• Malinda Julien

4 Ways to deal with: "I LOVE THIS" vs "oh, that's not what I wanted"....


We've all been there, that moment when you are busting with pride and anticipation of that response of WOW!!! .... but you get.... "oh, that's not what I wanted"...


Not exactly what you wanted to hear and we all know the code, that slow drawl and "less-than-thrilled-but-they-don't-want-to-hurt-your-feelings-but...."


What went wrong? As a photographer, working in a visual medium, many things can create this situation. It is obvious we didn't deliver the product the client wanted, how could it have happened?


  1. Your portfolio: Is your portfolio representative of the work you do? Building a portfolio is a labor of love and hate. Are you putting up photographs which not only show your skill, but your style? Was the client's vision a match for what you presented? You can't be all things to all clients. I see lots of websites that say they can do everything photographic! No specialty, just non-specific, general list of photography genres which may or may not be your strongest point. Paring down your portfolio to the work you love to do and are good at is a better selling point because you'll attract clients who love what you do. Will you miss some sales of work you "could have done"? Yes, but as in the case we are talking about, you won't have any miscommunications about the work you do and what the client expects. The client that wasn't a good match will cost you a lot more in spreading the news of their feelings about your work than that money you made from that shoot. Keep your portfolio updated on a regular basis. Replace older photographs with newer ones regularly. If clients log on and see the same photographs over and over it could mean you are not creating.

  2. Communication: Many times we don't communicate exactly what we can deliver in response to what a potential client wants. Maybe the client doesn't really know what they want, and you felt you could show them something that would be perfect. Perhaps the client thinks you can wave your magic wand and fix everything in post production. Visiting in person or at minimum over the phone along with samples of what they want will help in getting the final product right. Filling out a form online and booking a session, then showing up for the shoot is not going to yield good results. Face-to-face meetings are best, both of you can decide if you are match personality wise and look at if what you produce matches what the client is looking for. If not, you are better off simply stating you don't feel you are a good match. Once you have agreed on what is to be produced, a written agreement outlining the details and the price makes both parties feel secure. Don't hesitate to put any sample images they sent into the description of the contract.

  3. Pricing: Oh, why did you bring that up? The bane of every photographer anywhere, what to charge for what you do and how to talk about it. It is like putting a price on what we do means we are doing it for the money. Well, we ar doing it for the money, we just happen to be lucky enough to do what we LOVE to do for a living. Let's say you are under priced and the client was expecting a grandeose image for a budget price. It is not unusual for the lower end pricing client to be harder to make happy than the client who values you and your work and didn't make the decision on price. Make sure your pricing is approrpiate for the client you want to attract. On the flip side, you charged a premium price and the client is underwhelmed by the level of work. They were expecting to have a great piece of art, when in their eyes, they have a photograph they could have "taken with their phone" .. (oh that statement!!!) Ensure your pricing is representative of your skill level, education and what you can reliably create.

  4. Client Expectations to look like a shot out of Vanity Fair™: Happens from time to time, your prospective client sends you a photograph from a big time photographer, with a full staff, make up artists, hair dressers, wardrobe, etc... and they want you to recreate that image. My hair dresser / MUA goes through the same thing - we chatted about it when I decided to change my hair color. So many people come in with photos of celebrities who have a full head of hair and professionals all the time while her client will have thin hair and not even the right look. Impossible. So, she is in the same spot. Get the idea? You can't replicate that without all of those ammenties. I doubt your client is wanting to pay for all that, nor would they have the skill in front of the camera of the professional model. My point, saying "sure, I think we can do something LIKE this" falls on deaf ears when you show them the final. The client will not remember your discussion about "like this". It will be your fault, and truly it is. Better to tell them why you can't replicate that without a much larger budget. You may lose that client, but...

Take a look at your workflow in booking clients, from the website to the contract. Be concise and communicate well. Ensure you know what they want and IF you can deliver that. Turn every client into "I LOVE THIS!"

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