client etiquette 101 | albuquerque photographer

So, I have been wanting to write this post since a recent "run-in" with a bride over the quality of her photos. She loved her photos, and was quite satisfied with what she received; but when I refused to go against some personal policies of mine to accommodate one of her requests, she called me "unprofessional," among other things.

That's when I realized that maybe people just don't get it.

Maybe I need to post some etiquette rules for "how to behave" when you are considering hiring (or have hired) a professional photographer.

I really do want to keep this light-hearted and professional, but the more time I spend in this industry, the more I realize that not everyone takes this industry seriously.

I am a professional. I own a business. I pay taxes. I work hard. Just because I am not some large corporation, or do not have a physical office, does not mean that I am any less deserving of the respect that you would give, say, The GAP. There are certain rules when you go shopping at The GAP, correct? You would never walk in and just start demanding impossibilities from staff members because their clothes don't look right on you--or demand that they give the jeans to you for a lesser price because you simply can't afford the current number on the price tag.

So don't do that to me. Don't do that to my business. And don't do it to other small business owners.

I've compiled a list of issues that I have dealt with over time, and seem to deal with on a consistent basis. Some of the issues are understandable because there really is a certain level of understanding that you have to have regarding photography and what all goes into it. But some of the issues are baffling because they are just simply common sense.

And just a bit of a disclaimer: This post is going to include photos I have taken over the past year or so, put together as "Before and Afters." I am in no way implying that the people in the photos are guilty of the very issues I am complaining about. Instead, I have included these images to give you an idea, and to continue to remind you as you read, that there is a lot more work that goes into photography aside from the basic, "Take my picture."

Photography is hard work. It's an art. And I hope after reading this, you will value it as such, just like me. :)

People who want my services for a very low price...or free.
There are a lot of photographers out there. A lot. And when photographers are first starting out, they typically offer their services for basically nothing, in exchange for hundreds of photos. If you are looking for that, I encourage you to seek those people out.

I am not one of those people (at least, not anymore). When I first started out in this business, I charged friends and family $50 for what ended up being hours and hours of work. I had to do it--it was necessary to build my portfolio. But I'm past that. I have been in this business for over 5 years now, and I value my work enough to charge what I feel it is worth.

My work is not worth $50 and a whole bunch of poorly edited images on CD. My work is worth the cost of my time, my talent, my equipment, and my effort.

So please don't scoff when I tell you that my cheapest wedding package is over $2,000. To be honest, regarding wedding photography, $2,000 is pretty darn cheap and affordable. Especially when you consider this:

For every 1 hour I spend with you, I spend 3 hours editing your images. So if I am with you on your wedding day for 12 hours, that's an additional 36 hours I will be editing your photos. With a total of 48 hours worked, that means I make $2,000 for more than a full week of work, and that's before you take anything out for cost of travel, taxes, equipment repairs, lens rentals, etc.

In other words, I'm not rolling in money and laughing at how badly I ripped you off. I'm making what is fair for the amount of work I am doing.

Now, I am not by any means talking about people who inquire about my work, and then apologize later when they can't afford to book me. This is a bad economy--I get it. I am often met with people who are working with a limited budget--and often, I am willing to work with that budget.

But if you straight up ask me to work for free, or to work for way less than I deserve to make...go ahead and assume the answer is, "No." I value my time and my work more than I value your money.

And yes, in case you are wondering...people do email me and ask if I would be willing to work for free. Lol.

People who request (or demand) that I give them RAW, unedited images.
I'm not positive, but I am pretty sure you would never walk into Ruth's Chris Steak House and say, "I'd like an uncooked steak, and some raw veggies to go. I'll just cook them when I get home."

Part of the charge in my services is the time I spend editing your images. And I put a lot of time into this for several reasons:

(1) I want to make you absolutely 100% happy with your end product.
(2) If someone sees your photos, I would love for them to ask, "OMG, who took those photos!? They're beautiful!"

Allowing clients to edit RAW images, or to even have access to them at all, would be like an artist giving you a blank canvas with some paint in a bucket and saying, "Paint what you want, but make sure you tell people I created the painting!" Chances are, that artist would be completely unimpressed with what their client's finished product looked like, and would be incredibly embarrassed for anyone to think he had actually created it.

Same with my photos. You might be really good at Photoshop--likely you are better than me, lol. But I don't want your name on my work. I want my name on my work. And when people ask who created that work, I want them to consider hiring me, upon hearing my name. Chances are that isn't going to happen if I hand the photo over to a client to then edit in iPhoto, quickly removing all of the colors except for the blue, and adding a heavy, white vignette to the edges. ;)

People who get upset when you aren't willing to shoot their photos at high noon.
Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the sun is not every photographer's best friend. If you aren't willing to shoot your session early in the morning or later in the evening, then I will often suggest you find a different photographer.

When the sun is high in the sky, this is the worst time for photos. It does awful things to your skin, and it creates shadows in places where you would never want shadows.

Sometimes, however, we don't have a choice. If you've hired me for your 4pm wedding, and are insisting that we do all of the formal bridal party photos at 2pm, then we are going to have to work with what we've got. And after I explain this to you, and do my best to try and position the sun behind you, or place you under a tree, please do not email me with complaints about the haze from the sun, or the shadows on your face.

I warned you. You did not heed my warning.

Making outrageous requests of your photographer.
That zit on your chin? Yes, I can remove it. The stray hair blowing in the wind? I'm happy to take care of it in Photoshop. And any woman who has hired me for boudoir photos will tell you that I am happy to remove any and all imperfections.

But no, I will not remove the braces from your teeth. I won't make you 30 pounds lighter. I won't change the color of your hair, or make your blue shirt look a little more teal. I will not remove bangs, if you don't like the way you look when you have them. And I certainly will not add people into your photo, when they were unable to be there for the big family get together.

Wait. Scratch that. I will do all of the above. But I will assess an additional charge for doing so. And when I tell you that, don't assume it's because I'm a big ol' mean person who hates you. It's because it will likely take me an hour of work--an hour away from my family, my husband, my children, and anything else I have going on in my life. So if you want me to work longer hours, you will need to compensate me for doing so--just like any business.

People who show up to weddings with their big, fancy camera.
Case in point:

From what I could gather, I don't think this woman in the photo was a professional photographer by any means. She had the best of intentions--she wanted to get some nice photos for the bride.

Well guess what.

That's why I'm there. This bride hired me to do exactly that. So instead of becoming a focal point in all of her professional photos where she and her dad are walking down the aisle, maybe this woman could have left her camera at home and just enjoyed the moment, instead.

I guarantee this bride got a ton of nice photos. She got photos of herself getting ready, smiling, crying, getting dressed, walking down the aisle, dancing with her new husband, eating cake, hugging her dad--all photos that I took because I was hired to be there. When she is paying me thousands of dollars to do this for her, I would really hope that you wouldn't interject yourself because you feel like doing something nice.

Buy her a gift card to Crate & Barrel. Or give her a card with a whole bunch of money. But don't bring your big ol' fancy camera to the wedding and stand in the aisle.

People who are not exactly forthcoming when they book their family sessions.
Let me just put this out there: If you hire me to take photos of your family of 4, and then you show up with two extra sets of grandparents, an aunt, and a few cousins, we are going to have a problem.

I am going to try and remain professional about it, but it is absolutely uncool to show up with 8 extra people in order to avoid my extra charge for extended family. In fact, at this point in my career, I will simply invoice you for the extra people and refuse to edit your photos until you have paid me for all the extra work.

It's nothing personal. I am happy to photograph your entire family--bring everyone! But you can't expect any photographer to do allllllll of that extra work without being compensated. Because yes, the more people you add to a photo, the more work you create.

Not everyone looks at the camera at the same time. Not everyone is always smiling at the same time. Not everyone manages not to blink all at the same time. Sometimes little kids will pick their nose. So with a large group, I will take 10 shots, and then I will have to merge several of those shots together later on, when I am processing them.

People who email me, wanting to know the ins and outs of how I run my business.
This doesn't really even apply to clients (with a few exceptions). It moreso applies to photographers who are just starting out, and they want all the secrets so they can avoid all of the same mistakes. I understand that. And there are some things I am totally willing to share.

But I'm not going to give you my entire business model. Sorry, folks. Ain't happening.

Five years into this business, and I am still making mistakes. That is what helps me to learn and grow as a professional. It's not always pleasant, no. But once you make the mistake once, chances are you won't make it again and your business will be stronger. So do the things that seemingly work for you--and if they don't work, change them.

People who get mad at their children for not cooperating for photos.
Sometimes, I want to tell you to relax. Chill out. Your kid is 3 and he doesn't want to sit there nicely and say, "Cheeeeese!" A lot of times, photography with small children is about luck. You need a lot of patience, and a lot of luck.

So be patient with me and hopefully we will get lucky. :)

We will let the kids run around, and have a good time. We will let them get dirty because guess what--I can remove dirt in PhotoShop. The more you are willing to allow your child to be himself, the more likely it is that we will snag a few photos with his big cheesy grin for your walls.

But if you yell at him that he's going to get a spanking when you get home if he doesn't smile--call me crazy--but I don't really think that will be effective in capturing the moments we desire to capture. Lol.

People who request that their photos be edited a certain way.
I assume when you hire me it is because you like my style of photography. So I ask that you please just trust me.

I don't like to selectively color photographs.
I don't like to add a heavy vignette to the edges.
I don't like to make bubbles with words coming out of your child's mouth.

I do, however, love to make your photo look as natural and colorful as possible. I want you to be able to look at the photo, and put yourself right back in that moment--remembering the exact colors you see, and how you were feeling in those moments.

That is my art, and that is what I love to do. If you love something else, then you should seek someone who would love to give you exactly that.

Finding a photographer is similar to seeking out any business and building a relationship. When you need to visit the dentist, you don't just drive down the street until you find one. You look them up. You do your research. You make an initial consult. And you decide that you either love your dentist, or you hate your dentist.

Not everyone is going to love my work. Photography is so incredibly subjective, just like any art. There are some people who have literally admitted to never wanting to go to another photographer again, and there are some people who have posted photos from an entirely different photographer literally weeks after I took their photos.

No one's preference or taste is the same, so I encourage you to figure out what you like. And what you can afford. And find someone that can accommodate both aspects of what you need in a photographer. And when you build a relationship with that photographer, give them the same respect you would give any small business owner--photography businesses are not just bored stay-at-home moms who are simply waiting by the phone for you to give them a reason to get out there and take photos of your family.

If most photographers are like me, they are moms (and dads) of small children and they have significant others. They have homes to help keep tidy, and tiny mouths to feed. They have dinners to make. Diapers to change. Appointments to get to. Phone calls to return. Emails to answer. Noses to wipe.

On top of that, they have photos to take. Clients to meet. Orders to place. Photos to edit. Things to mail. Taxes to pay. And likely, when they are doing all of these things, they are taking away from the time they could be outside with their children, hanging out in the wading pool. Or on the couch with their husbands, watching the new streaming episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix.

So please, treat them like you would treat any business. And don't forget to tip your waitress. :)


  1. Frankly, if you are not willing to do what you client wants you to do, you should politely decline. If you can't take good photos at noon, you are not a photographer. If you cannot create the desired effect for the client, get training or quit.

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