15 Ways to be a Great Client

Everyone wants to be a great client, right? No one wants to be “that client”. To help you make sure you fall into the former category, I’ve compiled some tips and suggestions that will prove to your professional photographer that you appreciate their time, energy and talent.

Let’s start with a big one:

1. DON’T QUIBBLE OVER PRICE.

Great photographers work for years to become great, and that greatness comes with a price. There are definitely plenty of photographers out there who use arbitrary pricing and are just trying to milk you for as much money as they can, but those aren’t the photographers you’re hiring, right? You’re hiring an actual professional who has spent years determining their prices so they can charge a fee that is reasonable for you, but still lets them earn a great wage. And remember: custom photography is a luxury service, after all.

PRO TIP: If you’re looking for the least expensive photographer, I’ll be writing an article for you soon called, “Why You Should Never Hire A Cheap Photographer.”

2. DON’T EXPECT EXTRA TIME WITHOUT PAYING EXTRA MONEY.

If your boss asked you to stay two hours late, you’d expect her to pay you for that time, right? Photographers are no different. If you want them to stay longer, you’ll have to pay more.

PRO TIP: Discuss what their “overtime” rate is in advance so you’re prepared. In the wedding industry, for example, many photographers require payment for overtime to be made at the time of requesting, so be ready with cash or payment app, just in case.

3. IF YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER HAS ALREADY PROVIDED YOU WITH A SET DELIVERY TIME FOR YOUR PHOTOS AND THAT TIME HASN’T ARRIVED, DON’T REPEATEDLY ASK THEM “ARE THE IMAGES DONE YET?”

You might think your photo session or event was small and shouldn’t take much time to edit, and that might even be true, or you might just be super excited to see the photos, but remember, there are a lot of legitimate reasons your photographer gave you the delivery date and time he did. The most likely reason is that your images might not be the only images he’s working on. It’s true that sometimes photographers will edit smaller projects first to get them out of the way of bigger projects (I do this myself), but that’s not always the case, and it’s good to remember that other projects might be ahead of you in line. 

PRO TIP: If the due date has come and gone, it’s totally reasonable for you to ask for an update. Phrase your question politely and go into it with the understanding that often times delivery schedules get a little behind in the photography industry – especially depending on the season. Patience and kindness will get you your photos far faster than demands and attitude. 

4. YOU’VE GONE THROUGH ALL THE PHOTOS DELIVERED TO YOU AND YOU DON’T SEE “THAT GREAT SHOT” THE PHOTOGRAPHER SHOWED YOU ON HIS CAMERA. IF THE PHOTOGRAPHER DIDN’T DELIVER IT, DON’T ASK ABOUT IT – IT’S GONE, BABY!

Photographers sometimes will show their clients what looks like a great capture, and then you never see it in the final delivered images. The problem is, an image will often look great on that tiny LCD screen on the back of the camera, but when the photographer gets back to her desk and sees the image fully enlarged on her computer monitor, it might be completely blurry or unusable for any number of other reasons, and blurry or low quality images get deleted. You don’t have to worry about the photographer “holding back” images – if you’ve hired a professional, you can trust them to deliver every image that is worth delivering. Which leads to…

5. DON’T ASK TO SEE “ALL” THE IMAGES FROM A SESSION.

Unless you’ve bought out the copyright by paying a very large fee, then it’s not appropriate for you to ask for “the digital negatives”, “the raws” or “the unedited” images. You’re hiring a professional because you like their body of work, their style, their personality and most importantly, their experience, and part of that experience is learning, over years and years of practice, to cull the images correctly (culling means to choose which images to keep or delete). This experience helps them provide you with only the highest quality images, images that are representative of their brand and style, which is a big part of why you hired them in the first place.

6. DON’T EXPECT MIRACLES IN IMPOSSIBLE SITUATIONS. 

Many photographers are amazing at coming up with work-arounds when problems pop up during a shoot or an event, but in spite of our egos telling us otherwise, we’re not really miracle workers. Although a great photographer will often bend over backwards to make a client happy, it’s important to remember that sometimes what you’re asking for either isn’t actually doable, or it’s so complex or time-consuming that it significantly changes the cost of the project. This means you’ll have to decide whether you want to pay extra (assuming the photographer is willing to do the work) or if you’ll just have to let it go.

PRO-TIP: Photographers work in a wide variety of environments and scenarios, so it can be a good idea to ask their opinion if you run into trouble. They’ll likely have more experience than the average person and might be able to offer sound advice. 

7. *NEVER* REMOVE THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S LOGO OR WATERMARK.

Again, unless you’ve paid a very large additional fee to buy out the copyright for your images, then these images actually belong to the photographer who created them. Photography is an art form and a photographer is an artist. When they create and deliver images to you, they’re not actually giving you the images, they’re assigning you a limited rights release that allows you to download, post, share, save and sometimes print *coppies* of the images. Think of the painting analogy: if you bought the original painting, it could cost a huge amount of money, but you can sometimes buy copies of the painting for a very small fee. And the photographer’s watermark or logo is their signature on the art. You wouldn’t scrape off the signature from a painting, right?

EXTRA CREDIT: Here’s a great reason to leave a photographer’s logo on: let’s say you’ve shared the image on Facebook and you tagged the photographer in the post, but you cropped his logo off. Anyone who sees that post will see that you credited him, which is great, right? Yes! But let’s say a friend really loves that image and downloads the image to share later on her page, and when she finally posts it, she doesn’t tag the photographer. Now everyone who sees that image has no clue who created it, because you removed the logo and your friend didn’t tag anyone. With how fast and easily images spread around the internet, you can see why it’s so important to leave the logo on. Speaking of…

8. YOU DON’T HAVE TO, BUT IF YOU TAG OR CREDIT YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER WHEN YOU SHARE HER WORK, SHE WILL LOVE YOU FOR IT!

Custom photography is largely a word-of-mouth industry, and because referrals are so important to growth, putting your images online and tagging your photographer can go a long way towards helping them bring in new clients. 

PRO TIP: Even better than just tagging your photographer? Write a personal note on the post mentioning how great it was to work with her. That personal note is a glowing reference. 

9. IF YOU HIRE A PHOTOGRAPHER TO PROVIDE YOU WITH EVENT PHOTOGRAPHY, DON’T EXPECT THEM TO TAKE CAREFULLY POSED PORTRAITS DURING THE EVENT.

You’ve hired them to document your event, and while it’s perfectly reasonable for the photographer to take casual group shots here and there during an event, it’s not reasonable to expect the photographer to gather, organize and pose people for actual portraits. This event is not the right time or place for you or your guests to get fancy new “Family Portraits”. Casual group shot? Sure. Actual family portraits? No. Unless you’ve expressly requested this in your booking (and paid extra for it), then posed portraits are a separate type of photography and should be billed as such. The exception to this is a large “everyone at the event” group shot – those are great to have and most photographers are happy to wrangle your guests for this shot.

PRO TIP: Ask your photographer if they will give you a discount if you book both an event and a portrait session at the same time.

10. PAY YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER ACCORDING TO THEIR PAYMENT POLICIES, EVEN IF YOU OR YOUR COMPANY GENERALLY PROCESS PAYMENTS ANOTHER WAY. 

It used to be common for companies to pay “Net30” (which means 30 days after the work was completed) and it used to be standard practice for clients to pay after the session or event was over or even when the images were delivered. But the industry has evolved, and payment systems and processes have evolved with it. Because the photography industry depends so much on scheduling (reserving dates and times), it’s now common practice for photographers to take a portion of the payment in advance (often 50%) so clients can retain their services for a specific date and time on their calendar. This fee guarantees the photographer won’t book that date or time for anyone else and it also protects the photographer from clients who decide to cancel last minute, which, believe it or not, was far more common a practice ten years ago. Most payments are now handled through payment apps like Venmo, Paypal and Zelle, so if you don’t already use one or more of them, you might want to check them out. The easier you make it on your photographer to get paid, the happier they’ll be, and happy photographers work extra hard!

11. DON’T INVITE OR ALLOW OTHER PHOTOGRAPHERS (AMATEUR OR OTHERWISE) TO SHOOT AT AN EVENT YOU’VE HIRED A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER FOR.

It can be tempting to have others shoot because you’re worried about getting everything covered, especially when your Uncle Bob has $10,000 worth of camera equipment and he’s rarin’ to shoot for free (see any number of articles on the web about Uncle Bob) but if you’ve hired an actual professional, you don’t need to worry about not getting all the shots. Either they’ll be capable of getting all the shots themselves, or they’ll let you know in advance that they recommend an extra photographer (and you should trust their judgement on this – they gauge event needs all the time). It’s also a good idea to go with who they recommend for second shooter, because this will likely be someone they’ve worked with extensively – they’re comfortable with them and they trust them to get you the shots you need. 

PRO TIP: Don’t be afraid to ask to see a second shooter’s portfolio. You’re paying for their shots as well! It’s normal for them to not be quite as good as the primary shooter, but they should still be high quality. And really smart professional photographers pay well, so often times their second shooters are equally as talented.

12. NEVER SAY “YOU DON’T HAVE TO EDIT THE PHOTOS!” TO A PHOTOGRAPHER.

Whether you have experience editing or your cousin or friend has the experience or none of you have the experience, a professional photographer is not going to hand over their raw images to allow editing except in very rare circumstances (and you wanting them is not that circumstance). Expecting a professional photographer to let you or your uncle’s best friend edit their images is like asking a painter to hand over his early sketch so you, a non-painter, can finish the painting yourself. 

PRO TIP: Make sure you thoroughly research your photographer before you commit to signing a contract, including asking to see full galleries instead of just their cherry-picked “best of” galleries. If you do a great job of choosing someone whose style you really like, then you’re not going to want to edit the images yourself anyway.

13. NEVER ADD FILTERS OR TEXT OVER IMAGES MADE FOR YOU BY A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION.

It’s so tempting, with all the options our apps give us, to edit the photos we share. Special colors, special effects, special lighting – there are even apps now that will remove the background and replace it with whatever you want! And don’t even get me started on the Facetune style apps. I hate to keep harping on the painter analogy, but would you pay lots of money to have a custom painting made for you and then decide to draw on it yourself? Of course you wouldn’t, and you shouldn’t do it to the photographs you’ve been licensed to share. Remember earlier when we talked about how you don’t actually own the images? You’re in the photographs, so it’s natural to feel like the images belong to you, but they really don’t. Ultimately, each image is representative of the photographer’s work, and every person who sees it is a potential client, so it’s important that the image look exactly like the photographer intended it to.

PRO TIP: It never hurts to ask a photographer about their stance on filters. I personally don’t have a problem with adding text, but I don’t like color or other types of filters that significantly change the way the image looks. 

14. ARE YOU FRIENDS ON SOCIAL MEDIA WITH YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER? DON’T ASSUME SHE ISN’T WORKING ON YOUR PHOTOS JUST BECAUSE YOU SEE HER POSTING ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

One of the advantages of being a photographer is setting your own schedule, and while it might seem odd or frustrating to see them posting on social media when you feel like they should be working on your images, it’s important to remember that many photographers work on a very different schedule than regular 9-5 employees. It’s not uncommon for photographers to edit late into the night. Sometimes we just need a break. It can be very challenging to maintain the same professional level of creativity over long periods of time.

PRO TIP: The next time you see your photographer posting on social media about hopping on a video game in the middle of the day, or sharing a silly photo of their cat, no need to ask why they aren’t working on your shots – just click an appropriate reaction to their post and keep on scrollin’. They’ll get a polite reminder of you, and some social validation at the same time.

15. IF YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER GIVES YOU A BIG DISCOUNT OR EVEN SHOOTS FOR FREE (OR FOR GAS/FOOD MONEY) OR IF THEY GO ABOVE AND BEYOND FOR YOU DURING YOUR SESSION OR EVENT, CONSIDER GIVING THEM A GOOD TIP.

This applies to fully paid work and free work alike. Some photographers work extra hard to make their clients happy, and definitely go above and beyond. Let them know you appreciate the fact that they took good care of you. The number of photographers who are financially well-off is very low. In fact, most photographers make a modest living, and some even have to work a regular part- or full-time job just to survive, so a tip can go a long way towards making your photographer feel appreciated.

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*** Namu Williams is the owner of Namu.Studio, a professional event and portrait photography company based in central California, serving the greater Los Angeles area, the central coast and the SF Bay Area. He has photographed the likes of Gwen Stefani, Sting, King Felipe VI and Vice President Al Gore. He has also covered events big and small all over California and provided beautiful portraits to both CEOs and families alike. You can follow Namu’s work on Facebook, Instagram and here on LinkedIn.

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