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How to Manage Challenging Photography Clients

The unhappy child. The body-conscious adolescent and adult. The negative Nancy. These three types of clients are notoriously difficult. This article teaches you how to manage these photography clients and to have a successful shoot.

The Unhappy Child

Babies and children often have difficulty sitting still. Their brains haven’t yet developed the capacity to understand the importance of certain adult activities like photoshoots. So, it’s important to plan ahead so that you catch your mini-models at opportune times. To this aim, make sure to ask parents about nap and activity schedules during pre-planning. The shoot should be scheduled so that it doesn’t extend into typical rest periods and so that it occurs before any major activities. Children have a more difficult sitting skill or regulating their mood when they are overtired or overstimulated.

Another way to keep children happy is by providing a small collection of novel, age appropriate toys that they can play with between shots. Children also respond very positively to rewards. You might offer a small prize for certain photo-friendly behaviors. Sparkly stickers are examples of both an affordable and popular prize for children.

And don’t forget to enlist the help of parents throughout the entire process! Parents typically know what works and what doesn’t for their child. When planning for the shoot, it’s always a good idea to ask parents how you can best support their children and what does and doesn’t work to encourage good behavior. This way, you’ll come to the shoot prepared! Finally, a trick of the trade to pull a child’s eyes up to the camera is to ask the child if they can spot your eyes through the lens. This typically peaks a child’s curiosity and he or she aims straight towards the lens.

The Body-Conscious Adolescent or Adult

We live in a body-centric culture that overvalues certain appearances such as thin females and muscular males. This is compounded by media that overtly displays false body ideals through the assistance of photo editing programs such as Photoshop. These realities often result in clients who feel exceedingly self-conscious about their appearance. This reality is compounded when clients are put in the spotlight of a photoshoot.

First, it’s helpful to normalize these feelings during the photoshoot. If a client mentions she feels fat or looks unattractive, validate her feelings, but also provide some positive and corrective counter feedback. For example, you might say, “It’s totally normal to feel a little inadequate when you’re in the spotlight, but I must tell you, you are looking fabulous! Seriously. We’ve got some great shots here. Keep up that beautiful smile!” Knowing their concern about appearance, you might also integrate photo techniques and post-editing that combat the concern.

Sometimes you might work with a client who faces obstacles that can’t be downplayed, but can be normalized and very respectfully addressed. For example, when working with adolescents, acne is a common problem. If a client mentions the concern or seems uncomfortable, you might casually mention that a common reality in many shots is acne – most teens have it, but they don’t typically want it in their pictures.

Assure your client that if you spot any acne in his photos, you can use your editing program to edit those blemishes right out. For example, The Luxe Lens portrait presets or actions can remove blemishes and wrinkles with the click of a button. They can also be used to color-correct complexions and to smooth skin – both useful tools to enhance perceived beauty. This type of post-editing is how celebrities appear to have such smooth and blemish-free skin. Then go on to let your client know he looks radiant and you’re not at all concerned. This may help to put his mind at ease.

When in doubt, directly address discomfort by first normalizing it and then by comforting your model(s) with compliments or praise.

The Negative Nancy

Some people are, by nature, negative. But how can you tell the difference between someone’s temperament and a general dissatisfaction with a photo shoot. The answer? Clear communication of expectations before the shoot.

Before my shoots, I present clients with a welcome package that includes a summary of what to expect on the day of the shoot and exactly what they will receive (and in what time frame) following the shoot. I also ask clients about their expectations – both verbally and in writing. I give my clients the option to send me a mood board of their shoot (I provide directions on different ways of making one), giving a deadline of two weeks before each shoot. This opens the door for clients to give their input and expectations regarding the shoot in a non-verbal way. Non-verbal communication often contains more information than verbal because sometimes people are unable to express their expectations with words.

In addition to reviewing verbal and non-verbal feedback, I suggest classic poses (using illustrations) and locations. I also ask if clients have location ideals in mind. If they end up choosing the location, I typically scout out the space beforehand to avoid any last-minute surprises. This also allows me to gauge the quality of light and the ideal time of day to shoot. Planning ahead manages expectations and ensures a well-developed understanding of the client’s expectations.

If a client complains about a certain aspect of their shoot, calmly ask them what they’d like to see done differently. Then explain both the benefits and disadvantages or their suggestion. This way, you’re able to both let the client take the lead and also inform them of potential downfalls that might be associated with their decision. Remember, you are the expert. Clients may not always make the ideal decision with their preferences, so it is up to you to non-judgmentally inform them about both the pros and cons of their preferences and expectations. This often results in a middle ground that works for both the client and the photographer.