8 Common Client Objections and How to Overcome Them

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.

Team Credits - Photographer: Kendra Paige | Model & Makeup: Miki Sarroca of Make Me Up, Miki | Wardrobe: Rupees Sarees | Assistant: Chris Brodsky | Article Suggested By: Chris Adval
Log in or register to post comments

42 Comments

Prefers Film's picture

And this is what I find so appealing about wildlife photography. No contracts, no people.

Tobias Solem's picture

... no money ;)

Prefers Film's picture

I don't find that to be a problem.

Mood Translator's picture

This article is for people who actually have/want paying clients. Your comment is kind of irrelevant.

Prefers Film's picture

Not really. If you want to recharge and refresh your perspective, it's well worth the time to pursue your own projects. Then you can go into negotiations more relaxed.

I take on jobs because I want to, not because I have to.

Mood Translator's picture

Good for you. The rest of us who actually make a living through photography have to deal with challenges, we can't sit around shooting pigeons all day.

Prefers Film's picture

You seem bitter. Get over it. I missed the part about this site being strictly for full time professional photographers.

Mood Translator's picture

...

Prefers Film's picture

You have no idea what I have shot in the past 25 years, so how about you pour yourself a very large cup of shut your mouth? When I got into photography, it required skill with a camera, not a computer. There are a great many talented photographers on this site, but I feel like the ability to manipulate digitally went from a tool to a crutch for a lot of people. They would rather spend hours in post making something that is no longer a realistic representation of what they actually captured. If they're happy, and their clients are happy, good for them. It's not my thing.

As far as the business aspect, I worked hard for years, getting paid to take photos that other people wanted. Now I prefer to take photos for my own personal satisfaction. Wildlife photography is fairly new to me, but it fits in with my other interests. Learning animal behavior has been a challenge. You can't bring a strobe and softbox when hiking, so you get up with the sun, stake out a good spot downwind and off the trail, and hope your subject ends up in a location that gives you good lighting and a clean background. Not as easy as popping lights in a studio. And I still get compensated for getting out and taking photos, it's just that they are on my terms.

Chris Helton's picture

wow. Mood Translat'ion = angry ahole. wow. Good on you Film's. There are many benefits to Wildlife photography and you said it something that appeals to you because of no contracts etc. Someone sat on their tv remote tonight... sideways. lol

Emma Grigoryan's picture

great article with so much guidance, I wish you posted it yesterday!

Kendra Paige's picture

Thank you so much for the kind feedback! I'm glad you found it helpful!

Alice Avenne's picture

Among fstoppers new writers you are slowly becoming one of my favourites together woth quentin and michael. The other ones though sometimes write articles so boring/useless that i wonder whether i picked up a mathematics publication or a small town newspaper writen by an eccentric old bat with memory issues. Keep up the good work Kendra!

Kendra Paige's picture

Thank you for that feedback, Alice! I personally like to write about behaviors and practices rather than very technical articles, but I do believe there are plenty who appreciate the more hard-numbers sort of pieces.

I'll do my best to keep the content coming! If you have any topics you would like to see covered, I am always open to suggestions. Thanks!

Alice Avenne's picture

Well, since you mention it i think it'd be fascinating to read from all three of you how you managed to get your first ever client. Or perhaps the story of the job that really took you to the next level professionally speaking. :)

Marc Derydt's picture

Great article throughout! Thank you.
Interesting how many of those points can be applied to other professional services ;-)

Kendra Paige's picture

Thank you very much, Marc! I came from a sales and finance background, which helped me to transition a lot of those skills toward photography. A lot of the tips here can certainly be applied to several industries, and I'm glad you noticed that as well!

Matthew Odom's picture

Absolutely well written!

This is one of the best reads I've seen in months and as someone who recently just won a bid on a decent sized job, I cannot stress don't back down on pricing and explain everything. I also find having it all on paper itemized is a huge benefit ( I know a lot of people who just verbally do everything).

A well informed client usually results in a win.

Once again great work!

Kendra Paige's picture

Thank you, Matthew, and congratulations on your recent bid! If I had to drive home one of the above tips, the one you mentioned is by far the most important. It can be hard for artists to resist clients who try to haggle them down, especially in a freelance arena where paying gigs aren't always consistent. But in order to have the client respect you and the work that you do, you have to present yourself with confidence.

Itemizing the estimate is definitely a great approach! I have learned the hard way what should and shouldn't be listed, however, and that may be something worth writing about in a future article! Things like rental fees, equipment costs, etc, are things I try to omit from the itemized bill, as there have been clients that have attempted to argue that down. But itemizing the list by quantity of images, retouching rates, licensing, creative fees, assistants, etc, have yielded much better results and made the client feel as though their investment has become more tangible.

Thanks again for the comment, feedback is always appreciated!

Chris Adval's picture

I agree, I'd read that article for sure! I know I did my first ever commercial itemized estimate/quote/bid and didn't do an intensely itemization just basics like cost of labor for me, then production assistant, then voiceover, editing, licensing and cost of rentals for a 7 day video production.

Chris Adval's picture

Matthew, I think the non-commercial portrait clients are opposite, they get easily overwhelmed and prefer simple, straight forwards and very, very fast processes. Commercial yea, they want all the reasons why for X, Y and Z and sometimes from A to Z! lol..

Jeroen Rommen's picture

So recognizable!

Kendra Paige's picture

Thank you!

Jason Ranalli's picture

Solid article..thanks for sharing!

Kendra Paige's picture

Thanks for the comment!

Mark Davidson's picture

Thanks for this article. It really hits key points.
One observation I would also make is that having a qualified client helps enormously. I field phone calls all day asking "Can't I just get a disc with all the photos?" They just don't have the money and they have no experience with the price of professional photography.

Kendra Paige's picture

Thank you for the comment! You're absolutely right about the importance of having a qualified client. I've occasionally asked clients if they had worked with professional photographers in the past, but eventually found the expectations those photographers set to be horrendous obstacles to overcome, and not worth bringing up at all.

One recent potential client was used to their photographer giving them all the RAW files and letting them retouch it. Sometimes the 'favors' photographers do really end up setting the poorest of precedents for others in the field.

Alex Qrea's picture

I've had a wedding client re-retouching the photos I retouched with some ugly filters/presets of his own choice. Nasty vignetting, Ugly color casts...

He posted them on facebook. Of course my watermark was still on them. What a pain...

Kendra Paige's picture

Ugh, I feel you there! I've had that happen a few times where models added a bunch of filters on top of my retouched images. In some instances they credited me, and in others they didn't at all. It was the rare exception where I wasn't too bothered by the lack of credit.

Irfan Zaidi's picture

Great article! very helpful for people who are starting out and getting into business with bargain hunters and negotiation sharks.

Kendra Paige's picture

Thank you! I'm hoping to do more business-oriented articles like this, and welcome any suggestions for topics!

Travis Alex's picture

Nice insight.

Something to consider adding:

Over the last few years, my assistant and I take Behind the scenes video and photos. I had some clients believing they were entitled to them and had the right to redistribute without my permission just because they were cell phone shots.

I made a clause in my contract to make it clear they do not own those either, and that they may use 1 of them upon request.

Thanks for sharing with us :)

Kendra Paige's picture

That's a very good point! I've had to review with my team on multiple occasions that while they can take BTS images, that they can't post them on social media until the images are published. It doesn't always go as planned, as people have a very casual attitude to behind the scenes images taken on their cell phones.

Trifon Anguelov Photography's picture

Great insights. Like a wedding and portrait photographer myself I have heard of of these points. And it is always the same: me having to explain to clients why is that something cannot be done as they wish. It is part of providing the service to others, after all.

I think the main reason is that there is so much misunderstanding of what professional photographers do. Nowadays everyone with smartphone has taken photos and thinks it is super easy and pros don't deserve the money they ask for. But there is another reason. Many people just don't understand the photography jargon and the basic terms we use. This is why I posted a Photographer's Jargon for Everyday People guide: http://weddingphotographyblogger.com/2015/05/03/photographers-jargon-for...

Educating our clients is helpful in a long term. We all can be better off is clients understand what does it take to make beautiful images: talent, creativity, practice and time.

Thank you for sharing these great ideas. Thumbs up!

Kendra Paige's picture

Thank you for your comment and insight! Kudos on your incredibly detailed and well-written blog post as well, that's brilliant!

Educating clients really is very important, as everyone wins when clients have a better grasp of the industry and what they're investing in. It's another reason why most successful photographers have the ability to or have enthusiasm for working with people. It's important to have the skill sets to speak to and not down-to your clients in order to get them to understand.

Thanks again!

Brad Barton's picture

Good article.. My only complaint is the assertion that what I may or may not charge hurts the industry as a whole. I charge what I need to for my business and business model. It takes into account my expenses, overhead, salary, etc.. And divides that by how busy I want to be... That average is what I need to make on each client.

If you can't do it for that price, I don't care. If I'm charging more than you, I also don't care. I only care that I hit my average sale with my average number of clients.

Kendra Paige's picture

Thank you for your feedback! That assertion was not at all meant to criticize a photographer's pricing model. Basing your rates off of hard data is a very sensible way to manage your business. The only time this becomes a concern, is when professional photographers work for free in instances that should be compensated. I imagine that if you provided a rate to a client, only to have them ask for a quarter of the price (which does happen more than we like to think), that you would agree that doing the same work for a quarter of your asking price can hurt in the long run.

Brad Barton's picture

It's very true that saying I will charge you $100, then accepting $25 is hurtful to that photographer... But I don't buy that it hurts the entire industry.

And if I give away something for free, same applies. If I do something free, it's because I see a benefit to me. If someone else does, that doesn't change that I charge for it.

Chris Adval's picture

I got around to finally finishing reading this, thanks for the credit Kendra! Great read, I agree with everything! There was one part that got to me is the "In the end, learning how to present yourself can speak much more about your abilities than anything else."

Are you suggesting to those are still crafting their style/skills, etc. to craft it well enough you feel comfortable to start going for those clients and clients that are considered "high end" matching your level of quality? As well creating very high end graphic design, marketing materials, etc. to ensure that high end market sees the quality of the photos at its best? That is the road I'm targeting and headed, but obviously it takes a decent amount of cash, as well confidence in their own work, which I don't have yet as I feel I can produce a lot more as I grow my tool box and portfolio specifically in fashion for fashion clientele.

And slightly off topic, love the images you showed here, are they purely shot with natural lighting and side reflector/fill?

Kendra Paige's picture

You're welcome, thanks for sparking the idea!

I have a love/hate relationship with the phrase "fake it till you make it," but it sadly rings true when it comes to the fashion and commercial worlds of photography. Appearances are very important, but there are a lot of ways to make up for a lack of budget. The king of them all is your abilities in Photoshop. If your retouching and post-processing abilities are at a high level, you can make up for just about any lack of equipment.

I would say one of my biggest inspirations when it comes to this, is Michelle Monique. She is able to use very basic materials and equipment, and through her masterful Photoshop techniques, create some absolutely dazzling pieces. Check out her BTS videos and journals here: http://michellemonique.deviantart.com/journal/

These were shot outdoors in the morning, with a beauty dish on a boom arm suspended off to the side of the model, and a bit too high to be too effective, haha. (I was learning!)

As always, thanks again for your comment!

Chris Adval's picture

Yea, I agree with the editing, not just that since the market is demanding that very high impactful somewhat obviously edited/photoshopped imagery I'm going to dabble my style into it even though I like my style to not look heavily photoshopped personally at least but I have to adjust my style to what the market is demanding to make a revenue at least in fashion/commercial world. I'm going to get Nick's slickforce mastering retouching series as soon as I can! But I'll check out Michelle see if she has something different too. Thanks a bunch again Kendra!

Kirk Darling's picture

An important thing to buttress pricing issues: Know--really KNOW--your cost of business. If you know your costs, then you know what it's taking out of your hide to reduce your fees by any amount. You don't want to go into all that with a client, but knowing upfront exactly where it's going to hurt can really stiffen your spine. And if/when you do reduce service tor a reduced price, it also helps to know whether that reduction in service is worth the reduction in price. For instance, cutting an hour off wedding coverage will rarely recoup for you the reduction in your fee...what can you do with that hour to make up for the financial loss? If you cut service, be sure you're cutting something that will actually reduce your costs or increase profit in some other way.