Difficult Client & Changing Policy

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by cindy_hils, Aug 10, 2008.

  1. I am a full time mom (part-time photographer). I only do shoots upon referral - I typically charge $150 for an hour shoot.
    Last summer (2007) I was asked by a member of my church to do senior photos for her daughter. Being that I had never
    done senior shots, I took it as an opportunity to build my business and offered her 75% off her shoot. Her total was $45 for
    my time, editing and 2 different locations. The pics turned out great and I planned on using them in advertising, so I didn't
    mind taking the hit this once.

    In short, the mom - a single mother of 5 kids - stiffed me by having her daughter tell me they'd pay me that weekend at
    church for the work. I accepted and trusted in this, posted the photos to my site, but didn't activate their ability to purchase.
    I got emails from the mom "I love the photos!" and by the weekend all I heard from her was that her daughter didn't like them
    because she thought she resembled her sister too much, had someone else do her make-up and changed her hairstyle to
    have bangs off the face for many of the photos. She said she didn't have the money yet and would try to get it from the

    The father sent me $20 and the mother gave me grief about how she had to side with her daughter, my pictures were not
    good, she would never recommend me and she wanted me to retake everything. And that she didn't even have money to put
    food on the table, let alone pay me for the balance of the session (and did I know that the church gave her a vehicle
    because of how bad her situation was?) All of this - my fault, right?

    Weeks later, I got the $35 and gave them the ability to print. My contract told them I would provide a disk for $25 with all
    photos. Months later, I was told they wanted to order prints and get the disks. They never ordered. Today, I was pulled aside
    at church and told she wants to buy the disk. At this point, I have raised my disk price and it is different that what was in
    their contract.

    Personally, I don't want them to have the disk with MY photos they apparently hated (but everyone else loved and they loved
    at first too.) I made nothing on this session when you consider travel, editing and heart-ache.

    Any advise on how to handle it? I am pregnant, so don't need any stress. I told her today my prices went up, but didn't give
    her a number. I'd really like to just change my policy and not offer the disks. No one orders prints when they can have the
    disk and do it themselves.

    Please, please someone give me professional advise that will not make me stress out, get this one over with and not tick-off
    the mother that wants everything for free.
    thank you in advance!
  2. You could put your copyright info across each and every image on the CD (about 9 point type and 55 percent black....) and return the monies she paid you. Then, as a gift, give her the CD and a release good for 30 days. If she does not want the money, give it to the church in her name. And give the CD to the pastor....he or she can give the CD to the lady. And be done with the whole situation.

    [As for advertising with the 'senior portrait' images, if you do not have a model release from the mother, keep far away from that idea. It would only be trouble down the road for you.]

    And you may consider payment up front when you get back to work.
  3. People can be petty. Thats why there are contracts.

    Be the bigger person and stick with your contract.

    Whats the line from "Fargo?" All this for a little bit of money!
  4. If you're looking to reduce your stress, you should honor the original price for the CD of images, say "I'm so
    glad that you like the pictures!", hand it to her with a big smile while she hands you the money (not before she
    pays you, not she'll "pay you next Tuesday", not she "forgot her wallet at home"), and then forget about it and
    never mention it to her -- or anyone else in your community-- again.

    No matter how you behave, you won't get a referral from this woman, and if you did it probably would be someone
    looking for a similar 75% discount. Regardless of how it goes, and how she behaves, you should try hard to resist
    the temptation to badmouth her at all. Even if other people in your community bring it up, stay positive and just
    smile and shrug it off. Potential future clients will judge you on how you discuss your past clients, and a bad
    attitude (even about someone who totally deserves it) can really backfire.

    Try not to let it get to you, and look on the bright side: after she gets the CD, you never have to answer her
    calls ever again! Just try really hard to stay polite, firm, and brief - with a smile!
  5. "My contract told them I would provide a disk for $25 with all photos... ...she wants to buy the disk. At this point, I
    have raised my disk price and it is different that what was in their contract... ...Please, please someone give me
    professional advise that... "

    1) "will not make me stress out"

    Honor your contract. How stressful can that be?

    2) "get this one over with"

    Honor your contract. Wouldn't violating it just stretch this out further.

    3) "and not tick-off the mother that wants everything for free."

    Well, I suppose givng it away for free might make things less stressful, quick and not tick off someone who expects
    things for fee but I'm gonna go with the honoring the contract bit again.

    Don't treat this as a personal issue, treat as a business issue because that's all it is. She no like pay for disc, she
    get no disc. Like Pamela said, polite, firm, and brief. Fake smile optional in my view. You have more important
    issues in life to occupy your thoughts (and look forward to). No stress here, you are just going to complete a
    transaction or not. Boom, Done.
  6. First off, you can't increase your prices for people who already have a contract with you. The contract is good for the price at the time it was signed. Secondly, if she didn't pay her part, she didn't fulfill her part of the contract. Thirdly, what do you have to do with her resembling her sister? Lastly, as my photographer mentor put it to me, DO NOT GIVE AWAY PHOTOS. This is your business and you have to put food on your families table just like she did. She knew your prices when she booked you. There may be times when you feel the Lord leading you to serve someone else by offering a free sitting and a couple of pictures. But this doesn't look like that case. If she hates the photos, give her a refund for the sitting and nothing else. Do not give her the cd. Also, do not give her the rights to the photos for 30 days. How will you monitor that? You know as well as I do that people can and will steal photos. Be nice to her, but firm.
  7. One of the hardest lessons I have learned in photography is, "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished". The most troubled clients I have ever
    had are the ones I am try to be nice too. Basically when they haggle a price down they will keep coming back to with minor complaints
    and want you to lower your price. Their hope is the more they nudge more they can get you to lower your price. What would I in terms of
    the CD, is sell her it at the original price, because it is decent customer service. I would charge her for full price for any new services. I
    would not give her a break on anything else. The artist part of me understands your grief over them not liking the images. The Business
    part of me says thats life. To be blunt they could not afford your services to begin with and that was the start of the problem. If it is a
    choice of buying food or photos they should not have hired you period. That was their call not yours. Like I said if they come to you again
    and most likely they will just charge them full pop for any new services.
  8. Just follow your contract and pick your clients more wisely. You can't change your rate policy after you performed work under a pre-existing contract. Don't give her the pictures until you get the payment you previously negotiated; but raising the rate just is not right.

    "The father sent me $20 and the mother gave me grief about how she had to side with her daughter, my pictures were not good, she would never recommend me and she wanted me to retake everything. And that she didn't even have money to put food on the table, let alone pay me for the balance of the session (and did I know that the church gave her a vehicle because of how bad her situation was?) All of this - my fault, right?"

    This part is your fault. Knowing her situation, she's a no-can-pay client and you are wasting your time .. that bit about not recommending you ... well, I'd consider that lucky .. because you don't want her recommending you to similar clients .. get your money and press on to the paying crowd. This client is a welfare case .. looking for handouts and my guess is that when she's burned all her bridges in your church she will find another group to exploit. Nothing you should overly concern yourself with as there are plenty of paying clients out there.
  9. I agree that you need to honor the prices listed in the contract.

    In the future I would put a clause in the contract that those prices are only good for the 6 months following the shoot date. You might even do less, but that seems like a reasonable length of time to me.
  10. Wow. I appreciate the range of responces (this is my first posting) however, just to clarify to someone's point, I actually did NOT know this clients situation (just that she was a single, working mom). I knew nothing about how she "conducts business and tries to get everything for free" until after the shoot.

    It is one of those things, where if she initially loved them (then ultimately disliked them because of her daughters feelings) I really want to know why she even wants them at all now. She does have the option of printing from my site and it has been well over one year since the shoot.

    As far as I understand - prices and policies ARE subject to change - are they not? I did get a model release form signed, but I will never use the photos since the situation was so disappointing.
  11. "As far as I understand - prices and policies ARE subject to change - are they not?"

    Only your contract can answer this question. I would say that if your contract stipulates prices but doesn't put
    an expiration on them then they are not subject to change unless both parties sign an amendment to the contract.
    It's really hard to comment intelligently here since you haven't posted the contract. I mean, it might say
    something like "here are the current prices as of <date>" in which case it might be just fine to say those prices
    are no longer valid.

    Personally I wouldn't list prices on the contract unless they had something to do with a package deal. So the
    only price would be would be for the current scope and a detailed listing of what's included. Beyond that you
    can state that additional services are available at standard pricing and include an attachment showing the prices
    as of the current date.
  12. "As far as I understand - prices and policies ARE subject to change - are they not?"

    Prices and policies are. Contracts are not unless they allow such changes or there is some operation of law that may apply which seems doubtful from your story. Brandon summed up the situation well. The lady does not dislike the images, she was just trying to pressure you.
  13. "As far as I understand - prices and policies ARE subject to change - are they not?"

    If you want stress, try announcing after you sign a contract to perform a shoot for $X amount of dallars that that the customer has to pay more since "prices and policies ARE subject to change". Would you accept this if you were on the other end? What were you thinking when you wrote this?
  14. Thanks to all who responded. I have enough contributions to consider what to do. I don't have a problem with the straight-forward comments (but can do without some of the harshness). I am a nice person, performing good work at lower than normal pricing because I have always enjoyed photography. When I did this shoot I had just begun doing this as a business. The whole thing is new to me. Dealing with someone like that - was new to me. Even after 13 years in the fashion industry, I have never encountered someone so downright nasty. I didn't go into detail about how professionally I handled myself with a woman who literally was screaming at me on the phone not just about my work, but her own down-trodden situation (all after she emailed she absolutely loved the photos and couldn't stop looking at them). Any big studio would never have put up with not being paid, prior to the session. I learned my lesson - that I have to make them stick to their end of the contract as well. Even people from my own Church family. Thank you all again.
  15. I would most certainly give her the disk for the price, you took the hit, tell her you're doing a favor and it would be much appreciated that she refer someone or some folks to you, it would help her and we hope she makes a referral.

    If you don't feel she is responsible enough (or too busy with those kids...) offer the disk with your name somewhere, as was suggested above. Take it easy with her, I've had similar things happen and when your nice and human to this sort of people, it always works out in my favor sometime down the road.
  16. I think that you might want to turn this into a positive instead of a negative. You are not getting money from this person so you might as well try and make her and her daughter happy. She might be on really hard times, I remember when my mom was single and raising me and my sister, you wouldn't have guessed it (she never would have weaseled for free stuff though and never asked for it) but it was rough. She might just constantly be looking for a handout though too, but I would do a good thing for her and let her decide if she wants to do a good thing too. You turn this into a positive and the best thing is you gain some referrals. The worst is that your business will at least not be slandered. Would you have done a shoot for free for someone you know and is in hard times? To stoke out her daughter? Just think of it that way.

    It seems as if you are stuck on the principle of the matter more than the money. I would consider just giving a little ground and taking the higher road.

    Next time, I would stop and rethink whether or not you want to do a job for practically free. Either give a 10% discount and treat them like normal clients or do it for free so you can get advertising rights and not worry about getting that $45 on principle.

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