Managing Artistic Vision vs. Client Desires

It is a issue that any professional photographer will inevitably will inevitably run into and one that can have a massive impact on your success, what do you do when a client requests something you are not at happy with?

In my experience as a wedding photographer this has occurred over many things, from requests to use a specific place or backdrop as part of a shoot through to how the photos are edited. The most common request is for ‘selective desaturation’. This is a technique I abhor as it adds nothing to the composition of the photograph and just serves to work as a distraction against the image. I have even had clients re edit my images after I have released them, running them through awful instagram-esque filters and then publishing them as their ‘official photographs’ with my name against them.

So, what should you do?

You should do precisely what the client wants.

Why?

Because your success depends not on what you know but on what the client perceives.

As long as you are there at their request the only thing that matters is their satisfaction in your service. To be a successful professional photographer you have to rise above any personal artistic visions and produce a product that the client is happy with. That is the only way they will use you again and recommend their friends to you. That is the only way your business will grow.

Thus, if I have to apply a technique that I personally am not a fan of I do it. If I have to shoot in a spot that I know has unfavourable light or backing but the client requests it then I shoot there. Was the client who re-edited my photographs in breach of contract? Yes. Did I pursue the issue legally or even raise it with them? No. Why? I *might* have won in the shot term but I know I would have lost in the long.

It is a hard truth but there you have it. In a market place as viciously competitive as our own it is the only way to survive.

I would be really interested to hear your take on this as I know my opinion leans harshly in favour of the client, please leave me a comment below.

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3 thoughts on “Managing Artistic Vision vs. Client Desires

  1. From the perspective of a writer/producer (photography is not my profession, although I have made a little money from it) I concur: the client is paying you to realize something s/he wants–it’s not your vision you’re there to deliver, it’s the bride’s, the restaurant owner’s, the corporate VP’s, etc… That said, when client-choices alter your work and compromise your artistic integrity, there is a risk to how others perceive your style. For this reason, whatever work I do as a “paid hand” goes under my company name (and sometimes my name doesn’t appear at all if I’m ghostwriting) and I define those deliverables differently than the work I do for the Muse. What She inspires in me isn’t subject to anyone’s vision but my own (although I’m strongly influenced by others) …it is art for art’s sake according to me, and I’ll starve in a cave before I stop doing it.

    • I think you sum it up nicely there! You are 100% correct in saying that you have to protect your professional reputation so controlling what is released under your brand is a smart thing to do, Great point.

  2. it is a tricky one. I would say that one talent to have is to do both (if you can) and let the client see and decide. Sometimes they will like both and be even happier and you will feel more satisfied too. You can always remove your name if you don’t like it at all and not include it in your portfolio. This way it stays between you and the client and does not spread to inspire other people. if they come to you it is because they like what you do. it may not be your most personal amazing work but it is still you and your skills are skills they haven’t got. hum… and it pays the bills

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