Cleaning Up the Monster: How to Blog about a Difficult Client
If you are a professional photographer, who focuses your efforts around building a successful photography business, by photographing people, you get to hear and watch amazing stories unfold. And, often, you document some of the most amazing parts of their lives. If this is your professional livelihood, there is a very good chance you really like people :) But, what do you do when those likable people become a difficult client?
Of course… not everyone you work with will necessarily be likable. In general, we as photographer’s don’t always book our ideal client. In the real world of business, we’re not always booking our “besties”. We don’t always have that natural and easy flow of chemistry. As a matter of fact, sometimes, working with your clients is really, really, really difficult. Not every client you book is going to be the picture-perfect client.
Furthermore, and if we’re being honest, not every bride is kind-hearted under stress; not every groom is gracious on camera; not every baby sleeps through the session; not every parent understands the need for patience to get that perfect shot.
So, once you’re finally home from that crazy wedding or that stressful studio shoot, what do you do about the blog you should be writing for the times when you have the difficult client?
Well, there’s always the classic advice from Thumper from Bambi: “If you don’t got nothing nice to say, don’t say nothing at all.” And that’s certainly the “easy” path, just putting it away and forgetting you ever had to deal with those people and drowning your sorrows in a chocolate ice cream sundae,
You could clean it up and turn a monster session into a great blog post celebrating a venue, your own photography skills, or even just focusing on the pictures themselves—because it would be a crying shame for all that stress and work you put in to go to waste!
Here are a few tips and suggestions for how to blog positively about when a negative experience is the result of a difficult client.
1. Focus on the Story
Whether it’s baby blogs or wedding photography, every client has a story.
For weddings, you can focus on how a couple met. Tell their love story or the story of their first date. Even if the wedding itself was horrible and you left feeling sorry for the family/guests/bride/groom, there’s still something magical about the “how we met” story for every romance.
Maybe they got engaged at the spot where they first met. Maybe they were introduced by a best friend who later became their maid of honor. Maybe they were friends for years before they figured out that they liked each other—and that it was reciprocal.
For baby blogs, you can focus on the story of becoming parents. Pregnancy and parenthood do not come easily to everyone, after all. Maybe that baby who just spent hours screaming at you in your studio was born prematurely and is a miracle in action (even if he’s a loud miracle). Maybe those parents who hated every prop you offered took a decade to be able to have children of their own. Maybe it was a surprise!
Every story is different. See if you can find one for those problem clients that takes the focus off of the day in front of the camera and instead shines a light on all the adventures that led up to it.
2. Focus on the Families
Sometimes, the people we liked were not the ones in front of the camera, and it’s alright to tell their stories too.
For weddings, it could be the case that you’ve shot weddings or baby pictures for other members of the bride or groom’s family. If that’s how you got roped into the horror show that was the wedding you just left, talk about how nice it was to see old clients again.
You can also focus on the little kids, if there are any at a wedding. It’s always more fun to talk about an adorable flower girl throwing petunias with abandon than it is to talk about the Bridezilla meltdown in the parking lot. And the pictures, so long as the kids don’t have meltdowns of their own, are always wonderful as well. Those angelic faces are so much better to focus on, right?
You can focus on the siblings of the bride and groom—or their parents. I know at my own wedding, one of the most touching pictures that I kept in my album wasn’t of me or my husband but of my two sisters sharing a moment together as they watched their big sister grow up and start a new phase of life.
As long as it’s not an elopement, there are usually enough guests to choose from that you can find someone in a bad wedding that you got along with. Focus on them!
With family photography, I know sometimes the kiddie meltdowns and the family dramas are the source of the problem. But maybe there was that one big sister who was always giving out smiles or that one grandmother who patiently sit with the worst of the toddler tantrum throwers. Whoever it is, try to find them and put a spotlight on them!
3. Focus on the Setting
Alright, so maybe focusing on the families and stories doesn’t work for everyone. Maybe you got stuck with a horrible family that you’d be better off forgetting and putting out of your life.
Don’t despair! There is still something you can focus on: the venue or location itself.
Didn’t like the people? That’s fine; there was plenty of snowfall in the mountains, and the way the sun caught the freshly fallen snow made the whole place light up.
Bride had a meltdown? Whatever; you got to spend an entire day in a centuries-old castle with moss growing on the sides that looked like something right out of a tale of princesses and knights of yore.
The wedding coordinator dropped the ball and everything was stressful? Well, at least you got to kick off your shoes and stroll down the beach with your camera in hand capturing the beautiful sea foam as it flicked off the waves.
The family portrait session turned into a family squabble? Hey, at least the leaves were the right color and the fall setting looked stunning. You can sell that to future clients.
After all, your future clients want to know about how beautiful their day will be, so why not focus on the amazing places that you already know will make even monsters look perfect?
4. Focus on the Details
If all else fails, if the venue was horrible (or the session was just at your studio) and the family/friends/guests/subjects were mean as nails and the whole thing fell apart like a proper disaster movie, there’s one last thing you can try.
Details, details, details.
It’s the little things that really make the big events memorable anyway. For example, my sister’s wedding was “B” themed because both their first names and their new last name together started with B. There was birch wood decorating, food that started with “B” and decorations with their new favorite letter written in a dozen different styles all over the place.
Maybe your bride and groom had the cutest little invitations (even if nothing else was cute about the day). Maybe there was that one shining moment when the wind caught the bride’s veil just right and she looked like a movie star and not a monster. Maybe the mother of the bride worked hard to build a reception in her backyard.
Whatever you can find, work with it.
5. Focus on the Facts
This is where we start getting desperate.
Sometimes, for reasons you can’t control, there is just no way to clean up the mess that was a result of your difficult client photography “adventure”. It just can’t be done. That’s when it’s time to throw away the attempts to celebrate the session and focus instead on the “facts of the case, ma’am.”
For wedding photography: Where did the bride get ready? Where was the reception? What kind of food was served? What was the first dance song?
For family photography: What were the names and relationships of everyone involved? How old was everyone? How many months/days old was the baby? How far along was the pregnancy?
If nothing else, you can blog about the fact that you shot a wedding or family session. Your pictures are amazing, and you can show off the good images you were able to get—of the venue, the details, whatever.
And now that you’ve done that, you can close down your computer and get some shut eye and pretend the whole thing never happened.
Remember, we love blogging-even the sessions you hate. It is our pleasure to help you pull a story like this together into a blog post that your clients will love. We do this every day so that you don’t have to and we’re happy to do so! If you’re interested in hearing more about how we can help you with your blog, please make sure to contact us.