I told my therapist I was having nightmares about nuclear explosions. He said don’t worry it’s not the end of the world. —Jay London
We like you. We really, really like you. Photographers love their clients, especially repeat clients who keep coming back for portraits or other special imagery. We love clients who understand the value of what we do, who don’t keep needling us when it takes longer than expected to finish their pictures, and especially the ones who tell their friends that they need to use us as well. These are the people for whom we might consider bending the rules every once in a while, and for whom we’ll at least consider their more outrageous requests.
Then, there are the nightmares. These are the clients who are never satisfied with their pictures, the ones who question your quality, whether you even know what you’re doing, and claim that their four-year-old could do better. We stay up at night fearing the client who trashes us to their friends, but then comes back again and has the audacity to ask for a discount or special service that you don’t normally offer. These are not nice people.
Yet, as professionals, we are supposed to take the nightmares with a grain of salt, keep a smile on our face, and attempt to say no to their requests while re-directing them back to our stated policies. I was amused earlier this week when a sponsored article popped up in my Facebook newsfeed offering a chart with answers to the most common objections photographers face. The chart was created by Joy Vertz, a portrait photographer based in Mequon, Wisconsin. The advice she gives is solid. However …
What We Say Isn’t Always What We’re Thinking
Ms. Vertz is one of those lovely, positive, go-get-’em people who doesn’t take no for an answer. She smiles, redirects, restates, and closes the sale. She’s successful both in terms of her own photography business and also with helping other photographers who are struggling. I’ve never met her, but I’m sure she’s a wonderfully nice person who could sell a block of ice to a resident of the South Pole. Some people just have that right attitude for selling.
The rest of us, however, struggle with closing sales. Not all of us are natural-born salespeople. In fact, the more creative we are, the more difficult it can be for us to function in a business capacity. We work best when someone else handles all the sales closing stuff, leaving us to take the pictures and be creative and occasionally do some really amazing work. Dealing with anyone who is the slightest bit contrarian isn’t our strong point.
As I was reading through Ms. Vertz’s list of objections, I couldn’t help thinking, “Yes, that’s what you should say, but that’s not what I would be thinking.” I’m one of those people who does better when Kat closes the sale. She’s friendly, cheerful, and can keep a smile on her face even when talking to a complete idiot. I can’t. Stupid people make me want to throw things. So, I thought it might be fun, since it’s Saturday and if you’re reading this after 8:00 AM you’re probably not out shooting today, to consider what we would actually like to say to clients who cause us nightmares. The objections come from Ms. Vertz’s list. I don’t have time to address them all, but this should be enough to make my point.
You are too expensive. I can’t afford you.
Wrong. You don’t want to pay me for the value of my work. You want a discount. You always want a discount. Yet, you’ll pay $8 for that freakin’ latte you’re holding. You down what, three of those a day? I’m not too expensive, you just have really lousy priorities, are selfish, and fail to value anyone in the service industries. Go away. I don’t have time for you.
I just want a disk of images
Why? Because you want to share them online (which is fine if you’ve paid for the disc) or because you want to take them to the drug store and get really crappy prints instead of paying my prices? Or even worse, you’re not going to try printing them on your home inkjet, are you? After I’ve spent hours getting the tonal and color quality of your images just right, you’re going to ruin them by printing on some non-calibrated crappy little no-name printer you picked up at a garage sale? And then you’ll complain because the pictures don’t “look right.” Please.
Just put them online for us to look at
Damn, you’re lazy. If you think I’m going to wait around for months while you do everything but choose your proofs, you’re crazy. Make a decision already. Chances are you’re going to go with your first choice, anyway. Better yet, let me decide for you. You’re too distracted to pay attention to what you’re doing. You’re giving me a headache.
[By the way, Joy’s answer to this one is spot on: To have an online gallery is $500 which applies 100% to your order placed within 1 week. It is $25 for each additional week. ]
What is the cheapest way I can get an image for Facebook?
Take a fucking selfie like everyone else? Pay for a session and we’ll happily give you permission to use the finished photos online with appropriate credit. Re-edit the picture or fail to give credit, though, and I’m SO going to bitch. Okay, not really, but I’ll think bad thoughts about you and complain about you to my dog.
Can I see all the photos?
Uhm, no. Part of my job is to make you look good. You know, remove the blemishes from things like really bad acne, or removing those horrid dark circles from under your eyes because you don’t sleep, eat horribly, smoke like a fucking chimney, and drink three bottles of wine a night. You come here wanting me to make you look flawless and glamorous like a model. So no, I’m not showing you all the photos.
You don’t mind that I brought all of our cousins along, do you?
Uhm, YES! First of all, pull those kids off the props. This is not a fucking playground. Do I look like someone who has the patience of a preschool teacher? You do realize there’s no way I’m getting five toddlers all looking in the same direction at the same time, even if I had a puppy. I’m going to need half a bottle of scotch after we finish this one and you had damn well better buy the largest package we offer. Your child just peed on my carpet. I hate you.
We really love our clients.
Of course, we would never actually say any of those things to anyone’s face. We do our best to be polite and nice and not curse too much in front of children. At least two-thirds of our clients are really wonderful people. We enjoy working with them. However, we keep having nightmares. Every photographer I know has nightmares.
If you look on our home page, where we describe our services, we provide the instruction: Please be sure to communicate your needs fully to avoid any surprises. One of those surprises is that we will charge an additional fee to clients who are especially difficult. If someone is going to be a complete pain-in-the-ass, they’re going to pay for that experience.
Now you know what we’re thinking. Be a good client, not a nightmare. Thank you.