As photographers, our businesses depend on pleasing our clients. It is their reviews and recommendations that help grow our budding photography businesses. We bend over backward to keep our clients happy, to capture every moment, and to ensure that the final images are ones that they want to share with others. But sometimes clients will ask for more than you can and should give them.
Saying "No" isn't easy — too often, we feel like we're walking on eggshells around our clients, wary of telling them we can't do something in case they leave a bad review. However, in most situations, there is a diplomatic way to say no without losing your clients. We've compiled our suggestions to help you combat the weird, pushy, and sometimes just plain rude requests that we hear of every day.
Can I have a discount?
It's not uncommon for clients to try their luck and ask for a discount. It's easy to feel as if these clients don't value your time or your skill, which can be incredibly frustrating. However, we do need to remember that advertising and society condition us to seek the best possible deal, i.e., the best service or product at the lowest price. Most of these clients have contacted you because they appreciate your work, they're simply looking to see if they can get it at a better price. It's something we all do, whether we're at the supermarket, contracting a job to a handyman, or buying new clothes. Just because your client is searching for a discount on your photography packages doesn't mean they won't pay full price, the key is in handling their inquiry in a way that still makes them feel valued without you having to give them a discount.
If you find yourself in this situation, you could try saying something like:
"Thanks for reaching out. I don't currently have any promotions running; however, I do run them occasionally. I usually advertise these via email newsletters. If you sign up to receive my newsletter, you'll be among the first to know if I offer a deal on my services."
This method allows you to market to them in the future via your email newsletters, and chances are, they may book you at full price anyway.
Can you make the image black and white, but leave the flowers blue?
We've all been asked at some point or another to add a visual gimmick to our images, whether it's the use of selective color or something else entirely. Firstly, keep your website and social media free of any images that don't reflect your usual style; this helps to reduce the likelihood that clients will ask you to deliver anything unusual in the first place. If you're still facing this issue, you need to be clear, firm, and polite.
You can try saying something like:
"Thank you for the suggestion. Unfortunately, the example/request you have sent through does not fit with my style. Therefore, I cannot alter my images to match."
Some clients may persist, but we recommend staying strong and not giving in. Any image you edit could end up online with your name against it, and you'll find you get more and more of these requests.
My charity/event doesn't have a massive budget, but it will be great exposure, would you donate your time?
If exposure paid the bills, we'd all be rich. Sadly, the supermarket doesn't accept exposure dollars, so why should we? While it's tempting to give this response every time someone asks you to shoot because it will be "good exposure," you'll soon earn a reputation for being a bit prickly. Most of us are happy to donate our time to a good cause, and many reputable photographers will take on personal or charity projects to help them maintain a better work-life balance, or to give back to a cause they're passionate about. However, you can't say yes to every amazing charity that comes along. The key is finding a way to turn people down without sounding like you don't care, and without feeling as if you need to lie about why you won't do it.
If you already have a couple of charities or non-profit organizations you work with, you could try saying:
"I currently donate several sessions per year to non-profit/charity organizations that are close to my heart. Because of this, my volunteer calendar for the year is already full."
From here, you could offer a discounted rate (if that's something you're interested in doing), or you could offer to ask around with local photographers to see if any of them would like to take the project on.
Can you send me the RAW files?
Not so long ago, most of the general public wasn't even aware of what a RAW file was. Now, thanks to Google, it seems that everyone knows what a RAW is, and people are beginning to request the originals. We're not really sure if this is so that they can edit the images themselves, or because this has appeared in some pre-wedding checklist somewhere, but for most photographers, this is one request we cannot accommodate. Supplying clients with RAW files risks your images (and name) being published on the internet looking completely different from your carefully crafted style.
The easiest way to tackle this one is to say:
"The editing process is an essential part of my style and art. A RAW (unprocessed) photo is flatter, less saturated, and duller than your iPhone or point-and-shoot camera gives you. That is because even your iPhone gives your images a quick edit for you, adding saturation and contrast. The RAW file contains all the raw data so that I can make these edits myself to create the look you see on my website and in the photos you've received. RAW files are essentially an incomplete piece of work, which is why I cannot send them to you. Is there something you're not satisfied with that I can fix for you?
Most of the time, clients probably just want to play around with their image or make a few minor tweaks. By politely explaining what a RAW file is, how it differs from the finished image they are given, and offering to "fix" the problem, you can avoid handing out your RAW photos.
Many clients are a dream to work with — they're respectful of your time and your process, but there are always a few that will try to push you further than you're willing to go. No matter what the situation, taking a deep breath before replying can often help you respond in a more friendly and professional manner.
Looking for more ways to make interacting with clients a breeze? Try reading our blog on How to Get More Referrals in Your Photography Business or try Our Top Tips: Get Your Clients to Relax in Front of the Camera.