Today our discussion has to do with something every photographer needs to address and the sooner the better – Client satisfaction or personal satisfaction, which do you value most?

Do you prefer that your client be more satisfied with your job than you are or vice versa?  Let me share a personal experience from a job we did for a client. We covered his wedding in November. He flew in from Canada where he is based two weeks to the wedding date. It was then I met him for the first time. We had to do a pre-wedding shoot quickly, and when I delivered the pictures he expressed some dissatisfaction with the editing. This [according to him] was because we did not remove some sideburns, some backgrounds and that he was expecting more [graphic] editing than we did.

I explained to him that yes, we can do that; but the type of editing we do is minimalistic, noting that what he wanted us to do with Photoshop could cost a lot more. But he still insisted. True, he had paid a reasonable amount as fees (equivalent to about $2200.00) for his wedding coverage.

This was a rare scenario, because I wasn’t accustomed to this type of editing (request from clients). So it begged the question, ‘should I please him or should I insist on what I want?’

I eventually had to re-edit all the pictures and it took longer than we planned. So we delivered the pictures a few days before the wedding. I felt satisfied that we accomplished it, but it did not end there. When we did the design for the wedding albums, we sent him a proof. He wasn’t pleased with half of the pages of the album and raised issues like how he did not want certain pictures to appear and how his sideburns (again) were not edited to his satisfaction. It left me thinking maybe it would have been better if he had contracted someone else for skin surgery before the wedding and save me the amount of time and detail required for editing. But I had concluded this is a client I was going to serve and chose to please him no matter what. We recently concluded the re-editing on his album and hope that he will be pleased this time.

I have met a lot of photographers who have faced clients who want this editing and that editing, portraiture, skin smoothing, background editing and some other editing that does not fit their style of photography. I think first of all, all the explanation of what is involved should have been done in writing before taking responsibility to be the client’s photographer and before acceptance of a photographer’s fees, because once this takes place, it means you have agreed to go the whole nine yards.

But even with all the documentation you will still encounter clients who still insist they want something more. It’s up to you to decide if you want to please your client or if you want to please yourself. Every photographer needs to address this. Personally, what I do is ask myself who pays my bills at the end of the day? And while a lot of photographers might feel differently about this there is a good chance that it might determine if they will remain in the photography business a few years from now.

Another experience I’ve had is with someone whom I hired to make a customized shoe for me. It turned out very tight when he delivered it. He explained that he’s only satisfied when he likes shoes that he’s made for clients and seeing them wearing the shoes, and that given another two months, the pair he made for me will expand.

I was like, ‘I am not comfortable in them, and I am the one paying for the shoes so I should care less whether you like the shoes or not. I should be satisfied because I am the client.’

Ultimately it is when the client is satisfied (I believe), that you get more referrals. Eventually I convinced him to take the shoes back since I was not satisfied, even though he tried to persuade me that they were ok.

That is something I try not to do with my clients. Many times when I take their pictures and they’re asking me which one they should select, most times I let them make that choice, as they will have those pictures in their homes for the rest of their lives. The ones I suggest anyway are usually not chosen. I could say,’ I like this picture where you are smiling’ and they would be like, ”No! my teeth are too out in the open. I would rather have you frame this one where I am not smiling….” Even though I don’t like it, my head is thinking, who pays for my overhead at the end of the day?

This should be addressed. I have met  many photographers who complain about their clients and they were never forced to take the clients on anyway. But once payment is received, it is binding, legal and almost like a vow, to have to satisfy the client.

This is my opinion, the more satisfied clients you have, the more likely you are going to be in business for a while to come. Interestingly the more difficult the client is and you strive to make sure he is satisfied, the more referrals you are likely going to get from such a person.

So a client might be asking for things that are seemingly unachievable, if it comes with additional cost, explain it to them and if they are insisting that they will not pay extra, still do it! Go out of your way to do a job that they will be pleased with at the end.

Client satisfaction or personal satisfaction? You may have to create a balance between the two. But ultimately if the client is satisfied, in the long run you too will be satisfied.

One other terrible experience that comes to mind happened when I did a job for a client who was a commissioner in Abuja [Nigeria]. When I met her to collect the payment for services I rendered, she actually threw the money (about $1,000 cash) at me, asking to take the money and get out of her presence. Apparently she was upset prior to my meeting her and she’d  had an argument with her personal assistant. That would normally make some of us angry, and feel undignified but it is in scenarios like this we need to act maturely. I tried to be patient and counted the money to be sure it was complete, and thanked her before leaving.

Try to be patient with your clients, make them satisfied and ultimately your business will be grateful [to you]  for it.

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Changing Faces

By the mention of Changing Faces I know some of you are reminiscing (if you are in that age bracket) about an R&B all female(?) group that laced the nineties with some of their widely appealing songs. Ok, I forgive you. I had chosen this title for this post before It occurred to me too. (I know I have easily given you a clue about my age too)
Well, it so happens that this music group has as much to do with this write-up as does playing an Elvis Presley song at a ten year old’s birthday today! I can see you keeling over in laughter.
Indeed a ten year old whom I shall call ‘K’was having his birthday and this post is about that story and not the music.

I recieved a late call to help cover ‘K’s birthday the previous evening and by now I knew next to nothing about the client, except the address of the venue.

By photog instinct I reckoned a high FPS SLR camera would be useful to catch kids in their own world and at some point a fast lens would also come in useful if the rare opportunity ever came to take relatively still shots up-close that could be used for portraits. You know children are hardly listless when we adults are already exhausted. By now I can hear you guessing my age. Well let me fill your imagination with more: I knew by now I would be doing a lot of kneeling and squatting to get really good shots that would capture the world through a ten year old’s eyes and my back was going to pay dearly for the exercise.

I arrived at the venue even before the client or their guests were present, studying the light situation in every part of the room. I opened my camera bag and my jaw dropped when I discovered I had only a 50mm prime lens and two camera bodies! Nooooo!

    I cant go to desired wide angle with this!

When all those blessed little things start jumping all over it would be total disaster! Till this moment, it remains a mystery how I had swapped lenses into the wrong camera bags while getting ready to travel to the venue. Fortunately the ‘official. Photographer arrived shortly after and I teamed up with him and the rest as they say was a ”downhill ride”.

But when the official photographer pointed at the client’s family vehicle pulling up to the venue entrance I knew this was the opportunity to capture the celebrant’s expressions at the beauty of the venue, the decorations, cake and eagerly waiting friends.

Confined by my equipment selection error, I quickly trained my sights to frame through the viewfinder on the SLR now fitted with 50mm prime lens. I was cautiously aiming to capture his face as he came out of the car but it appeared he was looking downwards and just being led by his parents.

As they approached the entrance where I already knelt shutter-button ready, waiting to snap up the moment he looked up, it struck me, that as this was his birthday, there was no need telling him to look up and smile, or was there ? But since he wasnt, as soon as he got close enough, I called his name (I had been told his name) to try to cajole him to smile for the camera. He looked straight through my lens and his face changed. He parted his lips to form a smile, and I could tell immediately. – ‘K’ was special – meaning he had special needs as he suffered from muscular dysfunction that made him almost unable to prop his head up and form a straight smile. But he was so happy at they way I called his name, I knew I had touched a chord in his soul that would vibrate for long and kneeling down had paid off because at his eye level, he had looked into my camera with glimmer in his syes that could warm up anybody’s heart.

I knew then immediiately that his facial expressions though largely mixed because of his condition, could not hide the joy he was radiating.

As I lowered my camera for the first time after the first set of shots, I watched him hurry to be among his friends and pose for another picture. I reasoned that ‘K’ was well aware of the difference in his appearance. But seeing that it did not hide his. happiness made me think that in spite of it all I wouldnt change a thing about him for that singular moment I captured on camera. I saw the real him in spite of his rapidly changing facial expressions, knowing that he will grow into a fine gentleman and he will be happy.

So as I put the viewfinder up again I felt tears trying to come up, but held back. And that I did until the event ended…..

While many of us would rather trade our imperfections and if we were ‘K’, the real treasure is in who lies within….. No changing face can beat that!

The best act after the curtains closed.

I met her and her dashing handsome groom-to-be about a month before the planned wedding day.   I came to a quick conclusion that she really knows what she wants and how to go about getting it. I sensed she would not let any chance to tweak every thing into shape pass her by.

I guessed that if you positioned everything in perspective, she must be quite meticulous, thus far, and creatively so. For a start, if she wasn’t tall her groom-to-be compensated adequately. If she was tan brown-skinned, her groom was more than three shades lighter.  That she was careful to choose what represents her well was not left in doubt – here she was with eloPhotos about talking the wedding pictures.  

I couldnt help imagining if she had a role to play in Hollywood movie,

she would probably do well as a producer/ director and actor at the same time.

When the day finally came, I got to see that begin to play out.

By now we had gotten through with post vows photo-shoot the day earlier in her beautiful princess A-line gown with the debonair groom. That previous day, We had to work on the groom to bring out the smiles we needed for the great pictures for the larger part of the shoot, but while the chief executive director was fully on hand to ensure that happened,

the bride played her role(s) effortlessly

It was the traditional engagement ceremony on this second day that was the main event. As our job was to make sure every moment was well captured, I did more than a little bit of exercise, and my colleagues can testify. That It was a warm West African day wasnt any help either. May God bless photographers. I was very conscious that it had become humid under my shirt, from the aerobics, but we dont give up, we go on.  

I found out as the ceremony progressed that the bride’s mother was actually from my hometown, but I wouldnt let that out at this time, because that new level of familiarity could become distracting from the main focus, my lens on the right subject at the right time.

I was so devoted I thought.

The bride was playing her part well, because she always seemed to know where the cameras were and as soon as she knew they were trained on her, she had ample poses and smiles for our shutter buttons to splurge on. Fashion shoot? No. Top wedding photography in progress.

Just as I was heaving a sigh of relief that the MC had brought the ceremony to its logical conclusion, I felt somone tap on my shoulder. I had only managed to draw my last ounce of strength or so I thought to close my camera bag zipper.  Then my colleague broke it to me that, just outside the venue, some close friends and associates wanted to have pictures taken with the couple.

Nooooo! If this wasn’t fair to my ears, I was sure the bride would be even more tired than I was and the groom too.

Gosh we already had soo many pictures taken!  
‘Well I didnt sign up for this,‘ I thought. When I got to the spot where the fun melee was coming from under my colleague’s supervision, what I saw hit me like meeting an unexpected old friend on the bus.   The groom was all smiles,  really, radiant glowing smiles. This was priceless, as it didnt come out as brilliant during our shoot the day before. When I surveyed the brides face too, I could see some inner light had been switched on. Oh my goodness, these were great post-reception pictures I would be missing forever!

On their own my fingers began to fumble with the zipper on my bag and in a flash the camera was out and snapping away in tandem with my colleagues.

It was awesome

and sooner than I imagined, the tiredness I was feeliing dissipated. Many times the groom literally swept the bride off her feet and cuddled so close to her you could feel the love through the lens.

So although we almost had a script we followed when working with this bride so that ‘every moment captured’ was not in doubt, but some of the best moments came through when the curtains had been drawn on the whole movie! And we were there to capture it!