Paid gig, customers not happy

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by oto02, Nov 11, 2015.

  1. oto02

    oto02 Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 24, 2012
    Melbourne, VICTORIA, AU
    Real Name:
    Hi fellow photographers,

    I recently got a paid gig for a 3 months old baby. They have seen my work and because I gave them a good deal they wanted my services.
    The session was to the client place, not in my studio, even that I asked the parents when is the best time (most active) for the baby, turned up that baby hasn't cooperated much. The parents changed the clothing a few times, etc.
    To cut the story short, while I was shooting I showed them the pics in the camera, and after I got back to the studio I sent them the contact sheets, in order to pick a number of the pics as we agreed. The trouble is, they are not happy with the photos, accusing the baby's head is not in the right position, or has been cut the fringe, or cos the baby wasn't happy and they found it difficult to select the photos. I told them that's only the contact sheets and not processed pics and I sent them a small selection to have a look at how they will look once finished. Still not happy.
    Here's some of the finished pisc:

    How would you approach this issue, or if you think that the pics are that bad, bear in mind they have seen my work - which I believe looks similar with the one I showed them.
    Your input would be much appreciate it.

    Thank you
  2. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    It doesn't matter what anyone except what the client thinks of the work, because they are the clients.

    More importantly, did you have the clients sign a contract before doing the shoot? A contract that specifies what will be done, payments and the terms and conditions of what will be delivered is essential. Without every thing spelled out a client can do what yours did. Personally, if they have already paid, and all they received is contact sheets, I would refund their money and tell them you will be erasing the files. They will either decide they like the pictures, or go bother some other photographer.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  3. Luke

    Luke Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jul 30, 2010
    Milwaukee, WI
    Real Name:
    Well I'm not a professional but often wondered what would happen in a situation like this. I guess I'd set it up ahead of time much like a plumber repair. There would be a set fee just for showing up, and then an extra charge based on your work and what they end up with.

    I think the bottom line is if they are not happy with them, then they shouldn't pay for them. But they DID "hire" you.... and you should get some partial compensation for your time.

    If you're willing to continue to work with them, maybe you can ask them what they are looking for in the finished photos. Ask for examples that they have seen that they like. If they don't want their baby to have part of her head out of the frame, accommodate that.

    There's really two kinds of photographers that one can hire. One that can act like a trained monkey and shoot the photos that the customer asks for. The other is someone who has an artistic vision and will shoot the subject as they see fit and is hired because the customer trusts that vision or it fits with their own. I think you may be the latter and the customer was looking for the former.
  4. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 6, 2013
    Real Name:
    my $.02. The photos don't look bad. I probably would not send unedited photos to a client going forward, but if that's worked for you then maybe it's fine. If I was in this situation, I'd probably offer then a complimentary 30 min session and get a list of exactly what they wanted that you did not deliver and try to make them a happy client, who might give referrals. Or waive/discount some sitting fee that you feel will appease them. I'm curious why you offered them a special deal when they decided they wanted you to do the photos? Could be a sign of a difficult client?

    Hard to say for sure, as I don't know the relationships involved and possible negative consequences (bad review, negative referrals etc). It's not your fault the baby had difficulties and perhaps that's something you should list in contracts going forward to avoid problems like this. Maybe just bite the bullet and do another (shorter) session to satisfy them. You could offer them credit towards prints or future purchases also as an alternative.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  5. Adubo

    Adubo SithLord

    Nov 4, 2010
    Real Name:
    just my two cents on here, havent experienced this before but...

    ... if i were you, id re-do the shoot. interview them a little bit more of what they are expecting, setting expectations for both camps is essential for me since it sets them to visualize what is going to happen, how it might happen and how it would look like doing it, and looking at the images themselves. as well as on your side, youd be more prepared (NOT saying you werent) and you also look for the shots you think they like that way, they get the images they want, and you still have freedom to use your vision/imagination.

    may be a shorter shoot for the 2nd time around. and try to persuade mom and dad to do the shoot in your studio so youre more comfortable and you ahve more control of the variables in the frame/settings/props.

    ...if theyre still not happy, well, theyd still have to pay you though... im not judging but sounds like (if) they asked (or demanded) a special deal, they might actually be a hard client to deal with..
    • Agree Agree x 1
  6. Turbofrog

    Turbofrog Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 21, 2014
    The photos look like what I'd expect from that genre. But as others have mentioned, it ends up being about what the client likes, and the money is in their wallet.

    ...I am so, so, so glad that I can photograph for fun rather than a job. Nothing seems less pleasant to me...
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Clint

    Clint Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 22, 2013
    San Diego area, CA
    Real Name:
    If I had a customer that didn't like what I shot, I'd offer to reshoot the photos, clarify exactly what they were looking for, and put it in writing! And then for something like a baby, I'd be very tolerant if the timing was not right and offer to do the shoot later when the baby/parents were feeling better and relaxed.

    I do not offer discounts up front - those that want discounts seem to be five times as nit picky than those that don't discounts. Even for organizations where I believe in their cause and want to contribute - I offer to shoot their event, exhibit, supporting photographs for grants etc. for no charge, I always send an invoice after the fact and marked "Paid."

    Managing expectations is one of the most important aspects of professional photography - and vital when the photos cannot be reshot.
    I'm actually both of those - just a part of meeting expectations.

    And there is another option - those that exceed expectations! If I had a very enjoyable session and the customers significantly contributed to that experience, then I'll add a couple of extra prints over what was contracted/commissioned. All customers receive beyond what originally discussed, whether it be just nice packaging or often photos electronically for them to share on social media.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  8. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 6, 2013
    Real Name:
    There's a term for that. UPOD. Under promise, over deliver. Not to say you set the bar real low, but you give realistic expectations, that you know you can exceed.
    Even if you set the bar a little higher, it's nice to offer something extra and make people feel like they are getting a good deal and thank them for their business, by going above and beyond.
  9. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    I'm not a pro photographer (did a little bit while I was in graduate school) but I have spent many years negotiating with suppliers and customers. And that's what this is: a negotiation.

    One possibility is that your customer is complaining in hopes of negotiating a discount. That is quite common but it also varies quite a bit from culture to culture. The easy way to head this off is to do what you ought to do anyway: Tell him that if he doesn't like the photos, he doesn't have to pay. But he gets no photos. Legally speaking he owes you the money, but as a practical matter you almost certainly don't have a way to collect.

    An alternative would be to offer a reshoot for a reduced fee. Maybe half what you originally agreed on. This time, let them be the art directors and tell you exactly what they want shot. Then, assuming you comply, they cannot duck responsibility. In this case I would ask for the original fee up front and the additional fee be paid when they receive the photos.

    Under no circumstances should you do any more work without some money in hand, nor should you deliver high-resolution images until you have been paid. I would definitely not give them access to the hi-res images you posted for us.

    Re the photos, I do not think that they are bad. The head shots of the baby are quite nice, especially the first one. The mother-with-baby high key shot is nice, too, though on my monitor it wants to be warmed up a little bit. The family shots generally could use a little supplemental light from the photographer's right; grandma (?) in particular is left a little dark by being in the shadow of mom and dad and having no light source from the right. But overall, especially if they have seen your work, I don't see that there is anything to justify not paying.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  10. oto02

    oto02 Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 24, 2012
    Melbourne, VICTORIA, AU
    Real Name:
    Aw, so many good points here. Really appreciate it guys, you naild it.
    The deal was to send them he contact sheet in order to select the pics that might like, then me to process those ones. Just to mention a few figures here - I shot about 600 pics then I selected 230 and put them in contact sheet for them. They said it's hat to select from those small pics and when I created it in Lightroom I ticked the box to fill in and the pics were like a little cropped. They argued that couldn't figure out which pics to choose, but in fact I believe they already didn't like the pics. I wonder how could I have done the selection, I just wanted them to select and not me.
    Anyhow, I decided as you suggests here to redo he session and give them 20 extra photos. Once they heard that asked me right away if the can have some from the former batch. Unreal!!!
    You are right it's a totally different ball game when you charge people for your services then you do it TFP or just for fun.
    Ow well - lesson learned!!
    Cheers clickers.
  11. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 6, 2013
    Real Name:
    It's good you shot so man photos, but giving them 230 to choose from seems crazy to me. I would have narrowed it down much further. That's just overwhelming IMO. I don't know what your original deal was, but I'd cull more next time and only present your best work (and cull any with closed eyes, out of focus, or not good etc). Maybe the entire thing was a miscommunication and they just couldn't select from the small size and sheer number of photos? You'd be better off posting them on your website and letting them choose, rather than using a contact sheet. Maybe if you're going to give them 10 photos, present 20-25 to choose from IMO. I don't know how you structured it though.
    • Agree Agree x 3
  12. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    Just curious if you don't me asking. You said you gave them 20 extra shots. How many total were you originally supposed to give them? Sounds like a lot. The reason I ask is because often times with LARGE numbers of photos they start to take on a sort of sameness. And 230 is a LOT for customers to sift through. I think it may have been better to give them MUCH less to pick from with no more than a couple or few from each particular "scene" shot.

    EDITED to add: I see Wisetime had the same thought and got his post up while I was typing mine. Great minds! :)
    • Agree Agree x 1
  13. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 7, 2010
    i experienced this from the client side some years back. I think we saw maybe 30 or 40 shots to pick from, out of what had to be 500+ taken.
  14. TwoWheels

    TwoWheels Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 28, 2014
    British Columbia
    Real Name:
    In my experience, there is a small percentage of people who will say or do whatever it takes to get a discount or get something for free. Nothing has done more to make me question my basic belief in the goodness of people than owning a business. :(
    • Agree Agree x 5
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  15. m4/3boy

    m4/3boy Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 21, 2013
    No money, no pictures. Don't waste time with them if won't pay.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  16. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Real Name:

    The photos look good to me...

    I'm assuming the clients may be Chinese based upon the photos...
    My 'model', who is from China, gets upset if I crop the top of her head, her feet, etc. She does not agree with many of the green crop lines in this image:
    Crop Guidelines for Portrait Photography
    She says it's a cultural thing.

    Last edited: Nov 19, 2015
    • Agree Agree x 1
  17. PacNWMike

    PacNWMike Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 5, 2014
    Salish Sea
    Real Name:
    Some times you make more money on the ones that you walk away from....
    • Like Like x 1
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  18. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    Real Name:
    call me Arg
    I have worked for clients but not as a photographer, so no advice from me on that score.

    Generic client advice: I do a draft report, they don't like it, I re-write it. My first draft is usually entirely within the agreed spec, so it doesn't matter that they have changed their idea or now have a clearer idea than at first, I re-write it. I wouldn't charge for that, but they know that if they come back again for more changes, it will cost because this is their free chance to get it right so be clear about needs and expectations, really clear.

    Trouble with family photo clients is that they have a dream of love, and when they look at the photos they try to connect to the love, not to 'like the photo as an image'. I speak here as an occasional family photographer's client, and as a photographer for my own family.

    Unhappy baby scenario: I dunno, I seriously would have killed the session on the spot and suggested a reschedule. It's lose, lose, lose. People are stressed, people are trying to manipulate a feeling, it's not working.... no way. I can't speak to 'what would a pro do', but that is what I would do as an amateur. Even now it is easy for you to suggest a re-shoot, because the unhappy baby is the face-saving factor that gets everyone off the hook and no blame lingering in the room. Easy to go back and say "no worries, I've had to re-shoot when baby is unhappy with other clients because it often doesn't work out".

    And take the opportunity to clarify likes and expectations before the re-shoot. Go back over the contacts of shoot 1 with them again and get them to be totally honest, best likes and worst dislikes, and why. Bring along other contact sheets of other baby shoots and do the same: this might actually be more successful approach because they know they didn't like much in shoot 1 but they might react more excitedly to your other shoots. Tag all their likes and dislikes and go back over them when you are alone and plan a shoot full of likes. :)

    As for your samples that you posted, if I may be so bold as to constructively critique?
    • 1,3,4,5,6,8 and 9 are too dark. Love and family isn't gloomy, even if it looks natural and we photographers approve of the image. In my experience with non-photographers they like their family to be bright and vivid and gently glowing with love. Yes, you can go over the top and make a cartoon, but I don't mean that.
    • Skin tones are too dark. 1,5,6 for example. For some reason Asian-cultured people I know prefer their personal skin tones to be lighter rather than darker. Take a look at models in those cultures who get work in advertising. It's clear. That subset of clients will not be happy to be made to look dark brown. I know I'm being blunt.
    • Baby skin colour is too variable. They see their baby as having a certain colour of skin. You can present it lightened, e.g. I like 7, but it needs to be consistent and remind them of their baby.
    • You have picked up that they don't want any cropped-off tops of heads or headwear, so make sure of that.
    • Too much face in shadow: 5,8,9 nicely artistic but not consistent with the happy family vibe that I mentioned above. Grandma's face is almost dark with no highlight.
    Okay, I've probably said too much. But I'm looking for even small things that might add up to a better outcome in terms of the happy client. All the best.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. barry13

    barry13 Super Moderator

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California
    Real Name:
    Agreed... Also true for many Latinos.
    (I know the reasons, but not sure it's appropriate discussion)

  20. jiroumi

    jiroumi Mu-43 Rookie

    Apr 12, 2011
    I am operating on the assumption that this is a family that identifies as coming from China.

    Through my travels in China, the style of pictures that are typically preferred are really vivid and saturated colours. If you look at some billboards they look almost cartoon like. And yet, when you see selfies posted, the preferred processing filter shows an undersaturated colour preference with heavy use of a smooth brush. They want to portray this image of white porcelain skin that is smooth absent of wrinkles and lines.

    Just as a preface before I go off some stereotypical assumptions, I am ethnically Chinese, with A LITTLE understanding of Chinese culture, nor can I say for certain everything below as it is based on many assumptions from whatever information that is available from OP's post and the pictures of the family.

    You may have potentially been caught in a crossfire of generational culture clash between the client's parents (who looks likely to be the man's parents... i may be wrong :roll:) and the client's themselves. It can be difficult to tease out, because whilst the client may be the ones paying the money and have agreed with you prior to the shoot, sometimes filial respect and saving face to the grandparents (and the extended family) overrides any written contract with the service provider, who is essentially a nobody to the family. Not only will you have to tease out the relationships (Chinese expectations aren't as straightforward, it's like an expectation that you should already know what they want without asking...!), but you'll have to also work through many competing visions of beauty, especially if the clients themselves, I'm assuming, has also grown up outside of China.

    I better stop myself before I go too far down a rabbit hole and ramble away. Hope it helps and happy to talk more..
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