Dealing With Evil Photography Clients

Have you had the client you're convinced is pure evil? Why do they behave like that? It seems they like to spread misery and just make life difficult for everyone in sight. Believe it or not, there's a method that I use to help bring them back down to tolerable levels. In some cases, they've become my biggest ally and supported me over the years. 

Most Photography Clients Are Kind

From experience, I have learned that most people are kind, but often, they are misunderstood. Because they're misunderstood, it's easy to confuse that as being difficult or even evil. As photographers, we don't just sign a new client. We inherit their past experiences and biases. Lovely, right?

I learned that it's important to step back from any situation and ask yourself a few questions. There's a small chance you could turn an "evil" client into one of your biggest fans. The video goes into more detail, but here are a couple of easy ways to turn a negative into a positive.

Are They Misunderstood?

Some people are terrible at communication. They have no idea how to ask for what they want or how to communicate frustrations in a positive tone. How they convey their frustration could easily be misconstrued as a client who loves to cause misery. 

This is where you come in as an entrepreneur! Your photography skills create a beautiful product, but entrepreneurship skills are what manage a difficult situation. It's rather difficult to have a profitable business without having both skills: photography and client management. 

Ask them how you could better serve them. Ask them what a successful shoot would mean to them. Get in the habit of listening more than you speak. When you listen, they will give you all of the puzzle pieces. It's one of the easiest things once I learned to listen. They'll provide you the roadmap to success each time!

It's then your job to produce a project that touches on all of the important points they expressed while having visually appealing photography everyone is proud of.

Maybe They Had a Bad Experience?

Imagine having a horrible photography experience. Perhaps the photographer disappeared for weeks without responding to emails or they asked for additional money once the contract was signed. Maybe people heard horror stories and they figured "acting mean" might be a great way to avoid this. 

When I meet with my clients, I'll often ask:

  • Is this your first professional photoshoot?
  • What would you say makes you the most excited about us working together?
  • What is your biggest area of concern?

Start a conversation and hear them. Actually, listen without interruptions. When a person feels heard, they usually drop all of their guards and are more willing to accept your notes. This is one of the easiest ways we can manage a difficult situation with a client. You already have the skills that you need! Just remind yourself to step back and ask questions. Listen to them and grow together!

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7 Comments

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I have a client like that, stays polite, but clearly has no clue how to prepare. Each time I work for that company, I expect it's the last time because that employee is very unpredictable and extremely hard to read, however, I keep getting the calls.

Paul Trantow's picture

Uh...Stop working with them? WTF?

Benoit Pigeon's picture

That's an option, but you have to think about networking.
Sometimes you just have to deal with the situation, may be spend 30 minutes setting up to show them what they would not like but are basically asking for. I've been in that situation and at the end of the day if you take the time to listen and make the proper suggestions, they get it that waisting 30 minutes of billed time is an investment vs waiting 3 - 4 hours only to start over. I never work for the present job, always for the next because repeat clients are the ultimate way to stay in business.

J.d. Davis's picture

Networking ~ the best thing you can do is tell other photographers to RUN LIKE HELL away from that customer!

Life is too short to deal with EVIL - hopefully they become a problem for someone else!

Benoit Pigeon's picture

There are no evil, if they want pictures, they have to come down to reality. If the money is good, I am not sending the client away. I would imagine any type of business has problematic clients, it's not isolated to photography, that's the part of business. Send me your bad clients, I probably can deal with the situation and get them to send me more clients.

J.d. Davis's picture

Mostly art directors with a bad case of 'Kakorrhaphiophobia' - and you are welcome to them!

Lee Christiansen's picture

No - you just charge them more than the other clients... :)