December 19, 2022
In this article, we will answer these questions:
So we’re trying something a little new on the podcast where we are taking about your client’s stories and sharing how we would handle these situations.
Who is we? I am here with Lydia Stuemke, who is an awesome friend of mine and is also a coach inside of Marketing School for Photographers. And I thought it would be fun for us to both talk about these different situations and share what we would do if we’ve experienced this, or if not, what we would do!
For this series, we’ll see. It might be a one-time thing or an on-going series. So after this episode, if you like it, DM me on Instagram. Let me know what you think. And if you have a client situation that you need help with, you can fill out this quick form or shoot me a voice message on Instagram.
“I delivered a client’s complete gallery and then the client asked for all the unedited images. What should I do and should I give it to them?”
Tavia: This is something that we hear a lot, don’t you think? Relatively frequently clients want unedited images? Yeah. What do you think this person should do, Lydia?
Lydia: I think it’s important to dig into why they want the unedited images. That would definitely be a last resort for me to give those out as a photographer. I think that that would maybe warrant a phone conversation to be like, “Hey, do you have a minute to have on a call? I would love for you to be really happy with your images and I just want to figure out what makes you ask me for the raw ones? Do you not like how they are edited? Is there something you would like to see different?” Digging into why they would like the unedited photos.
I also feel like it’s potentially a case of unmet expectations that we could maybe set upfront in the future and also feel like this kind of thing seldom happens when you start serving a higher end client.
Tavia: Yes. Thank you for saying that because I 100% agree with everything you just said.
I have found this and I assume this is probably true for you, Lydia : once you reach a certain type of client, a certain threshold for what you’re charging, those type of clients don’t want the raw files. They’re not as picky, they’re not as difficult to deal with. They trust you as the artist. I haven’t been asked for raw files and I couldn’t tell you when, five years probably. But it used to happen.
Lydia: When I did photos, I don’t think I ever had anybody ask me for raw, but I think it was probably a fluke thing, because it’s not that I was setting expectations perfectly when I first started for sure. But I serve a higher end clientele in my wedding videography business and that’s a little bit different than photos, but I find that they’re very easy to work with and very much trust me.
I know that advice doesn’t necessarily help you with this particular client, but moving forward, I do think it’s helpful to think about how you’re setting expectations and what kinds of clients you are attracting if they’re asking for raw images.
But for this current one, I do think it’s to hop on the phone. That’s not to say like if it were to go between going to court and giving raw images, would I maybe give raw images? Possibly. But I would want to dig into why first and see if I can’t make them happy. It is important to me to make a client happy. I care about that, but I would just want to do it with some integrity.
Tavia: So why wouldn’t you want to give the unedited images? Because I think from the client’s perspective, they’re like, “What’s the big deal? Just send me the unedited images.” You know what I mean?
Lydia: It’s even kind of difficult for me to speak to, because in video work I do give raw, but I feel like it’s totally different than photos. In photo, your edit is just it (I guess in video too, maybe we could argue about that if we had another videographer). But in photo, I feel like the edit and your process is very different.
So for photos, most of the time you’re shooting raw and your edit can be wildly different from what was on the back of your camera. But you are shooting with that final product in mind and being hired specifically for how you approach that edit.
I do think it’s hard to understand that as a client, though. I really do. As long as they’re not being sassy and rude, I don’t know that it’s necessarily a malicious question. I know it’s a no-no as someone in the industry, but there’s lots of things that people outside the industry don’t know are cringey.
Tavia: Yeah, that’s so true. So for this particular person, I agree about the phone call. Hopping on the phone and just being like, “Hey, what’s going on? Are you not happy with the photos?” Digging into why, and you might find it something as simple as like, “Oh, well I was just hoping that there was one of the kids that looks more natural together,” or something, and you’re like, “Cool, let me see what I maybe looked over and I’ll send you a copy.” It doesn’t have to be, “I’m going to hand over everything.” It could just be like, “Oh, this is what you’re looking for? Okay, let me find that for you.”
Lydia: Yes, I agree. I think there could potentially be a very simple solution that doesn’t involve actually giving over the rest.
“After the final gallery was delivered, the client asked twice for more photo options. The client said, ‘I remember somewhere that he (her son) was acting more silly, so can you send me more of those?’
She also said, ‘Do you have others where he’s not looking at the camera that I can use on my website? Can I also get them in black and white?’ I talked with her at length about her expectation for the shoot and any specific photo she wanted me to capture as some will be used on her business website. So I was sure to send what she requested in the final gallery. I try to be accommodating as possible, but where do you draw the line?”
So basically this client is saying specific things that they want. And then the black and white thing to me is like a simple thing. I would die to know how much this person paid. I’m willing to bet it’s like under $200.
Lydia: I would agree with that. I completely agree. Aside from the black and white thing, I might be like, “Hey, yeah, happy to add the black and white ones,” but then I guess it depends on if you give them all the good photos or you’re like, “I only give you 20 in your package.”
If you gave all the good photos, I would probably just say like, “I have truly picked out everything that is really high quality, everything’s in focus, that everybody looks good in. There’s not really much else to go off of here. I’ve given you everything I can give you.”
Tavia: Yeah and one of the things that I always say to clients, or used to say as far as setting expectations is, “The photos that you get are basically all of them that are not blinking or somebody looking away. They’re all the good ones. The ones that I’m keeping from you, trust me, are not the best ones.”
Why would I keep those from you? And a lot of times I’ll even put ones in there that I’m like, “I’m not sure if they’re going to like this, but it might be a cute little face that their kid does that I don’t understand, and I’ll even include those.
Lydia: Yes, I agree 100%. So I think like this client sounds like maybe they have some FOMO and like they’re worried like, “Oh, maybe I missed a really good one.”
Or it’s an opportunity to upsell, I guess, if they’re like, “You only have 20 photos that are included in your package.” Just be like, “Hey, I picked out my favorite 20. But there are definitely some other cute ones in there if you want to upgrade.”
Tavia: Yeah. I love that.
“I booked a birth client, but at the last minute she changed her mind and asked me to leave right before she gave birth. What would you do in that situation?”
Lydia: I mean, I’d leave, but I wouldn’t refund. That’s a tricky one to navigate because there really is not a time or place to dig very deeply into what’s going on. I would be interested to hear a little bit more context around what was going on in that moment. I doubt they just woke up and were like, “I’d like you to leave now.”
Tavia: I also wonder, again – this is a common theme – did this person pay you? And how much did they pay you? How invested were they in this process?
Because this is one of the main reasons I tell photographers all the time that you need to charge something, even if it’s refundable, for birth photography. Even if it’s like you pay $200 and I’ll give it back to you after I photograph your birth, and I’m able to use your images.
But when somebody is not invested in their session and that has been the case for all three of these questions so far, they’re so much more likely to kind of nitpick, be picky, back out, be flaky, not show up on time – all of these things from my experience, and Lydia’s nodding so I am assuming her experience as well, these are people who are just not invested in their experience with you.
I’ve had one client who at the last minute changed her mind about birth photography. And the situation was, I was probably two or three years into birth photography. She had paid a $100 deposit. I was charging under $1000 at the time.
She called me at like 36 weeks and she’s like, “Hey, turns out I have pre-eclampsia. I’m at the hospital right now.” I wasn’t actually technically on call for her at that time. And she said, “They’re saying that I’m going to have to have a C-section. I don’t know if that I want birth photos anymore.”
And I was like, “Okay, well I can still come and photograph everything that happens. As a C-section mom myself, I know how valuable those photos are.” And she just wasn’t interested in having birth photos. And I said, “Okay, well, what you’ve already paid will not be refunded.” And she was fine with just like losing the $100.
It was after that experience that I raised my deposit, first of all, because I realized $100 is a small enough amount of money that people are willing to just like change their minds.
What I would do now is require that they would have paid the rest of it, honestly. You are still going to owe me because I, well, I wasn’t on call for her, so maybe not in that situation. But moral of the story is, I raised my deposit because of it. I had a bad experience like that, and I don’t want that to happen again. So I’ve raised my deposit to $350 and never had that issue again.
Some birth photographers will do as much as 50% is required in the beginning, which I think is great because it’s rare, but it does happen when somebody’s like, “Oh, this isn’t going to be what I imagined.
So for this particular person, yes, of course I would leave. If she’s asking you to leave.
Lydia: But actually, maybe I wouldn’t completely leave. Maybe I would say, “Hey, I’m going to step out. I’m going to go grab a snack. I’m going to check out back in with you guys in an hour, and then we can decide from there.” Because emotions are really wild when you’re in labor. So I think it’s possible that they would have some regret if you were like, “Oh, alright, bye!”
Tavia: Right! I love that because there have definitely been situations where I can tell in the room it’s better for me to leave or step out, like you said, or just give them some space, whatever that looks like.
When it’s a home birth, it’s like “I’m going to go in the living room for a little while. They just need time to process things.” But I’ve never had a client paying me $2,000 who has asked me to leave. So hopefully that offers something.
But I think that just the, the initial conversation is so important before the birth, setting expectations, and also attracting people who value this and are paying for it.
“So I had a great client consultation, but they said they wanted to think about it before booking. I’ve emailed them and texted them and now they’re not responding. What would you do?”
Lydia: At that point I’d probably just let it go. I think you followed up the appropriate amount of times. If you’ve emailed and texted, you can only follow up so many times. I understand that as a birth photographer, a lot of times your ICA is a little busy and overwhelmed and working with their kids, so I wouldn’t be shocked if they pop back up at some point in the future.
But if you’ve texted and emailed, at some point, following up looks desperate, and I think after that, you’re bringing a little bit of desperate energy into it. So I’d probably let it go.
Tavia: Yeah, I agree. And I think that some things that I’ve seen, like with our students and in the Facebook group is sometimes there’s this expectation that if somebody inquires with you, they should be booking with you. I got an inquiry. They should book with me. If they don’t, there’s something wrong.
And instead, I think it’s healthy to think, “I probably could book one in four people that inquire with me.”
Lydia: In fact, when I’m following up, I even give them the words to turn me down, essentially. Because I know a lot of people are ghosting because they don’t know how to say that they’re moving on. So I’ll literally say in my follow up email, “If you’ve gone another direction or I’m not in your budget, I’ll give them the words to say back to me basically.
And then I’m like, “I understand it does not hurt my feelings. Just let me know so I can update my records.” I’ll hear back after that like, “Oh, actually, no, we were just like waiting for other things to fall into place,” or, “Oh, you’re right. We’ve gotten in another direction. Thanks for your time.
Tavia: That’s so valuable because I definitely remember feeling the same way. When you’re following up with somebody, our final email that we send to follow up says something along those same lines of like, “Honestly, either way, will you just please let us know? That way we know that due date is available.”
What’s similar with weddings and birth and baby photographers is it’s we take a limited number of people. I love that – give them the words to say. That way you can get it out of your mind, but also understand that it’s reasonable to book 25% of the people that inquire with you and not to get so attached (I’m not saying this person’s doing this), but not to get so attached that you have this desperate energy of like, “Now they’re ghosting me. They hate me. I’m not worth anything. Nobody wants to book me.”
Our minds go down this crazy, weird rabbit hole and it’s like, it just not even mean any of that. What if they’re moving? What if they’re military and they got orders and they’re moving? You know what I mean? Like you have no idea.
Lydia: I really like that this person followed up via email and text, though. I think that’s really helpful. I like to follow up with email. I’ll check in HoneyBook and be like, “Oh, it’s unread.” So then I’ll be like, “Oh, maybe I got caught in spam, or they just didn’t see it,” and at that point then I’m like, “Hey, I sent you an email. Just wanted to check in.”
But I love that they followed up with text too, and I love to be able to do that. You have to be getting their phone numbers initially. So I feel like they’re doing the right things.
Tavia: You’re doing great. Yeah, I agree.
“I really needed help and this is hard to explain. I’m one of the only birth photographers in my area. There are those who will offer when asked, but I’m one of the only ones with a dedicated business for it. I’ve been posting in local Facebook groups, which have been my best source of inquiries. I have been a part of these groups for a long time and have seen lots of photographer posts, but never any about birth photography.
Recently, another doula/birth photographer saw my post and friended me, and then immediately put a post up in the same local group about birth photography. She’s allowed to post. That’s not what I’m bothered by. I’m bothered by the fact that since I accepted her friend request, every time she sees that I posted in a group, she immediately posts.
I feel like she’s using the fact that she friended me to spy on me and make sure she posts every time I do. So the question is, should I unfriend her?”
Lydia: I recently dealt with something a little bit similar where it had the same kind of energy that this has where “competitor” inquired as a couple on my website just to see my pricing info.
Tavia: How did you find that out?
Lydia: It felt yucky. I pieced it together with the names and the way that they ghosted and never responded. And they used their actual email with their actual names and I was like, “This isn’t very sly. I’m very confused what’s happening here.”
Anyway, I feel like I had kind of a similar yucky feeling. Ultimately for me, I have still let them stay friends with me on social and kind of dug into why it bothers me so much.
Why does it bother me that they know my pricing? What am I worried about? And I think that’s an important question to ask yourself, whether you unfriend them or not is “Why?” I understand what they did is shady. That’s fine, maybe you don’t want to be friends with somebody that does.
But outside of that, why are you bothered by them seeing what you post? Does it matter? Does it affect your business? Let me answer, maybe yes. Maybe it is. I don’t know.
Tavia: What stuck out to me is similar and it just felt like kind of a scarcity mindset of like, “There’s a limited number of people and so if they post when I post…”
And so I honestly wouldn’t give this any more energy like I would, friend. The only way I would unfriend the person or unfollow them is if seeing their name brings up negative energy in your mind and brain, and it’s like causing more stress.
Lydia: That’s where I’m at right now, I don’t know that I’m going to remove them, but I’m going to probably mute them in my feed just because every time I see them I’m like, “Ugh…” I feel like it’s more of a me issue than it is a them issue at this point, and I just need to let it go and exactly not a scarcity mindset and it just doesn’t matter. What they did, I would never do because I feel like morally that’s sketch, and otherwise that’s it. I don’t need to do anything about it, you know? So yeah, I do think it’s a very good opportunity to dig into mindset though.
Tavia: And also what is unique about you. And spoiler alert, the answer is it’s you. You just have to figure out what it is about you and your personality that attracts your ideal client.
And man, once you’re solid in that, and I know Lydia, this is true for you. There were tons of birth photographers who popped up after I popped up with birth photography and they were sharing the same exact way that I was sharing in Facebook groups, and they were sharing availability and pricing and whatever in a similar way to me, and it literally didn’t bother me.
Now, did it used to bother me? Sure. But I got to a point where I realized there are plenty of clients for everybody. I know what’s unique and special about me, and my ideal clients will see that too. And I just wasn’t concerned about other people doing the same thing as me.
Lydia: And if you’re good at this and you’re on a good track, the odds of this being the last time you get a kind of copycat, you’re probably going to have more.
Tavia: Right. I love that question though, because I think that it’s really honest and vulnerable to ask that, and so I love that question so much.
Lydia: Yeah. And I’ll wonder though, if they were just looking for maybe some validation to be, you know what, what they did is kind of crappy. I’m sorry, it is crappy that somebody did that, but you let it go and move on.
Tavia: Totally. Yeah. Sometimes you just need to text a friend and be like, “Dude, this is not going to rule my life, but this sucks right now.”
Lydia: I mean, I feel that that’s exactly what I did when this happened to me. First they signed up for my email list to get my freebie I give out to my couples and I was like, “I feel weird about that, but okay.”
And then the inquiry came. But that’s what I did – I talked to a friend, let it out, and we essentially moved on.
Tavia: Yeah. That’s good.
“My client said, ‘The contract states a full payment of January 6th. Would we be able to pay in full at the hospital before services are rendered?’ So this is an adoption situation. The client said, ‘My only concern is if the birth mother were to change her mind in having us parent. We hope this isn’t the case, but we’ve already been through one failed adoption, so I can’t ignore that it could happen again. I would hate to lose $1,595.’
So the photographer said, ‘She hired me for birth and fresh 48 and is paying a deposit fee of $200 each. This will not cover the cost of being on call at 35 weeks because of an expected pre-term birth. What would you do in this situation? It’s my third month into birth photography, so I need a little guidance.”
Lydia: This is a really complicated situation for many, many reasons. I actually saw this post in my feed, and I don’t remember who it was, but whoever commented on it was an adoptive mother and had worked in adoption agencies, and I just feel like had a really good perspective, but now I can’t remember what they said.
I can’t remember what they said, but I thought it was really interesting they pointed out that there’s already kind of a power dynamic issue, which isn’t relevant necessarily to the payment question, but man, this whole situation is very, very tricky.
The person paying here, the prospective mother she seems just scared and nervous, which I get. She’s probably in a place that’s a little nerve-wracking for her, especially if they’ve had a failed placement before.
I think this would be another one for a phone call. So she can hear your tone of voice and you can respond in a compassionate way. I don’t know that there’s a wrong answer here. I think for most situations I would follow my hard rules. In this one, I think it’s going to be a personal decision.
Whether you want to essentially offer to gift them on-call time or whether you want to charge separately for on-call time. I think that would be fair to say, “Hey, I understand that this is a tricky situation to navigate. I do have to cover my on-call time, but you know, I’m happy to do X, Y, Z.”
That said, I think that it’s tricky because I think that the placement could potentially fall through even within the first couple days of birth. So she could potentially go all the way through with all the on-call time and shooting the birth and then…
Tavia: Yeah, because I have only photographed one adoption. And I think from what I recall, the mom had similar concerns, the prospective mother. But the birth mother was also very involved and I think Kate got on the phone with us and was at a consultation and it was a slightly different situation than what Casey’s describing.
So I think that I agree with Lydia. I’m pretty much a stickler for my rules, for my contract, for my things. I’m like, no, this is what I go on call, this is what is owed, end of story. For a situation like this, I agree that if I wasn’t willing to donate my on-call time, I probably would have a specific on-call fee that was paid, whether or not I photographed the birth and I might honor her request of the day of like, “Yeah, you can give me a check day of ___, that’s fine.”
I would also, because of the experience I have with clients, I can just kind of tell, I don’t want to sound judgey, but I can just kind of tell when people are sincere or not. I can tell if they’re trying to screw me over or if they’re sincere and have a legitimate concern. And based on the way that this is phrased, it seems like a legitimate concern. And so I think you kinda have two options: you can have her pay an on-call fee or kind of donate your on-call time because that’s really what’s in question here is the on-call piece.
But I think this is a really, really good quality problem and concern and question for somebody who’s their third month into birth photography. I think that you’re handling this really, really well and I’m super excited that this is happening for you in your third month. That’s awesome.
Lydia: I agree. I think it’s worth getting on the phone and if you want to make some exceptions for her, talking through those and talking through what the different scenarios would look like for you, and I think I would make it clear that you were trying to do something nice for them, so they don’t think that this is standard.
Like, “Hey, typically I do X, Y, Z, but I know this is a really unique situation and I really want to help you guys navigate it. So here is what I think I can offer you to help you through it.”
That way, they have the opportunity to see like you are going above and beyond for them. And they have the opportunity to be excited about that. I think if we don’t set the expectation, we can’t exceed the expectations. So I think it’s clear. You need to make it clear what the normal expectation is and then be like, “Here is how I am willing to help you.”
Tavia: Yes. I love that specification.
“Curious to know when you deliver client galleries, do you ever meet with a client before you deliver the photos just to see how they feel about their birth and whether they’re ready for their photos. My client had a very quick birth, one and a half hours start to finish, and I felt like everything afterwards was unnecessarily rushed.
Example, managed third stage immediately rather than letting her rest. I’m not a doula and I am new to this, but I just really feel in my heart that I need to have a good chat with this mom and check if she’s okay, especially as she’s a model call client and I’m not interested in sharing her photos if she’s not feeling okay about her birth.
So I think the question is, do you ever meet with a client before you deliver their photos to see how they’re feeling about their birth if you’re not a doula, so you’re not having like a postpartum visit.”
So I’ve had a c-section, I’ve had a hospital VBAC, and I’ve had a home birth. So I’ve run the gamut here of all the different ways you can give birth, and there’s a lot of feelings associated with that, like that I have from my own births that sometimes I unknowingly would project onto my clients – that they ended up having a repeat c-section after they were planning a VBAC and I would assume that they were devastated by that because I know that I would have been, and I never wanted to assume that they felt any certain way about their birth because that might not be true.
And I think that as birth photographers, when we’re not doulas, it can be hard not to project those feelings. And so she said that she felt like everything was really rush afterwards, but the mom might have not felt that way. And so, I love where her heart is with this, thinking about the mom before delivering the images.
I personally wouldn’t meet with a client beforehand, but I would text or call them, probably text. And in fact, this became a part of our workflow where I would text the client and instead of saying, here’s preview photos, smack ’em up in their face via text, I would text and just say like, “Hey, just checking in. Did you guys make it home from the hospital yet? Everybody doing okay?” Very generic without specifically talking about, “Things are so crazy after the birth. How are you doing?” Nothing like that. Just very generic ‘how are you doing’ to see what they say.
Lydia: And I also think it sounds like, this isn’t the approach for everybody, but it sounds like this particular photographer really could be building a relationship beforehand where the mom knows that when she texts and asks everybody, “How everybody’s doing,” that she’s free to honestly say, “I am not doing well. I am having a really hard time.”
And then if you’ve built that relationship beforehand, then you can kind of read like, “Okay, let’s pause a little bit. Do you want your images now?” They would have to probably sound really like they’re struggling. That’s tricky. I like that their heart’s in this place.
I don’t think I would meet and I agree. I don’t want to ever lead a conversation where I want them to think that they’re supposed to be feeling badly about their birth ever. So I would be very careful with that.
Tavia: I had a situation where the exact thing happened where a mom was planning a VBAC at home, ended up rushing to the hospital for an emergency c-section, and I was like, of course she’s gotta be devastated by this.
But I said nothing because I just was like, for all I know, she’s thrilled that she ended up having a c-section and she knows things. Like they could have found out. Who knows? There’s so many things. And so I literally just texted her and said what I just said like, “Hey, how are you? How’s everything going? How’s baby doing?”
And she went into this like, “I’m so glad things happened the way they did,” she was very at peace with everything. And it’s like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad that I didn’t say something that was implying that something bad happens.
And I think that what I would normally say is just something along the lines of checking in, they reply and then I’d say, “Okay, just want to let you know I have some preview photos whenever you’re ready to see them.” And that would lead them up to be like, “Okay, I need a few days, or maybe I’ll text you tomorrow.” Or most of the time they’d be like, “Yes, please send them. I’m so excited to see,” and then I’m not implying anything. It’s just a very general statement.
Lydia: This is different, but for my weddings, I do a lot of times text them or I’ll be chatting with them on Instagram that we’re almost there. And then I emailed them for them to see their video. But I actually give them some rules before I have them open it up.
Like for me it’s celebratory, but I say something like, “Turn the lights down and turn the music up. Turn off your phones, open a celebratory drink,” that kind of stuff. I think you could potentially do a little bit of that in your email. Be like, “Hey, here’s your birth gallery. If you’re ready to see this, here’s what to do,” and kind of prepare them so they don’t immediately have to click on the link. You know, it’s not necessarily right in their face. Gives them a minute because then it can sit in their inbox if they’re not ready to click on it.
Tavia: Yeah. Really good. I love where our heart is with this too, and I think it’s really important as birth photographers to be mindful of the words that we use, not to an obsessive level to where you need to like lose sleep over it or have somebody else proofread everything that you send, right?
But it’s just being mindful of the situation and that not everybody is going to interpret things the same way you will because you have your own experiences and you have your own perception and morals and values and how you want things to go. That doesn’t mean your client feels the same way.
Lydia: I love that she’s this early into birth work though, and cares this much and is like this aware of how important birth work is. That’s great.
Tavia: You guys are incredible. That was it for all the questions. Like I said, if you guys have anything that pops up that you need help with on the client front, you can DM me on Instagram, either text, you can send a voice message, or you can go to tavia redburn.com/wwyd.
This was fun, Lydia. Thanks for doing this.
Lydia: Oh, it was super fun. I loved it.
Tavia: Okay, cool. Well that’s the end of the episode, so we’ll catch you guys next time. Hope you have a great rest of your week and we’ll talk to you soon!