Your Client Doesn’t Like Their Pictures. Now what?

Some months ago I was asked…hey, I have a property for sale, do you shoot real estate? After declining, I walked away thinking why not give it a try. I enjoy magazine spreads with lush real estate and usually take time to digest the pictures before flipping pages. So maybe there’s a dormant real estate photographer in me to awaken. I didn’t back-paddle to pursue that job, but it spurred my curiosity. I started researching what real estate agents like to see in images, also what they pay.

Finding someone in the industry to talk to was easy. Like photographers, there are tons of brokers out there. Just browse your phone contacts and you may be surprised how many you know. I called a fella I met at an event a while back and stayed in touch with via BBM. No BS, told him straight-up I’m fishing for info. I’ll like to know how you operate with photographers. He described the packages he gets and what he pays, which quite honestly was discouraging. The only way I could fathom photographers turning a profit is volume. They must be shooting lots of properties within a short time for the dollars and cents to make sense. Anyhow, I decided to give it a go and here we are, I’ve just shot my fifth property.

Hallway1

Living_Area2

Kitchen_Area3

Living_Area7

Living_Room

Living_Area3

As you can see from the images above, everything’s going great. I’m learning from the school of hard-knocks and enjoying it. So far the agents have been happy with my work. Then I hit a snag. After delivering images of one property, I got a text messgage from the agent saying “her client” is unhappy with the pictures. Back in the day, feedback like this would make my stomach churn. I would sit for minutes thinking what went wrong while inhaling my puffer to stay calm. But not today, no sir! Years of creating images for people has taught me a lot about dissecting feedback. A negative feedback does not necessarily mean you dropped the ball, it may just mean that expectations weren’t clear from jump and you need to revisit them.

First off, when you get negative feedback from a customer, settle down. Despite the urge you feel to defend your work, don’t. This is not time to talk, but to listen. If the situation permits, communicate by phone rather than email or text. So I called up the agent for more info. Here’s the explanation I got…..”they just don’t seem as professional”. Okay…..in my head I’m thinking, what does that really mean? Not much right? So I kept digging. A new client may not like your images after hiring you for several reasons, perhaps they misjudged your style. But when a repeat client doesn’t like the results from a shoot, then it’s probably not how you shoot that’s the issue. I asked questions like….how do you find these images different from my previous work? Did you have a certain style in mind for this property to look like? Then came an interesting response…..”well… I saw pictures of an identical unit that made the unit look much bigger”.

I got the web link to the identical unit, checked it out and made some notes. First, the unit was very tidy, everything neatly in its place. The absence of clutter allowed you to really see the space. Second, they had a spread of the living area and kitchen together. Third, you can tell the property manager and photographer took the time to get it right. It wasn’t a wam-bam-thank-you-mam job like my client wanted. The photographer must have charged a lot more, but that’s a story for another day. After comparing what I shot to those images, I felt I knew what the issue was. My images show off the property in detail but I missed a key shot, a spread of the entire living room and kitchen.

As a professional, when you identify something you could have done at a shoot to produce better results and didn’t, own the responsibility asap and proceed to finding a resolution for the client. I immediately called up the agent and offered a re-shoot. This time, I went in to get specific shots. The agent expected to see a new set of images but I sent only four with an email saying… I believe this is what’s missing. Response? Thank you Rahim, I love them, these are great and will work!

Looking back on events, this client expressed discontent with a phrase that would trouble many professionals. In the end, the same set of images with an addition of four new images resolved the situation and made everyone happy. I’m glad it worked out but the truth is……. there won’t always be a happy ending. Public service is exactly that, serving the public. Since you can’t read minds, you won’t be able to give everyone exactly what they want or think they want. Any professional creating images for others has to accept this reality, then handling rejection will be much easier. Plus you learn more from rejection than from acceptance.

So the next time a client rejects your work, don’t go on auto-defense mode. Pacify the situation by showing empathy, acknowledge their dissatisfaction and assure them you intend to make things right. Create comfortable rapport where thoughts can be freely expressed. Encourage them to speak their minds by asking questions. Listen and take notes, look for hints that can lead to a resolution. Remember to stay open-minded and not make it personal. After all’s said and done, you still won’t please everyone all the time. But the way you handle negative feedback speaks volume about your professionalism, and may prevent a bad situation from getting worse.