Help! A client put a filter on my professional photo and I don’t know what to do.
One time, a client put a filter on one of our photos, too.
And shared it.
You know what we did?
Wanna know what we said?
I can’t believe you would destroy and disregard my art in this way! It says explicitly in the contract YOU signed that you do not have the right to change, modify or in any way manipulate MY photos. Take this abomination down now before my heart becomes so overwhelmed with artistic grief that I spontaneously combust.
We’d never do that.
But, seriously, some photographers have — and their hearts are in the right place.
More on that in a minute.
Back to us.
Here’s what we wrote…
The exact opposite of what almost every thread in every photography forum would’ve told us to.
Right under that big, beautiful, sepia overlaid, Instagram circa 2010 filtered photo, we said…
You guys are the cutest! Love this one!
Then we added a kissy face emoji and a heart at the end.
Probably multiple — if we’re being honest — just for good measure.
And to make a point.
That our clients come first. Always.
That our business is not about us. It’s about them.
Because our number one job as business owners (and human beings) is to love and serve others well.
To love and serve others. Not ourselves.
Also, in our experience, winning with people is more important than being “right.”
So, with that in mind, let’s explore why, as photographers, we feel upset when clients put filters on our photos; and why, as photographers, we don’t think it’s worth your time (or ours) to do anything about it. First let us say:
1. Photographers, your feelings are justified.
We get it. We really do. Because we’ve been there, too. If you’re anything like us, you’ve spent hundreds — or even thousands — of hours slaving behind the scenes and in front of the screen to hone your craft. To come up with a unique and innovative style. To get your exposure just right and your white balance spot on in-camera. To be proud of the final product you produce. You’ve been through more than anyone will ever understand to become what you are; and when a client covers up all of that in the tap of a button, it hurts. We know, because we’re human, and we’ve felt all those things, too. So we’re not here to make fun of that or minimize it in any way. We’re here to justify and validate it. We’re also here to offer a different perspective on why your clients do it, and how to handle it. Amy’s mom (who’s super wise) taught us we’re not responsible for our first thought, but we are responsible for our response.
2. Start by assuming the best in your clients.
In one of our favorite marriage books, Love and Respect, author Emerson Eggerichs (who we affectionately refer to as “Eggie” in our house) explains that, when you get in a fight with your spouse, the first step to resolution is remembering a fundamental truth: your spouse picked you for a reason, and no one else — no one else — has better intentions for you than they do. In other words, assume the best in someone else. Too often, and we’re as guilty of this as anyone, when we feel like someone’s wronged us, we automatically assume it was intentional. Most of the time, it’s not.
This isn’t just a marriage principle, though. It’s a life principle that applies to all of our relationships… including our relationship with our clients, too. So, first, as the people behind the camera, let’s assume that our clients have nothing but good intentions at heart, because that’s 99% of all of our clients. After all, they didn’t choose to invest with us because they hate our work, right?
3. Then, remember that you’re the expert. They’re not. And we can’t hold them to that standard.
Stick with us for a minute.
Imagine going to a gourmet steakhouse. You’ve wanted to eat at this restaurant for years. Your friends have all eaten there and posted selfies with their dates… and the famous executive chef that cooks there. At this point, he’s kind of a social media icon with his big white hat, large mustache, Mario-look and all. You saved up for this place. It was an investment. A splurge. Something you’ve been looking forward to for a long, long time — and you want it to be just right. The way you like it.
Before taking your order, the executive chef actually comes out to your table to explain the nightly specials. Once you’ve decided, he heads back to the kitchen. You’re excitedly sitting at your table for 10-15 minutes, enjoying an appetizer and a nice glass of wine, when you notice a small escort card on the table with a notice:
NOTICE: As a patron of this establishment, you recognize that the executive chef has the sole right to change, modify or otherwise alter the food, and you agree that any change, modification or alteration is in violation of widely accepted, worldwide culinary practice and, like the FBI copyright notice at the beginning of every VHS movie from the 1990s, is strictly prohibited by law.
You shrug your shoulders and don’t think much of it. You’re just excited to have your entree.
Moments later, the chef reappears with your exquisitely cooked fillet mignon, the exact cut of meat he labored multiple years perfecting in a French culinary school and a decade more refining as a professional. It’s got a warm red center, so tender you could cut it with a fork. Like butter. It’s perfectly seasoned with his signature secret recipe.
Problem: you’ve always liked your steaks slathered with ketchup.
You put ketchup on everything you eat. Everything.
Heinz, to be exact. There’s just something about that bright, red, salty, sugary substance that makes everything taste better. You even like it on your ice cream (which most people find weird.) But, nonetheless, your friends can count on you putting ketchup on everything you eat. Everything. But you don’t whip out the small ketchup packets you keep in your purse at all times just then.
After a few bites, you’re full, so you ask your server for a doggie bag. You made the classic mistake of getting full on the bread. You loved every minute of the experience. It was everything you’d heard about and everything you’d hoped it would be. So much so that you want everyone to know about it. Thus, as soon as you get home that night, after heating up your leftover fillet in the oven and slathering it with your signature Heinz ketchup. Not the fast-food packets, the Costco-sized vat. You post a picture of the meat on social media raving about this incredible executive chef. Your friends and family start liking and commenting. It’s all praise for the chef and the steak.
That’s when it hits the fan.
Because the chef was perusing the restaurant’s hashtag after work that night — feeling SO good about his day’s work — when he saw something that made his heart (almost) combust: You, completely destroying his LIFE’S work… and sharing it with everyone in your social media network.
“She covered up my art with ketchup, KETCHUP!” he distresses to his cat, “When it states CLEARLY in the contract on the table that no one — NO ONE — has the right to alter MY masterpiece. Plus, if all of her friends and family think that I just slap ketchup on my fillets, they’ll think I’m not a ‘real’ chef!”
At this point he pauses, reads this blog post, and realizes he has three options.
- Send you a message telling you that you insulted him by covering his art with ketchup, reminding you that it clearly states on the contract on the table that you don’t have the right to do that, before asking you to take down the post.
- Huff, puff and whine in some free chef Facebook forum, where a lot of people have bad attitudes anyways, and don’t actually share his life values, and then ultimately do nothing… except waste time.
- Or… because he reads this blog… and thinks it’s good business when customers have a great start to finish experience and come back more than once… he not only likes your post, but COMMENTS. “I’m so glad you loved eating here as much as I loved cooking for you! I hope I get the opportunity to serve you again soon!”
Question: As the customer, which response is most likely to get you back in the restaurant again, bringing friends and family with you? And, thus, SPENDING MORE AND MORE MONEY WITH THE CHEF.
There’s only one right answer. Unless you hate money.
4. Because sometimes as business owners (and human beings) winning with people is more important than being “right.”
If you were a friend of the person who posted the picture of the steak, would the fact that it had ketchup on it make you think the chef was an idiot who didn’t know how to cook?
Or would you see a friend who always puts ketchup on her food (so no surprise there) and is SO excited about her experience that you just have to try it?
Probably the latter.
Upon seeing the social media post, is the chef justified in feeling offended by the pool of ketchup his creation is drowning in? Or gloriously swimming in, depending on your perspective.
Is it true that you, the customer, by sitting at that table, agreed not to alter your food in any way?
Yes, you did.
Is it likely that you meant offense to the chef by bathing your fillet in Heinz?
Is it likely that more than a handful of the chef’s customers over the course of a year (or even their career) will have such an intense ketchup fetish that their food will get so regularly adulterated and subsequently posted on social media that it’ll ruin the chef’s reputation and he’ll go out of business?
So is it really worth the chef’s time and energy to make one customer uncomfortable (at best) and upset (at worst) over something that’s just not likely to happen very often, and risk destroying their overall experience with him?
We don’t think so.
We’d rather serve that customer multiple times per year knowing ketchup might get slathered on our fillets, than to not have the chance to serve that client at all.
We’ll just make sure to post enough pictures of our masterpiece fillets on our social media that when your friends click our profile, they know what our steaks really look like.
That way, everyone wins. Except, of course, the cow.
It’s like going to church reading your blog posts for photogs. Conviction straight conviction ????
Haha!! Thanks, man!
This was such a helpful post and helped put this situation into perspective.
I do have a question about how to go about a client screenshotting an unedited proof picture, cropping the watermark, adding a filter, then posting on social media 🙁
It’s a lot and I’m not sure how to go about that without making them uncomfortable but protecting my copyright and my repution on social media (sharp, minimally filtered, no watermark images)
Any help would be much appreciated!!
LOVE THIS!!!! Also, I totally appreciate your ketchup reference here. I’m addicted to Heinz and have even told my husband they should make a ketchup flavored ice cream! Haha
Yumm!! We think so too, Jasmine! Thanks for sharing! 🙂
I am so loving your guys’ content! Keep it coming! You guys are amazing and an inspiration! Blessings.
Thanks so much, Nate! That brought so much joy to our day!! 🙂
I just love this, these are my feeling exactly! My client loved the image enough to share it and while I may cringe a little at the filter, my client is telling the world they love my images.
Absolutely, Theresa!! Your client hired you! Keep it up! 🙂
What an incredible perspective!!
What an incredible perspective!! I love the part about “winning with people is more important than being “right.”
Thanks, Kandi! We’re so happy you found the blog insightful! 🙂
Thank you! Thank you for addressing this. It hurts my heart when people put a filter on my photos, but I never know what to do or say. I love how you so gracefully address this! Beautiful!
We totally understand that, Tina! Thanks so much for sharing! We’re cheering for you! 🙂
Thank you. Attitude changed. Thank you. I appreciate these posts so much!
That means so much to us, Melanie! Thank you!! 🙂
Love this! I love reading your encouraging advice, not only in photography, but life! I think you’ve convinced me to grab that book!
We are smiling from ear to ear! Thank you for sharing that with us, Cortney! You won’t regret it! 😉
You guys are amazing. You’re making all of us not just better photographer’s but better people as well. Thank you ❤
Aw!! You’re the sweetest, Danielle! That means so much! Thank you! <3
Your perspective on this is great! I was so curious as to what your answer to this would be and I love it. And I love that you say let’s assume our clients have the best intentions. Great article!
Thanks so much, Tish! You’re so sweet! <3
Oh man. Needed this so bad. It is SO hard to bite my tongue when this happens, and I’m always so tempted to politely remind them this is against the rules, but you are so right. Winning them is more important. Thank you!
We hear you, Jenna! We’re cheering for you, girl!! 🙂
Thank you so much for writing this. You put the issue in a new light for me and I will try to look at it this way going forward–which will be a much more pleasant experience for me too. Excellent post!
We’re so happy to hear that, Ashley! Thanks so much for sharing that with us! We’re cheering for you! 🙂
Reading this literally made me scowl subconsciously. I hate seeing filters on my work, especially since I’m building a client base in a new area after moving, so I feel like every filter I see is just misrepresenting my work to a potential client who could then A. Not book me because they don’t want photos that are (whatever the filter is) or B. Inquire about booking with me with inaccurate expectations about my work. Nevertheless, you guys are so right. The client experience, and the inherent value of the human being applying said filters, is far more important than my right to tote around my “rights.” Building a business by being a bully doesn’t work. Or maybe it does, but I certainly don’t want to build that business.
There you go, Kacie! We’re with you!! Thanks so much for sharing that with us! We’re cheering for you!! 🙂
Thank you so much for writing this. You put the issue in a new light for me and I will try to look at it this way going forward–which will be a much more pleasant experience for me too. Excellent post!
I love this perspective. It helps me take my feelings out of the picture and focus on service first.. Thanks for giving me a better outlook 🙂
That just made our day! Thank you so much for sharing that with us, Kristal! Keep that perspective, girl! We’re cheering for you!! 🙂
You guys have such great blog posts! Thank you for sharing so much valuable information 🙂
We appreciate that so much, Morgan! Thanks for being so sweet! <3
Great points- thanks for sharing! Did you forget a word here or am I just not understanding… ???? “…fundamental truth: your spouse picked you for a reason, and no one — no one — and they have the best intentions.”. Maybe it should say -no on- else?? Thanks!!
Thank you, thank you, Kristina!! 🙂
Christ truly shines through the two of you! I am truly inspired by y’all in every post I read, and through your class! Thank you for using your gifts the way that you do! Keep shining bright!!!!
Those words mean so much! Thank you, Carrie! <3
Love this! I came here curious about the title, and got a whole lot more than I expected. Great advice for life! ❤️ Thanks!
We’re so happy to hear that, Sonia! We’re cheering for you!! 🙂
This is SO good! I always see people so upset about filters their clients have put on their images and this is the absolute best response. BRAVO! (as usual)
Thanks for sharing that with us, Stephanie!! You’re the sweetest! <3
This was just brilliant. Absolutely brilliant! Wholeheartedly agreed with every word and I love the analogy. Y’all are so lovely <3
We’re so happy this post was helpful, Lindsey! Aw!! Thanks so much! <3
So true! You guys always have wise advice for us photographers that I always really appreciate! *thumbs up* So easy to get frustrated but thank you for reminding me of this!
Absolutely, Samantha! We’ve all been there!! Thanks so much for sharing that with us! <3
I absolutely love this attitude! I don’t feel insulted when a client alters my work. They take something I created and make it their own. I want them to fully enjoy everything start to finish ❤
That’s so awesome, Melanie! Keep up the good work! We’re cheering for you!! 🙂
I love this post!! I find that we as photographers are so upset when our images are given a filter. We should be happy that our clients enjoy our work enough to post it on social media! Thank you for this post!!
Absolutely!! Thanks for sharing, Jesi! 🙂
Thank you for the perspective. I like the analogy, it really drove home the point! You make me think a lot about how I want my work and myself perceived!
We’re so glad this post was helpful, Jennifer! We’re cheering for you!! 🙂
Thank you for this article! I struggled with a social media post and ended up not doing a thing about it. But I now see how to handle the situation and take the high road to success! Thanks again Amy & Jordan (especially the Shooting & Editing Course)!
We’re cheering for you, Cathy!! Aw! We wish nothing but the best for you in your photography career! 🙂
Wow, I love this post so much and totally agree with everything you said! 🙂 What a fantastic perspective and it’s so much better to treat people well and get recommendations from being not only great at your job, but more than that, a genuinely nice person and loving on your clients. It’s fine to be slightly offended by this kind of thing but so much better to keep those thoughts to yourself and be flattered that the clients love your work so much.
Thank you for always posting such helpful content Amy & Jordan, you guys are rock stars! 🙂 x
You got it, Lucy!! We love that this post was helpful to you!! Thank you! 🙂
My absolute favorite blog story I have ever read. You nailed it & I love you guys for all you do. Community over competition
Aw!! Thank you, Kathy! That means so much to us! <3
You totally changed my perspective on this for the better, thank you so much. Love your blog posts.
So happy to hear that, Sam!! Thanks so much for sharing that with us! We’re cheering for you! <3
I am just a Momographer but I love this post soooo much!!
Thanks so much, Jenny!! <3
You guys are awesome! Always putting things into perspective!
Thanks so much, Amber!! That means so much to us! <3
You guys!!!! SO.WELL.DONE!!!! Love you <3
Aw!! Thanks, Alisa! You’re so sweet! <3
Ive always struggled with situations like this. Thank you so much for sharing, you’re the best ❤
We’ve all been through it! Thank you, Justyna! <3
This happened to me on my first paid shoot. It was Easter photos with children. I was a beginner, do I did not state any do’s or don’ts. When my client posted my photo with iPhone editing, I was devasted! Thank God that He has healed me of me. Now, I could ☺️it off.
Totally know how you feel, Rebecca!! We’re cheering for you! 🙂
Hey guys – Definitely been here before and I think at one point actually texted a client about not altering any of my images when sharing in Social Media >.< This is so on point and will definitely save my relationship with many many clients to come. Can't thank you enough!!
Absolutely, Gian!! Relationships are the most important! Thanks for sharing that with us! 🙂
I’ve always felt this way about edits on my pictures. I don’t love it, but I never say anything to my clients about it. I want them happy as possible. Thanks so the great steak comparison! Now I want steak! 🙂
You got it, Mandi!! Haha! Us, too!! 🙂
Wow, I’ve been waiting for this post, and I couldn’t agree more. This has happened a few times, and I wasn’t sure how to respond so I just stayed quiet. Lol — now, I know what to do. Thank you for being rooted and grounded in Love ❤️
We’re so happy to hear this post was helpful, Leti! Thank you so much! That means the world to us! <3
Wow! I love your hearts. This is how I am with my clients, once I hand the pictures over it is in their hands. I think only once has someone changed mine, but like you said, we love them!
Thank you for the love you have for others and sharing it to many others for encouragement! May you be blessed. Ack!!!
Aw!! Thank you so much, Daisy! That just brought us so much joy today! We’re cheering for you! <3
We LOVE Love & Respect too!!! xoxo
It’s the best!! Thanks, Katherine! <3
Y’all are awesome and a huge encouragement. I captured my first full wedding last weekend and I was scared to death that I wasn’t good enough, but your words,”your client chose you for a reason” kept playing through my mind. They chose me, because they liked my style, and my work, so I stopped doubting myself and just did what I do and that’s what they hired me for????
Thanks for your sweet positive posts
That’s so awesome, Rebekah!! We’re so happy you were encouraged! We’re sure you absolutely crushed that wedding!! We’re cheering for you!! <3
I have a question about this! So, first of all I TOTALLY agree- if you hire someone to shoot images for you you are probably doing so because you like their aesthetic, and should not edit the photos.
I have a swimwear line, and when we hire lookbook photographers we of course never touch the photos that they send and post them however they are edited.
That said, we have hired them and approved the images and editing. However, someone used our bikinis for their own shoot, and they are posted on a magazine’s public website, and we had no relation to the shoot aside from that our swimwear was used. The editing is a little bit bright for our Instagram’s vibe, so I re-posted a photo but lowered the saturation and contrast a bit, so that it would fit with our look, as we are presenting or brands image through Instagram. The photographer commented to please not edit her photos for commercial use. Is this a legal right, or is she just complaining because she is personally annoyed? Would love to know the rules on this!
Hi Rachel! That’s a great question. We’re not lawyers or experts in copyright law, so you’d definitely need to talk to a lawyer for a 100% solid answer, but as a general rule, unless the photographer signs away their rights to an image, the photographer owns the copyrights. At the same time, models technically have to give consent for a photographer to use their likeness. Whether that likeness extends to brands apparel, we’re not sure. It’s a bit complicated. Does that photographer have the right, in the first place, to photograph your swimwear and publish the images without YOUR consent. Maybe. Maybe not. Do you have the right to publish their images and alter them without THEIR consent. Probably not, but it’s your swimwear. So that’s where the water would seem to get murky. So, to answer your question, it could be a legal right and she’s annoyed. It could just be the latter. It’s a just a little ironic that a photographer would be upset that you altered a photo of your swimwear line that she (possibly) had no legal right to photograph in the first place. It’d be like if someone did a photo shoot with Nike running clothes, Nike reposted it with some edits to the photo, and then the photographer got mad at Nike. We’re guessing Nike’s response would be, “We’re happy to take it down, if you take down every piece of our merchandise that you photographed for YOUR commercial purposes without our consent.” Would be get into an Internet fistfight with a stranger. No. We’d look to solve it quickly, peacefully and a way that all sides win. But you get our point 🙂 Hope that helps!
^^^ Oops sorry I posted that on my phone but it exited out so I wasn’t sure if it posted the first time 😛
This is amazing! It gave me a different perspective on the situation. Instead of being angry and upset, it showed me how to take the higher road.
We’re so glad this was helpful, Brittney! 🙂
Ok that is basically what I gathered from the situation as well! Thanks so much for your input :)))
You’re so welcome, Rachel! We’re so glad this was helpful!
Such a great post! As photographers, we’ve all experienced this on more than one occasion in our careers and I think you hit the nail on the head declaring we are ultimately here to serve our clients! It’s not always easy to remember when you first see your hard work “vandalized” in a sense. But after the hissy fit has past, hopefully behind closed doors, it really is better at winning with people than feeding our egos and being “right”!
So thanks for this! I’ve shared it with many other photog friends ????
Hi, Stacey! We’re so glad this was helpful! Thank you for sharing this!! 🙂
Woke up in the middle of the night still thinking about how bothered I was that a client destroyed several of my images of them with Instagram filters, posted them to Facebook and tagged me. It felt like such an insult and so hard to understand why they would think it was okay…. really needed to hear this tonight so thank you. It helped calm me down and center me on what’s really important again ❤️ At least their posts were all about how much they loved the images….
Aw! We’re so glad this was helpful, Kira! We totally know how you feel! We’re cheering for you!
This is such a well-put article! I’ve been seeing this happen to some of my photos recently and thought about putting some passive-aggressive social media post up, but after taking a moment to breathe and read your article I completely agree that it should be about the customers first. Thank you for putting it into perspective!
Thank you so much, Michael! We’re so glad this was helpful! 🙂
Thank you so much, Valeca! We’re so glad you enjoyed it! 🙂
This helped me so much as my last two family portrait sessions have done just this. Smeared #Instaketchup all over my work. I was not sure what to do. But you are absolutely correct in how to react. Thank you for calming me!
Aw! We know how frustrating that can be, Jeremy! We’re so glad this was helpful! 🙂
It is so apparent from reading this post why God has blessed your business and given you this platform to educate other photographers!
Aw! Thank you so much, Jill! We feel SO blessed to be able to do what we love every single day!
WOW!! This is great!! I understand completely, because my thing is hot sauce. I put hellfire all over my food, and I love it. I understand this conundrum exactly. Outstanding explanation….It changed my perspective, makes a great deal of sense… Appreciate ya both.
Yes!! We’re so glad this was helpful, Kirk!
really wonderful site alot of good information here
awesome site thanks for sharing some wonderful work here
This was super helpful and encouraging! It’s been weighing on me a lot as a new photographer who feels very pushed to have shared content be perfect… this was fabulous! Thank you again!
Such a great takeaway, Mary!!
I LOVE this post. Thank you for being realistic about this subject, and realizing this business is about THEM not us.
We’re so glad this was helpful, Angela!!
Ironically, as I was purchasing the shooting and editing course I saw this post and thought something along the lines of “I haven’t had that happen to me, except for a concert photo by a stranger. I don’t think I’ll need to read this one.” and I filed it away in a box in my mind.
Today, a client edited one of my photos and posted it on social media with the rest of the gallery and raved about me and my business. The edited one was at the end and my stomach dropped. I instantly came to look at this article for what to do… and got schooled on professionalism, LOL. Thanks for the sharp wake up call and perspective! I will skip along my merry little way and thank her for the great time at our session.
Aw! We’re so glad this post was helpful, Kristi! 🙂
I am so glad to read something like this! I see so many photographers who say they would respond like your joke response. They forget this is a service business and it’s much harder to recover from a negative impression.
So glad you enjoyed this post, Tim! Thanks for reading!
I hate it when I send a person processed photos, and he adds a “bunch of filters from instagram.” My experiences as a photographer that is very offensive. I really liked your article, easy to read and with a sense of
So glad this post was helpful! Thank you for reading 🙂
Agree to assume the best of your clients. I have this happen sometimes and it’s always a struggle. Your views and insights are so helpful
Aw! So happy to hear this post was helpful, Christina 🙂
I recently posted some photos that a photographer took of me with my own edits, in order the comply with the way the rest of my photos look on Instagram, and the photographer kindly messaged me about it, but I was immediately struck, because I had absolutely no clue this was a thing, and I believe most clients also do not. Thank you for expressing that most clients to not mean any
harm, because it is true!! I would have never
posted the edited photos, if I had known. I immediately apologized and took the photos down. Please be extremely transparent with your clients with this rule before you take the photos, because I really felt like an idiot. 🤦🏼♀️
Aw! Thank you so much for sharing that with us, Chloe! We’re so glad you enjoyed this post 🙂
this blog was posted on a FB group and have to state, THANK YOU. Love this POV, one i have not thought of before.
Aw! So glad this post was helpful, Jeff!! Thanks for reading!
What about a magazine that ruins half of your images accidentally. The magazine will be going out to thousands of couple at the next wedding show. I’m so embarrassed and devastated. Their skin is purple. Purple.
THANK YOU FOR THIS POST! As I have once before felt victimized by a client posting a photo I took and edited with a filter and hurt everyone of the last feelings I had (pretty dramatic lol). But after reading this and the whole chef scenario I feel 10000000% better and know I wont feel that sharp knife go through my chest if it ever happens again.
Sincerely, Hurt Feelings Photographer
P.S. Not my real Photography name lol
The ending was hilariously funny! “ That way, everyone wins. Except, of course, the cow.”.
Thank you for sharing this! This is definitely what I needed to know. This insight was very, very helpful! Thank you Amy & Jordan!!!