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What to say when your photographer charges too much

Posted by on Feb 5, 2014 |

What to say when your photographer charges too much

By Koren Reyes
I received an email this week from a client I worked with 8 years ago. He wanted a digital negative I took of his infant baby girl so he could print a 16×20 gallery wrap canvas.

While I don’t get many of these types of requests, it’s guaranteed to be a delicate situation for me and the client. Here’s why.

I run a business as a highly trained, experienced, professional artist. I get paid to give clients images that they can’t create themselves, and I get paid to know where and how to print beautiful pieces of art. I charge a lot for what I do, but it’s always up to clients to decide if it’s worth it or not. As Warren Buffet said, “The price is what you pay. The value is what you get.”

I don’t give my work away. Except when I do. But I certainly don’t give it to people who express outrage or indignation. Especially if there are typos in their emails. Ok, that part I’m kidding about.

The client making this request brought in a newborn that day who was about five days old. They stayed at my studio for five hours. They then claimed that they didn’t like any of their pictures.

Here’s one of my pictures that they “settled for” for the birth announcement.

Unhappy newborn photography client

Unhappy newborn photography client

This happens to all of us, no matter how seasoned or how experienced we are. It’s terrible when it does, but it just does. It’s not like I didn’t try or wasn’t focused or didn’t care. I did my best, as I always do, but when infants cry the entire time and NEVER go to sleep, I suck it up and tell myself that the cards were not stacked in my favor that day.

I did do one major thing wrong. I did not manage my clients’ expectations. I did not explain how long the session could go and what would happen if it went longer (most newborn sessions finish in three hours or less). I did not tell them that there was a possibility that their tiny, little baby might cry or stay awake and that they might be disappointed if this happened.

As a client, it’s okay to express your disappointment. But it’s even more important to ask your photographer how to make the best of a bad situation.

So fast-forward eight years and here we are with another unpleasant situation. The unhappy client wants me to give him a digital negative FOR FREE so he can go to his lab to print my picture (that he was unhappy with) to give to his wife for Valentine’s Day. When I tell him I’d be happy to retouch that file at that size and that it would cost $1,205, he sends me this email:

I dont need it printed I need the original that can be copied to a canvas. As I’m not a billionaire so I will kindly pass on you generous offer of such affordability. Mabey when I hit the lotto I will call you again.

THANKS again,

This is most definitely not the way to talk to your photographer.

Here’s how this still-unhappy client should have handled me. He should have said:

I understand that you’re a business and you need to charge a certain amount to remain viable. We are going through a hard time and even though we didn’t have a great experience eight years ago, this one particular image has come to mean a lot to us. I’m really sorry about how I handled the situation eight years ago and I just wanted you to know how grateful we are to have this one, precious, beautiful picture of our little girl. Is there any way you could come down on the price? I’d so love to give this to my wife for Valentine’s Day.

If I had received that email instead of the angry, pissed off, venomous email he fired back at me, you know what? I would have worked something out with them.

I am not insensitive. In fact, I take it very personally when a client isn’t thrilled with what I do. How could I not? I’m an artist, not a machine.