Shooting photos for clients is an interesting business. People pay you to take great photos, but you also have to balance your photographic goals with the very human side of the job. You can’t just boss people around and expect them to come back or give you positive word-of-mouth. On the other hand, you can’t let your clients walk all over you. There’s a fine line between assertiveness and rudeness. However, as long as you are polite and respectful you should never be afraid to say these things to your photography clients.
“I don’t offer discounts”
If you have been in this business for a while, you have almost certainly had clients ask you about some kind of sale, discount, sweetheart deal, or other tactic to get you to lower your prices.
I used to feel self-conscious about these sorts of requests, thinking I had some kind of obligation to accommodate my clients who didn’t want to pay full price. The thought of not offering a discount made me feel arrogant and cold-hearted.
The truth is, you are worth your price. If people want to hire you to do your best work, then there is no shame in asking them to pay for it. If someone asks for a special deal, politely but firmly decline. Tell them that your prices are competitive and you will take beautiful photos for a reasonable fee.
Additionally, don’t use the phrase “I’m sorry” when discussing your prices. You should never have to apologize for charging what you are worth!
You might think you are being polite, but you have nothing to apologize for. So you shouldn’t feel obligated to say it.
I have had several situations where potential clients have asked me about offering discounts. At first, I felt uncomfortable sticking to my guns. However, every single time I declined to go down in price, I have felt good about the decision. Plus, the clients were still happy with my photos.
Recently someone asked me about taking photos of her daughter’s graduation. When I told her my price, she winced and asked if I offered any type of discount. I said no, and she eventually went with another photographer who had a cheaper rate.
While a part of me wishes I could have gotten this woman’s business, I think of the ramifications if I had gone down in price.
She would have expected a similar discount on future sessions, and she would have almost certainly told her friends about this great photographer she knows who gave them a really good discount.
That would have started things off on the wrong foot with other potential clients who might be expecting me to drop my price.
The implications for lowering your prices can be much worse in the long run. So you should never feel bad for saying these things to your photography clients.
“You have something on your face”
There are many ways to fix blemishes, pimples, dust, dirt, and other imperfections in Photoshop.
I have had clients joke about taking ten pounds or twenty years off in Photoshop. That always makes me a little uncomfortable since I think my clients look great just as they are.
With almost every photo session, there is some type of artificial issue that can easily be fixed right on the spot.
If not addressed right away, these things can add hours to your post-processing time.
You might feel a little nervous or uncomfortable telling your clients that they have a stray hair on their cheek or a spot of dirt on their shoulder. I know what that’s like, having been in the situation many times!
Kids are fussy, the wind is blowing, rain is starting to fall, and you feel like you’re adding yet another burden to your clients by telling them they’ve got something on their face.
On the contrary, don’t be afraid to say these things to your clients! Every time I have neglected to mention an issue while taking pictures, I have regretted it afterward.
If you fix a blemish on a single photo, you have to fix it on all the photos. If it takes one minute to fix the first time, multiply that by 20, 50, or 100, and the simple task quickly turns to tedium.
Not once have I had a client get upset, offended, or otherwise bothered when I told them about a problem like this. If anything, they have appreciated my watchful eye and attention to detail!
Kindly and politely tell them that they have a leaf on their dress, a speck on their forehead, or a butterfly resting on their shoulder. (I’m not kidding, it has happened!) You can deal with it in a few seconds and move on, instead of worrying about it and then wasting hours of your time editing it out on your computer.
“Sure, let’s try your idea”
Any time I prepare for a photo shoot, I always make sure I know the location, the types of photos the clients want, and other pertinent information. I even built several custom photo benches that I bring with me in case people need a place to sit. Basically, I try to have all my bases covered so I can make sure the session goes smoothly.
However, sometimes clients have other ideas. When that happens, I used to get defensive – I’m the professional, my clients need to listen to me!
On a sports team, it’s the players’ job to listen to their coach, and if every person on the field did things his or her own way, the game would be lost in short order.
A photo session isn’t a sporting event, and you are a photographer, not a coach, and certainly not a dictator. You have great ideas for how to carry out the session, but your clients might too. It also behooves you to show them you care and will listen to their suggestions.
Even if you might not particularly like an idea that your clients have for poses, locations, or props, you might be surprised at the results. At the very least, it will send a message to your clients that you are flexible and willing to listen to them.
Even if the photos aren’t your favorite, word of mouth from your clients will help build a good reputation for you!
The image above is one example of how this can work out well for you and your clients. After I shot this family in the middle of a park, one of them told me he wanted to get a picture by a bridge. I was a little hesitant since the lighting and location weren’t my favorite, but I was happy to oblige. These photos turned out to be their favorite from the entire session!
“I have a location I prefer”
This seems a little counter to the last bit of advice since the idea here is to not take your clients suggestions into account. If you shoot outdoors, as I and many others do, you probably have some particular spots you like to use. Your locations have good lighting, pleasant surroundings, few people, and no bothersome elements like trash cans or street signs. You have used these locations many times, and they work great!
Your clients might have other ideas, though, and this is when it’s important to push back a little. I have had clients ask to do photos in spots that might look great for social media selfies, but they just aren’t well suited to a formal photo session.
In these situations, there’s nothing wrong with gently but firmly steering them to a location you prefer.
It might seem harsh or uncaring to say these things to your photography clients, but it’s all about setting expectations.
When it comes to choosing a location, you know things your clients don’t. You pay attention to aspects of lighting and composition they would never think about.
If a potential client is insistent on using a spot that you would rather not use, show them your portfolio and explain the reason that you want to do it at another location.
Ultimately it’s your call – you can go with a spot they want, and the pictures might turn out great. But there’s a good chance you will encounter unforeseen obstacles, distractions, and other issues that will lead to sub-par photos.
If your client is insistent, you can politely tell them you won’t be able to meet their needs and recommend another photographer instead. Or you can do the session anyway, but make sure to scout the location first so you can prepare for what awaits.
“Photos will be ready in two weeks, but not sooner.”
Your own timeframe for this might differ, but you must be honest with clients about these types of expectations.
They might have other ideas in mind based on experiences their friends have had with other photographers. If you need a specific amount of time to deliver the photos, then make sure to stand by what you say.
Be sure to explain this early when you establish a relationship with your clients, so they know right away what to expect. You don’t want them complaining on social media because they thought you would deliver their photos the very next day!
Let them know that you need time to carefully cull, edit, and even print their photos. A few extra days of work can mean the difference between good photos and frame-worthy portraits to hang on a living room wall.
One trick is to under-promise and over-deliver. I let my clients know that they will receive their final images within three weeks. I almost always send their photos in two weeks. So in their eyes, I have not only met their expectations but vastly exceeded them.
Your clients might want photos quickly, but if you need time to do your post-processing, be firm and stick to your guns. Quality takes time, and you’re not just slapping on a filter like you would see on some social media apps.
And if you need a few weeks to work your magic, then make sure your clients know what to expect.
At the end of the day, this is all about establishing a positive, healthy, and productive relationship with your clients.
Always be respectful, and always treat them how you would prefer to be treated yourself. If you say these things to your photography clients it will help send the message that you are a serious professional. Moreover, they will likely want to keep working with you well into the future.
We hope Don’t Be Afraid to Say These Things to Your Photography Clients will help you on your photographic journey. Do you have other things that you feel can be said to clients that can help the session run smoother? If so, share it with us in the comments!