. You will encounter clients that we ask or sometimes demand that you do images that you know are not going to live up to your or their standards. Often times it is something technical that is beyond the limits of photographic equipment. I once had a client who wanted a family portrait standing in front of the family barn which was all tin. The time of day she wanted the portraits to be done was beyond the dynamic range of the camera. To make the necessary corrections would have taken a truckload of equipment to set up flags, reflectors, etc. It was not a completely impossible task, but the work involved in delivering what she wanted was beyond the scope of the equipment I owned. Taking on the job would have meant renting or purchasing additional equipment and hiring an assistant. Taking the job also meant that I would have to have more money to cover my additional expenses, which she didn’t want to pay, or delivering a product that was not up to standard. If I had done the job and it would have been subpar, she would have been unhappy and I would have received the reputation of a bad photographer.

So what are you to do when you encounter such a client? First, be polite. Without going into too much technical jargon, briefly explain in layman’s terms that what they are asking most likely will fall short of expectations. Then offer the client a better alternative that will exceed their expectations. If the client is determined to have it their way, politely inform them that you are sorry, but are afraid that you would disappoint their expectations. Kindly suggest that they talk with a couple of other photographers to find one that may serve their needs better.

Below are a few images taken of my daughter Anastacia. I may be biased, but I think Anastacia is a beautiful young lady. In these three images, I’ll cover what is wrong, why, and what could have made them better.

It isn’t often I get the chance to have a session with my daughter. However, she and her husband were coming over for a visit and she wanted a photo session. Of course, I agreed and wanted to do some portraits of her, her husband, and them as a couple.

In this first image, you may be wondering what’s wrong. What’s wrong with the image is she’s wearing short sleeves. Short sleeves just don’t work with more classic style portraiture. In case you’re asking, yes I did do a pre-session wardrobe planning. She was told to bring something dark, with long sleeves, and with a neck or collar. Also, do not bring anything with stripes or patterns. She partially followed the directions, by bringing a black dress.

In portraiture, the focus of attention is the face. The short sleeves distract the viewer from the face. In fact, the viewer’s attention bounces between the hands and the face. It’s not clear what the subject is and where the focus of attention should be. Long sleeves and a higher neckline would have made for a much stronger image.

Now for the real reason, she wanted to do the photo session. I had created an image like this for Erica. My daughter loves the image and wanted me to do the same for her.

I informed Anastacia that I felt the image would not be as strong with her facial structure. Erica had the perfect facial features to pull off such an image. I thought Anastacia’s facial features were too round and she would get lost in the feather boa. However, she wanted to try and since she’s my daughter I simply caved in.

The original image with Erica used clamshell lighting. The clamshell lighting made Anastacia’s face appear even more round. So, I modified the lighting to something like a clamshell, but coming from the sides. You can see the light pattern in her eyes. This did slightly elongate her face.

I’m not saying that this is a horrible image and doesn’t work. However, her facial structure doesn’t really compliment the concept of the image.

Finally, Anastacia showed me this mask she wanted some images wearing. My first thought was not many people would have a flattering image due to the design of the mask. With the cat-like eye holes, I thought that unless the wearer’s eyes turned up at the corners they would appear droopy. However, I said nothing to her about my suspicions.

After shooting a few frames I let her preview the images. The first thing she said was, “My eyes look droopy.” After seeing the images she was no longer interested in photos with the mask.

In conclusion, none of these images are bad. However, all three aren’t the most flattering images of our subject. A slightly different change in wardrobe and the first image would have been very nice. In the last two images, our subject’s facial features were not ideal for the concepts. As professional photographers, we must create the best and most flattering images possible for our clients. This requires our knowledge of understanding our clients’ features and how to best light and pose the client to bring out those features while not bringing out their imperfections.

I hope you found this post helpful and inspiring.

Photographically yours,

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