How to Deal with Difficult Clients

Being a photographer can often be a very magical and fulfilling experience. If you’re a photographer and you’re reading this then you know the feel I’m talking about. But, it’s also not roses all the time. We DO come across those clients (Who shall remain nameless) that are the one in a hundred that just rub you the wrong way and make you question why you took a gig in the first place.

Now, when you’re starting out you really don’t know your place in the market, the tells of a possibly bad gig, or the personality types that will invariably cause you grief. The more experience you gain then the better understanding you have of shooting situations. The photography world is full of bargain hunters and price shoppers. Most folks don’t understand that they are paying for a craft and art form. At times the exceptions are corporations. They oddly enough understand what they are getting and want the best, which is why corporate gigs often pay the best. The people who hire you also know that they aren’t spending THEIR own money but the “faceless entity’s.” I say oddly because we are conditioned as artists to not trust the corporate dollar. But, guess what. That corporate dollar puts food on many families’ tables.

Anyway! On occasion you will get the difficult client that makes you take a step back and forces you to look at your options as a person and photographer. Now, if you’re running a business you know that good reviews and referrals are like manna from heaven. You want to create great images as well as deliver a great experience to whom you’re working with. That being sad the best thing you can do is be firm and kill any difficulty with kindness.

It’s very easy to get emotional with a bad client because you feel that their attitude is a direct insult to your work – and we all live and die by our work and passion for photography. More than likely that isn’t the case at all. In a business situation you have to keep your emotions in check and realize that the people you are dealing with may have issues of their own and are taking them out on you. Some folks just flat out enjoy being difficult. Well, unless you did an awful job. In which case this is all your fault and you should be ashamed. Tch Tch.

When you are met with resistance from a client your best bet is to kindly reassure them that you know what you are doing and ask their opinion in a gentle but firm way. You can also simply say: “What can I do to make you happy right now?” or “How can I aid you with this situation?” “What can I do to fix this for you?” Sometimes all it takes is a firm hand to lead these standoffish clients to a different approach. More often than not – when you’re very nice, polite, and direct – the other person will unconsciously realize what a tool they’ve been. It’s human nature.

But what about those clients that take it a step further and will not cooperate? At that point sometimes you have to come up with an arrangement to benefit both parties and not waste any more of your time with their project. Offering a discount on the agreed price often works. 20% off seems to be the right amount for many folks. You also need to demonstrate that you’re not a mind reader and the more details there are about a project the better.

On occasion you may find difficulty in dealing with simple projects because the person you’re working with is trying their best to impress their higher ups. In these situations make that person a part of your team and create a shooting checklist with them to make them feel more involved. No one wants to be told how to do their job so instead turn the tables and you get an assistant out of it. Most difficulty and attitude can also be avoided by showing everyone you know exactly what you’re doing and how to handle the situation you’re in. If you’re fumbling around with your equipment, making excuses, or don’t follow directions you will more than likely bite off more than you can chew. The best approach is calm, cool, and confident.

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This entry was posted by Richard Storm.

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