As you build up your clientele, you will undoubtedly encounter a host of requests that can blindside you. Many photographers will learn quickly how being a good salesmen is just as vital to their business as the quality of their photographs. Below I have compiled a list of the most common customer concerns, and how to best overcome them while building value in yourself and in your brand.
1.) The Price Is Too High, Can't You Go Lower?
This one can be one of the most frustrating, as it comes off as the client devaluing your work. For some clients there can be a real budget concern, while others are attempting to bargain hunt.
In my experience, stick to your guns. Do not lower your price, because it immediately lowers your worth in front of the client. Worse, it often opens up a door that makes them wonder what other ways they can take advantage of you. On top of that, you also run the risk of setting a bad precedent for other photographers, by lowering the perceived value of the craft as a whole.
The best way to handle this concern is to explain what it is they’re investing in. If you are willing to lower your price for the client, then offer them a compromise in the form of a lower price in accordance with less work. You never want to lower your price for the same exact workload. However, customizing your services to better fit within their budget is a good way to negotiate while not lowering your worth in the process.
2.) Why Can't You Provide More Photos?
When a photographer specifies that they will deliver a certain amount of photos, a client may not understand why they can’t receive all of the images. Like the other concerns on this list, it will come down to educating your client, while building value in your brand.
In my case, I explain to the client that in order for my images to maintain the same level of quality they see, that it is not only what happens when I take the photograph, but how it is processed afterward that produces the final result. There are a lot of misconceptions in professional photography, with retouching having to be near the top.
Your job is to explain to them how your process differs, and why they are investing in a professional.
3.) Can't You Get the Images Done Sooner?
How many times have you had a client sign a contract that specifies the turnaround time, only for them to email you shortly after the session requesting that the images be delivered ahead of schedule? While you are welcome to work faster out of the kindness of your heart, there are other ways to handle these requests.
If their time crunch is unreasonable, explain to the client that you would love to accommodate their time frame, but that you would need to charge them a rush fee. This rush fee will be to cover the resources you have to move around in order to oblige them. Remember that as a photographer, your time is your greatest commodity, and there should be a price tag attached.
4.) Why Can't I Edit the Photos Myself?
This one I hear surprisingly often, and it requires a bit of a soft-touch when explaining why allowing your client to edit the photos can be counterproductive to their vision. What your client believes good post-processing is can vary wildly from your own.
Depending on what the project is, you’re welcome to charge the client for the images themselves without any retouching costs. But you have to ask yourself if you can live with what happens to those photographs afterward.
Sometimes, seeing is believing. Have a portfolio prepared of some of your before-and-after images in order to demonstrate to your client the gravity that good post-processing can have on the final product.
5.) Why Do I Have to Credit You?
This is a topic I have covered previously, and is something that happens a lot in collaborative work where credits play a vital role in the worth of the production. There are many people who refuse to post credits for any of the images they share on social media, and it’s a huge miss for those involved.
There are several ways to approach this. The first is to make it a requirement in the contract that they have to credit you wherever the images are posted. This is the firmest way of accomplishing this goal, and the best position to be in. However, there may be instances where a contract was not signed, and a verbal agreement was adhered to. In those cases, it’s just as simple to nicely remind the client that while they have the rights to use the image, that the photographer maintains the copyright.
In my experience, avoiding an aggressive or confrontational tone with your clients and crew is often the best approach. Explain to them that credits are an important part of your ability to grow your business, or perhaps to network appropriately for new opportunities. Most people when faced with a reasonable request, or one that makes them feel as though they’re the ones doing you a favor, will do so.
6.) Why Can't My Friend Model Instead of Hiring a Professional?
This one has caught me by surprise a few times, where a client wishes to save on the budget by using a friend or relative in the place of a professional model. While some instances have worked perfectly, others have led to disastrous results.
Just as you always want to build value in yourself as a photographer, explaining to a client what they gain with a professional model may also be par for the course. The reasons can range from a model being photogenic, knowing how to pose, knowing how to position themselves in accordance with lighting equipment, time saved in order to get the shots nailed quicker, and so on.
The biggest mistake you can make here is to insult the person they were looking to use. Being condescending in your reasons is the quickest way to add a sour note to your business relationship. Avoid using phrases like “just because they’re beautiful in person doesn’t mean they’ll photograph well,” or other notions that may offend them.
If the client still fails to see the value in hiring a professional, try to find a compromise. I have had luck with advising them to use their suggested subject, but to also cast one other model in order to give them variety. In just about all cases, the selections by the client were of the model, and I was able to salvage the production.
7.) Can't You Do This Crazy/Simple Thing in Photoshop?
If I have learned one thing about Photoshop, it’s that most people don’t understand what the possibilities are. Clients often have misconceptions about what can be accomplished in post-processing. This can vary from very simple tasks to very time-consuming composite work that would require hours of detail-heavy editing, and a drastically different lighting setup in the first place. On the flip side, a client may be overly concerned about very minor details such as color correction, contrast, etc. Explaining to them what can be easily addressed in post may put them at ease.
In order to avoid an issue with unrealistic expectations, try to hammer out what it is your client is looking for during the estimate stage. Your post-processing costs and the time required need to be taken into consideration early on.
8.) I Don't Have a Budget, but It'll Be Great Exposure for You!
This has to be the most common one of all on this list. While there are instances where collaborative work, editorials, charity, and other types of arrangements can be beneficial to your business, taking on a commissioned job without the commission is not one of them. If the project is entirely dictated by the client and would lead to images that do not benefit your portfolio, then there is no amount of exposure that can properly compensate you.
A similar issue is when a client promises you exposure for the first job, but that they will pay you properly for the next. Outside of agencies, I have yet to hear of an instance where this agreement benefited the photographer, or ever led to any paying gigs.
While no one wishes to waste their time, the best approach to this is to politely decline, or offer them an estimate that includes your rates. In most instances, these types of potential clients are ones to avoid, as an artist should be compensated no differently than any other skilled professional. You would never ask to pay your lawyer in exposure, nor would you do the same to a chef. For some, they can’t see the value in what a photographer has to offer to them, and these are not the clients you want.
In the end, learning how to present yourself can speak much more about your abilities than anything else. If you have encountered these objections before, then share some of your experiences and best practices below in the comments.