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We are about to spill the beans on this one. In the hope that it will assist photographers out there. We confess we are not perfect, we confess we are on a journey to be the best we can be.

If you have never been in a situation where the client isn’t happy with the results, then you are very lucky. We have been in a few situations where the client wasn’t happy and it was devastating! Thank fully though, we have been in this situation only a few times.

You are not a failure

Though being in this situation can make you feel like your heart has just been wrung or a dagger has slowly been dug deep in your chest. Do not fret, it does not mean you are a failure, BREATHE. We tend to wallow in our feelings of disgust for self, reflecting how our precious work didn’t make the cut and therefore we are failures. We must however, learn to separate ourselves from our work. As creatives and photographers, it is so difficult because we are driven by passion, but we must.

Criticism is important for growth

We must add that facing criticism is not easy but for growth, it is inevitable. Allow your mind to accommodate new ideas and the fact that not every work you put out may be a master piece and that is OK. If the critic is within reason, learn, change & grow. Though some of these things may not be easy to admit, sharing them may help someone else and help the photography community grow.

When the client isn't happy blog: Sigma + Nikon lenses

So in which situation did we find that the client wasn’t happy and how did we react?

It was us, & partly them

Well, there was this time when we had captured some beverage shots. The bottle had curves that were not the most flattering but as product photographers it was our job to make the product look fantastic. It was tough though, not gonna cap (Just had to use this). So we did the first few styled shots and we didn’t like the outcome, we set up again the next day and took more shots. We were getting somewhere now. We eventually did a third shoot to get a variety of options for the styled images that we were eventually comfortable enough to present to the client.

When we finally shared the images with the client, they weren’t really sure that’s how their bottle looked. Also, one thing we totally missed was a light glare plus sharpening of the label in one of the shots. At first, we were defensive, however, after careful study of the images, we realized there were a few things we could have cleaned up better in post. Regarding the shape of the bottle, there was nothing we could do as that is just how the bottle was.

We eventually did a few more shots (guys, we try to go above and beyond.) and cleaned up real good this time so that client would be satisfied and we could be proud of our work. They eventually were happy, so were we and they gave us more work. How you react to feedback could also affect any future engagement you may have with the client.

Disclaimer, please try to get the best possible shots the first time around so you don’t have to take so much time re-doing shots. However, if you are not satisfied with the results, it is better to re-strategise so you can get better shots and present photos that are good. There’s no shame in that. Planning properly especially for styled shots will also save you a lot of time.

Pro tip: Always study the product really well and try to see how best to light it up, and how to create the best composition before even shooting.

You may also like: Why Pre-Production Meetings are Important in Food photography + Free PPM Checklist

When the client isn't happy blog: Sigma 105 macro lens

Criticism seasoned with no response

So we also had a different client who was not totally satisfied with the images we had done for him. We had shot some images on white as well as some styled images. His feedback revolved around the brightness of the images for the pack shots but unfortunately, he wasn’t able to articulate what we didn’t like about the styled images. Given the concern about the bright images, we adjusted the brightness and re-shared. For the styled images, we shared a number of images for the client to choose the ones they would like. In the end, the discussion was about the quality of work being low without the pointers as to what made the quality of work low.

Since we don’t like to leave our customers unhappy, when we were having another discussion to do some more shoots for him, we really tried to understand what we could improve on. This is because, from the previous conversation, he communicated he wasn’t too happy. So before we started on the other shoot, we wanted to get to the gist of the issue but we never really succeeded. We ended up with a lot of questions instead.

Our priority was to deliver correctly for our client and not just make more money from them. That should be the goal of every creative, though honestly, life can be complicated.

It is also important to understand the brand values and what the vision of the brand is so that you, as the photographer can also be able to advise on the best direction based on this. Too often we focus on the photography alone like it doesn’t plug into a bigger marketing plan. The one page marketing plan (book/audio book) breaks down really well  the function of marketing as a whole. It is a fantastic book for all business out there and it will definitely help you to be the consultant who can support the client.

When the client isn't happy blog: Nikon d5200


Though sometimes we do some cardinal sins as photographers, we make mistakes as human beings. What matters is how we self correct.

Conclusion: How to win back the client

So priority when you are getting feedback from the client & beyond is to:

1. listen
2. Reflect on action items you can improve on
3. Implement & share for approval
4. Satisfy your customer
5. Make them your ambassador
6. If the relationship is irredeemable, learn from the experience & move on

Try your best to do work that is really good, always. Though some may fall through the cracks, own the mistake correct it and win back the trust of your customer. If you are dealing with a dishonest customer, quickly decide how you want to move forward. This, without hurting you the artist; the creative as well as the business. You will be able to reflect & see whether there’s actionable feedback you can improve upon or not.

Remember to subtract yourself from the work, it’s not about you, it’s about fulfilling the clients’ needs.
Leave a trail of happy customers, better yet, don’t leave them behind, continue with them.

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