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What to Do When a Client Doesn’t Like their Photos

Main hall wedding photos at The Great Hall

Oh boy, this is a fun one isn’t it? Pretty much every photographer’s worst nightmare. You get to know a couple, you do all the pre-planning, shoot their wedding, spend hours putting the final touches on, and then the feedback is less than glowing.

It’s crushing.

If you’re doing your job well, it’ll happen very rarely. But it will happen. Here’s what to do when a client doesn’t like their photos.

1. Was it my fault?

Ask yourself this serious question. It can be tempting to immediately blame the lighting or the conditions, but if you could have done something better it’s important to acknowledge that.

Were you having an off day? Was it a situation your found yourself struggling with? Was the creativity just not flowing?

If it was your bad, admit it to yourself, and then admit it to them.

2. Be compassionate

So yeah, chances are it wasn’t your fault. It can be infuriating to be accused of messing up when you know you did a damn good job, and that their wedding was freakin’ beautiful and that they’re totally craaaaaazy and “what am I supposed to do!”

Calm down. Breathe.

There are a number of reasons why clients may not be happy with their photos that have nothing to do with you – their own insecurities, another vendor messing up, their own insecurities, false expectations, and oh, did I mention insecurities? Be understanding that they’re upset with something that was likely out of your control.

3. Have expectations meet reality

False expectations will be a trap every time. Educate your couples AHEAD of the wedding as to what they can expect. Make sure they understand your style, approach, how many shots they’ll receive, etc.

Make sure they understand that there are certain elements that are out of your control on the big day. The weather, the sunlight, the hair and make-up, and whether or not a guest sticks their iPhone out into the middle of the aisle is beyond your power to control.

Also, make sure they understand that they won’t be able to recreate that shot on top of a mountain they saw on Pinterest when they’re getting married at a banquet hall at a strip mall.

In the fields of Brickworks for sunset photos

4. Let them know what can be done

You may want to bang your head against your keyboard when you’re asked if you can Photoshop out Uncle Bob from all the family photos because he gave a crappy gift (yes, a real request I got once).

Instead, take the time to explain that Photoshop isn’t actual magic, and you’re NOT a wizard.

Yes, you may be able to Photoshop out a stain on a dress. But no, you can’t create a gorgeous sunset shot when it was overcast.

It’s important that your client knows what can and can’t be fixed, and the limits of technology. This process will likely help them understand that all those things they’re upset about weren’t actually your doing.

5. Charge accordingly

If it was something you messed up and it can be fixed in post-processing, of course you should do that at no charge.

But at some point you have to value your time. If your client gives you a list a mile long of complicated Photoshop requests, charge them. Do it based on time spent editing, not on number of photos. Because we all know that depending on what they want done, editing one photo could take one minute or one hour (or more).

It’s really not easy to feel like you didn’t do your job to the best of your abilities. But between managing expectations, educating your couples, and ensuring you’re always on your game, 99% of the weddings you shoot will be met with glowing reviews.

Wedding photos at Toronto's beautiful ROM

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