Thursday, January 29, 2015

Smiles... Free

We often deal with clients in our field and the job is sometimes much more difficult than it really is.  As a photographer my goal is to make great pictures, however this is very subjective.

I am dealing with a client recently (don't ask me who) that can be quite frustrating at times.  Firstly clients don't understand that this is a technical field.  Apart from the creative side, certain technical standard require a technical standard setup.  

Ex.  Client ask you to shoot a low light event and does not allow you to use flash.  Or ask you to produce ad quality images of a watch on location at a shop where time and space is not available for the photographer.

You will have to accept the fact that not all your customers will be fully satisfied at times.  Depending on what they ask for, it may not be your fault.  I have listed some points for you to ask yourself next time when you feel you have disappointed a client and is giving yourself a beating.

(1) Are they being reasonable?
Are they asking you last minute to give them a shot they found in a luxury print ad that took a day to shoot while asking you to complete it in an hour.  

I have had clients ask me to reproduce a print ad that was clearly the works of many exposures manipulated with digital illustrations in photoshop.  And even when I explain to them that you can never get a photo to look like that straight out of the camera, they didn't understand and replied "that's why we need your expertise."

(2) Does your client understand you and respect you as a photographer?

If it's clear that you are nothing but a human camera to the client the answer is very clear. Don't quit the job, just don't take his opinions too harsh on yourself if they are being mean. Think of it this way. If you yelled at your DSLR for takings crappy photos, what would it say???  Respect is mutual and same goes with understanding.  Just because they are paying doesn't mean they can make me their bitch.

(3) When is low too low?
I'll admit it, when times are slow I have taken jobs that are way below my rates.  So when do you draw the line?  

I have a simple system.  Based on a 22 day work month, I will multiply the day rate offered by 22.  If it's lower than the salary of the local television network camera operator, I won't do it (this is based also on the fact that the client does not require me to travel too far or bring more than my usual kit).  I love my work and one f the reasons why I love it is because it keeps me from working day after day at a local tv network which in my opinion is no different than working at a factory.  As long as the client can pay that rate or above, I'll do it.

(4) Short temporary departures may be a good thing.

It takes comparison for people to know one is better than the other.  As arrogant as this may sound,  your client is probably getting the best for the dollar and they just don't know it.  If they can get someone "better" (or more fitting to their needs), they will eventually go elsewhere with their business anyways.  You may be the only one willing to work those hours, work those rates, or tolerate those late night calls, whatever... They'll only find out when they work with someone else.  So, it may not be a bad thing after all.

(5) They aren't unhappy, they're your client.
Some clients will never be as enthusiastic   as yourself whenever you produce a great photograph.  Consider it like when you get an electric bill for half of what you paid for last month.  The thing is they are still paying for it.  Some clients just look at photographic services as expenses to their business and don't value the photographs as much as others.  I treat all my clients like my father.  He's never gonna be satisfied so just try my best and if that's not good enough then try harder but don't pop a blood vessel while you are at it.

Points to remember when dealing with clients to prevent an unhappy encounter.

(i) Always prepare, but don't over do it.  Preparation is a must but overdoing it will cause too much information to come all at once and complicate things.  Keep it simple. You know what you are doing just apply it to the situation you are in.

(ii) Don't always try to please. You have as much say of what works and what doesn't.  Don't be afraid to tell them what doesn't work.  There is a high chance whatever you gave in to will be noticed by someone else from the client's company and they may not be happy with the final editorial decision that you sided with at the end to keep your client happy.  If you are gonna get judged for your work it better be for something you truly believe in and not because what the marketing exec thought may look "kinda cool."

(iii) As much as you think you are an artist, don't act like one. Professional photography requires a lot more communication than one thinks. Speak to your client more and get feedback.  Don't ask them "does this look good?"  You will sound amateurish, ask more sophisticated questions which sounds like you are trying to cater to their brands uniquely.  Prepare beforehand as mention, read and look at past references with the brand and find out about things like brand styles, colors and themes.

A lot of people consider it much cooler to be a professional photographer and want  to depart from being an amateur as soon qas they can.  What they don't understand is that it's actually the other way around. Professional Photographers are mostly shooting what people want while amateurs cater to customers that believe in the photographer's editorial decisions and are often more liberal to allow the photographer to make the call, thus creating photographs the photographer truly believe in. You get to do that too in professional photography but only when you are famous and when your name is on the line like the brand that is paying you.

Professional photography is often the opposite of what people think. 99% of the time it is whether you as the photographer can follow company brand styles and give the client what they want. It's about making brand labels glow and things look artificially bigger than they really are.  It's about selling their product visually to viewers.  The photo can be mesmerizingly beautiful but if it doesn't sell chicken McNuggets, they are not gonna call back for another shoot.

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