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12-10-2012, 08:13 PM   #1
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first professional complaint

2012 was my year, my year to "go pro" so to speak. I don't consider myself a full blow pro yet. But I'm taking jobs and I'm making money at this, so I guess by definition I am a professional. I've taken about 20 jobs in 2012, and so far have had no complaints, until today.

This summer I ran a facebook add to drum up business for my startup studio. I thankfully didn't get as much from this add as I did my Kijiji add. And these customers in question came from the facebook add. To make matters worse, one of them is a personal friend and the drummer in my band.

The Facebook add: (discounted special)
1 full hour photo session, either on location, or in my studio.
40 proof images on CD within one week from the shoot
Customer to select images for a 20 page photo book (17 images minimum, to a max of all 40 from the preview disk) all images for the photo book will be fully edited
customer can select additional prints from a discounted price list (eg 8x10 is $20 instead of my usual $60)
$250

The kijij add: (regular price)
1 hour full photo session, either on location or in my studio
40 proof images on CD, within one week from the shoot
Inlcudes two 8x10 prints unframed
customer can select additional prints or products from my price list
customer receive all edited photos with the final product on digital CD
$400

Holiday Special package:
1 hour session
20 low res preview photos
1 8x10 unframed print selected by customer
pack of 50 greeting cards using same image from 8x10
All within 1 week of the shoot
$200

So I've done about 16 shoots this past year from the kijiji add. Most of them over the summer, and I've done 2 Holiday specials as well, and 3 weddings. (1 as primary, 2 as secondary shooter). So with only one complaint I've done well I believe.

So what to do?

There are multiple issues:
It was a family shoot with 4 siblings

a) there are pairings for each sibling except one that made it to the proofs disc. And one of the pairings the customer isn't happy with. all these were shot in my studio, so I'm offering them to come over and have me reshoot them for free.

b) they are disapointed that many images didn't make it. We shot in a subway station, and the lighting was playing bad tricks with me and I wasn't overly impressed with any of them, so I left them out. They want these photos. I've offered them to come to my studio, and we can go through all the "negatives" together.

c) There was miss communication. I booked the session with the brother (my drummer) and he told me it was the holiday package I was offering. The sisters thought they were getting the facebook package.

d) the father has stepped in and has taken my proofs disc and thinks he can just print off my photos without my permission and be done with it. (I've only collected half of the payment so far). Luckily for me, the preview images are all watermarked and scaled down to 1200x1800 pixels @ 150dpi. So barley good enough for facebook.

e) they want the reshoot, to go through all the images, the photo book and 4 8x10's by Friday (not possible due to shipping and creation time.) I told them I could do as many 8x10's they want and have them ready Monday evening, as long as I was paid in full upon receipt of the prints.

Two of the sisters, and my drummer think I'm being overly reasonable and are willing to work with me. The oldest sister and the dad want all the proofs in RAW format immediately.


How would you guys proceed?

12-10-2012, 08:41 PM   #2
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Attempt to explain the situations through your friend, have him act as a sort of mediator. If he can explain there was a miscommunication, perhaps they'll quit being so sour. Past that, the most you can do is try and remedy it with a friendly demeanor.

Worst case scenario, the most you've lost is your time. If it saves a friendship, offer to do a small reshoot, pending the rest of the payment.(IE: Reshoot for about 20 keepers in your studio, and mix the two shoots in the end product)
12-10-2012, 08:55 PM   #3
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d) You have copyright for your original content/art and unless you give written permission to reproduce the images, the buyer cannot make copies or prints.

How to deal with bullying behavior of the Dad, well that's more difficult and it just comes down to having a bit of self confidence - you don't need to be physically strong, just need to hold your ground mentally and morally.
I'd guess you've lost a bit of confidence in dealing with the client because you had some photos not work out. Maybe just cut your losses on this job and then work out how to fix your shooting process - maybe a laptop to check a few shots in difficult light, before continuing with the whole shoot / Or having the blinkies and histagram turned on when you review photos on screen. I'd say take your time in a shoot - if it's 45 minutes of getting the shot right and double checking, you've still got 15 minutes of actual shooting, which is enough time to get heaps of shots.
Also need to fix your contractual process - draw up a standard agreement that sets out your and your client's rights to be signed before each shoot.
12-10-2012, 09:17 PM   #4
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Well, there was miscommunication and some of the photos came out badly apparently so I would offer them a re-shoot and the Facebook package at the holiday price. That's reasonable, but handing over the RAW photos on a disc? HELL NO, and who does this guy think he is just making prints off your watermarked demos? Talk about arrogant! He's way out of line. He sounds like a bully and I would not let him get away with any more of that. Tell him there's a little thing called copyright and that you own those photos and always will and then make it plain that you do have a friend who's a lawyer who's willing to help you out if need be. (Even if you don't...) Put your foot down about that or ultimately this guy will likely do whatever he wants up to and including removing your watermark to use them on Facebook or whatever.

Until they pay you IN FULL they don't have the rights to anything and even they they're not entitled to everything you shot, goofs, bad shots and all. That's just not even reasonable to ask for that. As a photographer I make a point of never showing my clients anything but what I consider my very best shots. They want to see the rest I'm sorry, but the answer is "No, I'm sorry but that set didn't work out." and I don't budge about that. If they don't like what I am showing them and want a re-shoot fine, but I don't show anything that I consider less than great and they really shouldn't be asking you for that, for the less than stellar photos in the batch. That's your business as a photographer, not theirs as a client. They don't get to choose what's "the best" for you. That's your job and your prerogative as the person who took them.

I'd give them two firm choices, the offer of their money back and no pics or the offer of a reshoot and the rest of the pics upon payment of the rest. I wouldn't let them near any of the photos not even in jpeg format until they paid though. Show them the pics in a slideshow on a computer but don't hand them an actual disc until you get paid. I never do actually. I put the photos on my laptop, only the best ones, make a slide show and show my clients that when I am done, and yes, the laptop is secured to the table. They don't get to walk away with that either, smile.

I make notes of anything they might like or not and then we proceed from there. But they never get physical custody of any pics, not even watermarked ones, until I get paid in full. Sometimes very rarely I'll break that rule and I'll print out a contact sheet with the pics in like a 1" format so they are okay to look at but way too small to scan to make their own bigger pics off off. If they are dithering about buying the photos sometimes that helps them make up their minds. But that's it and usually I do it with a glossy finish and my watermark stamp across each pic because I am just not too trusting about even doing that, not with good scanners being practically ubiquitous these days...

But no, they don't own those photos. Even once they pay for the use of them they don't. You're the photographer. This is your work and the decision of what to show, what to print, and what to charge when is YOURS. One of the worst mistakes I think any photographer can make is to not be firm with clients. You want to be nice, but don't let them walk all over you. They won't value your work if you do. In the end all they want is all the pics they can get and if they can get them from you for free so much the better!

Some people they're just like that. To them you're just the person they paid to take a bunch of pics of them and you don't own squat. All they want is every pic you took on a CD, but to me that's utter bullshiz. Yeah, I let my clients make their own prints and get them CD's. That's part of doing business these days and most of them want that, but no one gets to choose what makes it onto that CD but me and if I'm not happy with anything I reserve the right to re-shoot it or even to return their deposit instead if they won't go there.

That's in a contract I make them sign before I even shoot actually. I don't leave any of that to chance. They get all that in advance. I don't care if they are paying or not there's just some things that are mine to control, and the end content of a shoot, that's my business, my vision, not theirs.


Last edited by magkelly; 12-10-2012 at 09:24 PM.
12-10-2012, 09:40 PM   #5
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Luke, I preface by saying that i am no pro photographer. Do you think ol Dad has been forced into the family portrait, that he doesnt see the value? While it appears as though you have put lots of thought into the packages, and we see regularly here that you have talent, could the missing piece be salesmanship? What motivated the "buy". Are you selling a price?

i find in many of my compliant/conflict resolutions that the most ornery of customers in many cases just need to vent. Some people want to be sold. Why are your prints better than Wal-Mart or Costcos? What value you have provided them by culling the hundreds of shots down to a handful of perfectly exposed, composed, and focussed - and why as a professional, you clearly cannot permit but the very best work to be printed as it could affect your ability to ask for testimonials, and referrals (which clearly you must do to ensure the growth and success of your business)

your catch 22 is not in asking your buddy to convince Dad to be satisfied, but to ask Dad what motivates him to buy, what would make him happy, and remind him that you want to ask him for more business when you are done, so you want to ensure he has been satisfied - you are running a business after all.

There are lots of salesmanship videos out there, but i love Larry for being plain spoken.

12-10-2012, 09:53 PM   #6
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Thanks guys for the support.

I have been very firm, and told the dad that under no instance would I ever release even one RAW file let alone all of them. I also showed him the document that they signed (which has a lot of the recent Canadian copywrite bill in it) that I own all images, before and after all services rendered. It's upto the client if I can post them on flickr/facebook though, but I can retain them for my portfolio I show to clients. blah blah blah...

I've only offered the studio reshoot because I agree with the two studio shot photos not being upto my standards. I would rather spend the time to redo those photos than have them wander the world. But I made it clear to them that this is a friendly gesture and by no means necessary on my part.

I always take a 50% deposit, with no refunds 24 hours before the shoot. and I have been firm on that as the dad wanted the money back. I argued with the fact that only two images are in discussion here, and the rest are agreed to be of exceptional quality.

I've been firm with my pricing for the prints, as the dad once again, tried to negotiate me down on the prints. Well, they are only buying four prints at this time, of images already selected out of the 40. I told him how many hours I will have to put into these photos to get them from exceptional to amazing quality, and then told him I'm taking a loss at these prices. He backed down pretty quickly after that.

I don't think he has the skills to remove my water mark from the proofs (they are not transparent at all and run across the center of the frame diagonally)

As for showing them the negatives, I think I'll still go through lightroom and only pick the ones I rate 3 or better. Leave the others off the table. I don't want anything but my best work out there. And I think even if they do select one that I believe is sub-par, I will explain why I don't think its a good photograph and try to sway them.

Thanks for the support guys.


I'm thinking of making the proof images even smaller for future clients... like 300x400 pixel images. Or is that too small?
12-10-2012, 10:07 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by mattt Quote
Luke, I preface by saying that i am no pro photographer. Do you think ol Dad has been forced into the family portrait, that he doesnt see the value? While it appears as though you have put lots of thought into the packages, and we see regularly here that you have talent, could the missing piece be salesmanship? What motivated the "buy". Are you selling a price?

i find in many of my compliant/conflict resolutions that the most ornery of customers in many cases just need to vent. Some people want to be sold. Why are your prints better than Wal-Mart or Costcos? What value you have provided them by culling the hundreds of shots down to a handful of perfectly exposed, composed, and focussed - and why as a professional, you clearly cannot permit but the very best work to be printed as it could affect your ability to ask for testimonials, and referrals (which clearly you must do to ensure the growth and success of your business)

your catch 22 is not in asking your buddy to convince Dad to be satisfied, but to ask Dad what motivates him to buy, what would make him happy, and remind him that you want to ask him for more business when you are done, so you want to ensure he has been satisfied - you are running a business after all.

There are lots of salesmanship videos out there, but i love Larry for being plain spoken.

Dr. Larry Steinmetz - How Not To Cut Price! (Full length) - YouTube

This is why I asked why dad was involved in the first place. He is not paying for the photos, nor was he part of the shoot. The shoot was/is supposed to be a gift from the kids to mom for Christmas. What spawned all of this was a power struggle between two of the sisters, or so I am led to believe. So dad stepped in and is now trying to grind me down. My day job is sales by trade. I've been in sales for 10 years, so I know a bit about feature/advantage/benefit, and overcoming objections. Granted, selling cars and automotive services for a brand I'm passionate about is very different from selling art. Art can be so subjective, and now in the digital age it can be even harder. Which is why my focus is more on the prints, the finished product. Getting from the SD card to the wall, something many people fail to do these days.

I started with selling the price. But realized very quickly after spawning my facebook add that I went about this wrong way. I'm trying to bypass the digital "one hour, $25, shoot and burn" crowd which plagues kijiji (about 30 adds exist any given day selling a shoot and burn locally) and going right for the finished product. My tag line I use in my Kijiji adds is "I don't shoot photographs, I create memories". And that line is what has gotten me most of my work. I ask everyone when I do the final product/cash exchange "why did you choose my add" and often its the tag line and the fact I offered more than a burnt disc.

I've shown examples of my printed work, and gave options for printing materials (bamboo, gallery wrap, matte epson/kodak/fuji papers, and even metallic), same as I show every client when it comes time to buy the prints. I keep a small 8x10 binder with select prints in it when I first meet the client to not only show off my finished product, but to help sell the prints.

This guy is just playing hardball, trying to protect his daughters from "being screwed" and I get that. I believe the overall objection comes back to the fact that two of the photos are subpar, and the subway photo session didn't go as planned. We shot for about 4 hours, which is way over the 1 hour, and if you include the additional 45 minutes or so that it took from traveling to location to location, there is no way I'm making money on this deal after putting in the man hours.

I know I got 3 out of the 5 people involve sold 100%. They are ready to put in the order and get the prints. One of these 3 are even the ones with the remaining cash. It's properly identifying dads objections and dealing with them that is giving me a hard time. Especially since the eldest daughter isn't returning my phone calls. Hard to identify the issue if you can't talk to the client. I think my client(s) were expecting the shoot and burn method. And I think that's based on the price. I don't get complaints for the $400 package. And sometimes I ask myself why I charge that much...but people enjoy my work and have given me referrals. The referrals spawned 2 of my weddings.

Is it because my Kijiji add is more expensive it has more value? Seems like a sweet spot between "too cheap, crummy quality" and "its expensive so it must be good" perceived value...

and as I type this post I've gotten a text for the print order. four different images all edited and for 8x10's and one in a 16x20. I've also been told the photo book is still a requirement, but they will pay me in full for all the prints and the book and my time on receipt of the 8x10's. They also would like to do the reshoot of the two photos after Christmas, and then build the book to be given in the new year. So at least someones fighting for me.


P.S. thanks for the talent comment. I'm usually shy offline about my photography. Many of my co-workers at my day job do not know I shoot for my own enjoyment let alone for money. I try not to have an ego. But I fear I have a big one. :P

Last edited by Wired; 12-10-2012 at 10:14 PM.
12-10-2012, 10:13 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wired Quote
I'm thinking of making the proof images even smaller for future clients... like 300x400 pixel images. Or is that too small?

I think smaller would work better, but 300*400 is extremely small.

I'd suggest maybe 1024x768 as a minimum, I know that I can't get a proper feel for a photo if it's the size of a postage stamp.

1024x768 means at 100% magnification on a computer screen it's give or take a similar size to a physical print, but can't be printed to any decent size.

12-10-2012, 10:22 PM   #9
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first professional complaint

Edited

Last edited by Wired; 12-11-2012 at 06:12 AM.
12-10-2012, 10:58 PM   #10
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Simply who did you contract with? The brother or the sisters. If the brother, what evidence did you have of what was agreed? If reasonable evidence, then the miscommunication with the sisters was the brother's problem. If the dad is not the counterparty he has no rights here. You've presumably sold printed images so no rights to the original digital images. Additionally, you've struck the herding cats problem here. You've got to lovely family arguments (irony intended here) and contractually you need to find a way to avoid them like the plague.
12-10-2012, 11:15 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wired Quote
Thanks guys for the support.

I have been very firm, and told the dad that under no instance would I ever release even one RAW file let alone all of them. I also showed him the document that they signed (which has a lot of the recent Canadian copywrite bill in it) that I own all images, before and after all services rendered. It's upto the client if I can post them on flickr/facebook though, but I can retain them for my portfolio I show to clients. blah blah blah...

I've only offered the studio reshoot because I agree with the two studio shot photos not being upto my standards. I would rather spend the time to redo those photos than have them wander the world. But I made it clear to them that this is a friendly gesture and by no means necessary on my part.

I always take a 50% deposit, with no refunds 24 hours before the shoot. and I have been firm on that as the dad wanted the money back. I argued with the fact that only two images are in discussion here, and the rest are agreed to be of exceptional quality.

I've been firm with my pricing for the prints, as the dad once again, tried to negotiate me down on the prints. Well, they are only buying four prints at this time, of images already selected out of the 40. I told him how many hours I will have to put into these photos to get them from exceptional to amazing quality, and then told him I'm taking a loss at these prices. He backed down pretty quickly after that.

I don't think he has the skills to remove my water mark from the proofs (they are not transparent at all and run across the center of the frame diagonally)

As for showing them the negatives, I think I'll still go through lightroom and only pick the ones I rate 3 or better. Leave the others off the table. I don't want anything but my best work out there. And I think even if they do select one that I believe is sub-par, I will explain why I don't think its a good photograph and try to sway them.

Thanks for the support guys.


I'm thinking of making the proof images even smaller for future clients... like 300x400 pixel images. Or is that too small?
First off, sorry to hear this. I hope you can resolve this soon.
But then.... did you get them to sign a 'model release form' and a 'contract' before you take pictures? The contract should very clearly state that they can't print the photo themselves, you retains the rights, and you only obligate to select xx number of shots that you feel they met your professional eye and judgement. They can't take the remaining shoots and obviously they can't have the raw. I think with the problems you describe, should already stated in your contract and have them sign before you start shooting. Every pro did that.

I have my relatives sign those forms even I am shooting free for them (I'm no pro) - I just don't want them to ask for all the raw files. I told them if you like any of the files and you want to make print, let me know I will send you a better resolution one for that particular photos.

Hope you stay firm with your rights!

Lee
12-10-2012, 11:54 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wired Quote
i probably shouldn't do this....
It would be a good idea to remove that photo as someone could identify them and we're airing dirty laundry here...
12-11-2012, 11:39 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Wired Quote
Two of the sisters, and my drummer think I'm being overly reasonable and are willing to work with me. The oldest sister and the dad want all the proofs in RAW format immediately.
You should deal with whoever it is you have the agreement with. Find out what will make him/her happy and do it and get it over with. And consider yourself educated.
12-13-2012, 10:04 AM   #14
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Agreed on the comments about standing firm. There's a lot of misinformation out there regarding intellectual property rights and ownership of photos in particular, so sometimes all it takes is to politely and firmly explain your position. That and having a well-crafted contract that lays out what's expected of both parties in advance. But it sounds like you're on the right track. : )

As for proofing sizes, for what it's worth we do things a bit differently and use an online gallery with a max pixel size of 600.
12-14-2012, 05:23 AM   #15
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Tell the drummer and sisters that unless the father butts out you want the disk back and will return their money. You already gave them far more (in time) than the package defined and it'll cost you even more in time and effort to fix this. Far more than it's worth.

Then offer them a new shoot (not a "reshoot" of the former debacle) that is restricted firmly to the desired package and have them come to you to review the proofs for final printing. This way, you show you want them to be happy but that you are not gonna be walked on for a few pennies...

Oh, and stay out of the subway unless they want to contract that as a separate shoot subject to suitable conditions.

Mike
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