5 Types of Photography Clients from Hell
11th June 2014, Singapore – As a photographer, we all have our shares of meeting crazy people in the industry. Although we have a fair share of insane photographers, more often than not, it is the clients that really makes us wonder if we had made a bad career choice.
#01 The Stingy-Scheming Client
I am sure all of you had encounter such a client. They will call you, request a quotation, then revert to say that your fees are steep. Then they start questioning you how you came up to that price and what are the things included in the price and they will ask you to justify before asking for another 50% off your quotation.
There was once I received a call from a “huge F&B chain” requesting for a quotation for shooting up their new menu. After I worked out the sums, I sent the proposal over and almost immediately, I received a call from the marketing person who requested the quotation. As expected, I got questioned like what do I meant by “Setting Up”, “Studio Lights” and “Food Make-Up” – after I explained everything, she asked for a discount.
Since she claimed that she was introduced to me by one of my student, I gave her a 15% off my fees but she still complained that I am expensive. Not wanting to lose the business, we both agreed at a final discount of 25%. So the day came, after I set up my equipment, the client came to my working table and ask me if I can reduce my fees further by another 10%. I kept my composure although I am exploding with anger inside me, I had spent time transporting my mobile studio to the restaurant, I had spent close to an hour to set up all the studio lights and table setting and here, the client is asking for another 10% off (means total 35% off). Reluctantly, I told the client this is not right but since I am here, I will do it.
After shooting like 2 hours, the client came to me to inform me that their management can only pay me if I can lower my fees by another 5%. I calmly told the client to come closer to my camera so that I can show my LCD screen to the client. I demonstrated what the “FORMAT” button can do. I packed my things and left. I didn’t get my payment of course, and the client didn’t get the photos too.
#02 The Fault-Picker Client
This is the type of client that most of us avoided like plague. Everything seems alright & smooth from the quotation stage till the final execution. However, the fault-picker will strike when your photos are submitted. Alicia 32, a professional events photographer recently met such a client. Before the event, she had even asked the client to email her the event brief and she had read through every details and taking note of the series of events that were going to take place. She even noted the VIPs, sequence of events and time flow. When she showed up at the event, she even went to the client and checked if there was anything else that she needs to take note of. After that, Alicia went on auto-pilot like any other event photographers.
After the event ended, she edited the photos and sent to the client. Then Alicia received a call from the client and complaining that her photos were terrible. The client further insulted that her photography standard & skill were not worth what they paid for. Client went on to complain that the photos were too dark, angles were shot wrongly, and even claimed that Alicia had missed out on the important things like some fringe activities that were going on at the same time. The client claimed that their company wasn’t happy and felt that Alicia had not done her job well. In short, every possible fault was picked by the client.
Alicia explained to the client that those fringe activities were not stated in the brief and she was not informed at the scene by the client. Further to that, those photo comments about her work were subjective and very personal. But the client turned nasty and threatened to publicize her bad experience with Alicia’s service. Photography being a reputation business, Alicia (painfully) decided that her reputation is not worth tarnishing for the fees that she had charged so she decided to refund the payment in full.
Hilarion Goh, a professional photographer also had a similar experience. He had done a shoot which his client rushed him for the photos. He rendered express service at his own expenses and delivered the photos in double quick time. But the client started finding fault claiming that Hilarion was not following their art direction and the photos was not exactly what they wanted. But soon, it was clear that, what this client wanted was to get a huge discount or even get away with a free photo shoot.
Hilarion decided not to give in to their claims and after all the exchanges, the client refused to pay him and worse, they took his ideas and engaged a cheaper photographer to do the same job. And the photos turned out to be very similar to what Hilarion had initially shot. Hilarion further advised all photographers not to submit your assignment to your client until payment is received – urgent or not regardless.
#03 The Cheap-Negotiator Client
Wilson Wong, professional photographer, also shared with us about his experience about another type of client which we all also hated. These clients are usually nice people who employed the soft approach – but equally irritating. Wilson shared his experience of a client who told him “We really like your photos but you know we can get similar services at half your rate so why don’t you reconsider?”
Nice try indeed, I am sure all of us have heard this too many times.
Abby Chin, a wedding photographer, has met her share of such clients. She met a couple to discuss a wedding shoot last year and after presenting her portfolio to the couple, the couple asked her “Your photos were awesome, but we are sure there are many photographers like you who charge a much lower price, can you give us more discounts?” Abby smiled at the couple and passed the couple a string which she carries in her bag. The puzzled couple asked her what was the string for – which Abby calmly replied “fly kite”.
Well, a good note to learn from Abby, we should all carry some strings with us when we meet clients.
Personally, I had encountered such a client. Below is the un-edited email message sent to me by this client.
Thank you for your quotation. We have heard about you from many sources and we are very sure that we are engaging the right person for this assignment. Looking at your portfolio, your works are everywhere from buses to menu cards and we are very impressed by your standard. Looking at your quotation which is very reasonable for a 4 hour event, my company can certainly pay you your fees. But we are at the situation where most of our budget had gone into the event planning and we are left with a humble sum of $250.00 and we hope you will kindly consider taking up this offer.”
For those who are reading this, my initial quote was $2500.00.
I followed up with this client as below.
Thank you for the nice words and sweet encouragements. I am sure you have spent a big part of your event budget planning on an awesome and unforgettable event. I am very certain that your can surely pay my fees too. However, I am in the situation where I have quoted you in all fairness and meeting your requirements – but $250 is not something that you even offer to a photographer. May I interest you to let my photography students do the job instead? They just graduated from my Basic Photography Class and I am sure they will appreciate the exposure that you will be giving them. I will split your $250 equally among the 5 senior citizens, how about that?”
#04 The Photo-Magician Client
Photoshop and many other photo-editing software can do wonders to a photo. But one thing that all photographers knows is editing can never make a blur photo sharp neither it can make an ugly person beautiful. Wilson Wong shared that he encountered clients that asked him if he can Photoshop “in such a way that the subject can turn around”. In case you are lost, what Wilson’s client meant was – you shoot a person from the back, then use Photoshop to make the person turn around and face the camera. Atrocious right? Another of his client said this “I heard Photoshop can do miracles…can you do one for me?” which, from what we understand, Wilson was lost for words.
Abby told me that another of her client emailed a blur photo to her and offered her $500 to make the photo sharp. She tried explaining to the client that technically it is not possible to which her client retorted “Photoshop can do anything”. Contrary to popular beliefs, that is really not possible.
I had a client who refused to pay my fees and went on to do a company event shoot by himself with a DSLR. After the event, he called and asked me how much I usually charge for editing photos. Out of courtesy, I told him that I will only edit my own photos – no matter how he begged me. You all know why? This “genius” shot the whole company event in Black & White as he does not knows how to switch back to color mode. Apparently this fool had went around & show off his camera at the event and someone – possibly a colleague – had fumbled with the menu controls and passed the camera back to him without telling him.
Then he presumed that by shooting in Black & White, I have the ability to Photoshop back the original colors – I know most of you are laughing now – so am I.
#05 The Gear Head Client
With more & more people dabbling into photography these days, many people out there owns a DSLR with a couple of lenses and who seems to know a lot about photography equipment. Wilson has a client who asked why isn’t him shooting with a Leica while Alicia has a client who insisted she use a Canon DSLR instead of a Nikon to shoot her party. Does the brand matters? I am sure 9,999,999 photographers out there will tell you skill & perspective is above the brand of the camera, but then again, we have clients who knew “a little too much” & started to pass amateurish judgmental views on the equipment we use.
In fact, the silliest question that a client will ask you during a pre-shoot discussion will be “Which brand of camera do you use?”. Does it even mean anything at all? When client asked me this, usually I will ask back “Which brand do you prefer? I have everything”. (Disclaimer: Not showing off here but I maintain a few systems due to my photography classes).
There are certainly more types of “Clients from Hell” out there – many which are equally irritating, rude, scheming and even cheat photographers. However, we are lucky (too) that there is the other 50% of clients who are absolutely sweet and awesome. Due to time constraints, we decided to publish the above 5 – being the most common of all cases. Do leave a comments & share with us more below if you have encountered a Client from Hell.
dear …… (sorry i cant find your name)
your article is very real. Not just on photography bussines, but nearly all service jobs such things could happen. I strongly agree with your opinion, if the customer is always right, if the customer is a reall customer not an assh0le that just makes you crazy.. nice post… great post…
I wish we had the reputation of lawyers…everyone expects you to be expensive!