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What to do when your client isnt happy?

Jeanette Nicole , Jul 04, 2009; 06:33 a.m.

So I recently shot my best friend's friend's senior portraits.

I only had her pay me half after the shoot ($15, super cheap b/c of the friend thing), and I was gonna have her pay me the other $20 when I gave her the photos.
But I was talking to my best friend, and she was telling me how my client was unhappy with the photos I took of her (from what she saw in the camera). She was a bigger sized girl, and I know she felt self conscious (she didn't pick the best clothing to wear, and kept complaining about her arms. I kept reassuring her she looked A-Okay though). Overall, I think she felt uncomfortable in front of the camera which showed through (I even tried to get her used to the camera idea, but no-sir-ee) .

So this is the absolute first time ANYBODY has been uphappy with photos I've taken of them.
She's already starting to talk to other photographers already without seeing the final product of my photos.

I don't know what I should do.
Should I just refund what she paid me and give her the photos anyways?
Should I just keep the $15, not ask for the rest?
Or should I ask for all of the money, for wasting my time with the whole editing process?

Responses


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Matt Laur , Jul 04, 2009; 07:06 a.m.

I hope you don't mind if I'm totally frank, here. At $15, you've already wasted your time. For that sitting fee, you're better off not charging anything, and simply charging on delivery of prints/CD/whatever-you're-delivering.

$15 is very low. For the time you put into getting ready to shoot, meeting up, taking the photographs... you're talking about a fraction of minimum wage. That sets your expectations and hers very low - and that can fuel the immediate reactions that people get when they see an un-edited shot on the back of a camera.

Since you're already not making any money on the sitting, you'll earn something far more valuable than $15 by offering to re-shoot. You'll learn some more about how to deal with heavier, self-conscious people. You'll learn how to spin a customer relations problem to your advantage. You'll learn not to chase the customer off to "other photographers" (are these other folks also charging so little, or is she going to re-think her budget and hire a pro?). And most importantly, you'll be buying, with that extra bit of work, some good will. This sort of work is almost entirely about word of mouth. You get or lose the next opportunity that way, more than any other way.

Luis G , Jul 04, 2009; 07:08 a.m.

For that little money, return the $15, and call it a day.

Eric Merrill , Jul 04, 2009; 07:30 a.m.

Jeanette:

What to do? Nothing, at this point. Unless I am misunderstanding your post, your client hasn't said anything to you. You have been hearing gossip. Ignore it. Don't worry about it.

Deliver your photos as planned. If she doesn't like her photos, I would offer her choice of either a reshoot or a complete refund. Doesn't matter whether the sitting fee is $15 or $1500, if the client is unhappy with the session, make it right.

I'm not sure what your normal sitting fee is, but $15 is a joke. Discounting for friends of friends can be a slippery slope. Free or full price is my mantra. No in-between. I wouldn't take the efforts of a $15 photographer very seriously, and I would have no hesitation to schedule a "real" photographer if I didn't like the session. Other people won't value your time any more than you do. I'm thinking if you charged a higher sitting fee up front, this girl wouldn't be so quick to move on to a different photographer without even seeing your results. She might still be unhappy, but she'd have some vested interest in working with you for a good resolution.

Eric

Ton Mestrom , Jul 04, 2009; 08:05 a.m.

Matt is absolutely right and I´m convinced you already learned a important lesson by now. You don´t mix personal with business!

`So this is the absolute first time ANYBODY has been uphappy with photos I've taken of them`
don´t worry, more will follow. Did a fashion shoot once for a hairstylist and to this day I´m pleased with the results as are a few pro friends who I showed them to. That doesn´t amount to much however if the client isn´t pleased with it. She wasn´t. At the time I was fairly young and felt insulted by it as I suspect you do. Big mistake. She payed so it was her call. Move on.

Jerry Litynski , Jul 04, 2009; 09:51 a.m.

Usually, when dealing with teens, you have the 'mirror' concept. The teen looks in the mirror often and has a "mental image" of how he/she looks. If you take on the senior photo task, you need to be prepared to request clothing that will flatter the person, not allow 'extra pounds' to be clear and sharp in a minimum clothing choice. [You do not want a 160+ pound young lady that is 5' 3" tall in a bikini....for one example.]

You may wish to make contact with the girl's parents on this one. The girl may never be happy with your images, but the mom and dad may be delighted. And mom and dad generally pay the bills.

Good luck!

JDM von Weinberg , Jul 04, 2009; 01:02 p.m.

Give her a print or two, maybe she won't mind them so much when she sees them, but if she does not like them, return her $15 and, as Matt says, learn your lesson.

Remember: No good deed goes unpunished

tobey bilek , Jul 04, 2009; 03:09 p.m.

I had a friend who is 250 # and wanted to look thin. I have no clue how to do it.

I ended up copying an old photo when he was thin and used that. He was happy. It was all no charge.

David Henderson , Jul 04, 2009; 04:06 p.m.

Doing business with friends or friends of friends on a non-commercial basis seems to cause a huge amount of problems if the threads on Photo.net are anything to go by. Seems like its something that should be avoided.
Right now you have no contract and an "agreement" thats worth peanuts. In that context I'd be inclined to call the client (not your friend) and tell her that you have been told she hates the pictures even though she hasn't seen them. And that if thats true you have no interest whatsoever in making prints for her. If she denies it and says that she wants the prints, get her to pay the $20 and do a decent job. Do not send her prints or files without banking the money. If she confirms she is unhappy, send her the $15 back and write the whole thing off to experience.

Lessons here are to either work for free, or if you are working for money do so on a proper professional basis with realistic fees, terms & conditions all in a contract which clearly sets out what you are promising to deliver and what your customer is agreeing to do in return and when. Also not to assume that working for friends, friends of friends or relatives is going to be easier. If you're not prepared to do it for free get them to sign the contract and agree a fee for the services to be provided. If you take a penny from someone, even if just a reimbursement of expenses, get a contract.

You're going to lose on this one ( in time at least) because you didn't have the foresight to see how it might turn out or read a bit on here to confirm that it really does happen. It happens to all of us. Once. Second time would make you feel much worse!

My first time was shooting a fairly informal wedding for a good and very long-standing friend. I didn't want to do it at all; told him I didn't want to do it, but was basically talked into it on the basis that it was just informals they wanted. Needless to say it turned out badly because of the bride's attitudes; in particular a belief that she should have a copy of every image I shot on the day whether I liked the shot or not. It hasn't destroyed my friendship but it has affected it and the nett is that I will not shoot another wedding or social event for anyone. Thats my lesson learned.

Harry Joseph , Jul 06, 2009; 12:43 p.m.

1 free roll of film.


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