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.